August 14, 2017

Candid Shots Show a Victorian Couple From the 1890s Who Cannot Help But Laugh When Getting Their Picture Taken

If you’ve ever looked at pictures from the Victorian era then you’ve probably noticed that nobody is smiling. Everybody looks so serious that it seems as if people in the 1800s simply didn’t know how to have fun.



Why Didn’t People Smile in Old Portraits?

Back in the Victorian era, for instance, the cost of pictures meant that you’d only have your photo taken once or twice in a lifetime. Mark Twain thought as much. In one of his letters, collected by Jeeves, he wrote:
“A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever.”

Another explanation is exposure time - this is basically the amount of light a camera needs to record an image. The longer the shutter is open the longer the film is exposed to light. Early cameras and film did take longer.

People couldn’t hold their smiles in place for that long. If they did, the photo would have almost certainly come out blurry. And then they’d have to sit for it again.




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