The Art of the Paparazzi Photo

I think we’ve all OD’ed on selfie photos. Better yet is the art of the semi-candid “Who me? Yes I’m dancing with the disco light in my hair” photo that your friend took while you were popping your hips in the back room of Bar 107.

You know those ones. High-contrasted white light blotting out your skin, mouth half open from laughing, arms draped over your girl friend. The photos sometimes turn out blurry, but if you’ve got a camera-happy friend with a steady hand, the clean ones are absolute treasures.

Because unlike selfies, there’s no contrived posing. This is photojournalism. These are real snapshots of you in action, doing something silly, having a good time, thinking pensive thoughts, looking off in the distance. It’s best when your friends take a picture when you’re not looking or noticing – hence, the “paparazzi” photo. You might be expecting camera love from your buddies, but you won’t know exactly when. And those random, weird moments, when you’re caught making a crazy face, nuzzling next to some stranger at the bar or being just plain goofy, are totally priceless.

Sometimes, too, the moments are picturesque, and even quite beautiful. In the hands of someone who’s got any sense of basic composition and lighting, that shot of you looking out at the ocean couldn’t otherwise be replicated. Even pictures of you dancing at the club, or of friends giggling and striding down the street at night, can look like frames from a documentary. In a lot of ways, they’re just more genuine glimpses of who we really are.

One of the best paparazzi shots of me was in the Little Italy area of San Francisco. One of my best friends and I were walking down a giant hill, and we got sidetracked by the view of the Bay. I went over to peek through the fence at the Bay Bridge, and then abruptly turned around just as some wind was blowing.


My friend claims she was trying to sneak an “artsy” photo of my back. What we got in the very next moment was even better.

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