The 7 Stages of Trying to Photograph Children

If you see a photo of someone else’s children smiling and looking perfect, know that it took approximately 272 photos and the sacrifice of a baby goat to idols to get that one good picture (or Photoshop). Because capturing a good photo is like winning the Powerball. The odds are not in your favor, parents. You might want to stop trying and stick with “artistic” candid shots (i.e. shitty blurry photos of your children running by). If anyone knows how those parents in the 1800s managed to get their offspring to pose for 3 days for a painted portrait, please pass on the knowledge.

If you decide to go ahead and ruin your day by attempting to photograph your children, I recommend preparing them in advance. Make sure your children are well fed and well rested. Play some Zen music, hypnotize them in front of Caillou, and lather them in essential oils. Hopefully they will be .02 times more agreeable and calm. Don’t bother changing them into cute outfits. Doing so will empty their tanks and yours before you even get your camera out. So go ahead and let your kid wear the t-shirt that says “Caution: Threenager” with brown stains on it that may or may not be shit. She’ll probably lift her skirt over her head anyway when the camera’s out, so you can at least count on getting some great shots of her Sofia the First underwear.

Here are the phases that you can expect during your photo session, along with some tips that probably won’t help. Godspeed, parents, godspeed.

The SAY CHEESE Stage

Try to keep your camera out of sight until the last possible moment. Because your subjects will start whining instantly when they see it. Then start off trying to take a photo like a normal person, (you know, asking everyone to sit, smile, and say “cheese”). You might want to have a couple props to grab your spawn’s attention, like a rattle or a circus elephant parading around behind you. If you can stand on your head and simultaneously snap pictures, go for it. Pull out all the stops because this shit show will quickly go downhill. Every second that passes, you’ll be less and less likely to get a photo of your children looking human.

The BE A COMEDIAN Stage

You’ve tried your initial shtick and every child looks like they’re straining to pass a bowel movement in every photo. (It’s a shame Apple doesn’t make a phone that shits out confetti and yells like a banshee when you press the shutter.) While you still have their attention, go for some giggles. Here are some techniques that might make your kid crack a smile:

  • Do something disgusting – burp, fart, pick a wedgie, pick your nose, spit. Eat some dirt off the ground.
  • Pretend to shit your pants. Also, say “poop” or any variation of the word “poop” as many times as possible. Children over the age of one always find feces to be hilarious. Buttholes usually work too.
  • Be a clown without being an actual clown (because, dumbass, children loathe real clowns). Can you juggle in your underwear? Or drive around in a teeny tiny car? Or turn into SpongeBob SquarePants?
  • Act like you’re injured. Seriously. Most children will laugh if you’re in pain.
  • Try to do all of these methods at once: Burp a song and juggle while faking an explosive dump and have someone run over and smack you with a baseball bat.

The ESCAPE! Stage

You know why you see so many photos of children strapped in car seats, high chairs, and strollers? Because, duh, they can’t f@!king move. The sound of the shutter is like the gunshot at the start of a race – the children take off running like it’s the f*#king Kentucky Derby. If your children aren’t immobilized, your photo shoot will turn into the Running of the Bulls, and when the dust settles, your dreams of a good photo will be gone. You’ll also have to stop to find your phone/camera that you dropped while chasing people with much shorter legs that move much faster than yours. I recommend having one adult for every child present so someone is there to grab the runners or else you’ll be winded before you can say “cheese, bitches.”

The PURE INSANITY Stage

At this point you’ve given up on smiles. You just want your kids to motherf**king sit still and look at the camera. Or at least look up and stop picking their noses. So you act like you’re losing your shit (which may or may not be an act). You jump around, violently shaking your limbs, squawking and screeching. Maybe even growl and foam at the mouth. This is in the hopes that they’ll be stunned still, dumbfounded and a little frightened by your shenanigans. If you’re lucky they might freeze and stare for 2.4 seconds, like deer caught in headlights.

The DESPERATION Stage

Pleading never hurts. Sure, you’re asking self-absorbed, asshole children who won’t eat a donut when you offer it to them, but you never know until you try. You kneel down next to your kids and gently say “Hey little nuggets, Mommy loves you so much. Can you do one little favor for me? Can you please please sit still, smile like you’ve never been this f*#king happy in your life, and shut the f#@k up?” What you actually vocalize is “Stay PUT for ONE photo or you’re going in TIME OUT.”

The CANDY, PLEASE WORK YOUR MAGIC Stage

When all else fails, make it rain M&Ms. Channel Oprah — “You get a lollipop! And you get a lollipop! Everybody gets a motherf**king lollipop!!” (Mom tip: While your children are getting high on sugar, you might want to swallow a Xanax.)

The HOPELESS Stage

By now everyone is crying (including yourself). But if you can’t get a photo of everyone smiling, maybe you can get a photo of everyone crying. Because, hey, that’s better than a photo of one looking drugged, one with demon eyes, and one running away. So snap away while yelling “We could have been done with this twenty minutes ago if you could sit still and force a smile for three seconds! Now smile through your tears or everyone is eating broccoli for dinner!!”

Because this one is going in a frame, dammit.

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