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You don't take a photo; you make it

It's school picture day today! And I remembered! Not because of any responsible parental behavior on my part! But because the universe reminded me! By sending Charlie home from school yesterday with a gigantic shiner!

He was pretty upset, I have to say: "I don't want my picture to look bad!" I told him my philosophy about photos, which is that they should capture us as we really are, to give us a way to remember our lives the way we actually lived them — that it was nice to try to look our best, but it was more important to be real.

Which sounded pretty good until I logged on last night to the picture company's web site to order.

Did you know? This is done online now, just like all the best parts of life: keeping in touch with friends, shopping for expensive unnecessaries, cheating at Scrabble, and organ transplants. You go to the company's site and you get to choose your package, including background, titles, even retouching if you want it.

Used to be that this was the best we could hope for:


Which is nice enough, I suppose. But now you can jazz it up with your kid's name, or the year, or, hey, why not the message of your choice?


Or you could get an "Art" background. And I use the scare quotes advisedly.


I was sort of looking for something a little more like real art...


...so I dropped that idea and moved on to "School Themes."  Chalkboards and bookshelves figured prominently, as did OH MY GOD CHILDREN GET OUT OF THE WAAAAAY THE DRIVER IS HAVING A STROKE!


A little unsettling, if you ask me.  Yes, a little unsettling.


Next I checked out "Nature Themes."  Yawn.


I would have preferred something that suggested the thrilling rush of an active afternoon spent outdoors...


Or maybe something featuring a nice cuddly animal.


But no dice. By now I must say I was feeling a bit discouraged. Luckily the "Spiritual Themes" were there to buoy me in my time of crisis.


Alas, our family's faith was sadly unrepresented.


None of the options thrilled me, but I was determined to find one that worked. Or three! Remember those composites that had a person in the foreground, and then a semi-transparent floating head in the background? These? Or the ones where a perfectly nice couple has been unceremoniously stuffed into a brandy snifter?

I found that the genre has been...updated.


I finally just decided to go with the classic. No words, no effects, just the same blue background from every school picture I ever took in my life:


(1985, my friends. 1985.)

In fact, despite Charlie's black eye, I didn't even ask for the retouching. In fact, I was half-tempted to ask them to make it look worse. Maybe add in a split lip. Paste in an exposed fang. Use the Crazy Eyes filter. And add big type reading, "BADASS."

Instead I settled this morning for a damp cloth, a quick comb, and a kiss as he left the house. This is our life as we live it, right? And maybe the photographer will notice and fix Charlie's shirt, which is, goddamn it, on backwards.


UPDATE: Haaaa, I thought it would be obvious, but I see it is all too believable: none of the photos above are actually from this morning's session. I used Photoshop plus a quick mug shot after breakfast to serve as a representation — I regret to assure you, an accurate one — of the choices the portrait company offered.

Sorry for the confusion. Carry on. And go like this. No, again. No, you — you'll probably need a mirror. There's a little...something on your...no, you can't reach it with your tongue. Just make sure you get it off before your turn at the camera.