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Perfectly Timed Photos (also known as “Well-Timed Photos”) refer to photographs that are taken at opportune moments to reveal a sight of spectacle (often at high speeds) or an optical illusion, such as forced perspective. While many examples of perfectly timed photos can be seen as lucky shots captured in the nick of time, photographs like the the 9/11 Tourist Guy have been digitally manipulated to appear as if they were taken at a perfectly timed moment.
According to Wikipedia, the first photograph to capture a flying bullet in mid-air was taken by Austrian physicist Peter Sacher in 1886. During the early days of film photography, a series of advancements in high speed photography drastically improved the likelihood of capturing well-timed photographs, including the invention of high speed film camera by German scientists in 1916, rotating mirror camera by Cearcy Miller and rapatronic shutters by MIT professor Harold “Doc” Edgerton in the 1940s.
Up until the late 1990s, the production of well-timed photographs was mostly limited to professional photographers and photojournalists, but it quickly became more accessible in the 2000s with the arrival of consumer-grade digital camera, which gave a new life to the use of continuous shots and introduced the instant on-screen preview feature. It is like that perfectly timed photos rose to popularity on forums and BBS sites under various names in different parts of the Internet.
One of the earliest uses of the label “perfectly timed photo” can be found in the title of a CollegeHumor post uploaded on January 5th, 2007. The image showed a telephone pole obscuring a sign for a store called “Smoke Depot” to appear as if it read “Smoke Pot.”
Sharing perfectly timed photos became a popular topic on message boards that year, with threads on Volkswagen fan forum GOLFMKV, motorcycle and ATV enthusiast forum Thumper Talk and drum and bass enthusiast forum Break Beat. Three perfectly timed photo threads were archived from 4chan’s /b/ (random) board that year. Several blogs also posted compilations of these photos in 2007 including Dwerf, Best Cool Pics and Top 10 Kid.
Additional compilations have appeared on the Ebaumsworld forum as well as blogs including Crooked Brains, Bored Panda, design blog Enpundit, the Chive and Pleated Jeans. While the image database Perfectly Timed Photos claims to have existed since 2008, the domain for perfectlytimedphotos.com was registered on April 7th, 2009. Additional instances can be found on Tumblr with the tags “perfectly timed” or “perfectly timed photos.”
In Sports Journalism
Due to the common use of high speed photography in sports journalism, perfectly timed photos have become closely associated with live sporting events or international tournaments.
2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics
On November 17th, 2011, the sports news blog Total Pro Sports published a gallery of sports-related photographs taken at humorous or shocking moments titled “Perfectly Timed Sports Photos Edition” (shown below).
2012 London Summer Olympics
On May 11th, 2012, the Internet humor blog The Chive published a compilation sports photos titled “Perfectly timed sports…for your pleasure.” On May 30th, an entertainment news blog operated by television host Ryan Seacrest published an article titled “Funniest Olympic Memes From the Past”, featuring pictures of Olympic athletes wearing humorous facial expressions. On July 30th, the blog PetaPixel published a post titled “The Hilariously Contorted Faces of Divers in Mid-Air”, which featured several photographs of Olympic divers with pained-looking expressions taken mid-dive.
On the same day, the entertainment news blog Hollywood published an article titled “Get the Gold Medal in Meme with These LOLympics Pictures,” highlighting several image macros using photos of Olympic athletes mid-performance.
2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
On February 12th, 2014, BuzzFeed published a compilation of photographs from the 2014 Sochi Olympics featuring figure skaters with comical facial expressions (shown below). In the coming days, several other sites reblogged the figure skating photos, including Distractify, The Telegraph and Sad and Useless.
Search queries for “perfectly timed photos” began rising in the fall of 2009, several months after the image database Perfectly Timed Photos was created, before hitting an all-time high in July 2011.
Serbian Fighter’s Albums – Timing is everything – Gallery you don’t want to miss! | January 9th, 2006
GolfMKV – Perfectly Timed Pictures a.k.a. LOL/WTF Thread! (NSFW) | September 5th, 2007