Our Disappointing Picture Company Session

As a mom, I love taking pictures of my sons. In J's first year alone, I amassed more than 2000 photos of him. These photos help preserve memories of special days and the everyday moments that make up a childhood. Same story with Little C, although most of the photos are now taken with my phone camera instead of our trusty digital camera.

Despite having a ton of photos, I still wanted to get professional family and child portraits taken. So when I found vouchers for discounted membership for The Picture Company (TPC), I jumped at the chance. My nephews and nieces had portraits taken at their studios and I always liked those pictures.

Our first photo shoot as members of TPC was scheduled at their Rockwell branch. Since they were a studio that catered to taking kids' portraits, I was expecting a very professionally conducted photo shoot, despite the fact that I was with a rambunctious 2-year-old and a 6-month-old. I was highly disappointed because of our photographer.

First, I felt that our photographer was very exasperated and irritated by the fact that J was running all over the place. Of course, it's a new place, with tons of toys and new things to see, he won't sit in one spot and smile for you. I thought it was just me, but apparently every one who was with us that day got the same vibe: my husband, my two yayas, even my parents and sister who came to see my sons in their first pictorial together. I acknowledge that taking photos of my son that day was a challenge, but these photographers are supposed to be used to taking pictures of kids. I doubt that my son was the only kid who couldn't stay still during a pictorial.

Second, sensing the photographer's mounting irritation, I was asking her to suggest different poses or set-ups that my son would be more likely to cooperate with. At that time, the two boys were just sitting down or lying on the rug. I asked her, several times, "Do you have any other ideas of poses or set-ups we can try?" She didn't respond, and I don't know if it's because she didn't hear me, or she just really didn't want to answer. In the end, I suggested some possible poses based on previous photos I saw. I guess I expected more input from her because she's supposed to be the professional, not me.

Third, the photographer seemed unwilling to go with the flow. Little C wouldn't look at the camera, so the yayas were trying to coax him into looking forward so we could get good shots of his face. One of my yayas happened to notice the sintras boards for other clients lying on the shelf and picked one up to get my son's attention. It worked, Little C looked up and at the camera and smiled at the picture of the other baby. Instead of taking the opportunity to snap photos, the photographer said, "Ate, wag po yan. May nag-order po niyan." (Don't use that, that's someone else's order.) I understand that the photo board belonged to other people, but it's not like the yaya gave it to the baby to play with. She was just waving it around so that Little C would look at the camera. Also, there was one point that the boys wanted to play with the balls. The photographer took several pieces from the crate and gave it to them, but of course, that's not enough for kids, they want all the balls. When we took some more from the crate and gave it to them, she said, "Tama na, makalat na e." I'm hoping she was referring to the pictures, and not to the mess. The thing is, if it keeps the kids happy and willing to take pictures, I don't see what the problem is. If it looks too cluttered in the photo, she could always edit some out right?

Lastly, she seemed to be conserving her shots. By this, I mean she wasn't taking as many photos as she could. See, in my amateur experience taking photos of my boys, I learned that the general rule is to take as many as possible, to keep shooting, in the hopes that there are one or two good photos that we can use. But during the shoot, it felt like the photographer was waiting for both the kids to be in a good pose before she'd snap a shot. There were several points where I would tell her, "There, he's smiling na!" She wasn't even looking at the boys, just fiddling with her camera. As my husband said, "Parang film camera gamit niya a. Kelangan tipirin yung shot." (It's like she's using a film camera where you have to conserve your shots.) It ended up that every time I would ask her if she got any good shots, she'd say, "These are all I have."

When the session was finished, I didn't have so many nice photos to choose from. We've tried having a TPC pictorial before with just J (at the Podium branch), when they also issued vouchers for single photo sessions, and that time, I had the problem of too many photos to choose from. There were so many nice photos, I couldn't narrow down the choices. This time, the choice was easy. There were only four family photos to choose from, and two were not good. In one picture, the two kids and I looked nice, but Big C's eyes were half closed. In the other, the four of us were looking in separate directions. Thankfully, the other two were passable. I was also really disappointed that in the series of pictures where the two boys were together, Little C wasn't smiling in any of the photos. In Little C's solo shots though, there were several nice ones and that mollified me a little.

