Honk if you own a camera and it works. Honk twice if you know how it works and some of your pictures are good enough to hang in frames!

I rarely bother to write about the same thing twice in a day, but this is bugging me. It must be, because I’ve written about it before and probably will again.

Photography is not about inner beauty. Photography is about an image captured and displayed to be viewed. 

I am a photographer. Not a professional, just a pretty good (enthusiastic) amateur. I don’t do photography with the precision of some people, but I do a pretty good job — most of the time.

I do two things well: landscapes and casual portraits. If you let me, I can probably find a few flattering angles at which to take your picture that will not make you feel like screaming and running from the room in horror.

As the years have progressed and I have aged, so have my friends. Where once you could just point and shoot, photographs taken of older people require a little more intelligent use of processing tools. A little softness for skin. Gentler lighting. And a certain kindness in figuring out what people want to see.

I know photographers love the wrinkles and folds of old skin. We also love photographing rusted old trucks and falling down buildings. Old things are more interesting to shoot. But friends are not “old things” and we don’t take their pictures because we want to capture that gravelly roughness of what was once their treasured skin.

We want their pictures because we care about them. We see them as special. We know their humor, their wit, their kindness. We have laughed and cried together. We know that little twitch in the lip means they are trying not to laugh … and we know they don’t want to smile because they don’t like the way their teeth look. They do funny things with their heads so the wattles or double-chins won’t show.

Is it vain? Well maybe it is, but I don’t see anyone running around in a hair shirt, either. We’ve all got a little vanity in us and there’s nothing wrong with it. If you are packed with inner beauty, a nice picture won’t erase it.

Most grownups don’t like they way they look in pictures. We also don’t like the way we sound when we’ve been recorded and are sometimes horrified that other people have to listen to that awful voice — yet somehow, everyone does and no one minds. The same with how we look. Our friends love us and they see us with love.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Which is why selfies are such an awful idea for adults. Selfies are not portraits. They are shot too close. They distort your face, broaden your nose and make your lips look blown up. Selfies emphasize the texture of skin which may have been perfect once, but time has had its way. Super closeups deepen wrinkles and enhance the folds on your neck. They even make your hands look wrinkled and worn — even if they actually don’t look that way. They make everyone look lumpy and double-chinned. We may have liver spots, but is that how we want to show ourselves to the immediate universe? Really? WHY?

The camera lens is a cold thing. It sees what it sees and dumps the information on a sensor. A photographer sees through the lens and makes other choices. I look at my friends and see the smile, the sparkle, the laughter. How they talk with their hands. How their faces change when they are animated in conversation. Those are the pictures I want.

We all need a friend with a camera who likes us enough to see us and capture the spark that makes us so lovable. Photography is not about hidden beauty. Save the hidden stuff for your writing and intimate talks with friends and loved ones.

Photography is about what things look like. But a good photograph show much more than that. It will see past the skin and catch a  special something. We are more than skin hanging on a bony frame. This is also why I so dislike people with no experience or talent selling themselves as photographers. It diminishes those of us who have spent dozens of years learning how to take pictures that are more than whatever landed on the sensor.

And if those pictures of you don’t come out well? That’s what DELETE is for. With digital cameras, we can take millions of pictures. Free. If we can take fifty pictures of an interesting tree, what’s wrong with taking a couple of dozen of our best friend?

The whole issue baffles me, mainly because I don’t know why it is an issue at all. If you own a camera and you know how to use it … go shooting with a friend. Take pictures. Keep taking them until you have a few in hand that makes both of you light up with pleasure.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.


  1. Being photographic soul mates, I am with you all the way, although I don’t think I would ever had got so interested in photography were it not for the digital aspects. Messing around and developing my own photos would not be my thing, but taking photos one after the other is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hated all those chemicals. They were poisonous and they stank. I used them because that was what there was, but the very MINUTE digital appeared I embraced it. After we came back from our Honeymoon in Ireland, I had 22 rolls of 36 shots per roll and it costs me a few HUNDRED DOLLARS — just to get them developed. Ireland is really photogenic, by the way.

      I know there are things you can do with film and paper you can’t do digitally, though with all the new software, I think that won’t be true soon, either. But paper textures make pictures interesting. For this, there is a place to which I send pictures (digital pictures, all done online with downloads). They print on paper — all kinds of paper. On aluminum and wood and steel. On canvas. A canvas print really looks like a painting. You should try it with one of your mountain pictures. Take a really sharp one and print it large on canvas. It’s AMAZING. They will print it on a shirt, on a mug, on your mouse pad. And it’s not very expensive, either.

