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Three, Two, One: Why You Should Stop Counting Down Your Snaps

three women sitting on wooden bench

First, mankind discovered fire – next, they invented the wheel and, some time after that, they got into the business of sliced bread. It was around that point in human history – we’re guessing – that we also got into the habit of saying ‘Cheese’ and giving everyone the ‘3,2,1’ before taking a photo. 

There’s nothing overtly wrong with counting down before pressing the shutter, and on the grand scale of ‘human creations’ it registers as pretty benign. But there are a few good reasons why giving everyone 3 seconds to get themselves ‘photo ready’ – whatever that really means – is probably holding you and your photography back. 

Yes, it may be the favourite of the school photographer, but do you really want to follow their lead anyway? Here are some of our favourite reasons to break free from the cliché – starting, very aptly, with number 3 and working our way down from there…

3. You probably don’t want every photo to look the same

If we get too ‘stuck in our ways’ when it comes to photographing people, it doesn’t take long before everything starts to look pretty generic. Why? Because, if you give people time to prepare themselves for the camera, they tend to lapse into their comfort zone. They’ll turn their (supposedly) better sides toward you, put on the ‘camera smiles’ that don’t look anything like their real smiles, and do the poses they always do when they feel like they need to be on

You could travel the world and wind up with 100 photos in front of 100 different monuments – the Eiffel Tower, Mount Rushmore, Big Ben, the Taj Mahal – and, in each one, your family could look more or less the same. Sure, you could play around with filters and print them out, polaroid style, in a square photo book devoted to your travels, but will that photo book really tell a story? That brings us neatly onto…

2. Candid photos tell stories

3 seconds may not be a long time, but it’s long enough for someone to snap out of whatever story they were telling, whatever they were laughing about, or whatever distant focal point has got them staring happily off into space, and put on their photo face. 

The trouble is, ‘photo faces’ don’t tell stories. Laughter, thoughtfulness, joy, reverence – all those feelings we love to feel are masked in the blink of an eye.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the best photos, and the best photo books, tell stories. These stories may not have clear beginnings, middles, and ends, but they do tell you plenty about how you were feeling in the moment – and there’s no better form of memory than that. 

You don’t need to have a 5-volume epic in mind to make use of our photo book maker, but, with the right snaps, you will find out what they mean when they say a picture is worth a thousand words. 

1. Your subjects will get to see themselves in a new light

Most of us figured out our ‘photo face’ because we saw one bad picture, and decided we could never go through that emotional turmoil again. The thing is, taking a bad photo every now and again is a rite of passage for anyone, and there's no reason to freeze in an unnatural, cheesy grin each and every time the camera lens points our way. 

True, some candid photos aren’t flattering. No one has taken good photos and only good photos their entire life, and your subjects are no exception to that rule. But, plenty of times, you will find that your subjects are pleasantly surprised by the photo you took before they even realised you had your camera out – especially if you read up on how to take stunning candids.

Even if your subjects have a few errant strands of hair in their face, a smile that’s halfway between happy and bewildered, blurry hands from gesturing as they talk, or a couple of latte foam fangs on either side of their mouth, who cares? It’s real, it’s natural, and it’s a perfect, unique representation of a perfect, unique moment between the two of you. 


There are so many reasons to ditch the photo cliches and just start snapping as and when you see fit. It may be good manners to delete some of the less-than-flattering shots you get from the process, but we’re sure you’ll wind up with a collection that really reminds you of each subject’s unique personality – and the time you shared together. Besides, nobody wants to say cheese – so why give them the chance to talk themselves into it? Happy snapping…


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