“Naaah. I don’t like that one. Let’s try it again.”

He peered into the computer screen, hand poised over the trackball. “Ready…ready…ready….NOW!” He clicked firmly. “YES! That’s the one I want,” and began tapping at the keyboard.

“You’re going to a lot of trouble for my ID photo,” I observed. A new client required that I have a corporate ID to move about their building, so I’d stopped in at the security desk to have the guard fix one up.

Unlike the usual prison-photo tapeline on the floor and stark white wall to stand against, this guard’s setup looked more like a portrait studio. He’d fixed a sapphire blue cloth to the wall, behind a comfortable armchair. A small softbox glowed with filtered light, the tripods were obviously professional-grade, and he’d added a second monitor so I could see myself as he snapped my picture.

I mentioned how professional it seemed and he grinned. “Yeah, it’s brand new; I talked my boss into upgrading and just got everything put together on Monday. It’s nice, isn’t it?”

“I’ll bet you take some nice ID photos with it, anyway,” I responded.

“Well,” he said, seriously, “This is the picture that you and everyone else has to look at for the whole time you’re here. Why make it something you’re ashamed of? It doesn’t take that much extra to take a good picture and this way, you know, I can be proud of what I do.”

He typed my information into the computer and set the card printer whirring. “See that studio light? Well, before I put that up, sometimes the pictures were so dark you could hardly see the face. And that’s a security risk; I’ve seen photos you couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman, so how can we tell if it’s you and not some terrorist or something?”

Idly, I made a few faces at the monitor, brushed a stray hair into place and noted that my nose was just a tad shiny. He pushed the printed card into the laminator and looked up. “The blue backdrop, now…lots of people look really washed out on a dirty white wall like ours was. But just about everyone looks good against that blue. And if they don’t,” he said, lifting a corner of some silky pale apricot fabric, “I can put this one up, really fast.”

He handed me my new badge, proudly. “What do you think?”

I wasn’t about to discourage him after all that extra effort, so I probably would have praised that photo even if it resembled Freddy Kruger. But it didn’t. In fact, it’s one of the better portraits I’ve had in years. “Wow,” I said happily, “That really looks good!”

He smiled. “I knew you’d like it. Next semester I’m taking a class in portrait photography, maybe I’ll pick up some tips to make these even better. You know, someday I think I’d like to be a photographer.”

“This weekend I went to the woods and shot mushrooms. Really cool images of mushrooms. Maybe,” he mused, as I gathered my things to go, “Maybe I could become a wildlife photographer.”

I nodded, thanked him and said goodbye, and he began adjusting his new studio light.