"I can't afford it". / by Carey

Spanki Mills wrote a blog post on her blog that went viral on facebook in the photographer world.  How her words ring true!  Read it here.   She and her husband are the parents of four little blessings.  Her husband recently remarked to her how priceless of a treasure an image that hangs large on their walls is.  It shows the four kids, holding hands and walking.  It holds little tiny pieces of a period of time that they'll never have back.  A precious, precious time full of special idiosyncrasies that are just them.  All the little things you may not even have realized at the time, but now that they are gone, priceless little memories.

And they have that.  Captured.  Preserved forever.  Big.   A glimpse into a time that has long since passed.  For them.  For their children.  For their grandchildren.

Custom photographers often hear potential clients, and even current clients, say they 'can't afford' their services.


Sure, there are people in this world who cannot afford custom photography.  They may not be eating every meal.  But for the majority of us living out our American dreams, it isn't a matter of what you can afford.  It's a matter of what you value.  Even those of us choosing to go against culture and be single income families.

Sure, a custom photography session is expensive.

So is cable tv.  So is your cell phone and mobile data plan.  Your designer shoes and purse.  Your new set of golf clubs.  That new widescreen HD tv that you had to buy a new table for because it was just so darn big.  Eating out too many times a month.  A 3, 4, or 5 thousand square foot home with stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops.

[Do you have any idea what goes into running a photography business?  The investment of equipment, software, training and further education, business fees, taxes, insurance, marketing, packaging, and TIME?  time to learn the trade, time to continue to improve, time to do the work involved, time to do all the 'business' or 'office' work.... a whole lotta money..... a whole lotta precious time.... to do it right! (sung to the lyrics of "Got My Mind Set on You" by George Harrison.  Anybody else remember it?  listen here)]

The point is that we find a way to pay for what we deem important.  Most of us American dream Americans can afford whatever we want.  We just choose to spend the portion God has granted us differently.  And that is good.  We're all different.  It's the beauty of living in the land of the Free.

What I'm challenging is the phrase "I can't afford that".  That's just false.  You CAN afford it.  You just choose to spend your money otherwise.  Again, that's not wrong.  It applies to anything.  Cable tv.  A new computer.  Custom photography.  Either you choose to invest in something or not, but it's not a matter of what we can afford.  So please stop saying that, mmmkay?

Give that custom photographer a break on charging what they charge.  They aren't out to "get you".  They aren't taking advantage of you.  They are participating in American capitalism.  They are running a business.  They are trying to make a living, just like you are.  Do you get paid too much for what you do?  Yeah, I didn't think so.  If you don't want to pay for custom photography... if you choose to afford something else instead, that's just fine.  But don't blame your values on a photographer's prices.

It's been right at five years since I entered the world of appreciating custom photography.  I was pregnant with Nathan and wanted to have maternity photos done.  We struggled to get pregnant.  I didn't know if I'd ever get to be pregnant again and I wanted to preserve every aspect of Nathan's pregnancy.  I didn't care what it cost.   We did maternity, newborn, half year, and year photos with our custom photographer.  We spent a lot of money for those sessions, in many folks' eyes.   We got a book/album from each of those sessions.  Those books, documenting a time in our lives almost five years ago now, are PRICELESS to me.  Priceless.  I am so grateful for every single image I have.  Every single one.

I didn't have maternity photos done for my pregnancy of Cora and I regret that very, very much.  It was mostly for financial reasons (a little bit for self esteem issues -- didn't feel quite so glowy the second time around), I told myself.  But again, hogwash.  I decided it was more important to have pink crib sheets and burp cloths and spent our discretionary money elsewhere... and didn't have any left to invest in custom photography for my second pregnancy.  Hindsight twenty-twenty.

We did however have custom photography sessions for Cora's first year.  And again, those images including both of my children are just priceless, priceless treasures to me.  We had a family session last fall.  And we will have one again this late summer or fall.  It's just that important to me.  I value the preservation of these moments in time that I cannot get back, captured in a beautiful artistic quality way.

My grandparents didn't do a lot of things for us that we would specifically ask for as we grew up "because we don't know if we'll be able to do it for the others when its their time".   That frustrated me very much then, and it still does.  I disagree with this reasoning.  I love what Ron Blue says on this topic.

We said that if you love your children equally, you will treat them uniquely—meaning that they have different needs, different personalities, different circumstances, and so just to treat them equally, from a financial standpoint, is in effect saying they’re not a unique individual. It is, in effect, dishonoring to them.

