26 School Photographers Share The Most Cringeworthy Moments Of Their Career.
Photographers who do school picture days were asked on Reddit: "What are the best stories of your career?" Here are some of the best answers.
1/26 I did senior portraits and this really nerdy lookin' kid wanted photos with his two samurai swords. I tried my best to make it look cool but... I just... couldn't.
2/26 A preschool kid was particularly difficult to get a good picture out of, really cute kid but just couldn't get a good smile. After about 20 attempts he finally just kinda relaxes, looks off into the distance behind me with this awesome natural smile. It wasn't until he got off the stool and walked away that I noticed a stain on the back of his shorts and a terrible smell of feces. Still kept the pic, apparently nothing made this kid smile like a good shit.
3/26 On a middle school registration day shoot some kid comes up wearing a Naruto headband. I asked him to take it off and he told me he wore it for religious purposes. I knew perfectly well he was bullshitting me but I didn't feel like making it a big deal, I just told him he'd probably regret it in a couple years and snapped the pic anyway.
4/26 One time there were identical twins wearing the same outfit (lets call them Doug and Jeff), I had to take a couple shots of Doug and then just one of Jeff. Ended up accidentally deleting the pic of Jeff so I just relabeled one of Doug's pics as Jeff.
5/26 Two of my male coworkers would always try their hardest to be the one to photograph the attractive teachers, it devolved to the point of literally sabotaging each others equipment (unplugging lights, moving stools etc.). As the lead photographer I had to reluctantly end this warfare.
6/26 Female teachers all say the exact same things when sitting down for a picture, my coworkers and I would bet which ones we would hear first. Here are some examples: "Can you photoshop 10 pounds off of me?" "How many years does this camera take away?" "Do you guys have a hair and makeup team?" This was about as annoying as when every adult says "remind me to stay off the road!" when you get your license.
7/26 I'm not a photographer but I probably gave the one who took my second grade school photo a weird feeling. I'd just moved from a third world country and didn't speak a lick of English. I had no idea what a soda can was, much less the hallowed tradition of Picture Day.
So when my class was directed to shuffle down the hall in an orderly line to the gym, and I saw all those abstracty bluish background canvases that looked like X-ray images all over the gym... and that we were all going towards a spot directly in front of it, one at a time, in this solemn fashion --I thought we were all, one by one, having a medical procedure done to us.
And that's why I look a little teary and very, very stoic in my second grade photo.
8/26 I was photographing a 3rd grade class and I got to an adorable little boy and went through my list of instructions. "Now turn your head here, shoulders here, oopsie, your right arm there. Wait. Please move your right arm." He gave me the saddest little look and showed me the stub on his right shoulder. He had no right arm. I felt like a terrible person.
9/26 First off, we were expected to do 3 sets of pictures for each student, one for the yearbook (tux for boys, drape for girls) one for cap and gown and one set of casuals. Casuals usually involved hand poses with a table we'd bring and some cutesy stuff, like holding a rose up to your shoulder, or like full body pictures meant to show off their clothes.
So a girl comes in, she looks OUT of it. Like really not connected to the world. I take the yearbook pics, I take the cap and gown. All the while her smiles are so obviously faked and her eyes are just gone. It's okay, I was used to dealing with students who didn't want their picture taken. I'm pretty good at loosening them up and making them laugh, but she was barely paying attention to me. She seemed really distracted.
I tell her to change into her regular clothes to take her casuals and she's like "okay" all monotone. She comes back and has huge bandages on her arms. Clearly this poor girl had tried to kill herself rather recently and was just taking these pictures out of obligation or something.
Every casual photo I'd take of her would have those bandages and there would be no mistaking why they were there. Instead of taking them and having them show up in the proofs that would go out to the parents, I tell her, "okay you're good, thanks for coming!" And she just shrugs and leaves, just as apathetic as before.
This was like 6 years ago and I still think about her sometimes and I hope she's happy now.
10/26 Photographed a class of 1 and 2 year olds (i mostly did preschool.) Their teacher had written herself thank you notes as if they were coming from the pre-verbal children. Like "Dear Ms. Judy, thank you for changing my diaper." "Dear Ms. Judy, thank you for giving me snacks every day." She had written one for every kid, and hung them up all over her wall. Later as I was trying to navigate my tripod through a hallway, she felt I was in her way and threatened to bash my face in with a door.
