If I Had To Pick Just One

In a strange way, photographs are a bit like children. I know, I know, that’s a stretch, but if you stick with me, I swear I can make this make sense. For example, if you ask a mother to pick a favorite child, she will tell you they are all her favorites and she simply can’t pick just one. If you are a stinker and you press a little harder and ask, “Well who’s your favorite today?”, she might crack just a little and say that, while there’s no FAVORITES, today so-and-so is being super perfect and well behaved. And that’s how I feel when someone asks me to pick my favorite photo. Because I have so many and I love them all for so many different reasons. Each one you’ve seen so far has been part of my process of learning and growing, as well as a documentation of someone’s day or moment or event, and so they’re all important and meaningful and how can I choose just one?

But after thinking about it a little while, I realized I am a bad mother, because I do have a favorite photograph. And what’s interesting about this photo is that it’s one of the first photos I ever took. In fact, I took this photo with a Canon AE-1 film camera with a 50mm lens, using 35mm film (Ilford HP-5 to be exact). And then I developed the film myself in a developing tank at the lab. And then I went into the darkroom and printed an 8×10 of it that I still have. But, while all that is neat, it’s not why it’s my favorite photo. This photo is much better than that. When I look at this photo, I am aware that it has technical issues, like the focus is a little soft, and the composition of it is a little stale. I had to spend a little time in the darkroom burning in the left side because I blew out my highlights so that I could be sure to have detail in the shadow side of her face. It’s not a technically perfect photo, but it’s still, in my opinion, one of my best photos, and certainly one of my best portraits.

The photo I’m talking about is the photo below. It’s a photo I took of my grandmother on Thanksgiving 1993. I’ve shown it to you before, but I wanted to talk about it again today. I have applied to be an intern with a local studio (keep your fingers crossed for me), and they asked me to tell them about my favorite photo, and since I had a 5 hour drive last night back from Savannah, I had a lot of time to think about the importance of photos in our life. In the post before this one, the lead photo is of the groom’s grandfather, who’s glance I just happened to be lucky enough to catch during the ceremony. This photo is now a favorite photo of the groom and his sister, and several other members of their family. It’s not a whiz-bang photo with lots of photographic tricks and techniques all piled onto it. It’s just a well timed photo that was captured during an emotional moment. This photo is one of nearly 1000 photos that I processed for this event, and many of those photos were whiz-bang cool photos, but this one is the one that stands out, not only to family members, but to many of you as well. It’s a photo that is direct and honest and real.

And that is why the photo of my grandmother is my favorite photo I’ve ever taken. My portfolio has a ton of technically ‘perfect’ photos in it, but it’s the ones that combine skill with the good luck and timing of being in just the right place at just the right moment that become so much more than just a bunch pixels on a monitor. This photo is the physical embodiment of a real memory of mine. I can still remember the moment it was taken and all the details of that moment, even though it was 17 years ago. And the expression on her face is not posed or forced, it’s just her looking at me the way she usually looked at me. It’s a photo that’s honest and real. And the next thing that happened…. she told me to quit it so she could finish the dishes.


As always, thanks for reading my ramblings and taking a look at my work. And as a thank you for allowing me to share this with you, next week I will post some really adorable baby photos from the christening that I photographed in Savannah this weekend. And, wow, are they cute too! Also, if you are interested in seeing my second favorite photo I’ve ever taken, click on this link and take a look at the leading photo on this post.

Amanda Summerlin

Artist and Explorer at Amanda Summerlin Photography
Hello. My name is Amanda. I make neat pictures of nice people, drink coffee and whiskey (sometimes at the same time), and travel. I love traveling so much, I won't charge you any travel fees to photograph your wedding. Check out my travel info page for all the details. And see my blog for all the cool photos.
Amanda Summerlin

If you liked this post, you might like these other posts:

  • No Related Posts



Making neat pictures of nice people since 2009. You're not like everybody else, your pictures shouldn't be either.