Almost Half the Pictures Were “No Good”

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, September 9, 1914: The last of my pictures came today. Of the seven that were taken while we were at the Falls, three were no good.

old folding  Brownie camera

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Poor Grandma– It sounds like a near disaster if 3 of the 7 pictures were “no good.” Maybe the mist (or the lighting) at Niagara Falls affected the pictures.

Even though it hasn’t been all that long since I had a camera that used film, it seems like a vague memory. Some things have changed for the better!

30 thoughts on “Almost Half the Pictures Were “No Good”

  1. Pretty good to have 4 that were okay. My father who was mad into photography pre digital always said that it was a good day when you got one good pic. I don’t find digital all that different as photos are about so much more than the camera.

    1. Yes, even though the percentage that were okay doesn’t seem very high by today’s standards, I’m sure that you’re right that it was good that several of them turned out all right.

  2. I remember this kind of disappointment so well from the film days. I guess she was using one film plate per photo so 7 must have been expensive – to buy and develop. This kind of ratio doesn’t sound bad though for a beginner.

  3. So disappointing. It was so frustrating to open that envelope and discover your photos were bad….no going back to retake, no second chances. I love how digital photography has taken my photography to a whole new level.

    1. I remember that the first roll of film I developed after buying an Instamatic camera was a failure. In the process of holding the camera, I’d inadvertently put one finger over the shutter.

  4. Even with digital, sometimes a picture that you think will be perfect, falls short. But we’re all glad you have that ONE perfect picture from Grandma’s trip!

    1. How true! I particularly have difficulty telling if outdoor photos that I take on sunny days are okay until later when I get back into the house and the light isn’t so intense.

  5. I agree with many of the comments above. I’m glad for not having to wait, better more reliable equipment, ability to instantly share a picture electronically, and the chances to experiment and be creative.

    1. She tried so hard to carefully select things that she thought were worth photographing so it had to be disappointing when some of them didn’t turn out.

  6. In my (long) experience with photography the most common causes of “bad” pictures were camera shake (probably #1), poor focus, trying to shoot in areas of sharp contrast (sun/shadow), and movement of the subject. All but one of these problems were exacerbated by slow film speed, something that was slow in improving over the years.

    I hope Helena wasn’t discouraged by the problem. Being in the habit of reading obituaries I often marvel that many people die without leaving behind a good picture of themselves. Has anyone else noticed this?

  7. Well shucks. I feel sad for your Grandma. Cameras and film were so dear to come by back then. And going for a grand trip was even dearer. I can imagine how disappointed she was about her photos. Bless her heart.

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