Don’t cross the line between saving memories for yourself and ruining them for others
Some people like capturing candid moments hoping to take some artistic and meaningful shots. Others want to preserve precious memories, so they grab their camera or phone during the very creation of those memories. And yet others are “doing it for the Gram,” shooting every single moment of their lives.
I have nothing against either of them. In fact, I sometimes belong to each of these groups. However, I believe that many people are crossing the line between saving memories for themselves and ruining them for everyone else. You may be doing it as well and not even being aware of it. So, I hope you’ll to read this article and reconsider your use of a phone or camera in certain situations.
Before we proceed, I feel the need to point out that this is just my opinion and a bunch of my own impressions and conclusions. It’s not meant to judge anyone, only to make you think a bit differently and perhaps see things from another point of view.
And maybe also to show this article to that friend of yours who won’t put their phone down. :)
When I started thinking about this article, there were two situations in my mind. One happened after a pretty crazy wedding party. My friends and I woke up in a hotel, sobered up a bit, and went to have breakfast with the rest of the gang. All of us were hungover, but happy and filled with impressions from last night. We were also hungry like wolves, so we dug in as soon as the food arrived. And then, a friend whipped out her phone. She started taking photos and videos of everyone while they were shoving food into their mouths. When we noticed it, all of a sudden, you could cut awkwardness with a knife. You could feel that everyone felt unpleasant. As if there was an intruder among us.
Another situation that inspired me came from a conversation I recently had in comments on my Facebook status. I posted about finding a new gym and translated to English, it reads something like this:
“I hate working out at the gym or anywhere where I’m surrounded by a group of unknown people. I feel pretty awkward, so it takes me a whole lot of time to switch from working out alone at home to working out in a group.
I changed a few gyms and now I’m in search of a new one because I moved home. And I figured out an important criterion for signing up.
When I see a gym regularly sharing photos or, God forbid, videos of people working out there, it stops being an option for me. First of all, I look like a hippo in a tutu while working out. And second, I feel like a naked hippo in a crowd of unknown, far more elegant animals… Being filmed and shared on Facebook while feeling and looking like that… No thank you!”
This status evoked tons of comments from a friend telling me “how I should do what I feel is right for me” because “no one is actually watching, it’s just in my head.” And how “everyone was a beginner once.” She wrote it to encourage me, and I love her for that, but she missed the point.
I don’t have a problem with people at the gym looking at me. To be fair, most of them indeed mind their own business just like I do. I also don’t have a problem with being a beginner, because, well – I’m not a beginner. I just don’t want to be f*cking filmed!
Thinking about these two situations in my life had me thinking about why I hate being filmed and photographed in everyday situations. And I figured it out: I don’t want to pose when it’s not the time for posing!
Posing time? Or not?
Talking from my own perspective, I occasionally like to pose. Most of the time I do it for myself, sometimes I pose for others, and once it was even a combination of both. I’m not much of a model (unless you’re looking for a hippo in a tutu to photograph), but there are occasions when I enjoy being on the other side of the lens.
However, there’s time for posing and there’s time to relax and do something else. I think we’ll agree that the latter is what makes the majority of our lives. Time to eat, drink, sleep, work, scroll through social networks, do hobbies, exercise. Time to hang out with friends, family, significant other; to go out, dance, drink, laugh. In all of these moments, I don’t want to pose. And I believe (and honestly hope) that most people don’t want to do it either.
I don’t want anyone’s phone shoved to my face while I’m shoving food into my mouth. I don’t want people filming me when I drink enough beer and finally have the courage to sing at the top of my lungs. The expression “dance like no one’s watching” exists for a reason – unless they’re professional dancers, most people don’t like being watched while they’re dancing. Not to mention being filmed.
During 95% of my time, I am fully immersed in what I’m doing. I don’t think about how I look and whether I embarrass myself or look awkward. During that time, I don’t think about whether I should pose for a photo. So naturally, I don’t feel like posing. When I become aware of the camera in my proximity, I immediately start feeling awkward, as if I should pose or at least pay attention to my behavior. And I hate that feeling. I wrote something more about it here, and I dared to say that, sometimes, cameras even kill all the fun.
