Don’t We Look Pretty?

Here’s an opportunity to judge me. I have not had professional family photos taken since 1999. I will wait while all you moms and dads and grandparents take a moment to gasp in horror. Finished? Now we’ll continue.

That’s not to say we don’t have pictures. I take pictures. A lot of them. Each year, I put together a family album of the year’s best photos. Last December, I had 680 to work with. And keep in mind, I said the best photos. That’s not counting the pics that I deleted because they were blurry/redundant/boring. This year, I have already uploaded 450 pictures. In three months. I think I’ve got a few pictures of my kids.

I never saw the sense in paying big bucks to drag my unwilling kids to a studio where we’d spend thirty minutes in awkward and unnatural poses to purchase shots that will never grace our walls. And the smallest portrait package available contains more photos than we could ever possibly give away. Years later, we find the leftovers and are reminded of how much money we wasted and what pathetic, friendless losers we are. No thanks.

MY kind of family portrait.

But we recently sat for one. Because our church is creating a new directory, and they’ll only give copies to people who are in it. A directory is kind of important when you have the facial recognition abilities of a fire ant, and you’re active in a fairly large congregation. To save myself a great deal of “I’m sorry,I know you’ve sat two pews in front of us for the last two years and we served on a project together, but what was your name again?” fun, we got the picture taken. And it was just as exciting as I had expected.

In order to get there on time, I had to leave the zoo where I was watching a tortoise hatch. Smile for the camera! Squish is possessed of a crippling shyness in front of people he doesn’t know, which often manifests itself as a terrifying frown. Let’s capture that forever memory, please. And the Princess of Darkness had spent the entire morning being pummeled by four-year-olds. Is everyone ready to say cheese?

Thanks to the wonders of technology, we were not permitted to crawl away to lick our wounds after the ordeal. We had to take a seat in the waiting area as the pictures were downloaded for our viewing pleasure. Yippee. The moment the images downloaded, we were ushered to a windowless room, ostensibly to better see the computer screen, but I suspect to keep us from leaping to our deaths when we saw to the price tag.

I have been in hard sell situations before, but this one took the taco. The directory photo was free, of course, but the matronly saleswoman, undoubtedly concerned about the preservation of precious memories, didn’t want to take “Where’s the price sheet?” for an answer. She asked “How many grandparents do we need to take care of? And what do you need?” Need. It was on the tip of my tongue to say “Lady, in the best shot you took, my nine-year-old looks like he’s deflating, the girl-child looks like something smells funny, and I’m smiling like someone stuck me in the bum with a pocket knife. How much of this do you think I need?” But I didn’t . Because I have good manners. And I am a coward.

I have decided that the next time we sit for a family portrait, we will do so dressed as Smurfs. I had the chance this time, and I didn’t seize it, and I’m not one to live with regret.

77 thoughts on “Don’t We Look Pretty?

  1. This is hilarious and I’m wearing a smile a mile wide! 😀 Someone should take my picture! Lol
    Agree with you that the best kind of family portrait is like the one you have posted here, and the type we have gone for, for many years.
    Inspired humor this morning from you, and thanks! 🙂

  2. My parents used to drag us to Olan Mills for photo sessions every once and a while. NIGHTMARE. My brother and I always looked like we wanted to stab someone. That’s because we did. Want to stab someone. Each other, ourselves, didn’t matter, just as long as there was stabbing. There are still a couple of those photos hanging around at home, no matter how much I beg Mom and Dad to make them go away, preferably with fire.

    We get to see the final result, right? I want to see the awkward family photo. Also the smurf photo. ALL THE PHOTOS!

    • When I was a tiny child, Olan Mills didn’t have studios, at least not in my area. They traveled around. You made an appointment, and they were booked at a local roach-motel. I remember being told “No, you may not go and play on the playground. You’ll get dirty.” I also remember the wait was sooooo long.

  3. I genuinely don’t understand the “formal photo.” I mean, I get the family photo, but 95% of the time, the photo looks so forced and unnatural, I feel like I don’t even know the person in the image.

    • I KNOW! An acquaintance of mine has a sitting 4 times a year. Blows my mind. Those aren’t the moments I WANT to remember. Give me a picture of my kid with chocolate all over his face. Any day!

  4. I agree! I don’t think we’ve ever had a family portrait done. My daughter wants to but finding the time has been difficult. Luckily, she knows someone who will do it for us. We only need 2 copies of one photo. Great family picture!

  5. I look forward to my daily chuckle reading your posts!!! Also, I love your family photo; it is my kind of picture.

  6. Me and my husband make a pact at those picture places at payment time. We will stare straight ahead, we will not give any hope inducing smiles. We will speak only 5 words: Just the advertised special ma’am. Lol!!! This post was hilarious 😀

  7. lol… yup, family photos suck. The last time my dad decided we ought to have a picture of me and my sisters, he dragged us out despite my saying repeatedly “I don’t feel well”. My sisters are smiling. I’m… wincing? and deathly pale. It looks like one of those photos out of a horror movie where it’s only when you see the photo that you realise there was a ghost standing behind you.

