Geoff Black had one goal in mind when he purchased a Nikon D90 camera before the birth of his twin daughters four years ago.
Black, a mortgage banker from Sacramento, Calif., was committed to not imposing on his family and friends the type of “flash and shoot” shots of kids that came from his friends’ iPhones and tablets.
“I didn’t really know anything beyond how to turn it on,” Black said of the camera that soon became his prized possession. “I selfishly just wanted better quality pictures than what I saw from others.”
When Black’s wife, Jodi, gave birth to their twin girls, Jamisen and Jacksen, in March 2009, Black was right there with his film camera, capturing the exact moment the girls came into the world.
“I was shaking like crazy,” he said. “I can’t believe it turned out.”
From that moment on, Black hasn’t stopped shooting photos of his twin daughters, estimating he has taken “thousands” of pictures since they were born. While most parents rely on digital cameras to take as many photos as cheaply and quickly as possible without disrupting their fast-moving kids, Black has stuck with film, even scouring flea markets and garage sales to find the vintage cameras he favors.
“I prefer the challenge of getting it right with film,” Black said. “With digital you take 1,000 pictures of nothing.”
“When you take a film picture that costs $2 to have processed, there’s a risk there, so you’re only going to make the shot when it’s at least decent,” he said.
Black’s Flickr page, created, he says, as a way to get feedback from other photographers, is chockful of “decent” photos of his daughters, but he’s had to learn a few tricks to get them to hold still for a nondigital shot.
“Bribery,” he explained. “A jelly bean, Skittles or Smarties or Pez. Most of the time it’s bribery that works, and other times I just take the picture when they’re not looking, but that’s not often.”
He describes his daughter, Jacksen, as the “willing and photogenic” twin, while Jamisen is “completely resistant unless there’s a bribe or her mood is right.”
“When I get something good of her it’s gold, and when it’s not, it’s complete garbage,” he said.
While creating a photo diary of his daughters’ lives over the past four years, Black has learned, besides bribery, what he says is the most important lesson for parents looking for the best shot.
“Don’t tell them to say cheese,” Black said. “It’s not a genuine smile, and you’re not capturing genuine emotions. You’re capturing a manufactured reaction like a lineup picture.
“The more you take pictures, the more they’ll be groomed to be in front of the camera,” he said.