As a Christmas gift to our parents this year, my sister and I decided to get our total of six kids together for a professional photography session so that we can give their grandparents a nice framed photo of all the grandkids together. We had done this nearly four years ago and it was a complete disaster. In fact, getting professional photos taken of just my three alone in any combination has always been some kind of disaster.
The first time we tried to take the twins for their first photo session, when they were just three months old, it was a disaster. We had gone to Kiddie Kandids in the mall, and because the photographers (a k a the bored teenagers working the cameras) couldn’t magically get two babies to cooperate at the same time, we spent the entire day at the mall, trying for a photo for a while, then walking the mall to calm them down, then unsuccessfully trying again, taking nursing and changing breaks, trying again, walking the mall, trying again, etc. This went on for six hours before the photographers suggested we come back the next day. We did, and it was nearly as bad. Plus, they ended up catching a nasty cold from the photographer who kept sneezing in their faces. Looking at that photo today brings the whole awful day back and makes me hate the mall.
Another time, when it was just Little Miss at 18 months old, she toppled off the silly prop chair they put her on, hit her face on another prop and suffered facial lacerations that took two weeks to heal before we could come back again. (Not to mention her puffy, tear-and-snot-stained face.) No amount of retouching could have fixed that disaster.
When we took all the kids (my three and my sister’s three) to another studio four years ago, it was even worse. Getting six kids—which then included two infants, one sleeping, one awake—to cooperate was impossible and the photographer hated us. He was this surfer dude who just kinda stood there staring at us, like he was waiting for us to pose the kids. Meanwhile, I’m thinking he should be doing something other than standing there with his camera propped up on his stomach, checking his watch. He could’ve, I don’t know, grabbed a feather duster and made a silly noise or something to make them laugh or at least just crack a half-smile for one shutter click. With no direction, the kids were getting bored and restless and then silly, then the babies started crying. The guy was all, “Hey, I can’t help it if your baby is crying, what am I supposed to do, they’re your kids.”
Then he got all offended when we didn’t like his prop suggestions (like put the babies in a creepy Rosemary’s Baby bassinet) and became downright rude to us. My sister ended up crying in the bathroom, which prompted me to ask him to try to be more patient, to which he said, “I don’t know what kind of magic you think we can do. We’re not miracle workers here.” (Those were his exact words, pulled straight out of the letter I ended up writing to the corporate headquarters of Portrait Innovations.) Yeah, that’s right, I said the name. Your photographer was rude and should go back to taking pictures for Surf Dude magazine or wherever he came from. And our kids don’t need “miracle workers,” anyway.
So when my sister suggested we do this again this year, I ca-ringed.
“Come on, the kids are older this time, it’ll be better,” she implored after I expressed my resistance and dread.
But she knew of someone who did child photography on the side, and we decided an outdoor location would be better than a studio.
“Fine, I’ll do it,” I told her. “But I’m not doing the rolled-up jeans and white shirt thing.” (She always suggests that for these things.)
So we chose an area near our home that’s surrounded by greenery and pretty architecture, ringed by upscale boutiques and restaurants. In other words, not the kind of place where the patrons appreciate six hyper kids running around (it was a Friday afternoon, the last day of school before fall break) and being fussed over and yelled at by their two stage moms.
It all started fine, until boys being boys, one of them turned over a lid to one of those in-ground meter boxes and discovered a black widow. Like, a real black widow with the telltale red hourglass on its stomach:
There went the boys’ attention span for posing, and the two littlest girls began shrieking when they heard the word “spider.” It was cool to see (the spider, not the shrieking girls), and I took this photo, which my sister blew up into posters for the boys’ rooms. They loved it. The very cute photographer, whom we suspect had a date waiting, did not love it. Once we got everyone’s attention again, it all went downhill from there.
