Saturday, June 19, 2010

When the Photographer's in the Photograph

I thought about titling this post "Squinting for the Camera." Maybe some of you remember being told to stand facing the sun so the person with the camera could get a good photo? It can't be true that cameras needed that much sun because I have plenty of old photographs in which people aren't squinting and there appears to be a grey sky.

I thought these two photographs were interesting because the person taking the photo is so clearly visible -- or least her shadow is. I suspect that my mom took both photos. I wonder if she noticed herself in them. I'm fairly certain that both were taken in the late afternoon since all three subjects are facing in a westerly direction. I can tell that because I know the location where both photographs were taken.

In the photo on the left is my mom's younger sister ("Baby Girl" of a previous post). In the photo on the right are my own brother and sister. And all three of them are squinting. You can't help squinting when you face the sun - and the photo turns out an awful likenss (or unlikeness) of the subject.

My mother appears to be holding her camera at about waist level. I vaguely remember a camera in our home that was fairly flat and rectangular in shape, maybe 4" x 7" x about 2" thick. It had a little door on the front which, when opened, allowed a lens to fold down with some collapsible black fabric surrounding it. It seems like the photographs from that camera became 3" x 5" prints (whereas from another camera, maybe a Kodak Brownie, the prints were 3" x 3").

This is probably a graduation photo of "Baby Girl" since in the photo beside it in the album she's wearing a cap and gown.

Do you have photos of yourself or others which were taken with the subject facing the sun? Do you have photographs with shadows of the photographer in them?

Oh, I almost forgot: Go look at the other Sepia Saturday posts!


  1. I remember being asked to face the sun in photographs. Thank goodness cameras of today are as a clever as they are. However, it's interesting to have the photographer's shadow in these snaps of the past. It's fun guessing who might have been behind the lens.

  2. I had quite a few of these when I scanned in my old family photos. I love the shadows, because they helped me tell who was taking the photo (which helped me determine the time, place, and people...some of the folks in my family have very distinctive shapes).

  3. I, too, remember being asked to face the sun so the photographer could get "the best picture". Now, seeing the shadows which sometimes resulted, it marks the photographer for posterity in a rather endearing way.

  4. I recall distinclty having to look into the sun for photos; most of the old family photos other than those professionally done that I have are squinting into the sun; there is one of me in a washtub as a baby squinting and protesting even far we have come,

  5. Martin, Kerry, and Nana - Facing the sun must have been a fairly universal thing to do (based on the fact that 4 of us remember it!). Thinking about it again, I wonder if they thought too much light would get into the lens if it faced the sun.... I wish I knew what the old theory was.

    I've found only 2 photographs with photographer's shadows but I believe they could be a great help in determining other information about the image/location/etc.

    Kerry - It's interesting that your family has "distinctive" shapes.

    Pat - Isn't it great how far we've come with cameras. It's amazing what they can do. And yet, these old photos are very endearing.

    Thank you all for coming to look and for leaving comments. I appreciate it.

  6. I think the photos would be washed out if the camera was facing the sun--still, it's not ideal in a sense for the subjects of the photo to have the photographer's shadow on them! Interesting post!

  7. It' really fun seeing the shadow of the photographer. You should post these on Shadow Shot Sunday-

  8. John - I don't know much about photography but I have noticed that when a person's back is to the sun with the camera facing the sun, the subject's face is dark. I guess this post could lead to a discussion about photography techniques and camera technology....

    Barbara & Nancy - I don't know about Shadow Shot Sunday. I'll go have a look. Thanks.

  9. Great post, one of my favorite photos is of me with my dog, and the shadow of my mother, that I found after she passed away, which made it rather ethereal. And yes, I was always taught when using a camera to have the sun at my back.

  10. Great photos to have- I think it definitely is fun to "see" the person taking the photo or at least see their shadow and through that recognize who they are.

  11. The shadows are fun! It's like the photographer is right there with you.

  12. love the post. And it looks like it could even be the same photographer in both pictures... similar shape and size, at any rate.


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