Monday, November 11, 2013

The Art of the Family Photo

The days are long, but the years are short...

Capture your life as it is right now!

Yes, yes, yes. I love getting our pictures done. This is the fourth year we've had a family picture taken, and I love looking at the progression of our little family.

But this isn't how to get a fantastic family shot.

No, no, no, no, no.

This is how not to get a family photo - at least, not with your sanity intact.

1) Make an appointment at a mall portrait studio for the Monday of a holiday weekend in the lead up to Christmas.

Yes, I believe that private photographers are far superior to mall portrait studios. I know, I know, you get what you pay for. HOWEVER a) the photographer at this particular studio is actually quite good. We've had very good experiences with him. His granddaughter Madison is the same age as our Madison, and we always end up chatting, and b) those of you who know and love us and are photographers are not geographically convenient to us. If I'm going to pay crazy amounts of money to support a photographer, I'd rather pay it to someone I have a connection to. No need to tell me that I should boycott mall places.

The big advantage of Adam working from home? We can schedule appointments like this on weekdays. Usually, we do our family pictures on a random day in late summer/early fall. The studio is empty and the photographer can take his time with us. Last year he spent ages with us, with different combinations and different poses and different backdrops. Then he sat with us, editing pictures as we provided feedback. He offered us various deals and we left with a beautiful representation of our family.

We planned on doing a similar thing this year. Weekday. Mid-morning. Lots of time.

That didn't happen. I procrastinated all fall. Then I got a great coupon in the mail, and I really wanted to use it before it expired. So Adam and I sat down to figure out when we'd go.

Today was it. Veteran's Day...that fell on Monday...making it a three day weekend.

The studio was packed. I don't think they could have fit another body in there if they'd tried. Five double strollers parked anywhere there was room. Matching outfits galore. I guess the corporate office treated today like a weekend day and scheduled families in ten minute increments. Ten minutes to get everyone in, posed, and out.

Little kids don't like that kind of pressure.

2) Accept a lunchtime appointment.

I tried to get the first appointment of the day, but clearly I was overruled. Apparently two people were booking at the same time, and I got bumped to 11:30 instead of 10:30.

My girls are very scheduled. Which means that around 11:30 they start getting very whiny. They are ready for lunch and a nap. Definitely not a good time.

I packed snacks galore. Anything that I could think of - that wasn't messy - went into a bag.

This bag was clearly not intended for moms of toddlers. It wasn't snack packing friendly. I have a new 31 bag coming soon and I can't wait!

Every time Reagan got fussy, I handed her another treat. I'm pretty sure that Reagan now associates crying with being handed a Smartie. In fact, she's making a weird face in several pictures because her mouth is full of sugar.

3) Moments before your appointment time, take your child to the bathroom.

This one was inevitable. We got there a few minutes early and checked in. I offered the girls fruit snacks and everyone was happy. Then...

Mommy, I need to pee.

She peed before we left the house. I purposely didn't give her a water bottle in the car. I asked her if she wanted to go when we entered the building. Of course she didn't. And now, of course she needed to pee.

She's been potty trained for a while now. She has decent bladder control and no desire to have accidents. I could have told her to wait, and she wouldn't have wet her pants. However, I also knew she wouldn't let it go. Thanks to Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, she knows that if you have to go potty, you stop and go right away. Oh, and thanks to Murphy's Law, if I'd had her wait, the photographer would have been running late.

So we dashed to the bathroom (literally ran to the complete opposite corner of the store - down the escalator and all) and hurried discover that as soon as we'd disappeared from view, they'd called our name and Reagan realized that I was gone. Since Adam told them we'd be right back, they didn't bump us....that time just came out of our precious ten minutes. And it meant that he was anxiously waiting for us and we had to run directly into a pose.

4) Have a toddler sit still.

I mean, really. Does this need any explanation? Reagan is not a little girl who does this. Pictures with her was always going to be iffy.

I remember when Madison was this age. She cried through the entire session and we don't have one picture of her smiling. I remember looking through the pictures thinking "there has to be ONE that isn't horrible". 

Reagan wanted nothing to do with being held by me or Adam. She didn't want to stand on a box. She didn't want to sit in a chair. She wanted to run around and explore, and that just wasn't possible.

5) Put an incredible amount of pressure on the result.

I really wanted to get a picture I could use in my blog header. I wanted a picture that could be given to family. I wanted a picture to hang in our house.

Adam loathes having his picture taken. He's willing to do family photos, but he has limits. I get one shot. Plus, I had no idea when we would do this again. Plus, we were already in our coordinating but not matching outfits, and there was no guarantee they'd stay clean. Plus, the coupon. It had to work out and it had to work out today.  

Yeah, children can smell that kind of stress. And they revolt. I do know this, yet I still put all kinds of pressure on us.

We did all these things. So we don't have hundreds of amazing shots to sift through. I don't have a picture I can use as a headshot, I don't have pictures of the girls together, I don't a picture of just Adam and I, I don't have Daddy and Madison, Mommy and Madison, Daddy and Reagan, etc, etc.

Yet somehow, we have cute pictures of each girl. We have family pictures that might not be great, but are passable.

While my sister throws a tantrum, I will be ULTRA sweet.

Yes, my mouth is full of candy. How did you know?

We captured our family, on this day, the way that we are.

Mission accomplished.

In the next few days, I'll be sharing a few pictures on my Facebook page and allowing YOU to weigh in on the new picture for the blog header which should be revealed next week! Make sure you like my Facebook page so you can get in on the action!
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