In their website, TPC says that they "take great care to make sure that every portrait session is an enjoyable experience for you and your family". It certainly didn't feel that way last Sunday and I can't express how disappointed I was by what happened. I know it wasn't easy to take pictures of my sons, but I would have appreciated a little more patience, effort and enthusiasm from the photographer.

I want to maximize the membership with lots of shoots, but based on our Rockwell experience, it's safe to say that I'll be trying out the other branches next time. I'm just hoping that our next photo shoot will be a vast improvement over this one. Any recommendations for which branches and photographers to try will be much appreciated.

Till the next post!

Help, Mommies! I have a toddler school dilemma!

When J's second semester started last Monday, he had a new classmate, a little boy six months older than him. Ordinarily, before the class starts, the kids are allowed to play with the toys in the classroom, and J, New Classmate (NC) and some of the other early birds were playing. While they were playing, NC threw a toy at another classmate, a little girl who had just stepped in the door. She didn't cry but was sufficiently surprised to stick close to her mother, who stays with her during class. Like most people, I shrugged it off as an isolated incident and left J on his own to start class. Anyway, NC's mom, who was with him at that time, scolded her son right away and made him say sorry.

Fast forward to the end of the class and I was about to step inside the classroom to pick J up. NC's dad was also waiting to pick his son up and we stepped inside the classroom at the same time. I spotted J among the kids, who were all standing in the front of the room dancing to the Barney song after having their snacks. J, NC and one of the other little boys were standing together. J spotted me and I waved hi as I stepped towards him.

Then out of nowhere, THWACK!

NC slapped my son.

Of course, I rushed to my son's side to give him a hug. He was so surprised that he didn't even cry, not until I had hugged him and kissed his ouchie. He buried his face in my neck and started crying, not the loud wails that I expected, but a scared and surprised kind of crying. NC's mom and dad apologized profusely to me and scolded their son and made him say sorry, so I told them that it was no problem. It happens with kids. They looked really contrite and embarrassed so I assured them that it was alright. Then I found out that NC had also hit one of their other classmates. The boy's yaya, who came to pick him up, was indignant on behalf of her charge.

Today, J and NC were once again the early birds in the class and they were playing together. They were seated close to each other and I was keeping an eye on them both because of what happened in the previous session. (This time, NC was unaccompanied. His mom had dropped him off and would not be joining them in class.) Again, out of the blue, NC reached over to hit my son, but luckily, the class yaya was there to pull back his arm so J wasn't really hit that hard.

To make a long story short, before the class had even started, NC had hit two other classmates and kicked another in the shins. All these incidents were unprovoked. The children weren't fighting over anything. I was already concerned, but relieved that the incidents were witnessed by the teacher, who firmly reprimanded NC for his behavior and made him apologize to his classmates.

I got to thinking though. What should I do if the incidents were to continue? Big C and I tell J that hitting is not okay and that he should never hit others. Yet, as I comforted him after another child hit him, he heard me tell the other mom that it's okay. That's confusing for J. I understand that NC is just a little kid and he's still learning how to behave, but I have a responsibility to my son, to teach him what's right and to protect him from harm.

Still, I also think, what if I were in the other mom's shoes? She was obviously not happy with what her son is doing, and she does reprimand him and tell him that what he is doing is not acceptable and that he should apologize to the other kids he hurts. But I don't like that every time my son is in school, he runs the risk of getting hit. Today, after NC hit him again and when he noticed that I had left the room already, he started crying in class and called out for me for the first time. Thankfully, he stopped after a while, but still, it disturbed me enough to write about it and seek advice from other moms.

So, there's my dilemma, mommies. Any input? It would be much appreciated.