Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Peanut went to her little friend's party. She wore her favourite blue dress, her white tulle party "hairclippy", and had a big bugger of a scratched mozzie bite right in the middle of her nose.

The birthday girl's mother is a professional children's photographer and she documented the entire party, including all the children with their faces beautifully painted. A few days later she dropped around and gave me a large mounted photo of Peanut. It's gorgeous. The blue in her face paint and dress sets off her stunning eyes (stolen from Daddy), and she has on a beautiful, genuine smile that lights up her face. But the mozzie bite is gone.

Photoshopped away.

It makes me uncomfortable. It's still Peanut in the picture - her face shape hasn't been changed, her eyes are still the same colour, it's her through and through... except it isn't. Because she never looked like that.

Now Peanut is still young. She's not likely to remember that she had a huge red hole in her nose that day, from a night spent unconsciously scratching an itch. And I still ended up with a beautiful photo of my daughter. But I hear they are offering a retouching service on some school photos now, and it concerns me. At what stage do we draw the line?

I have an excellent school photo of me from about year nine or ten. We had just come in from playing soccer for PE, and we had barely five minutes to change into uniform. My photo shows me red faced and flushed, with damp sweat curls around my face, falling from my scraped back hair. I look beautiful. I really do. That photo caught me at my best, grabbed the essence of my favourite part of my school days and saved it forever. Retouching would have ruined it, made it just another plastic photo, carefully documenting an event that never really happened.

Maybe it's just me. I feel the same about staged photos. You know the ones - you're snugged up reading to the baby, but then in comes the self appointed family photographer. They decide to move the book, direct you to point somewhere random, and then get cross when the kid is more interested in what happened to Hairy Maclary than getting her picture taken. Or the "stop playing on the swings and peek through this tunnel so I can get a photo" pictures. In my view, either you catch it when it happens, or you're fresh out of luck. No do-overs. No faking.

My dislike of staging doesn't extend to purposeful photo taking. If you've planned a proper photo-shoot, by all means sit your kid on a chair in the forest and snap away. Feel free to take fifteen group photos to get the right one. But don't make our normal playtime feel substandard because it's not being done photogenically enough. Life is not a film shoot for Facebook.

And my daughter? She meets my standards for beauty every single day, mozzie bites and all.


  1. The best photos are the unexpected ones - not the staged pictures, but the accidents. And as I am rather snap-happy, I have a tonne of them.

  2. Airbrushing kids.. ugh. I'll fiddle with lighting/colours etc in photoshop to get an interesting effect, but thats it. Fortunately (unfortunately?) my kids refuse to be performing monkeys. Mini will spend literally HOURS singing everything that happens, but as soon as I pull the camera out, "I can't sing, I don't know how." This means almost anything I do catch is entirely unstaged, but it also means I have a lot of glaring-at-the-camera shots.
    (And lucky you, I hated all my school photos between the ages of 9 and 16. I look like someone else.. not me at all.)

  3. Hearty agreement from this neck of the woods [although Peanut may well bless her friend's mother when she arrives at the teenage boyfriend stage and photographs are produced]. Having grown up when 'air-brushing' meant waving a palm fan in the heat, there are lots of candid photos involving knitted bathing suits and incidents documenting biting insect trauma during picnics on the lawn. It's the un-selfconscious reminders that are the most fun and produce the greatest hilarity later in life.

    1. Love the badge by the way - and I'm all come-over that my suggestion was rated.

  4. I loathe family photo shoots

    Loathe them

    My SIL is big on the staged family photo shoot and she'll show me the pictures and I'll nod and say they're lovely, all the while I want to point out that my BIL's slightly grey hair is photoshopped on.

    Loathe them...

    Whats natural about a family of 6 sitting on a beach, dressed in their best, smiling at each other??? Please enlighten me.

    I think some of the best photos I have got of my little one are on my phone. Like the time she ended up wearing yoghurt... Or the time I busted her sitting in her toy tub in her PJ's with bed hair 'reading' a book.

    You can't stage that...

    NB: I'm sure Peanut looked lovely for the party... mozzie bite and all

  5. All the best photos are one's that capture a moment, not create it sister did some photography for parents and she said they were the worst people to work with, even worse than brides. TFG school photos she has a blood nose and bent glasses from playing footy and I can't praise that phtographer enough as he totally captured her, tom boy untidy disaster area and all lol
    P.S. I've nominated you for a blog award.

  6. With you there!
    I was also all for family photoshoots...until we did our first one, and photographer kept on taking out silly props, like baskets, and suitcases and things...and I just want her to take a pic of my boy playing with the ball. So no more!

  7. The joy of digital cameras is that we can now snap hundreds of photos and keep the ones that capture the essence we want. My favorites are the ones where the subject had no idea the photo was being taken.

  8. Um, i find this a bit creepy. When we had Santa photos one year, my twins weren't into it, there were tears, while their big sister stood front & centre, loved it. The photographer asked if we wanted to come back & i said "no, this is who they are right now." The following Christmas my eldest was 'not a photo taken girl' & refused to have her photo taken, the photographer said "do you want to wait, or we can photoshop her in later" & i said again, "no, this is the photo where she didn't want to be included" & we laugh at that now (she's 13!!) They show stages & ages & the crazy & the scratches!! Love Posie