How To: Administer Tough Love

Installment seven of Madame Chaos’ guest series on living hell well.

One of the curses of being three and its accompanying cuteness is that my  mother — who has nursed a fragile hope of becoming a decent photographer for years — thinks that I am a natural subject for pixellation by her fancy digital camera.  Maybe she thought that throwing over a thousand bucks at a camera and lenses and books and classes and editing software would make an iota of a difference to the fact that she just doesn’t have the EYE for anything beyond being a snapshot-taker.  My previous five siblings have, patiently or impatiently, been coaxed into poses or ordered to “Do that again!” so she can try, however in vain, to capture that elusive artiness she just KNOWS must be waiting in the next whir of the shutter.

I have had to take it upon myself to be the one to finally break her.  Of that hope, I mean.  What years of crappy backgrounds, unfocused images, and horrid lighting choices have not taught her, I aim to instill.

It is for her own good.

If there is one image my mom desires to capture above all else, it is that sappy childhood-innocence crap that she sees over and over on photography sites and in other people’s scrapbooks.  You know what I mean, the wide eyes, chubby cheeks, cupid-bowed pink lips, and lack of guile that add up to soft-focused maternal fantasy.  She’s just got to get over it.

This is how it is done, folks.

The main thing to keep in mind is that she wants to believe she can have it all at once: the right lighting, a nice setting, and a cooperative subject.  Thwarting just one of these items can usually get her to give up for a while.  Witness this photo shoot, which my mother said aloud was to “experiment with the manual focus;” naturally, I wasn’t lulled into imagining that she was after anything but the Perfect Shot.  I know my mom isn’t the only delusional would-be photographer, so fellow victims, follow these steps:

Now for this first one, act like you’re going to pay attention, just to get her hopes up.



Once the hopes are up, they fall all the harder in subsequent takes:




And for the piece de resistance (emphasis on resistance), my signature pose:


If that doesn’t work, show her you are REALLY done by getting out props:\


Don’t fall for the “We’ll just wait awhile and try again” trick.  Stay on your guard. In fact, if you can go for “Zoolander” instead of “innocent,” all the better:

Then the usual elasto-face stuff will work just fine:

Your mom might try a different day and a different setting.  Don’t fall for it.

Do not let up, even if mom tries the “look how (obedient and) pretty your sisters and brothers are” trick:

You may have noticed that subsequent photo shoots got shorter and shorter. It’s all part of the plan. Remember, it is for her own good.

You can do this!



  1. Karen said,

    November 21, 2008 at 9:18 am

    I think, Madame Chaos, that you have been the victim of ‘reverse psychology’. You think that your mother wants you to sit still and look pretty, so you make faces. And then your mother gets the perfect pictures showing off your spunky personality. I say your mother got you this time!

  2. Mark Brown said,

    November 28, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Madame C.,

    I applaud you on your commitment to resist photo-taking bondage. Those of us who have spent countless hours of our lives (which we will never get back!) waiting for a photographer to TAKE @*%&@ THE PICTURE ALREADY! have suffered enough, and we must stand together.

    In that spirit, I share with you some of the tricks I learned when I was about your age. The evidence is in my mother’s scrapbook, where stains which look suspiciously like teardrops are found on pages which feature pictures of me as I:

    1. cry.
    2. frown.
    3. appear unable to determine the precise location of the camera.
    4. poke my sister in the ribs.
    5. insert my finger in my nose.
    6. go crosseyed.
    7. scream in terror because a fat man in a red suit and white beard is holding me hostage on his lap.
    8. put my hand down my pants.

    I encourage you in your continued efforts. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Sic Semper Tyrannis!

  3. Kasey said,

    December 1, 2008 at 7:53 am

    Such a cute little bundle of Chaos! Years from now, I’m sure you’d rather be looking at these spunky pics than a perfect portrait. They will definitely bring a smile!

  4. fMhLisa said,

    December 3, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    I wish you could hear Brick laughing as I read this. He is highly amused.

  5. requiel said,

    December 4, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    That was so funny. The pics are adorable.

  6. Kris said,

    December 12, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    This is hysterical, Nik! I love it!

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