11/26 It was for a middle school. There was this young lady having her portraits done. She wasn't doing anything bad in hindsight. She was just very well developed for her age and the shirt she was wearing had a little cleavage. I'm sure her parents sent her out of the house just fine, and she probably felt very pretty and confident. Young lady, having photos done, no big deal. Class portrait time - out of nowhere this middle aged female school administrator comes up to her. She yanks her out of the photo and chastises her for her outfit. Then she makes her wear this oversized baggy t-shirt and we redo the photo. I can only imagine what this girl was going through.
12/26 I asked a kid to please look at the camera like 3 times. Then I realized... He had a lazy eye. Damn.
13/26 One senior did couples photos with her boyfriend. They specifically earnestly requested a pose where the girl posed all cute on one side of the couch, while the boy sat on the other side of the couch, staring at her while stroking his beard. That one didn't turn out well.
14/26 I worked for a company that did this. Didn't work there long but the worst thing I encountered was multiple notes on the forms parents sent back to us saying "Don't make my child smile." or "They have a bad smile don't make them smile." How terrible is it to tell strangers you hate your child's smile?! I understand some didn't want big toothy grins because they were missing teeth, but that's part of childhood. They'll never be like that again. Why not enjoy it?
15/26 When I was a school photographer, to amuse myself I tried to give each kid in class a unique word to say. "Fuzzy puppies!" ""Funky monkeys!" Etc etc.
So I get this little girl at my chair. She's got the thickest glasses I've seen, an overbite, and is pale as a vampire. But whatever. A kid is a kid. So I say, "Okay, say Fuzzy Kitties!"
And she gives me the most irritated look I've ever seen. "Uh, I'n allergic to kitties." Like it was the dumbest thing anyone had ever said to her, and she felt sorry for how dumb I was.
16/26 Gay dudes wore the same outfit at a Catholic school. I took their pic, but then administration said one of them had to retake. It was retaken, but I deleted it and shipped the original. Fuck the administration. I went to Catholic school too and I know the type of crushing pressure they use to make you conform. I deserve the strap.
17/26 Being a young female photographer, probably having to photograph male, high school seniors is the most awkward. I've been asked out on dates, hit on, winked at, and straight up had any and all requests for them to smile nicely, stop goofing around or take their hat off ignored.
18/26 Spent 15 min with a guy because he blinked every time I took the photo. I tried everything in my book, making him close and open his eyes before snapping the picture, delaying the flash, shooting without flash, taking the picture while talking to him so he'll be distracted. Nothing worked.
Ended up taking his picture with a cellphone, because apparently what made him close his eyes was the shutter/mirror sound.
19/26 Some kid showed up in a fursuit. Like, full on fursuit. A bright blue fox, and he ended up having a half hour long argument with the photographer and assistant principal over it.
20/26 A kid handed me the little card with his name on it. Let's call him Dave. I took it and read the card and said "Hi, Dave!" He said, "I'm not Dave. My name is Logan." I said, "Oh no, I must have the wrong card... I'll look for the one that says Logan."
Then he exclaimed, "I'm Wolverine!"
21/26 I asked a 7th grader to sit up straight, spinal problems. His doctor bought a copy of the photo as a before shot for a textbook he was writing. Whatever the doctor did, it worked like a charm.
22/26 I asked a kid to sit down. He sat down on the floor. I told him, "Not on the floor, on the chair. Please point your knees at the computer." He got up and touched his knee to the computer. I said, "No, sit on the chair and turn your knees point them at the computer."
23/26 I once photographed a special needs school, and I thought it went very well. I took my time, I was patient, I think I got some shots that the parents probably didn't often see. The director was also impressed. Next day he called the office that scheduled me to see if they could help him get in touch with me for a date. Awkward.
24/26 Definitely the girl whose skirt was so tight and small that she couldn't hide her panties when she was on the stool. I wasn't the one photographing her (three of us do photos at once during orientations), but I heard the commotion and walked over and could not believe it. She ended up getting her photo taken standing.
25/26 The girls who try to do duckface are all cringe worthy. I don't have a particular story, but you're welcome in five years when you go back to your yearbook and you don't look like an aquatic bird.
26/26 A teacher once brought her various pet parrots to be photographed with her.
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Racism is an insidious, and unfortunately prevalent, force in all of our daily lives. Maybe we're on the receiving end of it, being treated differently and losing opportunities because of others' preconceived notions.
Or maybe we're on the other side of things. Even those who aren't actively racist or discriminatory still have to process the world through the filters of the things they've been told about people who are different.