Something I hear a lot when people see the photos I take is, “I could take great photos if I had a camera like yours, too.” This isn’t exactly kind and it’s definitely not accurate. And while I am certain I will never earn prizes and acclaim as the next Ansel Adams, the years spent in my grandfather’s studio and at my grandmother’s retouching and coloring table have helped me develop a good eye for photos, regardless of what camera I am using. When we went to Cuba this week, I didn’t even take my ‘good’ camera; I took my Olympus point and shoot, which doesn’t look like much but is a really great camera and workhorse. And I caught some good shots, capturing a lot of what Cuba looked like, good and bad.
What does this have to do with Day Ten’s gift, you ask? Because I often take photos for the paper and at events, everyone on the trip asked if they could have copies of my photos when we returned because they’re always so good. I don’t mind sharing my photos at all; in fact, I enjoy sharing them. But what people don’t ever realize is that taking the photo is only the smallest part of the process. When I finish taking photos at an event or on a trip, there is still a huge chunk of time invested in getting them ready before they ever end up in a photo album or Facebook feed. This is where my gift comes in. I think it is the gift of Photoshop, and even if the people I went on the cruise with never know it, they’ve been gifted with a huge chunk of my time.
I spent hours and hours last night tweaking, lightening, highlighting, sharpening, and color-correcting hundreds of photos from the trip. I deleted unflattering photos, set aside a few that the subject asked me to not share with anyone else, and erasing electric wires or objects that seemed to sprout from behind someone’s ear because of their placement in the photo. This is a gift no one will ever know about, and there is something in its anonymity which makes it very special and meaningful to me as the giver. It’s like a magic trick I know that nobody else knows about. Maybe it’s how Cinderella’s fairy godmother felt when she watched Cindy glide into the ball and knock Prince Charming’s socks off. Whatever it is, I like the feeling, and I like knowing that the folks who receive my photos will instantly be transported back to a happy memory of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure we shared together. I also like knowing that, though they’ll never notice the missing electric wire or unwanted ear appendage, I will see it in every photo and know that I was able to perform magic to make them feel better about themselves and make their memories more special.