It's Not Today, It's 100 Years From Now ~ Wisconsin Photographer
Recently, I watched a video on Facebook go viral. The basic gist of the video was that those school portraits your kids have taken every year are too expensive, basically pointless, and that the photographers are price gouging parents for sub-par headshots of their precious angels.
The comment thread under this video was.....gross. That's the best way I could describe it. Gross. It amounted to hundreds of folks admitting to stealing from the photographers in question.....buying 1 8x10, copying it, and getting prints through Walgreens or somewhere cheap.
Yes. I'm sure those look amazing.
However, this kind of theft (and yes, it's theft) is pretty much par for the course, sadly. It's happened to me. It's happened to every photographer I know.
That isn't what broke my heart.
What broke my heart were the responses of "I never get the pictures, they're pointless. I take better pictures with my phone."
Ok. First, let's address the quality issue.
I don't personally have this issue. My kids' school pictures are taken by a local professional and I feel they've always been great. My daughters smile nice for the camera and look precious. They are quality images that I am happy to plunk down a $30 for 2 5x7's (for the grandparents, natch) and an 8x10. Even if the prices were twice that, sure.....I'd happily pay it.
If QUALITY of the images are your main gripe, and you have a strong case, I'd take it to the school administration (Side note: let's hope you're not being an overly picky, never satisfied jerk...because let's face it, sometimes school pics look tore up and that's what makes them wonderful).
But, fight for quality images, by all means. That only strengthens our position as professionals.
But regardless of "quality", I'm still buying those pictures.
Because that's my kids' history right there. That's part of their story. Our kids are in school the majority of the day, the majority of the year, during the majority of their childhoods. This is the photographic record of that yearly milestone. Hey, I'm a 1st grader now. Hey, I'm a 5th grader now. Look how much I've changed and grown over the past year.
Studies clearly show that kids whose parents display images of them around the home have a greater self image than those whose parents do not. Yes, you can take a picture with your phone, but where does that picture go? Does it linger....useless....unused? Do you MAYBE post it to Facebook to see how many likes you get from others?
Do you print them?
Because somehow I'm doubting that you print them.
So, yes...you may be ABLE to take a "better" picture with your phone (and better is clearly subjective)....but if your child isn't seeing you print that image, frame it, and proudly display it....who cares?
I know many, many, MANY folks never print their images, "professional" or otherwise. I'm guilty. Oh BELIEVE me I'm guilty. I have hard drives filled to the brim with my children's histories and I've printed MAYBE 5% of what has been taken.
I'm shit at following my own directions.
But I do STRONGLY believe in the worth of the printed image. Which is why I STRONGLY believe in school pictures.....because they are holding fast to the legacy of the printed image. They offer PRINT packages. Very few will give you digitals, and even if they DO offer digitals it's only after you buy prints.
This is how it should be done.
Because it's not about the image as it is today, it's about how it will be 100 years from today. Your grandchildren's grandchildren are not going to be accessing the hundreds of snapshots you took with your iPhone to explore their history.
iPhones will be ancient history by then. Officially antique.
But your children's children's children will be able to hold a print.
They'll be able to see their eyes in the eyes of the person printed on that photographic paper.
They'll be able to frame it and hang it in their futuristic home (which better have robots, right?).
Prints have weathered every technological advance thrown at them....and they remain.
This is why, come 2018....my 10th year as a professional photographer...I'm going to be focusing more on creating a photographic legacy for my portrait clients. Not just a digital one. Time to walk the walk while I talk the talk, so to speak.
And parents.....reconsider plunking down a few bucks for those school pictures....even if your kids' hair is jacked or they're a bit wonky. You'll be glad you did in the long run.
I'm glad my grandparents did. I'm glad my inlaws did. I'm glad my parents did and I'm glad I still do, every year. If only to be able to look back, access that print, and smile.