Mug shot –

In September a friend on Facebook  posted this:

Dear School Parents,

Are you interested in an alternative school photo of your kids?

I cringe every time the LifeTouch order form shows up. I have two degrees that prove I know a little bit of photography and I just can’t stand the trap anymore!!

So how about for $10, I photograph your children in a setting with beautiful natural light, retouch, drop a name on them, add a border…or whatever. And then give you the high resolution files to be printed in whatever sizes or amounts you want.

I laughed when I read it and thought she can’t be serious. That was mostly because she is an amazing photographer. One I assume I could not afford.

The day our son had his school picture taken he wore khaki pants and a button down shirt. You know school picture clothes. Thought was put into this.

Geskus Mug Shot

Geskus Mug Shot

When we got the prints my first thought was, “Well, I know what a mug shot of him would look like.” And more specifically a child-actor-gone-bad-mug-shot.

In the photo is wearing his alien skull sweatshirt, he is slumped in the chair, he has food on his face and instead of a smile his lips are a tight thin line. (Simple directions like “Take your sweatshirt off”;”Sit up straight, please”; “Big smile!”; and a Handi-wipe seems like Captain Obvious stuff.)

Our kid is a cute. I know all parents say that but he is like model cute. I actually had two super frustrating conversations a couple years ago with local modeling agents. Both agencies told me our State was not ready for a model that had Down syndrome. Seriously, our state isn’t ready for a kid cute with Ds to be associated with selling milk or L. L. Bean clothes?

The company our school uses is Geskus – “The Smile Makers”. Smile Makers maybe the most eff’ing ironic tagline ever.

How hard is it in the digital age of photography to take a decent photograph particularly one by a professional photographer? It isn’t like you still have to develop your film and see the results. And – why the standard re-touching fee? That fee demonstrates either a complete lack of confidence in their photographers or intentional incompetence coupled with greed.

First Day of First Grade

First Day of First Grade

From my friend’s Facebook post I surmised any family is likely to be disappointed by these big photography chain clip joints. But, I also wonder what makes a photographer tell our kid to close his mouth in a never-before-seen-way?

This year instead of the traditional Christmas gift of a school picture for grandparents and alike we will be giving a photograph I took the first day of the school this fall that actually looks like our kid.

If my friend makes the same offer next year I would even sweeten the pot to have someone who knows what they are doing take his photograph.

I’m quitting you Geskus.


25 thoughts on “Mug shot –

  1. We usually have comically bad pics. I am so OCD, that I get them every year, whether I plan on handing them out or not, just…because. It’s amazing to me how a so called professional can make kids look like they are in pain. Is that the goal? Grrr…

  2. It is an international problem!!!! I’ve sent back my son’s photos 3 times (every second year) they have always replaced them wth nicely photoshopped versions, but it is always much nicer if they get it right first go. As you say, usually nothing a face wipe can’t fix! With digital photography, I always take 10 – 15 photos to get the one I want! I keep sending my feedback in the hope they may actually take it on board at some point.

  3. Spot on. About the crappy photos we often get and about how cute the little man is.
    An old physics teacher of mine was in the town photo club and he said the same as one of your commenters. From a reel of 24 photos he’d usually throw away about 20.
    With digital cameras it’s so easy to get it right. With the setups they use it should be simplicity itself. And yet they still get it wrong.

  4. No matter what the photographer or the ed techs do some kids just won’t smile like they would for someone else, say, their mother. Most kids refuse to take their sweatshirts off, and if we try to talk them into taking it off, we could get fired (seriously). Sometimes the solution is for the parent to be there. Most of the time it makes it worse. Most kids seem to either be embarrassed by their parents, feel too pressured, or just want to rebel when their parents are there. Even with background checks and everything else that comes with the job, we are not to touch kids at all, even to fix their shirt, clean their face, or fix their hair or necklace. When kids are poked and prodded by volunteers or teachers to correct them for the picture it makes them uncomfortable and not want to smile for the picture. Many teachers are not happy or comfortable with their own bodies and hate getting their pictures taken. 99 percent of their attitudes rub off on most students which makes them see picture day in a bad light and act difficult. There is no authority anymore, you aren’t allowed to tell anyone (kid or not) what to do, and that includes posing for a picture. Now, sometimes the photographer gets lucky, and doesn’t get a spoiled rotten kid who wants to pose themselves. These unspoiled, nice kids are the best they will shine through their photo. Every parent thinks their kid is the nicest, well behaved kid in the world. You obviously haven’t seen them when they think you aren’t looking. So please, understand the pressure photographers have.

