Opinion

More than just a smile

Smiles.

We see them, sincere or not, every day when we greet friends. Sometimes we offer one to a stranger as we pass them on the street, or to the cashier checking out our groceries at the store.

But most commonly, we see them in treasured family photographs hanging proudly in our homes. The people in the pictures look happy, healthy and even euphoric. But are they?

I've caught myself numerous times pointing a camera at my two-year-old and telling her to smile. I snap away, then delete all the ones that are less than perfect, the ones where she isn't grinning from cheek to cheek like she's has a clown's bright red mouth pasted on her face. Nobody smiles all the time, do they?

I started looking at family portraits in a different light after I took my daughter to a local photographer a few months ago for the first time. I hesitated before because my daughter has never cooperated with me when I told her to "say cheeeeese."

As we drove to the farm in Hatzic Prairie, the location of the shoot, I was thrilled my daughter hadn't tossed up her breakfast in the car and secondly, we were on time.

Raeleigh Jane Good, owner of Lark Rise Horse House, had everything set up and I was impressed by the way she just let my daughter be.

As I instructed my little girl to look up and turn this way and that way, Raeleigh  suggested I simply let her get used to the surroundings. I wasn't helping, and the photographer was too polite to say anything. She simply snapped away explaining how capturing expressions were more important than just smiles.

"I like getting things that are candid," Raeleigh said.

As a journalist, that sounded familiar.

Raeleigh fell in love with photography (among her other passions) when she discovered how a simple picture can lift up a person's spirit, and since then, she's been offering to help make someone's day brighter whenever she can.

She volunteers with the Mission Hospice Society and helps out at her daughter's school by doing family portraits for people dealing with adversities. She also donates half the proceeds from a day-long photo marathon to the school's PAC.

Images are powerful, and in less than an hour, Raeleigh captured my daughter's familiar looks of curiosity, amusement and thoughtfulness. Of course, she also captured a smile.

While happy family scenes are what most of us are used to seeing, all moods are worth noting and this year I want to capture real moments in my family photographs. I suspect these will be cherished just as much.

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