The Perfect-Ugly Photograph

by Julia

I was going through my childhood photos recently (and those who know me know how much I LOVE doing this. That’s me above on the right) and I realized two things:

1) It’s a good thing that none of my family members are photographers
2) As terrible as some of the photos are (in terms of composition, light and focus), there’s something about each one which makes you love it so much more

As a photographer I know what it takes to create a beautiful photograph. I have trained myself to photograph people from the most flattering angles, to frame the image so that only the most beautiful and important aspects are shown and to use light to my advantage (you can call me Julia Lightbender Gauberg). When I have a portrait shoot with a family or with high school seniors I always keep these things in mind before I press the shutter. Can I frame this photograph as I am taking it in this instance and hang it on the wall? Will it look good? Will it be perfect?

I try my best to make the answer to those questions be “Yes.” However, looking through my childhood photos I began to think “what is perfect?” Is perfection in a photograph simply composition, light, positioning, using your camera and other technicalities? No. Of course these factors play a large role in creating a great portrait but they do not create a memorable one.

The key word here is ‘memorable.’ Memories stir up emotions and photographs with memories attached are the ones we love most. This explains why we  love old photographs even thought they may look like they were accidentally taken by the family dog.

Looking through these photos, I realized that no matter how hard you try, you will not be able to create emotion through perfect composition. You will not be able to induce feeling through your camera’s shutter speed. Knowing how to use your camera is never enough. You have to create memories and combine them with photo-taking skill to make a photograph truly perfect. This is a goal I am setting for myself: that not one family or high school senior will leave my session without memories. I do not want people to simply look at my photographs and say “Wow what a beautiful portrait” I want them to say “This beautiful portrait makes me feel something” (and I don’t mean “This beautiful portrait makes me  feel sick to my stomach”, ok? Positive emotions!)

I notice that as I am going through old photographs I sometimes think about the ways I could change one to look more professional. But then I remember when and how it was taken and realize that this photo, as ugly as it may be, will probably be one of the most beautiful I will ever see in my entire life.

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