Jan 31, 2024

Smile! You’re on Planned-It Camera

On being true to your selfie…

By Ed Goldman

Many of us are camera-shy (in my case, for good reason and you’re welcome). We always dread someone taking “candids” of us while we’re at office parties, family reunions or Grand Jury indictments.

Then along comes the semi-smart phone and with it, the dawning of the Selfie Era. Suddenly, people who passionately avoided cameras all of their lives—by covering their faces, stepping into other rooms, emigrating to other continents and inquiring about space travel—are posing with their “besties.” Or their brunch spreads. And in front of historical monuments or next to life-size cardboard cut-outs of celebrities.

Edgy Cartoon

Good grief

Most of us are now aware of the paparazzi term “photo ops” (for “opportunities”—not, as in covert military work, “operations”). Some of us may even know where the term “paparazzi” came from: the Fellini film “La Dolce Vita” in which a character named Paparazzo was a pushy news photographer (but I repeat myself).

Well, many of us went to bed one night petrified of being photographed and loathing the effort of taking pix of others, and awoke as impromptu models and paparazzi. 

I’m mentioning all of this because February starts tomorrow and with it the new season of photo ops will commence: Valentine’s Day dinners; March Madness; April Fool’s Day and Easter; Mother’s, Father’s and Independence Days in May, June and July; Nothing-of-Importance Week in August (though we’ll probably still do pix poses at seashores, lakes and weight-reduction/sober-up spas). Then come Labor Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving in September, October and November. And finally, the tripod trifecta of Kwanzaa, Hannukah and Christmas. What’s an incontrovertible introvert to do?

For one thing, learn the cliches of “candid” photography. If you’re at an event, find someone with whom you can be pictured “sharing a laugh.” If you’re being shot for a work photo, try one in which you’re holding your phone to your ear and looking up suddenly, as if you had no possible idea you were about to be photographed by that person who’d been setting up lights and reflective umbrellas a few feet in front of your desk for the last hour.

Among my favorite photo ops are the ones taken at receptions, especially if, at the last minute, the photographer asks you to put your wine or cocktail glass down so it won’t look as though you’re at a semi-formal pub crawl. Leaving on your “Hi, I’m…” name-tag will not only moderate that notion but also look adorably dorky.

More women than men have a knack for picture posing. They seem to instinctively know to turn slightly sideways—which is a good tactic in fencing, too, and for the same reason: it makes it appear there’s a bit less of you. They may also be born knowing the Model’s Stance: “Left foot back and our right foot forward. The heel is into the instep of the left foot. We’re facing the knee literally out to the left,” according to the website tophollywoodactingcoach.com.  

Whereas, for a man the go-to gesture is to place one hand atop the other hand and place them both in front of his pants, a tad north of the crotch. I’m sure this started out, centuries ago, as a self-defense stance for men, likely when someone was aiming things other than cameras at them. If so, it was probably popularized during the era when standing before a firing squad was the favored form of capital punishment. It’s typical of my gender that as we’re about to lose our lives, we’d think about the safety of our junk.  

All that aside, I hope you’ll start or continue to enjoy being immortalized on camera as the year unfolds. It’s like they used to say to lure people to Hollywood: Unless you’re fleeing the mob, creditors or divorce attorneys, you oughta be in pictures. 

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).