Snappers, Selfies and Photo Bombs
May 25th, 2016 by David LaBelle
David LaBelle photo bombs filmmaker Ken Burns during a function at Kent State University. Photo by Bob Christy

David LaBelle photo bombs filmmaker Ken Burns during a function at Kent State University.
Photo by Bob Christy

There is a time and a place for everything. Most of us have heard this since childhood.

Photography is a powerful tool for capturing emotion and stirring hearts into action.

Just as the camera can bear witness and reveal the world’s harsh realities and injustices, this magic little box also can be a fun and wonderful toy for children who never grow up. In fact, at a time when it seems images of tragedy and terrorism dominate the news, it is more important than ever to make time to laugh and have fun with photography.

For the most part, photo-journalists are pranksters. More than once I have set down my camera or left it in my car only to find “unsavory” pictures made with it by fellow photographers.

For many photojournalists, humor is a way of coping with the painful things in life that we see and document.

I am reminded of a group of very talented photographers in Kentucky who take the edge off photographing the hard news of the day by shooting fun snappers.

Until I taught at the University of Kentucky, I had never heard of snappers. But I soon found myself swept up in this entertaining game played by many of the state’s photographers.

Professionals paid to document people and events also were dedicated to capturing snappers—humorous photographs of fellow photographers, usually in awkward or embarrassing moments.

I soon learned each photographer was as dedicated to getting a funny shot of a colleague as they were of documenting the events they were paid to cover.

Another relatively new term is photo-bombing—the art of jumping in the background of somebody’s picture uninvited.

Though prankster photographers have done this for years, this practice had no official name until cell phone cameras.

Since I had not tried photo-bombing anybody since the advent of digital photography, I decided to let my hair down, so to speak, and join in the fun during a university function. I asked a friend to get ready because I was going to photo bomb Ken Burns, the famous filmmaker.

Childish for sure, but it still makes me laugh when I look at the picture.

Photo Selfies
A relative to photo-bombing is the ever-popular selfie.

There are more selfies shot today than any other type of pictures. It seems no experience is complete without a selfie to validate it.

In a world that feels like it is growing crueler and more selfish by the year—and where it seems we have become overly sensitive and lost our sense of humor while trying to be politically-correct—having fun with selfies and photo bombs can be a nice diversion from reality.

Yes, there is a time and place for everything, including a time to put the camera away and truly be present in the experience.

But lest you be swallowed in the grief of the day, try having a little fun with your camera and yourself.

Love and laughter are strong medicine.

David LaBelledaveL_mug_2011 is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. He grew up on a frog farm in rural California, roaming the creeks and hills with his coon dogs. Many of the lessons he learned during those magical boyhood years have been applied to photography and teaching the essence of this art form. For more information, visit