      But I don’t have to proof ALL my pictures like that, just the one or two I want to hang on the walls.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was a professional photographer for years and people would always try to tell me I needed to instruct them exactly how to pose but that’s not what I did, I would take them on a walk through a beautiful spot and just catch them as they interacted with eachother. Those were the golden moments, where the picture was of who they were and their connections to eachother! I enjoyed this read very much!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I do that, or I distract people. I tell jokes. I do anything to get people to show some animation. It’s not posing because even with professional models, animation makes it work. Thanks very much for reading!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Before we were married my husband gave me his old SLR when he bought a newer one. I got pretty good with it, but when we moved over here and digital cameras came out, he decided a digital would be cool, too. After he let me borrow it for a few days I think he realized he needed a new camera again. This was a Sony Mavica, 13.5 zoom, the flip up view finder. Sadly, it took 3″ floppies, and when those disappeared the camera was useless. Last time I fired it up the focus wouldn’t, and the zoom failed as well.

    I hate to think how many photos I took with that, before it quit on me.

    But I do know that feeling of excitement when you look at the days’ take and think, ‘that one. That’s the one.”


    1. I had TWO of those Mavicas, one after another. The last one, I donated to my doctor. For some reason, they still used floppies and the Mavica was their camera — disappearing fast. I loved the camera. It obviously didn’t keep up with the changes in the business, but I really loved having pictures on movable floppies.

      That moment when you see the one picture that’s exactly what you wanted, just the way you wanted it. It’s why we shoot, I think. Because we take lots of pictures, but every now and again, there’s a special one that jumps out and says “IT’S ME ME ME!” And, so it is.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My friend Lois takes good photos of me. So does an old man (92!) that I admire greatly and who thinks I’m a “beautiful young woman” Both of them look at me with love. Lois also understands what I do and what means something to me. Richard has taken ONE photo of me and it was wonderful. I think it’s a good photo when the person IN the photo says, “Yeah, that’s me.” The photo reflects the outer appearance and the inner person. All three photos I use publicly were taken by people who love and know me. Otherwise people capture my outer “Aunt Jo” which is just surreal to me. It’s normal I’d resemble a family member, but good god… That’s just weird.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s why I said “a friend” with a camera, not anyone who has one. Although a couple of my favorite pictures were taken by perfect strangers in parking lots so Garry and I could be in a picture together — you never know who you’re gonna meet in a parking lot.

      Owen can’t take a picture of anyone that isn’t hideous — he can take pictures of things, but he has NO talent for people. Kaity is great with portraits, probably better than me. Garry doesn’t take portraits exactly. He takes single frame movie shots. He’s thinks “cinematic.” Yet he gets some really GREAT pictures of me … as well as some terrible ones. The great ones really make up for the bad ones and delete is a powerful weapon.

      Garry’s hard to shoot because in front of a still camera, he gets all rigid. I have to shoot when he isn’t paying attention, or he is in a very family setting and can relax into it.

      People who care about you — and know how to use a camera — will create pictures that feel “right.” If you look at it and say “OMG WHAT IS THAT? Please — throw it away!” — it’s probably not a great portrait.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I have a little Samsung camera we got with Air-miles. Your cameras look really sophisticated compared to my little one. I’ll just enjoy your talented photos.


    1. All you need is something that focuses properly and has a decent lens. You’ve got a good eye, so you just need good mechanics. Don’t get fooled by what a camera looks like. Even a $50,000 Leica has iAuto and auto-focus. I know a lot of people have very super expensive cameras — and shoot in Auto all the time. Seems a bit of a waste, but to be fair, I shoot mostly in semi-automatic too. My eyes aren’t as sharp as they were and I trust auto-focus.

      You know the REAL difference? A good camera, when you’re in focus? It beeps and flashes a little green thing. If you’re OUT of focus, it has a little red thing. And it won’t beep. If it’s REALLY bad, it also won’t take the picture.

      What you need is a camera that has a good lens and works quickly. Better cameras have a much faster turnaround — aka, the interval between one shot and the next — in camera terms, recycling. When we say a camera is fast, that’s what we mean. It recharges quickly between shots. This is important if you shooting anything that moves — kids, cats, dogs, birds, sports. A slow camera can be a wildly frustrating tool — and they tend to produce blurry pictures. If the camera is slow, by the time it’s ready to shoot? The shot is gone.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I actually learned a lot from your response. I don’t think it beeps, but does have that Auto, which I tend to use all the time. Maybe I should try some of the other settings and see what happens.


        1. That’s what I did. I just tried out the various styles — and discovered all kinds of cool stuff. You can get stuff that looks like painted abstracts or as if it was taken with a camera from 100 years ago 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  6. I especially love that photo with the spiffy yellow car. Were I ever to come visit you, I would let you or Garry take a photo of my car and maybe even a photo of my dog. But not me. I hate photos of me no matter who takes them.


