What Is The Most Valuable Thing You Own?
As a portrait photographer, this is something I think about 24/7. I want you to consider something that, as Oklahomans, is a near constant concern for us. Weather. Floods, ice storms, wild fires, tornadoes (and now earthquakes).
What if you had to leave your home and get to safety? Let’s say you have 5 or 10 minutes tops before you have to be out of the house? What do you grab? Other than the living, breathing things in your home, what’s the first thing you grab in your rush to get out the door? Laptop? Ipad? Your wedding dress? Something from a deceased loved one? What holds the most value to you?
If you know me or you’ve read Why Do I Print?, then you already know that when a large tornado was headed right for us, the one thing my family couldn’t leave without was an old suitcase stuffed full of family photos. There were generations of photographs in that huge old thing, hundreds of photos spanning at least 100 years. That suitcase was the one thing that none of us wanted to lose.
One thing I still try to convey to each client is why I do what I do and why it is important to them. Sure, most people who hire me, do so because they want to remember when their son was 1 year old, with the poochy toddler belly and an incomplete set of baby teeth. They want to remember that bright eyed smile, the fuzzy hair, chubby feet, everything.
I usually don’t need to explain to a new mom the value of newborn portraits. A week from their session, he won’t even look like the same baby. The speed of these changes is magical and wonderful, but at the same time, heartbreaking.
Just as photos of your child are important to you, photos of you will one day be the most valuable thing your children have. I can tell you this from personal experience. My father passed away a few years ago and I don’t have a lot of photos of him. But I can tell you that the ones I have, I cherish more than anything else left of him on this earth. More than the things he collected or other objects my mom still holds onto. To see his face and remember him smiling and happy is priceless.
Think about your spouse. Tomorrow is not promised to us. My parents were blessed to have a long and happy marriage. Some won’t be so lucky. The one you love more than yourself, who shares all of your inside jokes and your bed, may be gone tomorrow. It’s an absolutely gut wrenching thought, but it happens. Sometimes couples get to live a long life together and sometimes they don’t. Either way, what will you have of them to cherish when they’re gone? To hold in your hands, stare at, cry over…
I’m speaking to myself when I say that we all need to get over our aversion to being in front of a camera. And I don’t mean your cell phone camera when you’re taking a selfie, in your car, when you’re feeling particularly attractive. I mean a formal portrait in front of a lens that is huge and intimidating, with big lights in your face and people staring at you, picking over every minute detail of your appearance and telling you how to pose.
This is my mom. Isn't she pretty?
Well, it’s my job to make you feel comfortable with me and in front of my camera. When I photograph a woman, no matter her age, color or weight, I want her to feel stunning. Every woman has worth and value. We are passionate creatures who deserve to feel beautiful. A mom in her sixties who is worried about all her wrinkles usually isn’t too keen on the idea of being photographed. But one day she will be gone and her children, who knew her for her compassion, her gentle touch, her fierce protection, her unending selflessness, will want that photograph more than anything. A snapshot on your phone is great, but a beautiful, professional portrait just doesn’t compare.
I want to leave you with a quote by Sue Bryce, an incredible portrait photographer.
“Creating a portrait for someone is showing them their true self. One day this portrait will be priceless. There is no money on the planet that will take your family back to this moment where I can capture you and put that on paper forever. I stopped time for your family and the generations of people that belong to your blood line and it will forever be the most valuable thing that your family will own. And when you’re not here, your children will look at this and say, ‘This was my father. This was my grandfather. This was the legacy of who I am.’ “