The Portrait

by Melanie Haney



It’s not as simple as pushing a button.


Sure, sure, sure. You can set it on auto, but that’s not the same. You have to compose something new. You have to consider the framing of everything. Don’t be boring. Center is boring. Be off center. But not too much. And don’t be crooked. That’s not clever, it’s sloppy. You have to see how the light is falling and move around it. I mean, you can’t move the sun, so you have to get down on your belly on the grass, sometimes. You have to duck behind a tree branch, a hill, or place a couple directly in front of it, at sunset or sunrise, and have them kiss. No, not kiss, just lean in to one another. Maybe a hand on a cheek. You have to make the picture tell a story. Not just any story, their story. You have to have a natural smile, a laugh even, if it’s not awkward. Make them laugh. Ask about their first date, the first time they said I love you, what they love most, who sings the loudest in the shower. Now have them hug, while laughing. But, naturally. You’re not even there. You’re just off in the distance. Try to be far enough away that it’s not uncomfortable. Unless you need to move in for a tight shot, then say something funny. Surprising. Self-deprecating. Something to get a good honest-to-god laugh. Have her kiss his cheek. Again. But with his eyes closed this time. Can he hug her from behind now. Wait, no. That’s overdone. That’s what’s been done forever. You don’t want to take everyone else's pictures, you want to take your pictures. Their pictures. Their story through your eyes. Have them dance. Twirl her. Again. This time, get down on that grass and get the light coming through the edges of her skirt as it’s swishing in a circle. Quick! Get up, they’re laughing. Get UP. Shoot. It’s awkward now. You’re too close. Have them walk. Holding hands. Pretend you’re not there. Look, a barn wall. Run, have them stand against that. Naturally. Like it’s a regular thing, standing against dilapidated wood in date night clothes. Perfect. Where’s the sun. Can you get it to cast a warm glow just over the roof? Maybe in post. Okay. Don’t let them look bored. This is a story. Have them brood. At the camera, not each other. Can he lean into her, with her back against the wall. But not look rapey. How about picking her up? Pick her up, and kiss. Hold it. Hold it. Back as far away as you can. Get the whole shot. The sunlight. The barn. The way her ankles are crossed up in the air and her skirt is falling like a wave of silk. Set them just enough off center to be interesting. Or not. Do it both ways. Now sit them against that wall. The texture

is amazing. Have her lean down on his shoulder. Arms intertwined. Maybe. Unless it’s awkward. Get them to act natural again, even though you’re right there. It’s a tight shot. What’s their favorite restaurant. Favorite place to go on dates. Favorite feature on each other’s faces. Yes. Touch her cheek again. Emotion. Get emotion. Laughter. Tears. Memories in the lighting of their eyes. That is your job. To get that. Composed. With the sun just-so. Do it. Quickly. The sun is slipping. Who is the better dancer. Who is most likely to cry at the altar. Who kissed who first. Anything. Just make a moment happen that wasn’t happening before you got there to startle it into life.



Then push the button.



Melanie Haney holds her MFA in creative writing from Lesley University and was the first winner of the Family Circle Fiction Contest in 2007. Melanie's short stories have appeared or is forthcoming in Family Circle Magazine and in numerous literary journals, in print, and online, including Fifth Wednesday Journal, Blue Earth Review, Relief, the ELM, Quality Women’s Fiction, Berkeley Fiction Review, Clockhouse and others. 

Melanie lives in New Hampshire, where she is a photographer, wife and homeschooling mother of four children. Melanie is a featured contributor at The Foundry’s blog,, where she shares about the intersection of family and faith. Melanie documents her personal life and family adventures on her blog,


June 2018

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