How Not To Photograph Kids

It all started because I had a coupon. They're dangerous, insidious things. This one was particularly bad...$5 off for every $25 you spend. And since you can't seem to get out of the place for under $50, it seemed like a reasonable thing. Add in the fact that the younger boy is now a grinning muldoon (and he's the same age as the elder boy's first big grinning smile in our stairwell) and it seemed like a good idea. I chatted with Tim and he said (as he's wont to do), "What could possibly go wrong?"

Perhaps I should have heeded the sinking feeling that came thereafter.

Still, I watched the younger boy for about a week, noting his schedule and happy times, and made an appointment for one of the times that he was consistently awake and chipper and easy to charm smiles from.

Today was the day. Now, up to this point, the younger boy has been a champion of sleeping through the night. For weeks now he just sleeps away happily until about 7 am. This morning, for no discernible reason that I can find, he was up at 3 am making it incredibly clear that he was nigh unto starvation. So I fed him and wandered back to bed with the idle thought that I hoped that wouldn't mess up his schedule too much.

He wanted lunch about an hour earlier than usual. Which then put his next nap about an hour earlier than usual. If you guessed that this put his desire to fall asleep squarely in the middle of when I had, thinking myself ever so clever, scheduled our photo session, you win the prize.

We tarried on, arriving 15 or so minutes early. I checked us in and noted that there was only one photographer working today. Not a big deal, though I suspected that would mean she'd be in and out during our session if the phone rang or whatever. So we arranged the boys (elder boy sitting cross-legged, younger in his lap). Normally I need only call the younger boy's name and smile at him and he smiles right back. Not so today! I then proceeded to contort and wriggle my face, make bizarre noises, what have you in an effort to get the younger boy to grin. The photographer, in the mean time, ever so helpfully said, "Smiiiile." That was it. That was her contribution to photographing two kids. The elder boy put on his fake cheesy grin (that really looks more like a gritted teeth grimace). She snapped away. I wondered why on earth she was bothering.

We switched their positions. More contortions. More visual displays of the photographer's lack of training in photographing anything beyond fruit and adults. More terrible photos. I grabbed the younger boy and tickled him as I readjusted his position. He spit up all over me. (There went my idle though of getting a shot of me and the boys together. Also? Carrot-laced-spit up? Not fun.) I cleaned up and readjusted him slightly again. He spit up all over himself.

Outfit change!

We took a few shots of the elder boy on his own while I changed the younger one. He, of course, took this opportunity to show me all the various faces I was hoping the photographer would catch. There were grins. There were coos. There were smiles. There was belly-shaking laughter. I thought surely they would last and plopped him back in front of the camera, this time for his own solo shots.

Nothing. Might as well have had a Cabbage Patch Kid up there (though they, at least, have sewn on smiles.) She snapped more photos, all the while saying, "Smiiiile" in a bored voice. Cause, sure, it hadn't worked the first six million times, but maybe this time, this time it was going to work!

Finally, I called it. I explained that it just clearly wasn't happening today and packed up the boys. The younger fell asleep almost instantly as I packed him into his carrier. The elder began to hit the it's naptime and I'm going to get more and more hyper the more tired I get phase of the afternoon. The photographer said "Give me 5 minutes to upload these." I figured sure, for five minutes, we can wait.

Twenty minutes later she set up our slide show to view the photos.

There were two acceptable shots. (Not great, mind you. But by golly, I came there for photos, I was not leaving without a photo!) I waved her over, told her what I wanted, and managed to not slug her when she asked why I didn't want more poses. Instead I just looked at the thumbnails and asked ever-so-sweetly which ones, exactly, she thought were particularly good. She had no response.

I paid. I collected my tiny collection of photos and the boys.

On the positive side, I didn't spend a ton (still spent entirely too much for what I got, but that's the nature of professional photography, I fear. At least, for those places that manage to stay in business.) I have a friend who has a good camera, kids of her own, and likes taking photos. I think next time I'll just hit her up. I don't think it could go much worse.

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