Are you one of those families that organizes a yearly holiday shoot so you can later send your closest friends a joyful family holiday card that looks like it was taken from the pages of a 1950's magazine? You know the picture cards that show a family who are decked out in crisp white shirts and blue jeans with matching Santa hats perched atop their heads while they sit nonchalantly on the white, sandy beach.
Just so you know, if you send me one of those cards, they usually end up on my dart board for target practice. Why so hostile you ask? Because I am envious. Envious that you could not only find matching clothing for the family, but also because you were able to get everyone in your family to smile at the same time, with all eyes fully open. Now, I know you were probably raising hell just moments before the click of the camera button and most certainly immediately after, but still, I am envious.
Just one year ago, I too had the picture perfect family. My daughter, who was four and a half months at time, would smile at the simple fake sneeze, achoooooo! Fast forward a few months and the smiles took a little more effort on the photographer's part. A simple fake sneeze would no longer illicit the big, gummy grin my little one once displayed. Honking noises, goofy sounds, silly faces ... all tested and failed miserably. By the time my daughter was semi-mobile, getting her to stay in place for the photo proved impossible. The photographer had to be fast and flexible, and we had to settle for whatever photos we could get.
I have always thought the key to a successful photo shoot for children was preparedness. My husband and I are most certainly not novices to preparation. After all, he was once a boy scout and I a proud girl scout in my youth. Prior to our scheduled photo shoot, my daughter was bathed, well-rested and well-nourished to ensure she performed at her optimum. All we wanted was a smile. One smile. One picture worth a thousand words, that spoke volumes, saying a thousand times over, "I am a joyous child." My daughter definitely spoke volumes, though not ones we wanted to hear. There were three picture proofs that conveyed a different emotion in each frame. The first contact cell showed a miserable child, the second showed an angry-looking child, and the third cell showed the final meltdown, complete with tears streaming down a beet-red face. My husband and I were tempted to purchase the portrait sheets of our crying daughter to send as a gag holiday card, but Isabella looked so sad we were afraid our family would entirely miss the joke.
As we get ready for another holiday portrait session (take II), we are going to prepare ourselves rather than prep Isabella. Going into this session, we are going to smile, try to keep our eyes open during the flash and loosen up. I think the key this time around is to remember that just because we may not have the picture-perfect family portrait, it does not mean that we do not have the perfect family.