How Valuable Are Your Pictures?

How Valuable Are Your Pictures?

We take so many pictures these days sometimes it’s easy to forget how valuable the really important ones are. Over the past 15 years I’ve probably professionally photographed somewhere in the region of nearly half a million people. About 100,000 of those people had what you might consider “formal” portraits whereas the others we simply having their picture taken to help preserve an important memory.

I’ve always wondered what ever happened to all of the prints that people took home with them. Were they given as gifts, put away in a draw or perhaps they are framed on someone’s wall?

Without sounding like a completely ego driven lunatic I must say that I’ve always been quite proud of photography footprint. I might not have changed the world with a Pulitzer Prize winning photo (yet) or won any international acclaim but when I consider the vast reach of my images it pleases me somewhat. 

Michael Shilling and daughter

It’s sad to say that I have taken my fair share of last pictures. It’s not as common these days where everyone has a camera but I’ve been contacted on a number of occasions with a request for someone’s picture who has passed.
It’s at times like this you realise how important photos can be to someone and the fact that the a value of a picture can change with time and circumstance.

I know lots of other photographers that complain about the industry, how everyone had a camera now and nobody wants to pay for a professional but in all honesty it’s not something I’ve ever felt the need to worry about.
People come to our studio or hire us for our wedding because they want to capture something special and they want it done right. I don’t think that’ll ever change at least until someone with an iPhone and no photographic training is taking better pictures than me then perhaps it’s time to hang up the camera.

What does worry me is the fact that perhaps we do take too many pictures, perhaps the quality of those pictures is actually getting worse and perhaps the important pictures are being missed.

baby on wood table Epsom

If you’re as old as me (and I’m not old) then you’ll remember a time when you had maybe one or two cameras at home. They sat in a draw and only came out for special occasions. My mum had a camera which only took 12 shots before she needed to change the film. That film would last her a whole year.
In those days we ONLY took important pictures and those prints were mounted in albums, put in frames and were treasured.

Today we have a Facebook timeline filled with selfies which isn’t quite the same as a collection of photos in biscuit tin under the bed. Although we are told “if it’s online it’s there forever” I’m dubious about the permanence of social media snapshot.

The problem is I’m not entirely sure about what would be the best way to preserve your really important photos.
My instinct would be to create printed albums but some of these you can have made online very cheaply are just that, cheap.
The traditional photographic print is probably the best solution in terms of creating something that is archival and it certainly does give you options in regards to how you present the prints.

newborn baby Wimbledon studio

Since the birth of my daughter in July I have taken up Scrapbooking. Because I’m a bit busy/lazy I chose a Becky Higgins Project Life® system to create our scrapbook. It’s easy to assemble and doesn’t require any glue!
As you can imagine I took LOTS of pictures in the first couple of weeks after she was born. It took some doing but I managed to edit down a selection of our favourites. I had them printed at our lab and then began the task of scrapbook assembly!
As I write this I’ve already completed the first two weeks and are waiting for my prints from her 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th studio sessions to arrive back from the lab!

My advice would be if you have a truly valuable image do not leave it in it’s digital format. At best digital storage is unreliable, at worst you’ll end up with only memories.

life is tough

See more Memory Gate baby photos at our dedicated site The Baby Photographers. All photos taken by Memory Gate photographer Michael Shilling.

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