Friday, January 6, 2012

Smize For The Camera!

I work for a company that employees tens of thousands of other worker bees just like me.  When you work in a company so large, there are certain processes that you have to get used to.  Take, for example, employee identification protocol. Employee IDs and security badges are a way of life in a large company.  Without them, all is chaos.  And while they're necessary, they do have a way of making us feel more like numbers than people.  But there is one way in which we get to express our individuality:  our badge photo.  This photo is our moment of individuality in an otherwise anonymous electronic existence.  It travels with us throughout our years of employment, proof that we are more than just a number in a database. 

I've had the same id photo for the last five years.  It's not the best photo, but it has one overwhelming redeeming quality:  it was taken when I was five years younger.  That's reason enough to want to hold onto it.  A couple of weeks ago, I received warning that new photos were on the way; rumor had it that these photos were going to be different (read disappointing).  Word on the street was that we would be prohibited from showing teeth (as in, smiling) in these new photos.  The theories for such a policy are enough to fill an entirely separate post, but I'll go with my initial reaction that HR merely wanted the closest approximation to my face, in death, should they need to identify me one day.

I'm aware that I am no longer a spring chick, so the prospect of taking what I can only anticipate to be an unflattering mug shot made me leery.  In my mind, there are many different ways this photo can turn out.  Worst case scenario, I end up looking older, more haggard, and more masculine than I truly look in person.  Best case scenario, I end up looking like myself, after a long day at the office.  I'm being realistic, folks.

Since I had some time to prepare, I decided to do what I could to increase the odds of a flattering shot.  I was going to need to come up with my best Mona Lisa.

And then I remembered Tyra.  As in Tyra Banks.  The queen of Smize.

For those who are not in the know (aka tv junkies), smize is the term Ms. Banks came up with (yes, she is powerful enough to create her own language) to describe a smile that exudes from your eyes. Your mouth may not be showing it, but who needs a mouth when you've got smize?  Here's an example of Tyra doing what she does best:  smizing.

So after some due diligence (which included this lovely tutorial on how to smize), I got the camera out and prepared for a dry run.

Here's where it all turned ugly.

First of all, as the camera unrelentingly reminded me, I am no Tyra Banks.  This reminder was especially harsh, as I had just spent hours (ok, minutes) combing through image after image of Tyra's flawless face.  It's like spending the afternoon with beautiful people, sharing stories, enjoying your lush surroundings, only to come face to face with your reflection in the ladies room.  After looking at all that beauty, you kind of forget what you look like, and the comparison is disappointing.  Which cast the first doubts into my brain:  can one of the greatest beauties of our time really tell us there is such a thing as smiling eyes?  When you're that gorgeous, even a puffy, runny nosed, your-boyfriend-just-broke-up-with-you face will look fabulous.  Perhaps the smize is just a myth.

Whatever.  I still had to take this mug shot, so I needed the myth to be true, now more than ever.  I knew the basics from my tutorial:  relax, think of something that makes me smile, have a hearty laugh to break the tension.  And then SMIZE.

Here's my first attempt to channel Tyra:

Let me explain this photo.  Tyra told me to imperceptibly squint, while thinking happy thoughts.  Again, I think a lot of the success of the smize has to do with the face that the smize is being attempted on.  I'm disappointed in my face, and this is barely the first photo.  It usually takes at least 3 photos to get to this point, but again, I've just been staring at Tyra's flawless face before moving to mine.

Redo.  But this time, scratch the squint.  My eyes are small enough as it is.  Instead, let's try to maximize my eyes.

Bad idea.  Let's try another one.

Hey that's not too bad.  I'm feeling a little hopeful.  I just need to remember how I held my face for this one.

But that was 4 days before picture day.  A lot can be forgotten in four days.

Picture day arrived, and I had developed a cold that left me feeling miserable.  There's no getting out of this, so I decide to take some last minute practice shots, in the hopes that I could recreate that last face from the weekend.

I don't know what happened to me in the time between photos, but here's the treasure trove I came up with that morning.

Can these all be blamed on Nyquil?  I wish.  This is the ugly truth about photos and me.  I have to take about 40 shots to come up with 3 good ones.  Tyra would not be proud.

I finally gave up when I got to this one.  There was no saving me today.  I was off to work with a hope and prayer.  And a box of kleenex.

The "photo studio" was set up in the main lobby, the one with the floor to ceiling glass wall.  Perfect to let in all that natural lighting that would highlight every crack and crevice on one side of my face while casting unflattering shadows on the other side.  As expected, the photographers brought nothing to the table.  Nigel, where are you when I need you?

I did my best to make friends with my photographer.

"How bad are these turning out?"  while peeking over her shoulder.

"They're not too bad," she tells me.  I can see from the previous photos, she's lying.

We take the photo, and she offers a sneak peak.  I hate it.  She offers to take another one.  I hate the second one even more.

By now there's a line of others awaiting their turn to smize.  Why hadn't I been satisfied with the first photo?  Serves me right.

I'm stuck with it.  "Just use that one," I say as I walk away in disgust.

For legal reasons, I can't share the the final product.  Pity.  It turned out pretty bad. At the last minute, I tried to add some volume to my hair, which is how I ended up looking like the Goblin King.  While I don't truly look like David Bowie, somehow this picture manages to capture the essence pretty well.  If you could see the badge, you'd agree.


Tanya said...

This cracked me up. I've taken one good ID photo in my life when I was 19 and I think it had more to do with being 19 than anything else. It also reminded me of this comic

Not spam I promise! Just a funny picture. =)

You're Lucky I Don't Have a Gun... said...

I can't like this post enough.

NumberWhisperer said...

@Tanya: that comic pretty much summed up this whole post.
@Gun: I'm not surprised

Chrystal said...

My first badge picture at wlpt was so bad that the guy said "oh man that's bad" and then didn't let me retake it. My new picture at the new job it's not so bad but I realized after I said it was ok that I had a smug of something on my forehead - it looks like it was ash wednesday gone wrong. I hate badge pics. Love your smize!!!

You're Lucky I Don't Have a Gun... said...

lol @ Chrystal's ash wednesday comment.

NumberWhisperer said...

I laughed even more at the "oh man,that's bad" commentary. That's what you get when the security guard doubles as the photographer.

shindagrl said...

I will admit to complete vanity when it comes to badge and drivers license photos. I laughed so hard at this I'm amazed I didn't wake the kids up.It brought back memories of the day the HR gal and I tried to get a pic without redeye. Today I sport a badge where I'm 4 years younger, great hair and smile, but SHE-DEVIL EYES!

NumberWhisperer said...

shindagrl, i'd take she-devil eyes any day. They didn't confiscate the old badge, so I'm continuing to use it as the decoy, with the new badge hidden beneath it.