We got our first formal family pictures taken a few weeks back, thanks to a church directory photo op with Olan Mills. It was an interesting and memorable experience, even if the photos leave a little to be desired of the parents.
The problems with the finished product revolved around my wife and I being overly consumed with the little baby in our lap. We were so preoccupied with him looking his best we seemed to forget our picture was being taken as well. The end result was some wonderful photos of him and some so-so of us.
Prior to picture night, a number of decisions had to be addressed. Chief among them were:
-- What time to schedule the appointment? It needed to fall at just the right time in the evening. We didn't want him to be taking a nap or near his bedtime, and we wanted it to be after a feeding. That's usually when he's at his happiest.
-- What should he wear? This is his mom's department because I'm a mess when it comes to deciding on outfits for him. Case in point, I just recently learned a man's belt, socks and shoes should always match. Since I am still reeling from that fashion fact, his mom takes care of this stuff. She opted for an adorable matching outfit consisting of overalls and suede shoes, one of the first times he's ever worn anything on his feet besides socks.
-- Should we color coordinate? That is, should the family all wear the same outfits or at a minimum the same colors. Fortunately, his mother and I share the same disdain for this type of corniness so we opted against going with any semblance of matching outfits.
-- How many photos do we want? We decided we would not go overboard, figuring we only needed a few of a couple different sizes to share with family and friends and for keepsakes.
Of course, this photo shoot had little to do with us. It was all about him. Subsequently, I had butterflies heading into the church because I knew whatever happened inside this building would be documented in a frame in full color somewhere inside our home for the rest of our lives and likely be included in some photo albums. It suddenly got a lot warmer wherever I went.
The goal was to make sure he looked his best. All the while hoping there would be no signs of a baby (or father) meltdown. This distraction eventually led the poor photographer to finally say, in his least condescending tone, for the parents to make sure to pick their heads up, keep their eyes open and smile by all means.
Those of you who have had family pictures taken know what I am talking about here. We had become so obsessed with making sure all is right with our little one that we forgot we were actually in the picture.
My wife was preoccupied with trying to keep the baby's head up and his attention on the photographer. I was so focused on keeping his bottom securely positioned on the two-inch-by-four-inch wooden elevation block a smile seemed unimportant. Add to that our constant attempts to keep his chin dry from a persistent drooling habit, and we have some parents who look stressed and annoyed. And did I already say warm? Not exactly an image to proudly display on the wall for the next 40 or 50 years.
While trying to keep all that in perspective, the first round of photos consisted of an attentive baby looking directly at the camera in awe, and two exhausted parents slouching with their heads down, staring and watching the baby. We soon got our act together and let the photographer worry about the baby, and we tried our best to be unconcerned of what the little boy on our lap was doing.
After a few agonizing minutes that seemed more like hours, the photographer felt like he had some shots 'that were good enough' for us to choose from. A comment that did not exactly make us feel all warm and fuzzy, but we took his word for it.
It was then on to the baby's first formal individual shots. The photographer suggested placing him on his stomach and looking up toward the camera. Of course, mom and dad were used as props with mom holding him firmly on the table from behind and dad unabashedly making a fool of himself, trying his best to get him to smile for the camera or at least keep his head up long enough for a good shot.
In the interest of trying to keep a grasp of some pride here, I can't disclose all the details of what I was saying or doing. It's too embarrassing. Plus, it really wasn't the English language anyway and would be impossible to transcribe here. It consisted more of a series of high-pitch shrieks and whistles and lots of 'look at dada' type comments. It was all in the name of getting the photo his mother and I will cherish forever. Fortunately, he's a good sport and let his dad keep some of his self-respect, flashing some all-gum smiles for the camera in the first minute or two. All the individual shots turned out beautiful, and, of course, that's with no intention of being objective here.
After looking over all the shots on the computer, we were able to find some we liked of the family and none we did not like of our little bundle of joy. A couple hundred dollars later (so much for not going overboard), we were off to put the little star down for the night. He slept over nine hours straight that night. If only we could have our pictures taken every night.