Say cheese…and pose for a family photo

Posted on April 23rd, 2012

Image copyright Idea go

The other day I realized that the last time my family had a formal portrait taken was 2005.

The thing is, I’m not really into formal family pictures. For the most part, I prefer the intimate photos taken when nobody knows about them. You know, the un-posed moments where someone is talking with their mouth full of food, has one eye closed or possibly has a booger hanging from their nose. Or all three. The trifecta of humiliating family pictures.

I think I hate posed family photos because I was subjected to them way too many times as a child. Once a year, my mom would dress us all alike and drag us to the strip mall photography studio, where a pimply-faced twelve-year old who barely knew how to put film in a camera would take our photos.

Yes, the results were exactly what you’d expect.

First, back in those days apparently there was a Federal law that required all families to pose with one of four government-approved backgrounds. You had your idyllic country scene, complete with genuine plastic, split-rail fence for the family to lean on. Sometimes, the fence was replaced by a fake wagon wheel, making your average 80s family look like they were trapped in a very special episode of Gunsmoke while wearing leg warmers and shoulder pads.

And there was the Garden of Eden, a favorite backdrop for topless pregnant women the world over. Here the waterfall in the background perfectly complemented the faux plant that was draped over the woman’s shoulder, making it look like a swamp creature was attacking her.

And of course, we also had the heaven backdrop, with painted clouds and plastic Greek columns.  Every once in a while, someone using one of these backdrops would hold an arrow, like they were some sort of deranged Cupid or something.

The final background was a plain black one. This was the perfect background for the most horrifying picture of all, the double-exposure. In these, there was one person who was simply a floating head on the left of the photo, while another person had a full body shot on the right. My mother loved double exposures because she believed it showed that my sisters and I were thinking adoringly of each other.

Um, no. Usually I was thinking about killing the sister who was the floaty head because she was wearing my blouse without permission.

Worst of all, there were only two permitted facial expressions in formal portraits. The first was the stare off into space – which was really a spot to the left of the 12-year old photographer. This pose was supposed to make us look like we were thinking very deep thoughts about very deep stuff. In reality we were just wondering when the heck this posing crap was going to be over with so we could move onto something that mattered. Like figuring out who ate the last piece of chocolate from mom’s secret stash.

The second expression was the fake smile where everyone’s mouths were formed to the words “cheese.” About the only thing I can say about this expression is that it has vastly improved celebrity mug shots. They all look so happy to have their photo taken after a DUI.

Anyway, this is why in my home, you do not see many posed family photos. Instead, we have the ones that capture the real family, with nose boogers, mouths full of food and closed eyes.

Hey, it works for me. I have realistic family photos that will someday serve me as blackmail material. It doesn’t get much better than that. Say cheese!

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