    1. I will simply tell you this: you do not take picture of yourself for you. You take them so other people have something with which to remember you should something happen. You might be surprised, but other people actually CARE about you!

      I am sorry we sold the spiffy yellow car. Garry LOVED that car. Drove it for a LONG time. But we just didn’t need two cars anymore. It was getting old sitting in the driveway. Now, it lives about a mile away and has a whole new life.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I depends on your eye. The iPhone has a pretty good camera in it. It isn’t flexible enough for me, but if you have a good eye, you can take good pictures with it. An old 35mm SLR is not going to do the job for you, so leave it mothballs. If you buy a camera, that isn’t what you want. People like you can be VERY happy with a pocket-sized super-zoom camera. Fast, with a lens that can see half a mile away in detail tends to become truly beloved. Put it on you Christmas list. Maybe someone will buy you one.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Years ago a friend, who had always used SLRs, finally broke down and purchased a digital. She took a photo of her dog. Sent it to me. Nice dog, nice picture. After a week I said, what else have you taken? She said, what? I don’t want to waste the film…(shakes head, walks away)

    (She was also the sort that would send me an email at midnight, and ask if I were still around…when I responded she’d say, oh, hope I didnt wake you…)

    I think that may be the major stumbling block for older people. Even though they have that camera with a chip that could hold Yankee stadium, they keep waiting for the perfect shot, so they don’t waste the pictures. It’s a habit ingrained in most of us, from our first 12 picture brownie…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Most people I know are fine at taking pictures, but don’t quite know what to do with them after that. The whole downloading/processing/ posting thing can be an issue unless they were already computer literate.

      But the majority of really bad pictures are not from seniors. They are really bad photograph, taken by untalented people of all ages — who think they know something. I’m not sure WHY they think that. Some of them give advice on how to take pictures. I get a headache thinking about it. These are people who know NOTHING about photography. Nothing. At. All.


  8. Honk! Honk!! 😉

    I only take pictures of people if i am asked to, like for say, a wedding. Not as a professional, just some shots as a casual observer. Generally i can get friends at ease and take a decent shot or two, but my preference is to take pictures of things that can’t tell you they don’t like my pic! 😉

    I’ve had one pic (of a local landmark – bell tower) published in a paper and entered two flower shots in a photography contest but i mostly shoot for my own enjoyment and to capture the beauty i see in my flowers that will otherwise only last for a few days. I like to share the better ones (IMHO). 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know what you like and do that. My problem isn’t with people who know they are good with flowers or other things that just stand still, but people who get a camera, put it in auto, and figure they know everything. Worse, when it isn’t even a camera, but a mobile phone — and not necessarily a good one, either. The latest iPhones i am told have very good quality optics. I don’t not like phones because they pretend to be cameras. I don’t like them because they pretend to be telephones. What they are, are little computers and there are many things you can do with them … but using them as telephones is the biggest one that doesn’t work.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m with you on the Notsmartphone thing. Like the computers they are they seem to need constant updating to fix the latest ‘bug’ and i rarely use mine so rarely choose any updates. i can never get a stupid app to download/work properly on the rare occasions i try. I’m going to be really bugged when our nation finally switches over to the National Broadband Network (NBN) as that means there will no longer be any landlines (which currrently do not require the power to be on to work) and i’ll have to use VOIP or a dumbphone (notsmartphone) 😦

        I will never use my phone to take decent pictures with no matter how many pixels they can shoot!


  9. I know how to take pictures with both of my cameras, and not much else. I could probably teach myself proper processing in Photoshop, but my interest in photography doesn’t extend much beyond just trying to take cute pictures of squirrels and chronicling the strange and even mundane things around me. Squirrels need little processing to come out looking good anyway… and I have yet to see one with a double chin (But boy would that be a great prize for my blog if I did!)


    1. A lot of people have neither the patience nor skill to get into the processing. I understand.

      Garry doesn’t process. He just shoots. I do the processing for both of us. I really enjoy the processing. Not every minute of it, but most of the time. I’ve always enjoyed art and painting and drawing and stuff … and this is the “hands on” part of digital photography. Nowadays, there are SO many fancy features to play with and I haven’t used half of them yet.

      Garry wouldn’t touch any of the processing applications. He can do most of the basic things on a computer, but that’s it. He doesn’t LIKE computers, whereas, I really like them and have since I first got my hands on one … that would be … early 1980s, I think. In Israel.


  10. Great post! I am just bought my first REAL camera this year. I am slowly learning how to properly use it and boy, am I having fun doing it. I love it when a shot actually turns out.


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