My toddler photo machine hell

Two little boys looking unhappy next to a photo machine
If you think they look upset, you should have seen us!

We’re going to France on our first family holiday later this year. We’ve got most things sorted but passports for Dylan and Xander were still on the ‘to do’ list, so we’ve been dutifully knuckling down and filling in all the relevant paperwork with the associated fear of getting things wrong firmly in mind. I think one of the reasons we’d been unconsciously putting it off – apart from the fact that passports for young children are ridiculous and nothing more than a cynical way of making money – was the tricky issue of getting two under fours to sit still and look ahead for ten seconds. Yes, it was time to get their photos done.

As usual, the cause of the woe was entirely our own fault. Sensible parents would have taken their little darlings to a shop that offers passport photography as a service, but that would have been too easy and we thought we’d go for the slightly cheaper option. Big mistake.

We made our first attempt last week in a slightly older photo machine that was randomly tucked away in a newsagent. It only allowed three attempts, but we figured that we could get Dylan to play ball by the time the final shot was taken, so we gave it a go. After much turning of the stool to raise it to its highest level – and having to put it back after completely unscrewing it in the process – we were ready to start. We made him take off his coat and, after laughing rather too much at the coincidental fact that he had a Superman T-shirt on underneath, got him to look forward. He was still too low down. Bollocks. Undeterred, I crouched in the footwell, hid my hands under his T-shirt and lifted him to the correct height. He looked forward, Kate leaned in and pressed the button then quickly shut the curtain and the photo was taken. Just as he looked round to see why Kate had shut the curtain.

Take two. He looked at Kate again. One attempt left; to make sure he stayed in place, Kate concealed her arm behind him to gently keep his face pointing in the correct direction. The photo was taken and, at last, he was perfectly framed. He looked terrified, but that would do. We printed it and then noticed that Kate’s thumb was visible on his shoulder. Fuck it!

Fast forward to this week and we tried again. This time at an all-singing, all-dancing photo machine in Eastbourne Arndale Centre. It had a camera that moved, negating the need to adjust seats as well as the opportunity to take as many photos as you like before settling on one and taking your money. First up was Dylan. We adjusted the camera and he was still too short. Never mind, we had bags and coats he could sit on. One problem solved. Unfortunately, the machine also showed a live video image of the subject which, to young children, is an invitation to pull silly faces. And he did. For about ten minutes. When he had exhausted his repertoire of expressions, he started to get the idea and looked forward with his head in the correct position. Only he looked at the image of himself below the camera rather than at the camera itself.

Once we’d talked him round, he did look at the camera, but kept smiling and saying “cheeeeeeeese!”. My head was starting to hurt. Somehow or other though, we eventually caught him looking both in the correct direction and in between grins. It was the perfect shot. I went to put my debit card in to pay for the photo, only to discover that the chip and pin machine had the smallest of signs – on a see-through sticker, no less – stating that it was out of order and only accepting cash. Shit! We didn’t have any. Kate ran off to the nearest bank while I simultaneously jealously guarded the machine from other people who wanted to use it and tried to appease Xander who was starting to kick off. Thankfully, Kate made it back in time and the pictures were paid for, printed and in our possession. Just Xander to go then.

Even with the camera adjusted and all our bags and coats on the seat, the little man was still too low down. I reprised my role of man on the floor – which, by the way was agony as it had raised metal dots which left marks in my knees that stayed for hours – only to find that I was getting in the shot by holding him in position. We got him to stand on the seat and, with the same body language as the Tottenham players in the tunnel before their recent humiliation at Anfield, he leant back against the wall.

This didn’t bode well, but at least he was lined up properly. We explained what to do and I stayed in the footwell to keep him company. He seemed to get half the idea, but kept leaning forwards and turning his head to one side in the same way that Liam Gallagher does at the microphone. Straightening him up resulted in a tantrum and bribery with sweets before, finally and by complete fluke, we caught him in between expressions and not quite looking in the right direction, but with his eyes open. Hurrah!

This whole sorry episode took an hour. We didn’t bother doing the shopping we’d gone in to Eastbourne to do afterwards. Our children had broken us. Now we just need to hope that the passport office accepts the images…

Comments

  1. Lauren

    I laughed. lots. (sorry) I’ll be attempting in a few months with my daughter when she turns one… dreading it!

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  2. Garry

    Sounds familiar, I had to go through the same ordeal last September. The photo booth was right next to a small postman pat ride and my boy just wanted to go on that instead. 2 tantrums and £5 later I looked at the pics to just swear, screw them up and give up. On each one he was either too low or my hand was in view. In the end I did it myself at home against the kitchen wall; he looks like a convict. Oh well its only for a few years, he he.

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      Tom

      Ha ha! Glad it isn’t just us. Sounds like you did a great job in the end – I’m highly suspicious of people who don’t look like convicts in their passport pictures!

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  3. Tracey @ MummyShire

    This post made of laugh out love and cry remembering the pain we you thru to geth passport photos for our girl. Funny how what is classed as a simple act pre children can become a mountainous challenge with children. Now, how to let thru customs without too much screaming…! The holiday will be worth it x

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  4. Verily Victoria Vocalises

    Those machines are a ruddy nightmare for adults – let alone kids! I had to try 3 times before the Post Office was happy with my photo! No wonder you had issues with kids in them too. I feel your pain. Thank you for linking to PoCoLo – have a great holiday! 🙂

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      Tom

      They really are! We took another look at Xander’s picture this morning, decided it wasn’t good enough and went to a shop where they took the perfect picture in under a minute. Ah well…

  5. Merlinda (@pixiedusk)

    So funny I can aleady see their faces saying cheese! Why is it not allowed for us to smile in our passpoerts anyways? Why are not we not allowed to be happy while travelling =P Mhy son’s passport photo was photoshop as he was a baby then. Now when that expired I would have this dilemma as well. But its just so funny =P #MBPW

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      Tom

      Good point! It would be so much easier if we were allowed to smile. The mugshots they make us use only enhance the weird and unnecessary feeling of guilt that we all get at the airport!

  6. Jonathan

    Hope the holiday is worth it! 🙂 I really don’t like passport photo machines and think that they’re kind of dishonest. They often talk about letting you choose what photo to use, but after two rubbish ones they tell you that the third one that they take is your last chance. Grrrr….

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      Tom

      Yes, they’re a major pain. But I suppose they all end up making us look like convicts, so at least they’re consistent. 😉

  7. Kath

    This made me properly laugh out loud and I think its this very reason why my husband does not want to get TT a passport – hence the fact that we’re going camping this year! Oh joy. Having said that, I had a similar experience in the post office when getting my own driving licence renewed. TT decided he wanted to play ‘peek-a-boo’ with me because I was behind the curtain and obviously hiding from him. It took almost half an hour to do and the assistant helping me even suggested that “the machine might be broken”…!?

    Have a fantastic holiday though! and I’ve taken notes from your post so I now know what not to do, and fingers crossed maybe I’ll be able to get our family aboard sometime too. 🙂

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      Tom

      Thanks Kath. Want to swap holidays? Yes, these machines are sent to test us and young children know exactly what to do when faced with them!

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