Monday, April 26, 2010

Musings On Decisions About Family Photography

I know this is hard for people to believe, but I have never had professional pictures taken of my kids.  I did take Kate to JCPenney ONCE when she was about two-years-old, but that's it.  I thought my own candids were as good (or better at times) than the cheesy JCPenney pics, and since our first three children were born during medical school and residency, we just never had enough money to hire a professional photographer.  (Or lots of trips to JCPenney, for that matter.) On top of that, I always knew we were going to have one more child, so I didn't really want to spend a bunch of money on a picture that didn't include "everyone".

Then we graduated and had our last child.  Kate turned ten exactly two weeks before Rachael was born.  It would have been perfect to have their pictures taken the next summer right before Rachael turned one and Kate turned 11.  But I didn't.  In my mind,  I still didn't want to spend the time, effort and money unless we were going to take pictures not only of the kids, but of all of us, the entire family.  And I was still "too fat", or I didn't like my hair, or I didn't want to have to find 6 coordinating outfits, and then there was always the issue of "photographer shopping".  (Honestly, could there be any more options out there?  So many choices, such varying price ranges, and completely different styles.  I can hardly make a decision about two brands of sliced cheese for crying out loud, how am I supposed to wade through the hundreds of photographers for hire around here?)  If I am going to bother, and it's going to be a one time thing (which, at this rate, it probably will be) I want the picture to be as classic looking as possible, both the clothes we wear and the style of photography.  Especially if I have the intention of hanging it on the living room wall.  But I don't want it to look stiff and formal . . . blech.  Too much to think about.

But what is REALLY bugging me, is the fact that all of a sudden we aren't the cute, young parents of four cute, young children anymore.  Brandon is super gray with glasses, I don't think my "postpartum" thinning hair is ever going to recuperate, I have yet to lose the last ten pounds, but worse yet - I now have three young children and an almost teenage daughter who is practically my size!  To further aggravate matters, I actually purchased a gift certificate for a sitting with a professional photographer exactly one year ago next month at the kids' school auction/fundraiser.  So in essence, I have chosen the photographer (even though I don't know much about her or her prices), but I have procrastinated so long that now I am filled with regret.

Yes, it's ridiculous that I'm wasting any emotional energy on this at all when there are people in this world who will never even consider having a professional family photo taken, but I am a bit of a picture nut.  (I would say photography nut, but I have yet to indulge my secret wish of taking a photography class, so I really don't know enough to say I'm a photography nut - except that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE inspiring photography of all kinds.)

I should say I'm a reluctant picture nut.  While I love and appreciate good photography, I almost feel it's gone a little overboard these days and I don't want to get too wrapped up in all the hulabaloo.  Everything is constantly ramping up, from proms and weddings to baby showers and family photography.  It's not just getting better, it's getting more . . . obsessive.  What I mean is, while I'm sure our ancestors would have liked to have had more than one wedding/family photo in a lifetime (standing there in their corsets with stoic looks on their faces), the thought of all the volumes and volumes of scrapbooks filled with pictures documenting every waking moment a child's life, or the scads of professional family photos out there of children and parents looking like they are in a magazine ad for baby food - it's slightly annoying to me.  It's just one more "good thing", the new norm, a higher standard.  If everybody I know suddenly has gorgeous, creative, inspiring family photos, suddenly I start to want a gorgeous, creative, inspiring family photo - even if billions of families have loved each other and had fulfilling family lives without them for thousands of years.  It just bugs me.  I want my cute little candids of our family to be good enough, but the more "regular" people get super cool professional pictures taken of their families, the more I start thinking I need that too.  It bugs me about myself.  (I actually CRIED after leaving someone's house a few weeks back when I saw the gorgeous, framed photos of each of her three children when they were just babies.  Pictures of individual hands, bums, feet, sweet little faces . . . I could never have that. Wah!)

It's the Laura Ingalls Wanna-Be in me coming out.  I really do want to "keep it simple", but when I'm faced with gobs of choices instead of just one or two things at Olson's Mercantile, I get a jumble of feelings that all seem to contradict each other:

1) I really, really want at least ONE nice, professional photo of our little family before we grow anymore.
2) I don't want to figure out what we are going to wear and have to shop for it, then get everybody's hair (including mine) to look good, schedule an appointment around Rachael's nap schedule, and then actually go through with it.

I want Mr. Olson to be the only person in town with a camera and the only thing we have to wear for the picture are the Sunday clothes we wear to church every Sunday anyway.

I guess I want to be the woman in the corset with the stoic face.


  1. We have never had a professional family pic...well one, for church and it was SO bad. I mean SO laughable bad. I set up our camera with a tripod last year and got one good one after an hour of torture. I am way too picky about photos (the way I look...I'll throw everyone else under the bus) so I have to do it myself.
    Kellee Laser is in your area...just move there from my area...her pics are awesome and she is super down to earth and normal and could relate to everything you just wrote.
    I have often lamented the same thing as you...but remember, we didn't have the digital options they have least I didn't with my oldest...just in the last couple years has it gone crazy. (That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.)
    There is something refreshing too, about not having so much. Do you really think these kids are going to want to look through 1,674 pics of them the first year of their life. I always pictures my boy's wives saying, "What the heck am I supposed to do with all these photo albums and scrapbooks of you? Stick them in the attic...they ruin my color scheme!" :)

  2. Let me share with you a different point of view. My aunt died a couple of months ago. She had five daughters, the youngest just a year older than me. As she got progressively worse (over only 6 weeks, this was a nasty disease) the girls put one photograph next to her bed. It was a studio shot from KMart, the girls ranged in age from about 2 1/2 to 8. They had gone without their dad so that it would be a gift for Father's Day.

    Here is what Carrie had to say about it. "It was one of the pictures we had next to her bed the last few days she was with us. I am pretty sure it was taken at a Kmart Photo studio as a gift to my dad for Father's day. I must have been around two and a half.

    It reminds me of how amazing she is. As we spent the days next to her bed, I looked at this photo and I tried to imagine myself with five girls under the age of seven. Chrissy's soft hair and barrette make me think of how she must have taken us each, one by one, and picked out our clothes and did our hair. She had five heads of hair to do, plus her own. She had to load us in the car and we all, miraculously, appear to be happy.

    I think a lot of people would not have put in the effort. But my mom did. She didn't let much of anything stand in her way of making things happen. And because she didn't let the hassle of getting five kids ready by herself for a photo shoot, we have this image of a moment of her life as a young mom of five little girls."

    I'm not saying that you need 800 photos of your family, or pay big bucks to get some. But don't forget that a few photos WILL mean something to your children someday. Maybe more than you know. BTW, I love the photo of you all in front of the church. I think it's great.


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