St Paul Family Portraits | The Real ‘Cost’ of Portraits

Four things have happened this week that inspired this blog post. Each of these events were completely unrelated, but they each got me thinking about the real cost, or value of our photographs.

Earlier in the week, a woman stopped in to the studio and asked me for pricing information to print a canvas portrait. In speaking with her, I came to find out that she was looking to print her family portraits taken a few years ago by a friend that liked to play in photography. Upon looking at the image, I discovered to her dismay, that the print quality/resolution was too poor to be reproduced as a wall portrait. The images were fine for viewing on a computer at a small size, or on a cell phone, but they could not be printed. This woman asked specifically for a disc from her friend so that she could reproduce the images she wanted with ease – but it had taken her years to ask me to print them for her, and then she discovered that she couldn’t have a single print of them. A disc is not a photograph, it is a form of media storage. It is not the same thing as having a print framed on the wall in a place of honour in your home.

We photographed a new Mom this week who shared with us her experience with her wedding photographer. She and her fiancee hired a photographer based solely on pricing. The photographer spent their wedding day looking for posing ideas on pintrest on her cell phone, and she failed to get a few key portraits at the wedding – a portrait of the bride with her Mom and Dad, among a few others. The photographer was so focused on finding “fun” photographs of the couple with their wedding party, that she missed getting those photographs that were truly the most important photographs for the bride. The bride’s memories of her wedding are just that, memories, she doesn’t have photographs to go with those memories.

For the past few months, my youngest son, who never met his Uncle who passed away in 2009, has been “chatting” with his Uncle every night. He runs to his photograph, pointing and jabbering and very clearly saying Uncle. My son will never have any memories of his Uncle alive, but he knows his Uncle is very much a part of our family through his portrait and the stories his older siblings share with him. Brian and I have frequently said how grateful we are to have this portrait in our house because it means so much to our children and it helps us keep their Uncle alive in their memories.

The last thing that really brought all of these events together for me happened this morning. I was sad and my daughter asked me why. I told her it was the fifth anniversary of my brother’s death today. She told me that she really only had one strong memory of her Uncle now, and that was playing on the swing with him at the farm, every time she came towards him, he would pretend that she was kicking him and knocking him over. She said she remembered laughing so hard at her Uncle being so silly. I brought some photos of her Uncle out that I had and in them, was a photograph of her memory. She immediately burst into tears, crying so hard. It broke my heart, but I was so grateful to give to her a portrait of her memory, to give her something tangible that she can hold because she was so worried she was losing her memories of him.

It was a pretty powerful moment for me to watch my daughter discover the true power of a photograph. It is just a candid snap of a seemingly unimportant moment at the time, but as it turned out, it has become one of my daughter’s truly most treasured moments in her life. My daughter cannot remember her favorite outfit from that time, or the kind of vehicle we had, or what she got for Christmas that year or even the trip we took to DisneyWorld when she was around that same age. She can’t remember any of the things in life that are deemed important and are desired. But she can remember a sunny afternoon on the farm when her Uncle came over to play on the swing with her.

This blew me away in that moment and it made me think of this quote:

We do not remember days, we remember moments.” – Cesare Pavese

We never know when the most minor of a moment will become one of the most powerful moments in our life. We don’t know the true value of our photographs until it is too late. We get wrapped up in the price, the cost, and creating big moments that we forget there is more to life than that.

The most powerful moment in my daughter’s life has an actual photograph of the memory. My daughter can show this photograph to her daughter. She can laugh with me when she remembers her Uncle’s antics and together we can cry over the photograph which helps keeps this man alive in our hearts. This image is not a file on a computer, it is a real tangible thing. This one single photograph to my daughter is priceless. The two women above do not have this.

I encourage you strongly to take into consideration these two women’s experience, and my daughter’s when considering a photographer. Photography is an investment. It is much more that pressing a button and burning a disc. There is a science involved, one that takes years to master. There is expensive gear to maintain, and training in how to operate it. There is insurance, business licenses and taxes just like any other business. Before you seek pricing information from a photographer, you should be researching that aspect. What recourse do you have if you receive a disc of images that are not sized correctly and you do not discover this mistake until a few years later? Does your photographer understand the importance of resolution, white balance and proper exposure? Do they carry insurance, pay taxes, maintain extensive back up systems? Do they have the experience and confidence to capture all of those important moments that occur in a wedding day? Or do they guess on exposure, hope it works out and copy what others have done off of pintrest? After asking about all that, ask about price.

Just remember, this seemingly small moment in your life, could be one that becomes the most powerful. The old adage of you get what you pay for is still true. Please take time to check out the photographer you are hiring, be sure they have the experience they need to do the job you are asking them to do because the real cost of a photograph is priceless, especially when it happens to be of a little moment, turned big.

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    Vermilion, AB