I’ve taken some toddler/preschooler pictures this month. I do not like taking toddler/preschooler pictures.
The first toddler’s pictures were for a Christmas card. My cunning plan was to take the pictures in the fall, set the little girl loose in her backyard, then chase after her snapping pictures like a desperate paparazzo.
Yes, the singular of paparazzi is paparazzo. Thank the heavens above for the internet so I could look it up.
The internet. We are all just so cool nowadays I can hardly stand it. We drive around in our cars and speak to the air, “Call Mom!” and the car calls Mom!
And we’re so blasé about it, too. Aren’t we ridiculous in our blasé-ment?
What would it be like if we could make a time machine and bring someone like Leonardo da Vinci forward in time? How would he react to the things we have? Can you see him startle when you first flick a switch on the wall and the room is blazing with lights? Can you see the tears in his eyes when you take him on his first airplane ride? Leonardo wouldn’t be blasé about electric lights and planes.
I saw some show where they took some guy—I think he was an aboriginal guy from the Australian bush—and plopped him down in a big city. He started off in the airport with those sidewalks that move. They’re like escalators but instead of steps they’re just a long strip that moves you along so you don’t have to actually put one foot in front of the other and walk. The man was awed, of course, and when he went back home he tried to explain what he saw, “There were paths that moved for you. You stood on them and they walked for you.” His people thought he was nuts.
We are just too cool and we don’t even know it.
Well that went off track. Back to my original idea for this blog post: Christmas card pictures with toddler.
I was going to take the toddler outside, follow her around, and get lots of shots until I had a bunch of adorable candid shots to choose from. But the weather was rainy, the family got sick, and it didn’t work out until cold bleary November. We had to do shots indoors. I had to use a flash. This meant I couldn’t follow her around snapping like crazy. I had to pose her, hope she didn’t run away, snap, then wait for the flash to power back up and, snap, and wait for the flash…. All that waiting for the flash can really mess up toddler pictures. They do not hold their poses.
To make her stay in one spot we kept giving her This Is Not A Toy items to play with.
We gave her strands of wrapping paper ribbon…
…we gave her glass Christmas tree ornaments…
…and we gave her strings of electric lights—turned on.
It worked insofar as she stayed in one spot, but the problem was that she was so busy amazing at her good luck in getting to touch all the This Is Not a Toys that she didn’t look up from the things we handed her. I have a ton of pictures of the top of her head.
Here’s the picture I like best:
See, people who can’t do their own portraits want a chance to get formal, posed pictures. They ask their photographer friends or hire a photographer to take their formal, posed Family Portraits. That’s all well and good and has its place. I got a bunch of Family Portrait shots that the family loves. They’re happy, so I’m happy.
But when you are the photographer, those pictures aren’t as much fun. Yes, they’re necessary. They can be pleasant, but they’re not fun.
Photographers like to get the pictures that tell a little story. They like the pictures that make you wonder what happened just before the shot or just after. Or make you wonder what the person in the picture is thinking. Or what they’re looking at.
The reason I like the above shot best is because you wonder about it. Who is handing the girl the lights? (It was Darling Husband.) You notice the way she is looking at whoever hands her the lights. Is she happy about it? Is she confused? What’s that little girl going to do with the lights now that she has them?
It tells a tiny story and I like it.
Here are the pictures I like best of the little girl’s older sisters. I like them because they’re between the formal poses and the girls are moving and relaxed and simply being “kids.”
That last one was almost formal, except for the way her finger is smooshing her face. But I love that. It feels very “real” to me in a way that pictures where your hands are positioned ‘just so’ don’t. I also like her red nose. She had a cold and kept blowing her nose. That’s not what you want in a formal portrait, but it’s what helps make this a fun picture. It’s a memory.
In the next one, the girl with the finger-smooshed face drew a picture of her sister, pictured below. It’s hard to tell whether the sister (below) finds the picture flattering or not. (Kinda reminds me of when Napoleon Dynamite draws that picture of the girl he asks to the dance.)
And of course: