“We want to do pictures with you, Cara. We just want to wait until the braces are off….” “I’d love to do photos with you…once I get back into shape.” “His face is a mess….do you photoshop?” “We want to postpone our session….. she just lost her two front teeth.”
I hear these things so often from well-meaning parents. If they are going to invest the money in family portraits, of course they want everyone to look good. They want these photos to show off their best selves. Parents want photos to be worthy of displaying on a wall. They want to look perfect.
I don’t blame them. For years, I refused to be in pictures because I was overweight. I didn’t want anyone to notice how big I had become. I didn’t want anyone to think, “She let herself go” or “Her baby is in elementary school, but she never got back in shape.” So instead of doing something about it, I just stopped having photographs taken.
There are probably no more than ten photos taken of me from age 31 to 41. I thought that people would care. Or think things. Or judge. Because I thought my kids would say, “Mom, why is your belly hanging over your pants in this picture?”
What’s the consequence? My children and grandchildren will never be able to look back and see what I looked like in my 30s. Today, I realize how selfish that was of me. I have completely erased a chapter of my life. My image is not a part of the photographic history of the first ten years of my youngest child. I have cheated him of those memories.
Photographs are a part of your family’s history. People gain weight. They lose hair. They get braces. Their face breaks out. Teeth fall out, and grow back in. This is life. This is what it is about– the ages and stages of the kids. The gradual aging of adults. Life doesn’t stop. We can’t stop time.
Every time you postpone your photos, you get older. You get a few more lines. You get a few more grays. Even scarier is how quickly your kids grow up. I was just rocking my oldest to sleep, and now he is a junior in college. And in those 20 years, we have only had an official family portrait done twice.
This kills me. I’m a photographer. I’m supposed to have these memories for my kids to keep once we are gone. Think about the message this sends to the kids. No teen wants acne. They hate it. They wish it wasn’t there. And when a photo session is on hold because of it, the child hears, “You don’t look good enough.” Braces are almost a rite of passage. Look around a middle school classroom. Metal is in everyone’s mouth. No kid wants braces. They do it to look good later on.
But think about the message we’d be sending to these human beings if instead we said,
“I love you. Just the way you are. Right now. And I want to remember you in all of your amazingness at this very time of your life. That’s why we are doing family portraits very, very soon.”
Those simple sentences could completely change a child’s life.
And as far as the two front teeth go, could there be anything cuter? Is there anything more adorable than missing and crooked teeth and the big grin of excitement that comes along with it? Suddenly, your baby is turning into a big kid. I think that once they lose that first tooth, within seconds, they are in college.
Catch it now. Photographs can, in a sense, freeze time. To look back on your walls and shelves and see how your family has changed and grown over time is a powerful thing.
It’s something I can’t get back. It’s something I can’t buy for my children.
So whether you book photographs with me or someone else, make it a priority to get them done.
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