Maybe the most common type of photo that people take is the "Hey guys! Smile!" photo, which I think could just as validly be called the facebook photo. Sometimes it's in front of a national landmark, sometimes it's with a reluctantly obliging quasi-celebrity, sometimes it includes the photographer as well as the photographer's outstretched arm. Everybody has them, and more often than not they contain a combination of bad lighting, ordinary composition, awkward facial expressions and severe red-eye-itis. Why do people insist on continually taking such unappealing photos? Three reasons: 1 - so they can tag their friends; 2 - while the images may be aesthetically unappealing, they are often treasured for the memories they capture (and besides, a lot of people aren't afflicted with the photo snobbery that I have just displayed); and 3 - occasionally, the "Hey guys! Smile!" photo avoids all the usual traps and turns out brilliantly.
I'm the first to admit that I, too, am partial to this particular type of photo for all of the reasons listed above. When my digital point-and-shoot was still around, its primary role was to click and capture after a "Hey guys! Smile" was gratuitously yelled across a room. I've also taken a lot of these photos on my lomos, usually while socialising (and often inebriated), with varying degrees of success.
On the highly successful end of the scale sits the above image, a wonderful example of a basic photo that just works. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
1 - It's in focus
2 - It's well lit (for a Holga flash photo) - the flash has illuminated both subjects without taking away shading
3 - The background is interesting without being overbearing
4 - The dark hair + dark jacket against the light hair + light shirt creates a lovely contrast
5 - It contains two beautifully natural (and naturally beautiful) smiles - a difficult thing to capture in a posed photo
6 - The glasses are reflection-free
7 - OK, the personal reason - this contains two lovely ladies, Min and Kate. Friends to me, but more significantly, extraordinarily good friends to one another.
This last reason was the motivation for taking the shot at all - Kate was visiting briefly from Canada and was revelling in the opportunity to spend time with her family and friends. But I also knew that she and Min were rapturously anticipating their reunion in the lead-up to Kate's visit, so I thought it would be nice to get the two of them in a shot together. And, in addition to all of the technical successes of the photo, it succeeds because I think it conveys a feeling. I mean, don't they just look so genuinely happy to be there next to one another?
Oh, and just to prove that I'm not claiming immunity to the bad "Hey guys! Smile!" shot, feast your eyes on this number:
OK, now go back to the one of Min and Kate.