The Perfect Family Photo

I don’t know how other families do it, I really don’t. I see them on Facebook all the time, posting beautiful, smiley, well-lit photos of their children as if it was the easiest thing in the world.  Here you go, just a casual snapshot of MY ENTIRE FAMILY LOOKING PERFECT!  See how nicely they’re dressed, in coordinating but not overly matchy outfits?  Look at those smiles!  Look at how none of them are giving me the finger!

Which is not to say that my own kids have given me the finger in a photograph, at least not physically.  I’m sure mentally I’m getting that and much worse every time I get out my phone.

I don’t know.  I suspect that some of these friends of mine just have more generally agreeable children than I do, which is not to say my kids are disagreeable.  They’re not. They simply have very firm opinions on certain subjects, one of them being photography.  And while they’ve always enjoyed a covert selfie session resulting in 5,000 of the same picture on my phone, they are less into the traditional “say cheese” method of capturing memories.

Some examples.

Oh, you sad woman.

This is me, thinking I can get a nice photo of myself and my two little boys and my new haircut.  Notice what an idiot I look like, smiling for the camera while two small toddlers make a break for it.  Maybe this is why my kids are so anti-photography, because they see what a jackass their mother looks like half the time.  I can hardly blame them.

Wow. That kid looks angry.
Wow. That kid looks angry.

A decent family photo on the surface, and then you notice the irate two-year-old in the background.  It almost looks like he was Photoshopped in there, doesn’t it?  Well, he wasn’t.  Photos like this are difficult on several levels, one being that you must continue to smile and be camera-ready while the photographer tries to cheer up the irate two-year-old.  Also because eventually you will reach the inevitable point where your smile is no longer an expression of happiness and joy but instead a hideous stretching of your lower face that more resembles an expression of criminal insanity. Fabulous.


This is a good one, taken at the now-defunct Sears Portrait studio because I loved the photographer there.  Her name was Kat and she could get good photos of anyone.  I feel like my kids are pretty cute in real life, but Kat’s photos made them look perfect – adorable and charming and full of personality and not at all like they’d just spent fifteen minutes freaking out over a fruit snack.  On this day, as you can see, my smallest child presented Kat with more of a challenge.  Not helping matters was the Mom who couldn’t stop turning her head to try to fix the situation.  Clearly I had not yet learned the rule about remaining frozen like a deer in the headlights while the child is cajoled into smiling or otherwise behaving like a normal person.

Mrs. Smile-A-Lot
Mrs. Smile-A-Lot

Last but not least, here is a typical “casual” photo of my family. We are near the shore of Lake Erie, which seemed like a nice backdrop for a lovely Facebook cover photo.  Maybe I could even hang it on a wall!  I still stand behind my “good backdrop” theory, but apparently a “cooperative family” is also rather crucial.  On a side note – here we are again, one more photo where you can’t help but pity the mom.  AKA me.

To be fair, my kids have gotten better at this as they’ve gotten older.  My stepson is nearly sixteen and really was never a problem at all, and the littler kids – well, we’re now at the phase of “how can I best look like the Joker in this one” photography.  But we’re getting there.  One day, we too may have beautiful, smiley, well-lit photos that we make look easy as pie.

In the meantime, that Erie photo hangs on my wall, and I will tell you why. It’s because that photo was that moment.  That is exactly what it was, on that day at that time for my specific family.  Because I can pretend to complain all I want, but each and every one of the pictures above? Is actually, absolutely perfect.

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  1. Oh my yes! The struggle is real. There is only one person that can take pictures of my son, and it isn’t me. Maybe I should actually hire her to take a family portrait of us one of these days because ours turn out so much worse than yours. But, they do make some fun memories and even better blog material, right?

    1. Exactly, and yes, you should hire her. Today! P.S., I only showed you the “good” bad photos 🙂

  2. Brilliant!!! I have to take about 100 shots of the kids to get a decent one, and even then I usually edit it slightly to make the lighting better or cut out my blurry finger. If my youngest could give me the finger, she would be doing so on every shot. x

    1. The damn blurry finger….EVERY TIME I get a good photo, there it is. I guess that’s bound to happen when you’ve spent 35 minutes holding your phone up and yelling at people to smile normally 🙂

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