Say “Cheese”


I’ve always preferred candids — even when they’re not perfect — to posed, studio shots like we took every year at Olan Mills with a fake forest backdrop. 

Now that school’s started, I feel like I need to comment on the inherent cheesiness of school “portraits.” I feel like the quotes there are justified.

Waaaaaay back when I was in school, on the appropriate designated day, we’d march down to the library in our fanciest clothes with our smoothest hair and pose for one and only one shot. The photographer would always have a comb and you’d have to sit on this super uncomfortable metal box with a duct-taped line for perfect butt placement, which was, of course, half hanging off the edge. If it sounds uncomfortable, that’s because it was and this also explains why every photo taken of me from age 5 until 17 featured a forced smile that said, “I really need to take care of this wedgie.”

If your eyes were closed and you had a booger hanging out your nose, you could sign up for a makeup session two months later. BUT you would have to live with the agony of those less-than-perfect pictures, staring at you from behind the crinkly plastic window, until the scheduled do-over day when you had to shamefully present them to show you truly did look awful enough to warrant a free retake.

It was basically the same for my senior pictures, too. Such a letdown.

When No. 1 graduated, she had the same lame senior photo experience at the contracted studio that took the yearbook photos. So I roped in one of our friends who happens to be an amazing photographer, and he snapped her senior photos along with a family portrait. Win-win.

Recently, it was No. 2’s turn to say “cheese.”

This time, the school sent us to a studio I was completely unfamiliar with and since we HAD to take yearbook photos with them, I signed up for a session. When we rolled up, I didn’t even think we were in the right place except there was a sign with an arrow pointing ahead, announcing “senior pictures.” Oooh, so the dilapidated half a truck out front with the busted windshield must be a prop!

The photographers were basically working out of their home, which was a smidge weird, but I’m a roll-with-it kind of gal. I plopped down into a leather recliner, trying to ignore that the living room looked eerily similar to the one in “Get Out” except the walls were covered from floor to ceiling with photos of perfectly made-up young teenagers and some spit-shined brides and grooms.

Now, I’m not a photographer — although I did take a class in college — but I am very critical and middle aged, which means I will pick apart anything, including dorky staged poses. I’m not quite sure about the purpose behind what appeared to be the signature high school baseball-player pose. We saw it over and over again in the framed photos and watched it happen before our very eyes with another kid who was booked at the same time. This pose involved — no joke — the mitt covering up every part of the face except the eyes. I mean, c’mon, you don’t have to cover up any super zits because you can airbrush that junk out these days. As someone who is now painfully aware of extra chins and lines and eye bags every time her picture is taken, don’t cover that teenage mug! You will never be and look 17 ever again.

I was sad I hadn’t paid closer attention to the paperwork, which mentioned that the photos took place outside, because on this lovely, summer afternoon, it was 109 degrees with 40 percent humidity. It’s something of a miracle that No. 2 was smiling as big as she was because I most certainly was not. Also, in spite of the goofy poses and odd backdrops (lobster cages? in the desert?), the pictures came out really nicely. I’m guessing that’s mostly because of the subject.


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