Should that be there?

When people first started taking photographs, the equipment and process was rather costly and specialised.  So they were VERY CAREFUL not to make mistakes. Carefully posed people, sometimes even with bits and pieces of supporting equipment to make sure every piece was static. Careful scenes, the best clothes, serious faces (one shudders at how many happy people are remembered only by those so-serious photos that made everyone appear as though a sense of humour had yet to be invented).

As the equipment and process became more and more within reach of ordinary people, things became more casual.  I can remember pictures from my childhood in the middle of the last century where we were allowed to clown about for the camera. Indeed there were some ‘posed’ casual photos taken. However, I can remember photos discarded because they were ‘not good enough’. Often because something in the background, or even in the foreground ‘ruined’ the photo. I can remember a party picture where some child’s hand holding an ice-cream cone took up a lower third of the picture.  Someone said “should that be there?” We would all look, and agree that it shouldn’t be there, and the picture would be relegated to the rubbish bin.

The advent of digital photography has freed us (apparently) from most inhibitions when faced with someone saying ‘smile for the birdie’. Having something unplanned for in the background, or even in the foreground of the picture has no longer is a cause to discard it. Now it has become a picture-form in its own right. The photo-bomb!

I went looking round the web for a definition, there are several, all similar.

verb [with object]

  • spoil a photograph of (a person or thing) by unexpectedly appearing in the camera’s field of view as the picture is taken, typically as a prank or practical joke:we were interrupted and photobombed by at least twenty tourists(as noun photobombing)the concept of photobombing has probably been around as long as photography
    • spoil (a photograph) by unexpectedly appearing in the camera’s field of view as the picture is taken:she actually photobombed a picture of me with Jonah

An otherwise normal photo that has been ruined or spoiled by someone who was not supposed to be in the photograph.

The most common photobomb is someone in the background making a face.


Any time the background of a picture hijacks the original focus.

The first one I remember seeing and laughing at was of a couple, having a holiday picture taken when a cute animal popped up and stole the show. Unfortunately the advent of photo-editing now means that there are thousands of “wanna-be’s” who edit in that little ground-squirrel. Sadly never with quite the same effect.



I recently saw one that made me smile, President Obama having a photo-shoot with some school-children, and up in the back row, a little boy sneaking a kiss. That stole the show there.




A fairly famous one of scuba-divers having their picture taken with a surprise in the background!









Something in the background can change the picture,


b an



An impending situation in the background can also rather distract from the portrait.








Those who feel left out may try to get in on the act



And of course , sometimes that pesky intruder just is too much…..




9 thoughts on “Should that be there?

  1. Lately, Sideview, I’ve been photobombing my own photos… with my finger over the lens! That doesn’t have the same effect as the example photos you’ve posted!

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