When my daughter was three weeks old, we took her in to the studio to have newborn photos made.
My sweet co-worker did an excellent job of getting all the different shots we wanted, and even took her in to our second camera room to do part of our session in the “Fairy room.”
The pictures turned out beautiful- soft lighting and a tiny golden tutu that showed off her beautiful little strands of bright red hair. And my girl was cooperative with a full belly- she slept for a majority of the session and let us do whatever we needed to get the shot.
Oh, that newborn sweetness!
So, then begs the question: Where did that newborn sweetness run off to once my child became a toddler?
Almost exactly a year after her fairy newborn photos were taken, the fairy scene came around again. So it was only natural that we would take her in to do the fairy scene again, right? To have those sweet pictures displayed side by side showing her growth and development in the last year in sweet fairy wings and flower crowns? There was only one problem. My child had decided she hated the camera room.
At her first birthday photo shoot, she cried most of the time and refused to touch her smash cake. I loved the photos, but after putting in all the work with balloons, pom-poms, the outfit, and the cake, it was disappointing that she didn’t dive right in.
I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I should not be the one shooting my child’s pictures, but by gosh there were fairies coming!
She hadn’t started walking when we took her first birthday pictures, but she was going strong by the time the fairies came around again.
I enlisted my husband to be my child wrangler for the session because I was sure that she would be running all over the camera room causing commotion.
Bless it. The entire session felt like a mess. We got there early to get her dressed in the fairy outfit, but of course, my child’s toddler nature kicked in.
She tried to run off as I tied the tutu. She wouldn’t let me fix her top. She hates headbands, so keeping that fairy crown on felt like a joke. And this is all before we even got in the room!
I had turned the overhead lights off and turned on our noise machine to make the room more interesting (and, let’s be honest, to limit what she could see and get in to).
I thought for sure she would head straight for the giant mushrooms or the mirror on the floor that we use as our pond. I had my husband sit her down next to one of the mushrooms and we quickly discovered that she hated the fake grass. She refused to stand in it.
I recreated the soft lighting that my co-worker had done for my daughter’s first Fairy session.
Since she wouldn’t move from the spot we had put her in, it was easier to get the lighting effect I wanted. But lighting up a really mean face wasn’t what I wanted.
She cried. She got mad. Halfway through what turned out to be a fifteen minute session, her wings were crooked and her top still wasn’t fixed. We got a few smiles with serious bribery and a list of all the songs she loves, but in the end, it was all up to Photoshop.
That cute little photo of her on the log, looking up at what appears to be a tiny fairy sparkle? Yeah, no. That was her looking at my husband, whisked away with a little magic I call Patch Tool.
That picture of her sweet little grin and her crooked crown? I’m pretty sure we were singing “Wheels on the Bus” to her repeatedly.
And I look at these pictures every time seeing that her top is entirely crooked because she would not let me fix it.
Our fairy session seemed doomed to be a fairy tale disaster. I have photographed countless fairy sessions and as challenging as some of those little ones have been, it didn’t feel like the same kind of battle to get the shots I wanted as a photographer because I wasn’t trying to get the shots I wanted as a mom. As a mom, I had a picture in my head of what I wanted and as a photographer, I knew the camera settings, lighting and editing techniques to pull it off. Trying to reconcile these two things in practice when my child just wasn’t in the mood made the whole thing feel like a massive fail.
I threw the photos out on Facebook just so my family could see them and to my surprise the response was super positive.
“Can we dress her up as a fairy every year, please?” her aunt begged in a comment.
“Oh, I need this one!” her grandmother posted.
“Oh my god I love that pouty little face!” my co-worker said.
I guess they can’t all be that bad, right? Since they weren’t the ones shooting, they didn’t know her outfit was wrong, or that her dad was standing over her singing during the photos. They saw the pictures of her smiling, pouting, playing with a lantern and enjoying her moment as a fairy.
As mom, I’m crossing my fingers that my child will get over whatever issues she has with our camera rooms, and am learning to enjoy those ugly crying faces she makes in the meantime. As photographer, next time I think I’ll just let my co-workers take the camera instead 😉.