    1. Most teachers don’t like getting pictures, attitude rubs off on kid, makes picture taking difficult from start
    2. Most kids want to model themselves
    3. No touch policy (too many sue-happy people out there)
    4. Parents can make it worse trying to make their kid smile
    5. Some kids just won’t smile no matter what
    6. Kids ARE different when you’re not there.
    7. We CANNOT force a kid to do anything they don’t want to do
    8. You can take a picture of a brat, they look like a brat, take a picture of a good kid, their personality shows. It’s all about attitude before the picture and during the picture.

    • I suppose it must be difficult to be a photographer when you don’t seem to get any pleasure from what you are doing. Much like a child’s personality shines through in a photo, it would therefore be fair to say so does the attitude of the person taking it. A collaborative effort between the photographer and the school is obviously something that needs working on. Teachers are allowed to wash a face however … how difficult would it be to ask for the children to be ‘photo ready’ before they are presented for a photo, it would avoid much photoshopping afterwards and less fussing at the time of the photo. Just saying.

      • I personally love my job and enjoy working with most of the students. But it seems as though there are less and less well mannered kids every year. It doesn’t matter if we go to a school and are as happy as can be. They are more influenced by their teacher’s attitude about picture day. At schools we always have volunteers to help. They are there to make sure the kids look good for their picture. We always ask schools to ask the kids to be photo ready before their pictures. Sometimes the volunteers aren’t that much help, and sometimes the teachers tell us, that’s okay if they have a crusty milk mustache from breakfast, it’s just a photo. Just saying.

  5. One other point to remember.
    Most schools treat us like parasites. They want us in and out as quickly as possible. Most schools make us take pictures of 500 students in 5 hours with no breaks at all. If you at all try to take your time to make everything perfect they are literally over your shoulder telling you to go faster or they will go with another company. Please realize how insanely fast we must go at many schools. It is depressing when you just want to take great photos and the school won’t let you.

    • Susan,

      Always good to hear the other side of a story.It sounds like you are as frustrated as I am.

      I don’t we will go this route again but if we do I will get the ed tech onboard.

      My biggest concern is the expression on my son’s face: it makes me think someone said, “Close your mouth.” instead of , “Smile!” My kid is treated to “close your mouth a lot by “well-meaning” adults:

      • You would be surprised how many of the teachers tell us not to make a kid smile with their teeth.

  6. Those school pictures are great!

    The second one looks just like my nephew, who has the same color of hair and that impish grin. The main difference is that my nephew’s ears are bigger. He’s in grade one as well . . . his nickname used to be “Dennis the Menace”. Anyways, great photos, and in case you are wondering, my nephew does not have Down’s Syndrome.

      • Oops…I didn’t think that comment went through so I posted another one, almost the same…sorry about the redundancy…and happy new year!

        Lol…kids are all so precious, but I won’t get into my own two or I’ll be here all day! Besides, they are young adults now.

        Somehow I’m thinking about something I learned while watching a few of the Nelson Mandela tributes, particularly a part about prison life. The comment was made that what people in long-term prisons miss the most about outside life is the laughter of children. I can certainly understand that.

  7. These photos are great!

    I especially like the second one because your son reminds me so much of one of my nephews – the biggest difference is that my nephew’s ears are bigger – the impish grin is certainly the same! He has this amazing knack for going up to strangers and making small talk. Some think it’s weird, only because it’s unusual. I think it’s a wonderful gift and I hope he doesn’t outgrow that . . . the strangers find it endearing!

    Anyways, those are precious pictures and I’m sure you will enjoy them for all the years to come.

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