Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The woes of the family photographer. . .

I inherited it from my mom. The Kodak gene. Really.

Or maybe it was just a peculiar version of the Stockholm Syndrome. . . where I was held captive by my mother's "photographing the family" obsession long enough to begin to identify with my captor. Now I am the one yelling "put down that drumstick and smile!"

Yep, that's my role in the family. Photographic Tyrant. The one who won't let anybody sit down at the Thanksgiving table or start eating until the official snapshots have been made. Not a nice job, exactly, but somebody's gotta do it. Those piles of fuzzy, off-center photographs don't just make themselves, you know. Somebody has to interrupt everything and make themselves the center of attention by calling for everyone to stop what they're doing, pose, and smile as if they're having the time of their lives.

The fun part of this stage of my life is that I have a whole new generation of victims to capture. Grandchildren-- the subjects of many, if not most, amateur photography excesses. And if you start them early enough, they seem to enjoy the process and pose endlessly... until they drop of exhaustion and just go to sleep.

This Christmas I got an early present. . . a digital camcorder! And until now I had no real sympathy for the problems encountered by filmmakers. This is a whole new perspective on picture taking. And on children. Those suckers move FAST. My first attempts seem to show a lot of the backs of kids' heads. I have become a master of "after the fact."

Worse yet, I have nothing to hold in my hands afterward. . . except a camera with a teeny tiny view screen.

Enter: my technical consultant who says I can download my "films" to my computer and see my mistakes large and in brilliant color and clarity. I am terrified to see what I have wrought.


After a whole morning of frustration, I won't be able to bring you any of my fabulous video. Sorry. Maybe later, after my video guy reprograms me to be more computer friendly.

Anyway, I now have video of one of my grandsons being held upside down by his uncle for three whole minutes. . . giggling maniacally the whole time. I have video of another grandson doing a mountain-man clog dance while mugging for the camera. And I have video of youngest grandgirl eating cookies and climbing all over her brothers' train table and looking adorable in a suit of barber-pole candystripes that makes me dizzy when she twirls around and around. There are also too many photos of grandchildren running around like mad in mere underwear. Anybody else's kids or grandkids seem to HATE wearing clothes. . . even in the dead of winter? And there is the obligatory I-didn't-know-the-camera-was-on shot of beige carpet. . . while an enraged three-year-old screams in the background because his new toy got swiped.

Come to think of it, maybe it's best I that I can't share with you any of my new creations. The documentation of the chaos of family life and long-distance Christmas visits may best be left to the perpetrators themselves.

Who is the designated photographer/picture-Nazi in your family? Is there a trend to the pictures he or she takes? Do your kids or grands have favorite poses they always strike-- favorite silly faces they always make? Do you keep your pictures in (a) the original developers' envelopes, (b) wherever there's a place to stuff them, (c)boxes in the closet, or (d) gorgeous leather albums and themed scrapbooks? And if it's "D" how the heck do you do it?


Playground Monitor said...

My digital camera will also take little two minute videos. I can download them to my computer and then upload them to YouTube to share with family. Since kids ARE fast as you pointed out, that's the best way to photograph my granddaughter. With the regular digital camera, I either get a blur or the back of her head.

I guess I'm the family photographer, but I'm not as diligent as I should be. Digital photos are all on the computer or archived onto CDs. I print copies of a select few for Grammy's Brag Book, which I take to family reunions so I can show off my beautiful grandbaby.

My guest room closet, however, has two huge boxes of photos and slides from a different era. They're in little boxes, Walmart envelopes, regular white envelopes, baggies and Lord knows what else. I really should sort them since those boxes have the photos of our 4 years in Europe and my sons' childhoods.


flchen1 said...

How fun, Betina! What a cutie pie you've got there!

Mostly my husband is the photographer, unless he happens not to be there, in which case I'll tentatively pick up the camera for the duration. He's much better at framing shots and getting them in focus. We're just happy if the kids are actually looking at the camera, and now we're working on smiling normally (not giving us the crazed grimace that really shouts, "Cheese!") Most of our photos are on our computer's hard drive; a few have been printed, mostly of the oldest--oops!

lois greiman said...

