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An Open Letter to the Family Photographer

Dear Family Photographer,

If you notice I have a little smudge of mascara under my eye, please mention it.  I won’t admit it to you, but I cried, twice, on the way here this afternoon. Family photos have become the most stressful day of the year for me. My husband and kids just try to stay out of the line of fire as I erupt with anger because I am already comparing the photos you haven’t even had a chance to take yet with all of the adorable, color-coordinated, beautifully staged family photos I see posted every day on Facebook and Pinterest.

Yes, I have asked my husband if we could buy a thousand dollars worth of beautiful clothes to wear just for the photos and return them next day.  He said no, and since he’s my moral compass I deferred to his judgment.

On the bright side, on this particular photo shoot you won’t have to point out that you can see a price tag peeking out from behind a collar. You don’t have to sell-out all your other family photo clients, but if I’m right, and they’re all buying and returning those incredible wardrobes I’m so jealous of,  just blink slowly and we’ll understand each other. Sound like a deal?

Please don’t judge me when I promise my children ice cream if they will all just look directly at you and smile for a few seconds. Frankly, If we make it out of this ordeal only owing them ice cream and not an exotic pet of some kind, it will be a gold star day.

Please, please, whatever you do, don’t suggest that we just let the kids be themselves as you capture candid moments of our family together. I’m sure that would be much easier for you than trying to find the miraculous moment when everyone looks great at the same exact second, however, if I wanted photos of what our family looked like in a candid moment we wouldn’t be here paying you too much money and wearing clothes that I spent all morning ironing with the attention of a drill instructor.

If I wanted candid family photos, I’d invite you to stop by at about 10am with your camera and a mop. You’d find us hanging out in front of the TV eating cereal in our pajamas. Dirty dishes in the sink, maybe some cereal on the floor, and honestly I can have my neighbor snap that photo for free any Saturday of the year right up until about 3 in the afternoon. 

Also, I suppose I should let you know that no matter how great these photos turn out, I will think they’re terrible. You could have the skill and talent of Margeret Bourke-White and I will still cry all the way home. I will wonder why I have kids that can’t follow simple directions, on this, the highest of all holy days.

I will see the proofs you send and criticize my wrinkles and my weight. I will set the photos aside within the deep recesses of the kitchen counter and refuse to look at them for a full month because I am so disappointed that they did not match the image of perfection in my head of what an ideal family photo would look like. I’ll curse Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and the nefarious devils at Cosmo, Parenting, and every other magazine I see on the rack as I ring up my groceries for the week.

However, about a month later I will realize that if I don’t order a Christmas card photo within the week it will end up being a Valentine’s card instead. So, reluctantly I will pull the photos out. In that moment I will see everything that I missed before. I will find the joy of love and life that was always captured in these photos you took of my amazing family. I will cry again, however, this time it will be because I love my family so much and I’m so proud of them. I’ll realize that these photos aren’t nearly as bad as I had thought. I’ll see the love and joy, and the sheer perfection of imperfection.

Then, I will mail these photos you have taken to everyone I care about, convinced that they are the best photos we have ever taken, and I will resolve not to make such a big deal about photos next year. But, just in case, if you notice a little smudge of mascara under my eye next year, pull out this letter and make me read it again….



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