Student portraits are all wet - really

June 20, 2004|by LYN WIDMER

My Teenage Daughter has just scheduled her high school senior portrait session.

According to the brochure, she will have the chance to choose from a dozen different poses, including "the beach," "best friends" and "just be you."

I cannot find the pose I most want: "I have studied hard and am going to college." This sitting would feature Teenage Daughter in cap and gown, holding up a letter of college admittance in one hand and a fistful of scholarship dollars in another. "Where is that option?" I ask Teenage Daughter. The look she gives me pretty well guarantees we will not be participating in the "Mom/Daughter" pose to "capture the one who has always been there for you."

When I attended high school (back in the days when an "A" really meant something), the only pose offered was "stare straight into the camera and smile." Our pictures were clicked during the school day at 10-minute intervals. Girls wore black drapes; boys wore tuxedo jackets.


Primping for the photo shoot involved pulling a comb through your hair while waiting in the hallway for your name to be announced. Judging from my photograph, corrective photographic techniques such as airbrushing were not yet invented.

Now, photographers are using the senior portrait session to sell more elaborate poses. In "The Beach" pose, girls can wear bikinis. That is bad enough, but how about "The Wet Look this session needs no description." Personally, I think this pose needs a LOT of description. Teenage Daughter will not be participating in any "portrait style" that should require an FBI background check of the photographer.

Options like "casual," "pets" and "elegant formal" are more benign. The sitting fee for each of these poses ranges from $10 to $35. The higher costs are for outdoor locations. Once the photos are taken, the sales packages for the various poses can equal the cost of a semester's tuition at Shepherd University.

I would be willing to pay extra for a photo in the "pets" category if I could convince Teenage Daughter to pose with her 4-H project: Queen Arrow, a 1,350-pound Red Angus heifer. Our daughter has been raising cows and entering them at the Jefferson County Fair for over a decade.

The blue ribbons she has earned in showmanship and animal husbandry adorn our mantel next to those won four decades ago by her father and uncle. Thanks to Jefferson County 4-H, both of our children have learned the value of collaboration, teamwork and community involvement. I would gladly shell out $35 to have a photographer take a picture of Teenage Daughter (modestly clothed in a 4-H Camp T-shirt and baggy jeans) beside the Queen.

Senior portrait poses related to academic achievement and community involvement are obviously not big sellers. While there are backdrops for "elegant formal" or "the beach," there are none featuring "high school library" or "community outreach." Photographers are selling glamour and glitz, the least important qualities teenagers need to succeed in life.

Given my old-fashioned, unprogressive views on senior pictures, I am sure Teenage Daughter will not want me joining her at the photo session later this month. I will be stationed at the door as she leaves, however. She can take books and pencils for props, but the bikini stays home.

Lyn Widmyer is a Charles Town, W.Va., resident who writes for The Herald-Mail. She may be reached by e-mail at:

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