nyone who has tried to get the family together for a photo shoot knows that it’s nearly impossible. Between the long distances, work and school schedules, sickness and sheer lack of participation, it’s enough to drive the designated family historian to lunacy… or eggnog. Who decides on the role of family historian anyway?
I take pictures of other people in my spare time and I completely downplay all of the crazy things that tend to happen during these family sessions. Someone has on the wrong shoes. We will hide their feet. One of the kids insists on holding their favorite Tonka truck. I convince the mom that she will laugh about it in the future. If given the choice between having a Tonka truck and a happy kid or no Tonka truck with a screaming kid, I think the choice is simple. While it’s easy to convince someone else, as a mom, I tend to lose it when the photo sessions aren’t just right. Considering the fact that my kids are 15 and 22, you’d think that it would have gotten easier through the years. I WISH!
Since October, we have had two sessions of family portraits. One was with my husband’s parents and siblings, the nieces and the great-nieces and nephew— all 18 of us. That was actually fun. It was definitely memorable. Multiple generations were trying to correct each other. A toddler who insisted on eating an apple throughout the shoot. A preschooler who was over pictures before it started—it was her birthday. She didn’t have time for this. Then there was my 15 year old who had tried new make-up techniques the morning of the pictures. Heaven help!
Whenever this family gets together, an outsider would think that we all dislike one another because yelling is how we communicate. Seriously. In order for my father-in-law to understand the conversation, you must speak loudly. So we yell. It works for us and it keeps him in the know. However, if anyone was walking by us as we were trying to take those pictures, I apologize. We really do love one another. That’s why we were trying so very hard to get pictures. Of course, we were color-coordinated in white tops and jeans. Of course, my husband ends up with some sort of stain on his shirt. Complete face palm.
I am thoroughly convinced that regardless of age, individuals have to be bribed to cooperate for family pictures. The reward for successful family pictures and generational pictures and pictures of everyone with the grandparents was a trip to our favorite Choctaw County restaurant, Bimbo’s, following successful completion of about 300 shots. There was birthday cake involved and we reminded the littles of this. More often though, one of us would say, “The quicker y’all cooperate, the quicker we will eat.” It worked, I suppose. No one completely lost their cool. Everyone was on their best behavior. It was a record day for us!
The second set of pictures was just my little family. Honestly, the four of us were worse than the whole 18 of the previous setting. We did them at our home, so our neurotic dogs are in some of them. My daughter was determined to go live on Instagram so that all of her friends could see the dysfunction that manifests when it’s picture time.
My poor son had worked a double shift, slept a few hours and driven home for the occasion. He was exhausted.
My husband had worked his share of shifts also and did not want to cooperate. The reward in this instance was if they cooperated no one would have to go Black Friday shopping with me.
We managed to get a few shots, but it’s the outtakes that I’m enjoying most. You know, the ones that will never make the Christmas card? The ones where someone is laughing so hard that their eyes are closed, where the dogs are looking at the camera and the people are not, where we are all engaged in a conversation, oblivious to the photographer. I won’t put them on the Christmas card, but I’ll treasure them and not delete them. These are the genuine moments in the story of our family. With every perfectly posed Christmas card portrait I receive, I wonder about the outtakes.
So here’s to all the moms who are going for that perfect picture this holiday season–just enjoy the moments. They pass way too quickly…and have a good bribe.
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.