Betina!! They're soooooo cute. I'm so jealous. I keep asking my kids for kids, but maybe I should wait till they're married. :)

Nazi away girl. You only get one chance at some of those shots and they'll be old men tomorrow.

Oh, and Betina (and everyone) if you get a chance, drop in and talk to us at Lifetime.tv today

Debra Dixon said...

Betina-- Let me echo the sentiments of others...what cutie patooties!

We've got an older digital which works for my "right now" needs and ebay. We still use the 35mm for real pics. Yes, I know...it's a dinosaur. We'll be getting a real digital camera sometime this year. It's time.

But I found a great site online that you can do your digital scrapbooking.


Cindy Gerard said...

Super cute kiddos, Betina!! Who wouldn't have fun shooting photos of those little dolls?
And I, too, am the designated photo Nazi. I didn't ask for the job, didn't volunteer, just came to realize that if I didn't take the shots, no one else would. Sometimes it seems as if I spend my entire time at family gatherings behind the lens. You'd think I'd get good at it :o( Not so much :o)

Helen Brenna said...

I'll echo everyone else's sentiments, Betina. Cuties, all of them.

When my kids were little, I had our video camera out for everything and could sit forever watching them. We have miles and miles of footage. All in our safe deposit box. Sad, I know. We keep talking about putting it all on dvds, but it never seems to happen.

Can you guess where my photos are? Yep, in boxes in the closet. Or on my computer.

How I WISH I were I had them all in albums!!!

Christie Ridgway said...

I'm so bad with taking pictures! And I hate to have my picture taken as well. Surfer Guy does most of the photo taking...and he's actually good. Better now with all the editing software. But the photos are mostly still on the computer.

Did get the in-laws a digital photo frame for Christmas, though. Surfer Guy is spending more time loading that sucker up than he will on any other Christmas activity (other gift shopping/wrapping) combined, though.

Cute, cute kids!

Betina Krahn said...

Playground, I'm with you on the Grammie brag book. I remember suffering through all of show-and-tells of the proud grannies I worked with-- this is just Karma, baby. My turn to bore people stiff!

And Flchen-- the oldest always gets most of the camera time. But then, the oldest gets the job of breaking in the parents for the later kids, so it all works out in the end.

Betina Krahn said...

Deb, Cindy, Lois, Helen, and Christie. . . awww thanks, guys. I didn't mean just to brag about the grandkids. Was just illustrating the point. a-hem. Which seems to be that being the family photog is generally a thankless job.

But sooner or later everyone is grateful for the pictures we've labored over and cajoled and bullied other people to get. Think of the times you've seen relatives melt a bit at the sight of an old photo of grandparents or young kids or soldiers and sweethearts in their prime. It's worth it to me just to jog my memory occasionally with a picture.

One thing I have done is make enlargements and buy frames and hang them around the house. In my old house, I had a whole gallery of framed photos depicting our family history and loved ones. It was great to have that visual representation. . . especially when things get tough. And picture frames can always be found on sale at TJ Maxx or Marshalls or Tuesday Morning! Display the good times to remember while you can!

Virginia Lady said...

There isn't really one photographer in my family, we tend to split it up by event. (i.e., the one that remembered the camera is the photographer) :-)

As for where the pix are? I've tried to do the scrapbooking thing, but I am less than stellar in actually getting to it, so I have lots of stuff, but most is not in any book.

Most of our pix now are digital, so until I'm ready to do a scrapbook page, I'm not printing them. Instead, they are neatly organized on our computer in a variety of folders labeled by years, or season (Little League 04, for example)

I haven't given up hope that I'll get them into books that people might actually look at, but I doubt it's happening anytime soon.

Betina Krahn said...

Virginia Lady, I now have a backlog on my computer, too. And with my track record with computers, I worry about that. So I back up as frequently as I can. . . hoping to keep the memories safe.

Out of every trip or major holiday I usually pick out one or two shots of the fam. or the kiddies and enlarge and print and (if possible) frame it. That way I at least have something to show and to jog the memories.

:) Betina