Come on, People! Picture (taking) People to be exact. If you spent just a couple more bucks an hour, you could hire actual photographers. Forget photographers…I’d settle for someone who has kids or at the very least…has spoken to a kid before. My boys are 9 and almost 6. You can’t hold up a squeaky frog, speak in a baby voice and sing, “Ooooh, I’m gonna git your belly!” Why? Because you get a photo of 2 boys rolling their eyes, that’s why. When I suggested they were a little old for that, she actually said, “Say Money!”. What?

I know what you’re thinking, “Just stop going there!” I would, but I’m trapped. I started a tradition when they were babies. On a fluke, I took Nate into the place when we were strolling the mall one day. He had just turned 1 and they had the cutest photo in the window of a toddler holding a big red number one. “How cute is that?” I thought. “And there’s no sitting fee!” Little did I know how much “No sitting fee” would cost me. I plopped him down on the white backdrop and they handed him the red number. $150. later, I had an addiction. So now, every year I take them to get their red-number birthday photos.

Early on I realized the level of talent I was dealing with. But I thought, “Hey, I’ll just take over, tell them what to shoot and make my kids laugh / smile naturally.” Some years that worked, other years I got stuck with a photographer just out of Kindergarten or hung over from a frat party the night before.

“Say, Cheese, Mathew.”

“My name is Nate and we don’t say cheese, we’re vegetarians. We say, ‘Soy Cheese!”


Soy Cheese. It’s a joke. Get it? We don’t eat cheese…oh, nevermind.”

“Oh, ok. Say soy cheese Nicky.”

That’s when I usually take over and manage to get the shots I want. I always give the photographer the benefit of the doubt, stand back and let them work before I step in and become one of “those” Moms.

This year I nearly lost it. We got a “Poser”. That’s a photographer who has four poses in their repertoire. They force ever kid into them, regardless of age, gender or temperament.

“OK, I want you to cross your arms in front of you, with your hand on the outside of your arm. Tilt your head towards me and angle your bodies back. DON’T MOVE! Stand next to your brother – are you brothers? You don’t look alike – let your shirts touch but not your bodies….Now smile! ”



How could this EVER work on anybody, let alone kids? I grabbed the reigns after the next painful shot was taken: (Notice the pinching shenanigans going on in an attempt to relieve their boredom)


“Excuse me, do you mind if I make a few suggestions?”

“Uhhhh, I guess so”

“Just let them stand there and I’ll talk. You take the pictures.”

“But I don’t know…”

“Oh, my gosh…Zeke…did you toot?”



You just have to know your audience. Boys, 4 – 44 years old = fart jokes. Works every time.

My other trick? Bring their favorite toy in the world and voila! Instant personality. Plus I’ve documented their current passion:

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(Nate’s hobbies have changed every year. Reptiles; Harry Potter; Cars; Falconry… Zeke has brought Legos for the past five years. I sure hope Legoland stays open so he can get a job when he grows up.)

“OK, now for the magic red-number birthday photos!”

“Uhhh…OK…I want you to put your left hand on the top of the 9 but keep your fingers off the front of it, then hold it 3/4 of the way down your…”

“I got this…Nate, sit on the floor and hold your 9. Oh, I forgot to tell you…I tooted! ”



“Zeke, your turn. Sit on the floor and hold your 6. Uh, oh…I forgot to tell you….!”



Got it!!!  Only 12 more months until the next one…maybe I’ll try pants next year….