Disconnected, indifferent high school senior when offered a free portrait sitting: “Why do I need a senior picture?”
Helpful Yearbook Advisor (Me!):“Because we really want to include you with your graduating class!”
Brain of Helpful Yearbook Advisor (Me!):“Because when the detective comes looking for documentation of you for your cold case, I’d like to have something to show him.” This has happened to me at least twice.
As a publications advisor, I see some weird shit that passes as a “senior portrait.” It hurts me to not be able to share the photos, but I like having a job and some deniability. I desperately want to compile the photos as part of a workshop class, but …again, I like my job blah, blah, blah. My high school still required that all girls rocked the velcroed velvet drape, and that all males had the tuxedo shot. I assume theirs also involved velcro and a strapless bra. At the time, digital photography was not on anyone’s radar; so if you wanted a senior picture, you had to go to a professional photographer.
This is the “soft smile” according to the photographer. On me it translates to, “I know where you sleep, and I have access to firearms.”
The look was boring, but made for a consistent spread layout and limited student and parents’ bad choices to jewelry and big hair. I’m happy that my current students get to make a wider range of choices with their senior portrait submissions, but this also opens a Pandora’s Box of awkward and awful. Unfortunately, with the creation of digital cameras and smart phones, ANYBODY can take a “good” picture.
I don’t advocate for seniors to spend a ton of money on senior portraits. I know some of them can’t afford it, and some of them aren’t interested in the concept as a whole. From this view point, the availability of digital is great. A student really could create a passably decent portrait via smart phone. Unfortunately, there is no app that has a filter for taste level. I try to explain this to my Princess Barbie editor who had 5 different photo shoots with a professional, and can’t stop cackling as she organizes her classmate’s photo submissions.
Inwardly, I’m cackling too, but I’m supposed to be the rational and serious grownup who does not encourage her to repeatedly pull up “Lizard Boy” because she needs another laugh. (Yes, there was a lizard. No, they are not supposed to have pets in the picture. But I’m choosing my battles, and both parties look so happy in the photo that I’m not going to fight it. Plus I think that sans lizard, we would not have gotten a photo from this senior.) Instead, I ask her to dial back her mean girl judgement, edit “Eyeless Dude’s” picture, and get back to work.
In my opinion, the standard senior picture is pretty easy to re-create. Find a tree/rock/ wall/ fence post etc… and lean against it “casually.” Wardrobe can vary from prom dress to t-shirt-please be cognizant of what the t-shirt says– and jeans. Take a selfie, use a timer, or bring a friend to act as photographer. However, that brings me back to level of taste. To each his/her own, but this is what they have ownership of:
A.“OMG, I think I am hilarious, but ’10 years from now me’ will recognize that I’m just being a DUH-ouche bag unless I’m at the reunion because then ’10 years from now me’ will be DUH-runk and re inacting ‘remember when’ high school stories.” The ability to Photoshop anything (penguins, a waterfall, the jungle, space and time) is the bane of my existence in this category. That, and duck face. Really?
B. “I am so edgy, dark and mysterious that no mere camera can capture my most unique of all unique souls, but this heavily filtered photo of me wearing a garbage bag will try.” It would be one thing if this kid would just submit the bizarro photo and let it go, but 5 million email exchanges, name changes, and questions later, I usually get a frantic “just take my picture out!” email. I assume that he/she is hiding from the government or thinks that the yearbook will somehow steal the “most unique” soul. (Yes, I recognize that I am using unique incorrectly. Seniors do not. Thanks.)
C. “I don’t care about any of this, but I stood still long enough for my mom to capture this blurry image of me as if it is Sasquatch’s senior picture. I’m out of focus, but the tree, television set/ random car/ screen door/neighbor’s kids/ trash cans five feet behind me are crisp. We’re calling it artistic.” Again, this is a battle I’m not fighting. I assume that since they submitted this photo, all parties are happy and don’t see the problems that I see.
D. “What’s a senior picture? Here I am playing soccer.” OK.
These all lead to conversations, verbally and in my head, rationalizing how much time and energy I want to spend attempting to correct the choice of photo. Often it boils down to, “At least the teats are covered.”
Because I’ve also had that conversation: “You’ve got a great smile. Maybe we could use a picture that features your face?”
And then I think about the word “teats” and how it makes me think of mice plus gives me the creepy crawlies a bit. “Moist teats.” Shudder.
And then if you were going to milk a mouse…which seems like a bad plan, but, whatever Greg, if its got nipples…
p.s. I could write a whole other post on bad poses from professional photographers, and our tech generation’s inability to successfully email a photo as an attachment. Tragic sigh.
At least the teats are covered.