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If you’ve been on the internet in the past few weeks, you might have seen the Zaring family’s photos going around, though you probably wouldn’t recognize the Zaring family. The photos, which were apparently edited to give the family a distinctive cartoon-like appearance, went viral after they shared them among friends and relatives for a laugh (the photographer had been hired to shoot a normal family portrait).
The Zarings met the photographer, whose name they’ve withheld to protect her privacy, when she visited the small business they own in Hillsboro, Missouri, last spring. “She heavily solicited herself to us,” Pam Zaring, 33, told TODAY. “I went to her website ... Her photos weren’t really of people. Mostly of cars. We didn’t have family photos to go by, but my husband said we should give her a chance.”
From the day of the shoot, something felt off. “People have asked me what red flags were there. I’m protective of not saying anything bad about her, because we’re not upset, but it was interesting,” Zaring said. “I’m used to (photographers who are) more interactive, creative, getting real smiles, suggesting poses, constantly click-click-click-click-click.”
Zaring explained that upon arriving at the shoot, the photographer had instructed them to “go interact” but didn’t offer any real coaching beyond that. “She would take one picture and then drop the camera,” Zaring said. “I worried that we weren’t going to have many options. I whispered to my husband, ‘This isn’t normal.’”
Then there was a massive delay between the shoot, which took place in May 2017, and when Zaring received the photos in January of this year. “There was a time when we thought she was just going to never send them. We were frustrated and wrote it off as a loss,” Zaring explained.
“When the email arrived, I was super excited to see them, thinking we would at least have something to show for the money,” she continued. “I can’t explain how dramatically I laughed when I opened it up. I didn’t think it was real.”
When Zaring called the photographer to confirm that she had received the correct files, the woman allegedly explained that her photography professor hadn’t taught her to edit photos and that she was “struggling with the shadows,” adding, “the dogs turned out great, though!” Zaring asked for the originals, but has yet to receive them.
Zaring shared the Photoshop fail with family and friends in a Facebook post, only making it public when a cousin asked if she could share them. Zaring explained that while some people misunderstood her intentions in sharing the photos, which wasn't meant to be mean-spirited, she had only hoped to spread the humor of the situation.
"We've had people thank us for helping them laugh in a dark time — people saying, you've reached Colombia, you've reached France!" Zaring said. "People can see our heart. We were never upset ... we resolved the frustration months ago. In a situation like this, you have to just laugh."