So, when is it not time for posing? From what I wrote above, I believe we can conclude this:
In situations that make people feel awkward or fully immersed in what they’re doing, most of them don’t like being filmed or photographed.
Dammit, Dunja, when can I take photos?!
I am not saying you shouldn’t take photos of some special moments as they last. After all, how did the awesome photographer captured us having fun at the wedding I mentioned above? How do all wedding, event, street or documentary photographers do it? Moments should be preserved, but without crossing the line of privacy and without making people feel uncomfortable. Here are my suggestions on how to save as many memories as possible without making people feel awkward.
For those shooting casual snaps/for themselves/for social media
Take photos/videos before or after the event
If you use your photos as a kind of a “visual diary,” you may want to look back at them and remember a certain moment or event. This is how I use Instagram, and this is how I shoot and then relive many special days and events in my life. I snap a photo before or, more often, after something happened. When I look back at these photos, I can relive all the best moments.
Similarly, I’ll take photos and let my friends photograph me before we start eating if any of us really wants to remember that lunch we had. :)
Take photos/videos at the very begging or the end of the event
This is similar to what I wrote above. Personally, I like taking a photo or two at the beginning of every concert I attend. I don’t aim to capture lighting effects or the band’s moves. I just need a visual reminder. When I’m done, I put my phone back in the purse and enjoy the show with all my senses. Of course, it’s different if you’re a concert photographer… But I believe you get my point.
Don’t take photos of people, shoot something else
There are situations in which people feel really awkward if you take photos or videos of them. For me, these include exercising, eating, or being drunk – and this last point is applicable to most of my friends. Still, I had many unforgettable nights out which I am today reliving through photos, yet I didn’t make anyone feel awkward. It’s simple – I didn’t photograph people.
If you’re shooting only to remember the moments, find something that reminds you of a splendid day (or night) that you had, and take a photo of that. In fact, this is how I shoot and then relive most of my special days and events.
For paid photographers mainly (but also for others)
As I mentioned, there are situations when you want to save as many moments as possible in photos. I told you a bit about my friend’s wedding above. She even asked her photographer to capture more candid moments and don’t make us pose too much.
She later told me that the whole evening is kinda hazy in her mind because of so many emotions and because so much was going on. Fortunately, the photographer Siniša Trifunović preserved tons of crazy, emotional and funny moments for her. How? He was almost invisible!
He did photograph us while we were dancing and being drunk (oh my!), but even I didn’t feel awkward during that. Why? Well: a) he knew what was worth capturing and b) he was super-discreet and respectful of everyone’s personal space. All this brings us to the last two points.
Know what moments are worth preserving
When I look at an average social media profile, it seems to me that most people are overdoing it when it comes to capturing moments in everyday life. They shoot and post everything, all the time!
The same goes for all photographers capturing people at events or in the street. Not all moments are interesting and worth keeping. I recently saw some wedding photos showing people as they were slurping their soup. I doubt anyone had much fun during that. Or that anyone looked particularly glamorous.
Anyway, learn how to filter important and interesting moments that you really want to save in your images, no matter if you’re shooting them for your Instagram or for your clients. Some moments are just not fun enough. And those that are – don’t ruin them for yourself and for others by staring at your phone or camera all the way through them.
Be aware of people’s feelings and be respectful of them
As I said, many people feel awkward if you photograph them in certain situations. I even mentioned some of those situations above. Of course, we’re not all the same, and what makes me feel awkward is something other people won’t even notice. Still, be aware that your camera or phone could make people feel weird and unpleasant. If you feel that you’re making someone feel uncomfortable, perhaps put your camera down or try being more discreet.
Maybe it’s logical, but I believe it’s worth noting: nothing is black or white. There are always shades and exceptions, but these are some general conclusions and tips I wanted to share. Whatever you’re shooting, be aware that there is a line between saving precious moments and ruining them for others, probably even for yourself. Think about your own ways of not crossing that line, and I hope my article will inspire you for it or at least make you see things from a new perspective.
Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.