Photographer's magic words are `1 ... 2 ... 3'


Since this is the height of vacation season and everyone's walking around with a camera and snapping pictures, it's a good time to address something that's ticked me off for years.

And that is: People who don't say "1 ... 2 ... 3" before they take your picture.

In other words, people who snap your picture without any kind of cue or heads-up.

What is the deal with these people?

Here we have a long, proud history in this country of not actually snapping a picture until you say "1 ... 2 ... 3."

My God, it's practically a law! And yet some people throw this proud tradition to the wind and snap away whenever they feel like it.

Let's face it, most of the time, if you snap someone's picture without a "1 ... 2 ... 3," the picture turns out lousy.

The people in the picture are frozen in all sorts of weird expressions: eyes closed, mouths agape, looking this way, looking that way, fixing their hair, adjusting their shorts, etc.

It pains me to say this, but my wife is one of those people who never lets you know when she's about to take your picture.

She lines everyone up for the shot, and we're all standing there, staring at the camera, waiting for the "1 ... 2 ... 3" thing.

Instead, you get ... nothing.

One minute, she's holding the camera out in front of her, as if she's framing the shot, getting ready for the big moment.

And the next minute, she's smiling and lowering the camera and saying: "OK, that's a good one."

And the people who were posing are thinking: "What? Did she take the picture? She took the picture? Without saying 1 ... 2 ... 3?"

Then they start flipping out and yelling at her: "Why didn't you say 1 ... 2 ... 3?!"

It's really very annoying. And she takes a lot of heat for this.

Look, I'm usually behind her 100 percent on most things.

But when she snaps a picture without saying "1 ... 2 ... 3," well, I'm sorry. I gotta throw her to the wolves.

Here's another problem that frequently comes up when you're taking pictures on vacation: Strangers get involved.

You know how this works.

You're at some neat beach or mountain or Disney World or wherever, and you decide you want a snapshot of the entire family.

So you hand the camera to a nearby stranger and ask whether he or she would be kind enough to take a picture.

This is always a dicey move.

Oh, go ahead, take a chance with this person if you want. Hey, they're your treasured vacation photos, not mine.

But just realize you're not exactly handing your camera over to Ansel Adams or Annie Leibovitz.

Because the truth is this: That stranger who took your picture doesn't care how it turns out.

He doesn't care whether he cuts off half of dad's head, or that junior is wearing an expression that suggests he was just beaten with a broomstick, or that everyone in the snapshot seems to be gazing at a point somewhere off to the right.

All he cares about is snapping your picture and giving you back your camera so you'll leave him alone and he can get back to doing whatever he was doing.

Oh, he might pretend to care about the quality of the picture he just took for you.

If you have a digital camera, he might even hand it back to you and say: "Is that OK?" as you review the picture.

But that's all an act.

Even if you looked at the picture in horror and said: "What are you, blind? That's the worst picture I ever saw!" the guy wouldn't care.

Again, they're not his pictures. He has no emotional investment in this.

And, he might be drunk.

Something like that actually happened to me a few years ago when I was at a Notre Dame football game in South Bend, Ind.

I was with a group of friends, and we wanted to have our picture taken in front of the famous Touchdown Jesus mural not far from the stadium.

So we asked this guy standing next to us if he'd take our picture.

I guess we should have suspected something when I handed him the camera and he looked at it as if he'd never seen one before - as if I'd handed him a time-travel machine or something.

But he somehow managed to take the picture. It was only after he tried to light a cigarette and staggered off that we realized he was hammered.

Yeah, it turned out to be a terrible picture.

Although he did give us the courtesy of saying "1 ... 2 ... 3" before he snapped it.

Which is more than some people I know do.

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