I called up Delilah’s mom. My first ever toy store ad would have a toddler’s bright, happy face gazing up at a toy she’s holding in her chunky toddler hand. The toy, closest to the camera, would be in clear, crisp focus, while her face would be just behind it, and naturally softened.
And that’s why I called Delilah’s mom. Delilah’s eyes are so bright she might even be mistaken for mischievous. Sure, her mom said, come over before 8. That’s her bedtime. Oh, I said, will she still be awake enough at 7:30? Oh yeah, her mom chuckled.
Now, I suggested 7:30 because I had two other meetings to attend that evening. I’m on a committee for Lindsborg’s largest festival, the Hyllningsfest. That festival looms ever closer, but I was going to miss this particular meeting in favor of another. At 6:30 I popped in and told a fellow committee member what my report would be, then I went across the street to the library.
The library meeting wasn’t for business or community. It was just for me. I think it had been about one whole year since I last attended a writers’ group, so I had really been looking forward to it. I would just need to keep an eye on the clock tonight and run over to take the perfect picture. I happen to glance at my watch just at the right time. 7:30. I run out the door as I say good-bye, leaving my writing things behind me on the table, because I expect to be gone only a few minutes. Just long enough to take that perfect picture.
Delilah and her charming older sister Mary are outside by the Hemslöjd as I walk up with my camera and toy. For the ad, I had chosen a clear and gender-neutral wooden helicopter for babies. Now as I walk up, I see Delilah is not a toddler anymore. I remember Delilah being baptized. Can she really be this big already?
Delilah takes the toy and sees how it works. I ask her to hold it up and show her mom. Click! Great shot! Wait, what does that mean? Red symbol on the camera… no card!? NOOOOOOOO! How could I forget to load my camera?!?
No card, no pictures!
Delilah’s dad says, We have one you could borrow. This is an old camera, I say. It takes really big cards. He looks at it. He says, We had an old camera that took that kind of card, I think.
Now Delilah is playing with the helicopter and I see all those great shots pass by in time as I jump impatiently, like a labradoodle in need of a walk. Delilah catches my mood and becomes distracted. Play, I tell her. Oh, I mean, you’re playing so nicely. I really like how you’re playing. Keep it up.
After a few minutes which seem like hours, Delilah’s dad returns with the card. Yes! It fits! Luckily I had the presence of mind to put another toy into my pocket before leaving the house earlier. It’s not quite as photogenic, but it may work. It’s tiny wooden cookies in a cute little cookie tin from Haba, good for children older than toddlers. My eager model receives it and gets it taken away by her older sister. (Well, now I see the benefits of the baby toy.) Luckily, there are enough wooden cookies to share, and the girls begin to play-eat. Great shots! I snap a picture. Another. Another. This is great. Another. Another. Then I can’t snap any more?
It turns out the card is full of Mary’s baby pictures. (He did say it was their old camera.) I don’t dare delete those. I quickly look at the pictures I just took and delete all of them. Mmmmm, I say, yummy cookies. Keep playing. I snap five more pictures, then I delete four. My mood is just not in this anymore. Mmmm. Can I have a cookie, too? Four quick pictures, then delete.
Obviously it’s time to call this game a loss and catch the rest of the writers’ group. I say good-bye to the parents and the girls. Delilah doesn’t say good-bye. She wants the cookies and the tin. I look with alarm at her amused mother.
This is my first ad photography experience and my overtaxed brain, full of obligations and to-do lists, did not even for a second consider the consequences of handing a child a toy and then taking it away when I was done. Delilah and I exchange glances. Her glance determined, mine terrified. Luckily, her mother steps in and I slip the toy in my bag and run off like a thief, escaping to the library.
Shortly after I arrive the meeting ends. (My laptop and bag sitting there on the table without me may have contributed to the length of the meeting.) Finally at home again, I look at the five pictures I have from this first photo shoot. I got five great pictures of adorable girls, but all of them show the toy out of focus
My first ad was a learning experience:
Rule number one: Make sure the camera is ready!
Rule number two: Have a treat handy for the little model so you can make a clean get-away.