Picture perfect

By Mir
October 19, 2016

I think I may have mentioned here once or twice or seven billion times that I hate having my picture taken. I am not a photogenic human. (This is not the same, by the way, as saying I’m an unattractive human. This is not a self-esteem issue, merely a “the way my particular features tend to be caught in pictures is not flattering in spite of the fact that I’m an okay-looking person in real life” issue.)

My ex-husband is a very photogenic person, and so you can imagine my delight at discovering that nearly every candid photo of our offspring is amazing. Those cheekbones! Those lips! LOOK AT MY BEAUTIFUL BABIES! But a lifetime of living with me—the person who mugs for the camera so I’m obviously ridiculous rather than being caught “candidly” appearing to be inebriated, furious, or both—has, um, caused some issues. Chickadee does a beautiful “smile for the camera” on command, but then hates every single picture it produces for reasons that would never even cross a normal person’s mind (“this eye is squinty, see?”). (And for what it’s worth, she does a pretty masterful version of my own HERE’S ME OPENING MY MOUTH AND EYES AS BIG AS THEY GO hamminess, too.) Monkey is constitutionally incapable of smiling on command, which means we have some gorgeous candids and some absolutely painful “portraits.”

(Here let us pause while I reiterate that both of my children are gorgeous, which should go without saying, but I don’t want to get an angry phone call later.)

Marrying a photographer was an EXCELLENT idea, especially if the goal was to drive said photographer crazy with his ready-made family of people who hate to have their photos taken. (HAHA. HA. SORRY, OTTO, WE LOVE YOUUUUUU!) I do think he derives at least a little pleasure from seeing it’s not just him we’re impossible for, though. Now would be a good time for you to go read my post at Alpha Mom about Monkey’s senior portraits, and then when you’re done with that, come back, because I have a little surprise for you after the jump.

You know I don’t share pics of my kids here, right? But I just wrote an entire post about Monkey’s pictures.

I had high hopes. Listen, you’re just going to have to trust me when I tell you that this kid has a thousand-watt smile and cheekbones that could cut glass. He’s a good-looking fella. (Me? Biased? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m just sharing facts.)

They put him in that fake tux and suddenly he looked like a grown-up and I got all teary and I could see into the future where my once Small Boy, now Medium Boy, is all man, no more boy. *sniffle*

If I just said the right things while they were shooting the pics, I could get him to flash one of those smiles I love so. We’d have a pic that would match how I see him in my head: handsome, utterly guileless, and pure joy.

I tried. I did. I cracked jokes. I tried to come up with puns (I hate puns; he loves them). I loomed over the photographer’s shoulder and pretended to dance behind him and generally made a fool of myself while Monkey rolled his eyes and asked me if I was feeling okay.

In my mind, we would get this:


(Well, you know what I mean. Use your imagination.) That grin that cracks his face wide open and makes the whole world a little brighter? We’d capture it forever, right on top of that weird fake tux that he couldn’t stop complaining was choking him to death.

So I tried my best to evoke it. Eventually, I had to admit defeat. It wasn’t going to happen. And so, instead, what we got was more like this:


Don’t get me wrong, he’s still handsome. But it’s a little broody. A tiny bit smirk-y. Just a dash of “I can’t wait to eat your liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti,” if you will. It’s just SO SERIOUS.

Oh, well. One more hurdle cleared. I feel confident that he’s not actually going to kill and eat anyone before graduation, so we’re good, I guess.


  1. Brenda

    I remember only liking my senior portraits an okay amount. Because I’d seen lots of people’s senior pictures where their makeup was heavily done, I wanted to look more natural. So natural, that I didn’t wear any makeup, not even a little mascara. Plus I didn’t really like any of the clothes I owned; none of them looked right for pictures. Given that I am highly critical of how I look in pictures, I was pleased with the result.

    Well, my friend, who has a photography business, gifted me a portrait setting for my birthday in January. We finally took pictures last weekend, and I felt like a high school senior all over again, but in a fun way. We were outdoors on a gorgeous fall day, and she showed me the viewfinder as we went, so I feel confident that we got some shots that really look like me. It was actually kind of a confidence boost, because with all my years of watching America’s Next Top Model, I knew enough about posing that my friend told me how great I was. Always nice to hear!

  2. Brigitte

    Perhaps a little budding-mad-scientist-y? :-) I think the photographers trying purposely to make people smile too often backfires. Can’t say how many photos of myself (and friends and family) had the head pulled in unflatteringly, squinched up eyes, etc. They looked better when I learned to leave my face neutral against all imploring.

  3. Crickett

    My (adoptive) dad was a professional photographer, too. Didn’t make a bit of difference, since my mom constantly told me that when I smiled, it looked like I was smelling rotten eggs. So there are few pictures of me as a teen or young adult. That didn’t change until I experienced a serious illness, where I realized that if I died, my young daughter would have only pictures to remember me by…and there weren’t many. Now I try to remember to take at least a few selfies with her, so that if/when I die, she’ll be able to remember us having fun together.

  4. Emily

    My kindergartner has clear snot on her upper lip and looks a little bit like she’s being forced to smile at gun point… I’m sure Monkey’s is just fine!

  5. Jeanie

    Oh, how I was hoping for a real picture!

  6. Noelle

    Oh. This. My 13 year old (diagnosed Aspie) always looks like a psychotic serial killer in all of his school photos. It never occurred to me that it was because he had a hard time faking a smile. My husband (undiagnosed but admitted when my son was diagnosed that he thinks he too is on the spectrum) did not smile in any of our wedding photos. The photographer even tried to cajole him into laughing by telling him he looked like a mafia hitman. Nothing. This post has been my aha! moment of the day. Thank you!

  7. Aska

    Posing for pictures is a skill like any other, something you work on and learn how to do. Most of us just have better things to do with our time! But it’s not some immutable innate talent that you either have or don’t. That’s in my experience, at least. I was a good looking teen, you just never would think so looking at my pictures from that time. I felt painfully awkward and it showed. Over the years I’ve learned a few secrets. “Try to be yourself,” for instance, while it sounds like good advice, is counter-intuitive. “Yourself” is vulnerable and honest, but a good picture needs confidence, poise, grace. In other words, posturing and lies.

  8. Chris

    My daughter came home a few years ago saying I don’t think the school photos are going to be good since my hair keep flying in my face. She tried to fix it but they said don’t worry – we got one without it, we will take care of it etc. Of course her photos came (and you had to order them before you had proofs) and there was a huge clump of hair down the middle of face. Not the fly-aways I had expected given the high bar she had for photos but full 1/2 inch long strand of hair. They didn’t make their money on me since I insisted they fix it which I imagine took a lot of time in photoshop. I still can’t believe anyone thought that was going to be ok or that we weren’t going to notice!

  9. Daisy

    With a photographer daughter, senior pics could have been difficult. We took the easy way out. She saw a brochure from a creative photographer, liked his work, and despite the fact that this guy’s studio was more than an hour’s drive from home, we said yes. She wanted to bring her rabbit along for some poses. I said sure, I’ll watch the bunny. When it was all over and done with, her pictures were excellent. She who prefers to be behind the camera actually had some sincere smiles and happy facial expressions.
    So when her little brother reached that milestone, and she wanted to take his pictures herself…
    We said yes. :)

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