ew… DIY family portraits?

Let’s talk about family portraits for a minute, and the rush for creating the perfect holiday card.

Ok, I know that everyone who has a nicer camera fancies themselves a photographer these days. I’ve heard from enough brides who decide to take up the relative’s offer to do their wedding photos for free (and seen the gory aftermath of that decision) and I’ve even seen some examples of a girl who tried to do her own boudoir photos (shudder). But family portraits? With several kids?  I can’t believe the TODAY Show was naieve enough to suggest that you should just do the photos yourself (or hire some random student from craigslist) — and then go get the same wal-mart kiosk templates for artless, shiny photo print. There’s clearly a commodification of portrait work going on out there, and I’m just confused why someone would settle for amateur portraits and cards. If you’re going to invest in sending out a photo, at least do it right.  Does that make me snobby? I know I am biased due to my profession, but I get so angry when people act like having a friend or student do photos is the same thing as hiring an experienced professional. It isn’t.

Why? WHY?

13 Responses to “ew… DIY family portraits?”

  1. Chris Says:

    “her own boudoir photos” … how? Could I get a link to this?

  2. Marina Says:

    last year i did my own family photos. they turned out awesome but then again, i am a professional photographer…..

  3. Christopher Vigliotti Says:

    One of the misconceptions is that a low-cost print from WalMart is a “value”. If you are getting a non-archival print with bad colors then you are actually throwing money away.

    Also, people who hire friends/students to do their photos are under the misconception that all photographers / photos are created equal. The fact is that they aren’t. A good session shot by someone who takes the time to connect with their clients and make the session an enjoyable experience will result in meaningful photos every time.

  4. Roz Mitchell Says:

    I was really disappointed in that segment too. I was actually more irritated that they used old footage of the pro photographer, and basically used it against her. I know it’s cool to “save money” in this economy, but honestly, at the cost of your family memories?

    I just try as hard as I can to get people to see the value of coming to a photographer who can make the experience of having their photos taken, a fun and exciting one. We get comments all the time from clients, saying things like “the kids were dreading the whole picture taking ordeal, but you made it so much fun for them!”

    Students and craigslist flunkies aren’t going to have that level of dedication to their clients. There’s something to be said about developing a relationship with your photographer, vs. just having some kid snap some shots of you, and then disappearing with your memories.

  5. Jason Says:

    Amen! We couldn’t believe the Today show of all places would condone that kind of thing. Can you imagine trying to shoot 5 kids *and* be in the photo?

    Link to Episode

  6. Renata Says:

    For the same reason it happens in any creative field… lack of understanding. It’s why people don’t see why they should pay thousands of dollars for a web site b/c they think their teenage son can do it. Or why a professional graphic designer should do their company logo instead of using a Word template. In the end, they get what they pay for. Don’t get too upset… After all, smarter people make better clients, who make for happier professionals, and who doesn’t want that :) ?

  7. Mandy Says:

    I have to say I agree with 95% of this. The only thing I don’t agree with is the implication that I’m wasting my time or money getting my photo holiday cards on glossy walmart (or snapfish/walgreens in my case) paper just to “save money.” Well…let’s face it, we all want to save money these days. I did use a professional wedding photo as our photo, but even if I hadn’t? Most people will throw away the annual christmas card. I happen to keep mine, but i’ve found myself to be in the minority. I will not spend money on archival cardstock paper or whatever for my annual christmas cards. If I’m sending a photo, well, that is a different story. Just my 2 cents!

  8. micah Says:

    I understand your perspective here, Rachel, but I think you might be over-reacting just a bit.

    It’s one thing to pay for family portraits done by a professional photographer and then use those portraits to send out high-quality holiday cards. It’s another thing when you are strapped for time and money and still want to send your own piece of holiday joy to your friends and family.

    I think as long as you know that you are sacrificing the art and quality that comes with a professional print, it’s not a sin to use a Wal-mart or other quickie photo place. A lot of folks are looking for the convenience, especially when 95% of people will just throw away the holiday cards they receive, regardless of quality.

    However, if the Today show was actually suggesting that going to a quickie photo place is the same as hiring a pro photographer, then there is definitely something wrong with that comparison.

    And after all this…I’m kicking myself for not scheduling a shoot with you back in November. :(

  9. Darren Says:

    After seeing the spot, my emotional response was a little bit like yours. Yeah, it hurts to hear someone say, “Just snap the picture yourself.” At the end of the day, I think this isn’t a new trend, just one amplified by the digital age and the recent economy. Everyone has a camera and the thought is that anyone can snap a good picture.

    For the most part, yes, I think most people could get a decent picture of themselves. However, we as photographers have to show the value in our service being a bit better than what you’d get from the neighbor kid snapping away on his digi-cam, card-to-kiosk printing, and last year’s 75% reject card templates.

    Yeah, I have a fear of being “commoditized”, but I don’t think that fear will every go away, or get worse. We’ll survive. Once the economy turns around, we’ll hopefully even grow healthy again as a profession.

  10. Emily Says:

    Ok, so honestly, yes, you are coming off as a snob. You seriously think people aren’t capable of having a good photo taken and printed on good materials without going to a professional photographer?? How many people out there can afford to have a professional session for their Christmas cards? Especially if they have kids, and in this economy. I would be more focused on mortage payments, buying groceries, and getting through the holidays in one piece than obsessing over professional quality cards. You’re distaste is very clear, which leads me to believe that you wouldn’t appreciate the thought behind cards mailed to you from friends and family, that aren’t up to your standards. “ew…” I’m speechless Rachel…

  11. rachel Says:

    Emily, thanks for being another perspective from the client side of the equation. I am very interested in hearing from people about this, and appreciate your input. As I mentioned in the blog post, I am well aware that my profession can bias me. The real problem for me isn’t that people are making budget-focused choices for their christmas cards, but that the Today Show is acting like this is the equivalent of a professional portrait session.

  12. Emily Says:

    I agree that the Today Show is over-rating self made sessions. I apologize if I let my reaction lead my fingers as they typed. I appreciate you being open to different perspectives as I do see yours a little clearer now. Cheers to all and Happy Holidays! :)

  13. Chris Says:

    I’m totally agreeing with Emily that professional photography is a luxury in times like this, especially for families. I think in this case, a student and Walmart prints are better than nothing at all (or just a card from Hallmark). It’s not like your family will think less of you because you didn’t use a professional photographer for your Christmas cards (at least, I’d hope not).

    Altho, I can totally understand professional bias. Coming from a background in web design, I see the same thing all the time, where a company hires some “kid” to build them a web site for cheap, and they end up with something that doesn’t work for them.

    Last but not least, don’t forget that all photographers have to start somewhere. Everyone is a student at some point, and without taking photos outside of “school” how do you learn “real world” photography?

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