I’ve been messing around with some old lighting equipment lately. As a life-long photographer, it’s fun learning new tricks. This old dog can be taught. For portraits or events — situations where I have the time to prepare — I usually haul out my big, clunky White Lightning flash units, set up the stands, plug ’em in and test fire them to get my settings right. But there are times when I’d rather be more nimble, travel lightly (read: being lazy).
Over a recent weekend, I wanted to try something different. I learned that my small camera-top flash units, that I’ve had for years, could “talk” to one and other by firing at the exact same time. I was giddy with excitement. So I tried them out, first on my family, then on some of my best friends. I even messed around at a Bar Mitzvah.
But that’s not what all of this is about. No, this isn’t about a photographer opening his eyes to what’s around him. Nor is it a technical column about the hows and whys of flash photography. It’s about what happened late at night when I looked at the photos on my computer.
During every situation where I played around with my lights, something wonderful happened. I don’t exactly remember how it occurred; at some points it was coached at others it happened organically. But each set of subjects — my friends and family — hugged for their picture. Their natural tendencies were to cluster together.
Maybe there’s a long treatise here on how we like being portrayed. Perhaps there is a deeper essay about gathering our loved ones close, both in times of joy and in every day situations. But whatever the reason, it made me happy. In just the few dozen photographs I snapped that Saturday, I captured hugs many times over.
When people say “smile for the camera,” they aren’t usually referring to the photographer.