  8. I have exactly two photos of all the kids together, and neither of them are good. I can’t imagine trying to get any of them to behave during an actual sitting. I’m already shuddering at the horror just imagining it.

    • I know someone (not me!) who was dragged to a family portrait session. When the proofs came back, everyone noticed the hickeys up and down his/her neck. I’m doing that next time.

  9. That’s MY kind of family picture, too. I’ve never heard of anyone looking at a studio portrait and saying “Remember how much fun we had that day?” But show me a photo of my family doing something together, and the memories start to roll.

    Most of my “family pictures” were taken by strangers I recruited on the beach or at the zoo!

    • I make it a point to offer to take the shot for families that are taking pictures of one another. My husband and I have two pictures together on our honeymoon. That’s just sad!

  10. This one had me burst out laughing! I’m with you on the family pictures. Even when they do turn out it’s not worth all the awkward posing, waiting, and final price tag… Your idea of family photos is much better!

  11. I am with you! I haven’t had a formal photo with my family in 25 years, nada zilch zero. Why bother. I have hundreds if not thousands of beautiful happy perfect photos of those I love …. just like you. They grace my walls throughout my house.

    I will admit though, last year at a particularly low point in my heart life I took myself to a professional and had pictures done of me. I hadn’t seen me through the eyes of others in a very long time. I didn’t need the hard sell, I knew what I wanted and I bought what I wanted. The session was what I needed to remind myself I wasn’t done, ugly or lost.

  12. Amen, Sister! The last professional family portrait in which I appeared was one in which *I* was one of the kids! (And the only professional photographer my own kids have seen is the one who does the school pictures every year)… The REAL family portraits are the ones snapped on hiking trails, or sailboats, or beach picnics, or spontaneous games of backyard badminton, or… yeah, places where a real family is being REAL. That’s what I want to remember.

    If I dressed my kids up for a professional portrait, I’d probably have to label them on the finished photo, because they’d be unrecognizable as themselves! 😉

  13. My first thought was of the Adams Family lookalike portrait of our family when I was 16 yrs old. I was the Morticia character and looked spooky as…spooky! At Christmas this year my own 30 yr old daughter dug out that thing & got a good chuckle. And from all the comments above, I am now beginning to rethink my disdain for the awkward formal portrait…such inspiring horror tales – this post being the first.

    Agreed I prefer the captured REAL moment in time. But, boy, do we have some real doozies with school, classroom and sporting team “professional” shots in our family collection! Like my 5 yr. daughter with cleavage – priceless.

    Love the post.

  14. Unfortanetly, I too can remember one to many studio portrait family pictures where I’d undoubtly start crying because I didn’t want to wear what my mother picked out and then end up in the portrait with puffy eyes… now themes smurf pics… hmmm THAT would be the way to go with teens and tweens.

  15. Hi,
    You have to love the sales pitch just amazing, it is never ending these days.
    I love your family photo though very nice with the greenery behind you. 🙂

  16. This is a great photo of your family. At least everyone is standing in one place, nobody is scuffling with each other or picking his noses. Looking back on family photos of me growing up, every picture had someone making a weird face or scratching her butt, etc.

  17. I hate the sales pitch. Once we were looking at proofs, and the guy was our best friend. Then we decided on only the free promo 8X10, suddenly he was Godzilla. We did not tell him about the fly hairsprayed to his perfect hair.

  18. Hilarious. We did the same church directory hard-sell thing, and I won’t speak for my wife, but I looked terrible. The photographers squeaky toys could not get a good smile out of me. So when I told the salesman we weren’t all that interested in buying any, he looked at it and said (more or less) “eh, I guess I can see your point.”

  19. My mother dragged my sister & I to a studio portrait for one of my grandmother’s birthdays with the big guilt trip that “she’s getting older you know.” We all showed up at the studio wearing black & definitely could have been the second coming of the Adams family. Horrible, horrible picture – but my grandmother proudly had it on her wall till the day she died. I cringed every time I visited her!

  20. The only professional photos that we have of our kids are the school pics. Everything else we do ourselves, when we have control the behaviour and the stray hairs. The thought of dragging my unruly hoodlums into a studio makes me shudder at the thought of the replacement cost of the equipment..

  21. This reminds me of the Raising Hope episode on professional family photographs. In other words, I laughed my bum off.

    What’s wrong with the kind of picture you take yourself? After all, in real life you never look like in an artificially posed family shot.

    Oh and PS: I wish I had a daughter that I could call ‘the girl-child’, bahaha!

  22. My mom never liked the let’s-pretend-we-are-a-happy-family portrait. All our pictures are of real moments. With real smiles on our faces. And I’m pretty happy following her footsteps.

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