Trying to get all six kids to cooperate, maybe smile or at least appear normal, all at the same time was impossible. One or two were always looking away, or squinting, or blinking, or making a ridiculous face, or had swollen allergy eyes or messed-up hair. See for yourself:
The nephew in the red sweater? That’s the one I call the “photo bomber,” now that I know “photo bombing” is a real thing. There are sites all over the Internet where people post their photos crashed by one of these “photo bombers,” or people who purposely try to get into other people’s photos and ruin them. He does this all the time, and it really annoys me, but little did I know he was onto something. There he is doing his thing in the third photo down. And so is some other random kid. We don’t know him. Apparently “photo bombing” is catching on quickly with the young.
I just noticed that said nephew is completely missing in the first one. Where did he go? Probably “photo bombing” some other family taking holiday photos. I also just noticed my husband’s legs in that one, and some other guy’s legs on a bench in the others. (Where’d you find this “professional photographer” guy again, sis?)
At one point, the photographer said to me, “Family gatherings must be real fun in your family, huh?” Even though he had somewhere to be, he was a lot more patient with us than rude surfer dude.
Then it was time to move on to the next spot. That produced even worse results:
Yeah, now those are some quality Christmas card photos! Posing six restless, bored, hungry kids straight into the sun does not make the best photo op. And check out “photo bomber” in the second one. I don’t think anyone was saying, “Say cheese!” but they sure weren’t saying “Shout out a random song!” either.
Next, the photographer decided to pose everyone by a pretty waterfall. Seriously? A waterfall? With these monkeys? The whole time, three of the six of them were begging to climb it. In their holiday finery. Yeah, right, kids. So this is the best we got out of them:
Lots of shots were taken here, but this here folks, this is the best of the worst. I challenge you to find a photo worthy of enlarging and framing. Silly faces, eyes closed, mouths open, and Twin A chooses now to be fascinated with the effects of hair gel in the “photo bomber’s” hair? All I can say is, thank goodness for digital photography.
Although it didn’t really do us much good. At the end of the session, the photographer gave me a flash drive with 381 photos. When I got home and downloaded them onto my computer, I realized that not one of them was usable, at least not in the way we intended. For her Christmas card, my sister was able to find a nice one of her three alone (before we arrived at the scene and encouraged the chaos, apparently), and for mine, I used a snapshot that I had taken of them after the photographer escaped—I mean, left. I think we chose this one for our parents’ gift:
It’s nice, but I can just see “photo bomber” struggling to try to stay composed. Just look at his clenched fist.
The adventure didn’t end there. After all that energy was forced to be bottled up, the kids—OK, the boys—couldn’t take it anymore. While we were all busy gathering up all of our stuff (and I was busy trying to take my own pictures), the boys somehow found the utility box for the whole complex. This is where it gets a little fuzzy. All I know is that they were flipping switches that probably shouldn’t be flipped, and the next thing we know, thousands of Christmas lights suddenly come on. They may or may not have been on a timer and it may or may not have been just coincidence that it happened when they were flipping these switches, but let’s just say it wasn’t even near dusk yet, and I’m pretty sure the lights should not have come on for at least another hour.
It was then that I noticed a rather large man in a chef’s outfit, standing outside one of the upscale restaurants, arms crossed, staring at all of us.
“Let’s GO!” I said to my sister, who was either oblivious to or just accustomed to the commotion.
“I’m hungry,” she said. “Wanna go to dinner at one of the restaurants here?”
“Uh, no,” I said. “Do you see that guy over there?” I said, gesturing with my eyes at crabby chef man. “Does he LOOK like he wants us in his restaurant?”
And then we left, exhausted, cranky and hungry. And that was just the grownups. The kids had a ball, once the photo session was over.
Now fast-forward to Christmas Day, when everyone was over at our house. The kids were instructed to wash their hands before dinner, and I had to grab my camera when I saw them all piled up in the bathroom:
That photo turned out to be better than the 381 photos taken a few days before. Well, except for “photo bomber’s” goofy expression. And the ever-present bikini top on Little Miss.
I just picture my parents, admiring the photo we did choose, hanging on their wall, having no idea what it took to get that sorta cute photo. We should have brought the camcorder instead. A picture is worth a thousand words, but a video of this day? Now that would be a novel.