Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Photo Essay and a Few Tips: School Picture Day

1. The pout.* It seems a little earlier than usual, but school picture day is tomorrow. Posed photographs can be difficult for my son with autism, though somehow we only had to have one retake since he started school five years ago. Anyway, I'm hoping that we will avoid two different expressions. The first one I'm hoping to avoid is the pout. That expression is usually captured when he is overwhelmed or caught in stubborn mood.

That photo above was taken at a place that was actually a popular spot for a photo opportunity at Cedar Point. He did want to try out the contraption, but didn't want to wait his turn. We were all getting cranky at that point in the day as we were getting tired. It was also hot and crowded when that photo was taken.

2. The "cheesy" smile. When he was a baby he used to smile naturally for photos, but someone (probably yours truly) at some point taught my guy to say cheese while he was getting his picture taken. We have three or four years worth of school photos featuring this type of smile. This photograph was taken a little more than two years ago while celebrating my son's eighth birthday.

As you can see (above) when he says cheese, the corners of his mouth turn down resulting in a rather awkward, upside down sort of smile. All I can say is although it is kind of cute now, it won't be so in a few years when he is older. Tomorrow, I'm hoping for...

3. The smile Grandma taught him. It never occurred to me to suggest an alternative to saying cheese to him. All I'd do was to tell him to not say cheese (before a photo was snapped) which is kind of like telling a bull not to charge a red cloth.

Fortunately, his grandma is a wise woman and an excellent photographer. I took this photograph, but she coaxed this type of smile out of him for the first time as seen here. In the photo above, my guy is about to get his hair cut in his grandparents' kitchen, which also serves as his grandpa's makeshift barbershop. Unfortunately my guy's hair is going to be a little long (as seen above) because we didn't have time to go to Ohio (where his grandpa, a barber, lives).

Five Quick Tips

1. Keep directions really simple. My child can handle only one direction at a time. The simpler the better.

2. Model the expectations for the child. Grandma modeled the smile she expected for her grandson and it worked!

3. If it helps, give the child plenty of advance notice. We usually need to tell our son exactly when
professional photos will be taken so that he will be emotionally prepared. Use visual aids or social stories if necessary. Go over expectations (like modeling the smile you'd like to see, for example.)

Fortunately my guy already knows about school picture day 2008. He saw it on the calendar in the school newsletter. Now if I can just remind him to use the smile seen in photo number three. We also let him choose the background color. He picked his favorite, which is why I'm featuring green on this post.

4. Pick a time where your child is usually at his or her best behavior. For example, try to avoid the hours of 3-5 p.m. if this is not a good time for your child. This is usually when many children become tired and cranky before recharging again.

5. Remember your child's sensory needs when dressing him or her for a photograph and also while posing him or her. For example, when my guy was two we dressed him up in a shirt, vest, tie and dress pants for a family photo when he was used to t-shirts and jeans. That may be one reason why our then little guy could not be consoled. His little face was all red and his mouth was wide open during his quite vocal resistance. Back then we thought we'd look back at the moment and smile when looking at that photo, but now I just look back and think 'aha.' If I'd only known then what I know now...

* Extra note: It's easier for him now at age ten, but my son used to have trouble posing in group shots. We'd end up with the pout a lot during group photo opportunities. He'd get a little overwhelmed because group shots are more crowded and also because more direction from the photographer is usually required.


Anonymous said...

this is great! I had to laugh as I have about 8 pages of directions from parents about what to say or do and what they want their child to look like when we had picture day (I have 22 kids). It was GREAT. They sure are fun!

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah. Those cheesy smiles drive me nuts. M has never had a school picture that I wanted to give to anyone. I think the experience has always sent her over the edge and by the time it is her turn there is no way she will smile.

Good luck!

Casdok said...

Super post!! :)

J said...

To Larry: Whew! Twenty-two kids and eight pages of directions! Sounds hectic, but am glad you and your students had fun on picture day. Hmm I wonder how many pages this post would be if I printed it out?

I asked my guy to show me is picture smile this morning and he gave me the smile grandma taught him. So far, so good. We'll see...

To Marla: Yep, picture day can be stressful for our kids. It's fortunate that you take great pictures of M! Loved her first day of school photo. : )

To Casdok: Thanks. ; )

Heidi said...

This post was so true & helpful. I also really enjoyed the flair that you put into writing it- which made the laughter all the more uncontainable as I read this post on one of my favorite people.

J said...

Thanks for commenting Heidi! : )