The Monumental Effort That Is Getting A Family Photo


Scary Mommy and jittawit.21/Getty

In a day where most of the population has a camera in their hands at all times, it seems like a welcome and pleasant change to go a professional photographer and have them capture some special memories.

But is it though?

Some background: My lovely wife has been asking me for almost the entirety of our marriage if we could get professional photos taken to make a holiday card. And every year I’ve found an excuse not to: We don’t have the time. We don’t have the money. We don’t have the time or money. Actually now that I think about it, those were the only excuses. Just used on repeat.

So this year when she asked, now with two healthy beautiful children, and a slightly more manageable schedule, I stopped making excuses. Also note, my suggestion of using an existing photo of the family and turning it into a holiday card was violently kiboshed (was worth a shot).

“Why is this so important to you?” I inquired.

“Because it’s important to me that we have these memories and because it would make me happy,” replied my wife.

Hard to condemn capturing memories. And as thick-headed and moronic as I can often be, making my wife happy is generally the only motivation I need to do something.

First we need to find a photographer ($). Wifey takes to the interwebs to find a local photographer. What follows is me being shown a never-ending series of pretty pictures of nice looking families, and and me being asked my opinion of them. Perhaps I have a non-discerning or uncultured eye, but they all pretty much looked the same. No photographer is advertising with the stuff they leave on the cutting room floor. It’s all handsome families, in gorgeous settings, smiling brightly or giggling candidly as if 2020 never happened. “They all look great,” I cheerfully offer. Commence fight about why I’m not being more involved in this process.

Once a photographer is selected by a Cut-Throat Pinterest Death Match, a date needs to be selected. My wife hands me a list of the available dates and times for what we’ve established is the only acceptable photographer in all of Central Florida. Conveniently, NONE of them work out. I don’t work banker’s hours, and I work weekends.

Thankfully, I have wonderful work friends who are willing to cover a call for me in order to bring this fight to an unceremonious conclusion.

Next, a location must be selected. This could have easily been its own contentious point of discussion, but mercifully, this photographer has already selected the location for this date. And as we’ve already established, this is the only suitable photographer in a 100 mile radius.

Next, what are we going to wear? I suggest that I like how denim and white looks. My wife looks at me as though I have just insulted all the generations of her family.

“These are fall photos,” my wife answers incredulously, “so they need to be fall-themed clothes.”

“And no flannel!” she insists, murdering my singular suggestion before I can even utter it.

Neustockimages/Getty

Commence the outfit search ($$). Obviously, nothing in my, my wife’s, or our children’s existing wardrobes will make the cut. To the interwebs we return to find carefully coordinated, but NOT matching, outfits. This process unfolds in a similar fashion to that of selecting a photographer, but thankfully this time we get to involve the opinions of a dozen or so friends and family members. Don’t forget to register to vote, people.

I should clarify that the planning of this photoshoot has been going on for over a month. As the date begins to draw a little nearer, I notice, ever so slightly, the minor changes in my wife’s behavior suggesting that I’ve done something wrong. But naturally she will deny it, for a relatively long period of time, until the Hoover Dam holding back all the resentment created by her husband’s greeting-card-grumpies crumbles, and the buffoon drowns in a deluge of tears, feeling guilty but also flabbergasted.

Thankfully, we have a wonderful relationship, we talk it out, and I take responsibility for the fact that my pessimism, lack of interest, and general photographic scrooginess is taking all of the enjoyment out of this for her.

We move forward with a few more credit card swipes, a couple of slightly tense but manageable conversations (“Whatever makes you happiest, honey”), and finalized appointments for hair and nails ($$$).

Finally, the big weekend arrives. We spend most of my post-call day arranging and ironing outfits, coaching the kids about how wonderful picture day is going to be, and promising them all of the refined sugars as long as they follow instructions and listen to the photographer.

As the evening progresses, I can see my wife’s shoulders rising higher and higher towards her ears. A microscopic stain discovered while ironing my daughter’s dress nearly causes a mental breakdown. Her patience for my existence is dwindling, and we spend the rest of the evening packing the car up with snacks, back up outfits, and all the other necessary supplies for a car ride with children longer than eight minutes.

“There’s no public restrooms available,” the photographer casually texts late that evening, basically leaving me to fall on a grenade.

“We should have gotten Myles a haircut,” my wife laments, among other things, at 9pm.

An already restless night of sleep is interrupted several times by my daughter, who picks the perfect night for some sleep regression behavior.

At last, the big day is here!

We wake up and hour or so earlier than our kids typically wake, so that we can try our best to at least get ourselves ready before tackling the task of readying the kids. That strategy is soon shattered as my daughter enters our bathroom, informing us that she peed in her bed, and that she is SOOOOOO HUNGRYYYYYYYYYY.

My wife and I struggle to get our kids and ourselves together, which includes giving my daughter anti-motion sickness medicine, putting one of my T-shirts over her dress to try and protect it from the ever limitless variety of potential toddler damage, and wrestling my son into a button down shirt. As I pack up the car, my wife, not the world’s best morning person at baseline, tries to style my daughter’s hair, continuing with contemptuous determination as my daughter screams bloody murder. I help pack them into the car, after which my wife chastises me that we are already running late, and then screeches out of the garage like she’s trying to to audition her minivan for The Fast and the Furious 15. She quite literally leaves me there in the dust. Though this was admittedly agreed upon, since we needed to take two separate cars … after all, I had to go back to work after this.

We arrive just before our scheduled 8am “call time,” and proceed to wrangle our children through a one hour photo shoot in our coordinated fall outfits, in the balmy 87 degree Florida sunrise. To my children’s credit, they did amazing. I just tried to smile through the sweat.

The important thing is, that everyone survived. Though probably more importantly, all of the outfits made it to the photo shoot unscathed.

“Did you actually enjoy this?” I asked my wife after arriving back at the hospital and relieving my incredibly gracious colleague.

“Very,” she replied to my utter shock, “it’s something I want to do every year.” A little piece of my soul screamed, but I persevered.

“All that matters to me is that you’re happy,” I informed her. “But maybe next year, we can try and approach it with a little less stress and a little more balance.” To which I think, at least via text message, she agreed.

I realize that in the course of this rant I probably made my wife sound like a total bougie snob, overly concerned with outward appearances. The fact is, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. What it is a reflection of, is a devoted, loving mother, who gives everything she has to her family, and that includes giving a 110% to creating perfect family photos. I think that is something that so many mothers can relate to.

On the other hand, realize, that we dense and dull dads already think you and the children are perfect, beautiful, and breathtaking. It’s not that we don’t care. It’s just that every photograph that captures our spouse or children, is one we admire and cherish. So it just doesn’t register to us on the same wavelength, how important to you it is that you find perfect boots to go with the dress.

So gents, if confronted with the prospect of family photos, buck up, show some interest, and smile. And ladies, don’t forget to have some fun, and realize, you are perfect to us no matter what you wear, and no matter what Karen on Instagram says!

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