The Art of the Photobomb

I don’t know if it’s risen to the level of uber-pervasive meme, but photobombing is now at the very least a minor sport, no doubt encouraged by the sheer number of snapshots published every second on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and everywhere else where the walls are plastered with people’s lives.

All sports need rules and a system of scoring–especially nerd sports. But given the chaotic nature of photobombing, I propose the following short and simple guidelines:

1. If you are not aware that you’re in someone else’s picture, no points are awarded for photobombing. For example, in this shot…

…it’s doubtful that the animal knows it’s disrupting an otherwise standard posed picture. Is it a billion times more interesting and awesome? Yes. But it would be hard to prove intent. Can it still be called a “photobomb picture”? Debatable. While it may not have been intentionally bombed, you could argue that the inadvertent appearance “blew up” the planned shot. But without intent, NO POINTS FOR YOU!

2. If you are invited into the picture, explicitly or implicitly, no points are awarded for photobombing. This picture…

…was ostensibly going to be a nice two-shot featuring Adam and Liz “Dammit Liz” Smith. But after the fifth person popped into the background, and the subjects clearly became aware of them, it really became a group shot. Once again, while it did make for more interesting composition, points can not be awarded.

3. Even if the subjects are aware, points may be awarded for style. In this shot…
…it’s almost certain that our friends Len Peralta and Prof. James Kakalios were aware of our artful presence. In this case, I (Storm) receive some points for inventive placement and timing, and Paul should be awarded points for subtlety (more on that below). But since Bill Corbett (left side) appears to be unaware that a picture is being taken, he accrues zero points.

4. More points are awarded if the posers are unaware of your presence. In this shot featuring Len, Bill Corbett and Prof. Kakalios…

…Paul has positioned himself in a manner that probably caught everyone unawares. In addition, he gets points for the next category, below.

5. More points are awarded for making it difficult to excise the photobomb. The first thing you notice in this picture…
…is that Adam has done a fine job of injecting himself into an otherwise pleasant shot of Len and Wil. But if you look more carefully, you’ll see that not only does my positioning achieve maximum subtlety, but the resultant picture would also require extra finesse to remove my eyes from the shot.

So get out there and do it! And by keeping these simple photobombing guidelines in mind, maybe some day you’ll make it to the majors…


  1. birq
    Posted March 31, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Aaron Rogers from the Green Bay Packers has made this his mission. He’s been doing it for the past few season, even before he took over for Brett Favre. Maximum points to him.

  2. Posted March 31, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know what rules this may or may not adhere to, but I’m the screaming idiot in the glasses and the Japandroids T-Shirt.

  3. Terri
    Posted March 31, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    About #5 I must say I never noticed you bombing this picture before. Well played sir. Well played.

  4. Adrienne
    Posted March 31, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    What? No scans of the JoCo Cruise Crazy backwards group shot? The one where everybody’s back is turned except Jonathan…and Paul?

  5. Melissa Childers Gatlin
    Posted March 31, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Storm, for never failing to amuse this “soccer mom”. You are the one abdominal exercise I can rely upon. 😉

  6. Posted April 5, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    A well thought out piece. I think you’ve got the rules of The Photobomb well clarified. If people would like to see video of the ‘making’ of these, here’s a playlist from w00tstock 2.8 in Boston with the before and after of these gems.

    I also humbly submit the first VideoBomb, courtesy of Mike Lombardo – but I’m sure it’s been done before, just not called that term.

    I love the eyes in photo #5. You are the master of your craft.

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