Don't Take My Picture

Blog Author Richard Newman

I’ve been taking people’s pictures for a long time, and here’s what I remember most: Whenever I had to take a group portrait where there was a photographer in the shot, that person always made the most fuss about it. I heard “I take horrible pictures,” “I hate the way I look in pictures”, or any number of complaints and “suggestions” about how I could make their pictures better. I remember one experience where a round person wanted me to use my “slimming lens.”

Getting people to smile in photographs was a pretty big challenge for all photographers. I had some tricks. I carried a dog’s squeaky toy in my shirt pocket and would activate it before I took the picture. Sometimes it helped, and sometimes it didn’t. It always worked if there was an animal in the picture. I think a lot of that began to change with the advent of the cell phone and social media.

A few weeks ago there was a photographic event in Los Angeles. I was not present but I watched the 3-day event on my phone and spoke with a few friends who were in attendance.

I saw a bunch of very nicely dressed people taking photos of themselves and smiling a lot. When I was taking photographer’s portraits, a smile hardly ever came in the room. Now they all seemed to be having a good time and smiling a lot. Was it me?

When photography was first introduced, it was mostly used to take portraits of people. Photography then began to have a social impact. It also showed us places that we could only read about in books, (which were in short supply). It revealed the ravages of the Civil War, 9-year-olds working 12-hour days in textile factories, and the joy of jumping across puddles.

I think it’s time for photography and photographers to lead the way again. Let’s see smiles and joy. We are in very difficult times, without a map, and have never been down this road before. The fact that I am lucky enough to be active in the visuals arts brings me an immense amount of gratitude.

I’ll take this oath—In my work and in my life: "I will strive to bring joy to all who I meet. I will do my best work in every situation that I encounter, and I’ll use the tools of my profession to help and to heal."

Just this week I photographed the Steven Graves Band for their upcoming tour to support their new CD, Captain Soul. Steven’s message is positive, full of love and hope, and I’ll punch that ticket any day. Bands are usually tough to photograph, unless you focus on fun, and then it’s "set sail and land ho!"

I welcome your comments—just email me at

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