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What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Erin Zammett Ruddy

I count eight cringe-worthy things in this school portrait. See if you agree with me.

When I picked up Nora from school yesterday (she goes to preschool/daycare three days a week), they handed me a fat envelope full of photos. I couldn’t wait to rip into it and marvel at my gorgeous girl. And then I saw this shot. And about 35 others just like it. At first glance you may not think there’s anything that bad going on here. So I will walk you through it.

First, there’s the backdrop. I know I’m going to offend some people here, but I cannot stand fake backdrops on kid portraits. Like, makes-my-skin-crawl, not-for-me. My sister, who I love, loves them so I get that it’s a personal taste thing. But I definitely don't remember checking the fairy tale background box when I sent in the slip for picture day.* And the Magic Kingdom in the background?! OMG. And the fake log she’s perched on with the leaves scattered about. What is she a woodland creature? A fairy? A princess? Minnie Mouse? I’m so confused. Then we have the hands placed just so around the fake flowers. (I feel the same way about fake flowers as I do about fake backdrops). Gah! Why do we need props, aren’t two year olds cute enough on their own?!

Of course I cannot place all the blame on the photo people and their plastic props. I am equally culpable here. The super-loud halter dress is cute for like a luau maybe but it’s not really school picture-day worthy. It’s also not necessarily my taste so I’m confused about why I chose to put her in it on this day.* Completing the look (and perhaps the reason I’m disliking the dress so much) are the chunky hot pink crocs. So wrong. And then we have her hair. A high, half ponytail, with a red rubber band—really? When Nick and I were gawking at these yesterday he said he remembers me doing her hair like that and he was shocked. I said I think the teachers must have done it that way, but he’s probably right.* Finally, we have the smile—i.e., the pained look—on Nora’s face. Is she taking a poop? Smelling poop? Does she sense how ridiculous the whole thing is? All I know is I get overstimulated every time I look at this shot. There's just so much going on! Nick said it belongs in one of those funny facebook roundups of the most ridiculous school portraits ever.

Needless to say, we won’t be ordering any school pictures this time around. I never feel obligated to buy these things unless they're great (it's not like it's her third-grade portrait, the kid is two and I have a bajillion adorable shots of her that I've taken). I know my mother-in-law is going to call me momentarily to say she wants one and she’ll pay for it and Nora is cute no matter how ridiculously styled she is, but here’s the thing: I wouldn’t want one of my MIL's friends or coworkers seeing this photo and thinking that I liked this shot enough to purchase it and send it out to family. When I took it to CVS to scan this morning, I kept it turned in and hidden from the view of anyone around me—that’s how un-me it is. (Can you imagine what people thought I was hiding?!) Am I making a big deal out of something that really isn’t that big of a deal? Yes. (That's sort of the point of this blog.) And I realize that there are plenty of people who would love a shot that was styled like this. That's cool. I think it's just hilarious to me because it's so not me. Or Nora. 

Have you ever not ordered your kids’ school pictures because of how they turned out? How do you feel about fake backgrounds?

*The truth is, all of this is my fault. This is what happens when you’re too busy to pay attention to the notices coming home from school. I vaguely remember picture day and it was in the height of the campaign. I was letting a lot slide during those few months and this shot is proof. Ouch.