AMEN!  Parents, don't let the fear of doing something for one child, when you ARE able at this moment but don't know with full certainty you will be able to for another, prevent you from doing something special for or with them!!!  What a missed opportunity.  That's just shameful.

Don't delude yourself into thinking that custom photography isn't worth investing in.  We made the agreement early into our marriage that we were going to invest in making memories, not into material things.  Therefore less house, so we could take better vacations/trips/adventures.  Less this so we would always have the margin to DO things with the kids they'd remember.  While a custom photography session isn't exactly an activity for lifetime memory making (although Nathan asks every so often "when do we get to go back up on the mountain to take pictures?"), it IS an investment in memories.  There will always be time to buy a bigger house, nicer furniture, better gadgets, stylish clothes.  But we cannot go back in time to do a family session.  Ever.  No amount of money can turn back time.

One last thought.  When my own photography skills began to improve, I started to get comments like "oh, I like your pictures.  You don't need to go pay so and so for pictures.  Yours are just as good."

First, they aren't just as good.  I'm not saying that fishing for compliments.  We're all on different parts of our journeys.  I don't expect to be somewhere artistically that someone else is that started this way ahead of me.  I like my work.  I'm very proud of my work.  I'm thankful to have this skill and have amazing pictures of my kids' every day lives.  But it's just not the same as choosing a custom photographer... someone whose artistic eye you adore.  Someone who processes the images just the way that makes you feel butterflies in your tummy.  Someone who values the preservation of these moments almost as much as you do!

Second, I. am. not. a. spectator.

I am their mother.  I am their MOMMY.  I. am. in. the. game!  I am an active participant in their lives.  And I want them to know that.  I want them to have something to hold in their hands and marvel at, when they are thirty years old.  To see the utter adoration in my eyes when I look at them.  To see the utter adoration in their daddy's eyes when he plays with them.

No matter what, I cannot capture that by myself from behind the camera.  I am not a spectator.  And because of that, every year I will choose to afford custom photography.  I will forgo cable tv, data plans on my cell phone, fancy clothes and shoes, the photography equipment I so very much desire for myself.... whatever it would take to make sure I have the money set aside to invest in the preservation of a time I will never, ever have again.

I want the images that show their idiosyncrasies.  That he runs with his tongue sticking out.  She always puts her shoes on the wrong feet.  Every time.  That look of mischief when he wrinkles his nose when he thinks he's 'tricked' Shawn.  How he turns his hat backwards every chance he gets.  How she clings to me like a little monkey.  How she sucks her thumb and curls into me like she was made to be part of my chest.  Her indignant attitude when you cross her.   How he refuses to punch or throw or swing a bat the right way.  The genuine excitement in her eyes about candy.   His fascination with all things ocean creature.  How he's starting to feel embarrassment.  How she already doesn't like it when anyone else gets laughed at.  How she turns her lips inside out when she tastes something sour.  How he finds a stick bigger than he is absolutely anywhere we go.  How his clothing is never without a spot of food or dirt on it.   How they both compete for the prime spot of my lap any time it is available.  How both of them are the walleringist little creatures ever created!!!  The list goes on and on.

In 30 years, it will be THOSE things that matter to me.  It will be the images that capture this period of time in my life.  Not the ones in a studio in their Sunday best, where they are sitting in unrealistic positions that never happen in real life.  There isn't anything wrong with those types of photos.  Some people love them.  I'm not one of them.  I want real life.  I adore Lifestyle Photography.  I want to remember real life and the real life emotions that come from seeing those moments.  And even though I can take a good photograph, I can't capture my own family's dynamics.

That can only come from choosing to afford custom photography.  Choosing to invest in the memory of right now.

I urge you to find a custom photographer and have a family session.  Find a photographer and don't freak out over the cost.  Don't cheap out!!!  Make sure your photographer takes images where the subject is in focus!  Make sure the color looks right and not overly blue or green or red.  Make sure you like how they process their images!  You get what you pay for.  You just do.  People with skill and legitimate businesses cannot afford low prices.  In 30 years, I don't think you'll regret it.

Not one bit.

(I took this image with my tripod and remote. (see the remote?? I hid it well, huh?). While this is 'neat', it doesn't hold a candle to my family's custom photography sessions. I'm so thankful we discovered custom photography when our kids came along)