Journaling reads: I can control the power, size, and direction of three flash units with my hands. I can control all my camera settings with the flick of a button. But I can't control a little boy that does not want his picture taken. And it's the human element of photography that makes people do things they wouldn't normally do. Whenever I see a studio portrait of a small child smiling nicely at the camera, I immediately picture grown women standing behind the photographer as they wave their arms around and talk in silly high-pitched voices. But being a one-person operation, I can't do that. That's where my little reward system comes in. After every few shots, I'll pop a chocolate chip in his mouth. Then the wipe in my back pocket erases all photographic evidence of misconduct. And yes, I guess you could call it bribery, which is defined on Wikipedia as, an act of giving money or gift giving that alters the behavior of the recipient. The strange thing is, though, I don't offer bribes for anything else. Not for sitting in church. Not for completing a lesson. We didn't even have to bribe him to use the potty. So why do I bribe him to stand and smile for pictures? Maybe it's out of desperation. After taking the time to set up the lighting, put on a nice outfit, and comb his hair, I can't get a picture if he doesn't stand still and smile. All that time and effort would be wasted by a small child's will. And yelling and scolding wouldn't help the smile much.
But maybe a better reason is that I know I'm a little obsessive about pictures and that posing goes above and beyond what I should expect from a three-year-old boy. After all, I don't want him to associate the camera with some militant training exercise. I'm sure that one day, he'll understand why grownups shoot flashes of light at their kids with their little devices as they talk about cheese even when there's no food in sight. For now, though, we're keeping it simple stand, look, smile, eat chocolate.
Yet when used too much, bribery becomes deal-making. I'm was known as a child to ask on a nightly basis, Do I still get dessert even if I don't finish my dinner? Likewise, my son grins and asks for chocolate every time I ask to take his picture. I know this can't go on forever, but it does the trick for now. So much for my high standards of integrity. I do miss the days of innocence when I just did candids, though. Portraiture is such a dirty business.