I have the reputation for being a bit of a perfectionist, especially when it comes to photography. "No, no," the instructor of my Tuesday night Intro to Photography class is prone to saying. "It's really good, especially for a beginner." I hear it a lot, in all walks of my life: "You need to cut yourself slack." But I hardly ever do, especially when it comes to photography. One unfortunate shadow, the blur of an eyelid, a chopped-off hand? Delete, delete, delete.
So how is it, then, that some of the pictures I love best are some of the most imperfect?
This is our first photo with Lulu. There wasn't time to take a proper one before she was whisked down to the NICU. So we posed--my parents, my mother-in-law, my husband and me--with a cell phone photo of Lu that J.D. snapped as the nurses were wheeling her away.
It wasn't the kind of newborn photo I'd hoped to get, the kind you see over at Kelle Hampton's blog, of a soft-lighted mother and baby looking joyfully at each other in their first wondrous moments together. But still: I love it.
This is our first family photo, just the three of us. Taken in the NICU the next morning, the first time we were able to hold our girl. A kind nurse asked, "Would you like a family picture?" and we said, "Guh," which in stunned new-parent speak can mean "No problem" or "Is it serious?" or "We are over the moon with happiness." In this case, it meant yes, thank you. She translated, and whipped out a non-digital, 35-mm point and shoot. She printed out our picture on a printer in the corner of the nurses's station, handed to us as we left, the ink still wet, along with a lot of pamphlets on PPD and proper handwashing procedures.
The pixels are as big and square as my hand. You can't actually see the features on Lulu's face very well. There's just a baby-head-shaped red splotch that denotes her presence. But still: I love it.
We meant to take a picture to replace that one shortly after Lulu came home. We figured out the tripod and the self-timer on the camera. But lugging all of this stuff out, setting it up, finding a time when all of us had hair brushed and matching clothes on and no drool or pee or vomit on any part of our person was a little hard. I know that family pictures are important, and sometimes difficult, to get. So whenever I see a family with a new baby all out together, I will go right up to them and ask them, "Do you want me to take a picture of you all together?" I will pose them, snap a few shots, get their email addresses and send them copies.
But somehow, I couldn't get it together to do this for myself.
Until this weekend. We were at a pumpkin patch with friends, we were walking to the car, we passed a platform of pumpkins and I said, "Stop!" I moved things around, adjusted the exposure, handed the SLR to my friend who has never SLR-ed before. She waited for us to get in position and snapped the shot.
When I got home and opened the file in Photoshop, I saw that for all my careful adjustment, it was kind of a funky picture. The spot I'd picked was backlit by the setting sun; I had to play around a lot with levels and fill light so that we didn't look like zombies. The sky is weirdly exposed in a nuclear-fallout kind of way, and I have a strange Joan-of-Arc thing going on with my hair. It's not a perfect picture by any means.
But it is still perfect because it's us, all of us, together. And so I love it.