Senior Picture Controversy

One-Sided Spin on Rite of Passage

When I saw this Huffington Post story posted on Facebook this morning by Chris Parente, shared from the Colorado Everyday Show page, it struck a nerve … a BIG nerve. I have my topic for today’s blog post! Writing comes easily when it’s something you’re passionate about, and I am passionate about the value of photographs!

Colorado Everyday Show Facebook Post on Senior Pictures

This sparked comments that were mostly bent in the same direction. Some said they took their own photos in their backyards. Some had friends, aunts, and even a high school photography student take their senior photos (note: no one shared copies of these photos). Someone said they’d rather go to Sears. I guess they didn’t hear that Sears closed their portrait studios. 😉 One person said that for $1200, you can buy an amazing DSLR [camera] and take your own photos. 😀 OK! Because that’s all it takes to make a great photo. Pffft! Here was my immediate comment when I saw this post:

But it’s OK to spend hundreds on an iPhone (probably more than twice with newer models constantly coming out), thousands on Apple computers, who knows how much on designer clothes and shoes? Future generations will consider photographs priceless treasures. Sure, snapshots will also be treasured, but splurging a LITTLE on professional portraits (be they senior photos, family portraits, or just because) not only gives you amazing quality but, if you find the right photographer, you also have a great time in the process! I can tell which senior photos in a yearbook were done by professionals and which were DIY. Buying a “fancy” DSLR camera is not all it takes to get fabulous photos. If you don’t learn and fully understand all that camera can do and just shoot in “P” mode, you’re not going to get photos that look any better than a pocket digital camera. True story! I think the price is overboard in this particular story. There are many photographers who do NOT charge that much (myself included). I believe everyone deserves great photos without breaking the bank. What I don’t understand are the professionals who make everyone look plastic. Now there’s a whole other story. 😀

Then I tuned in and watched the segment on the show and came back to post this additional comment:

I just watched the segment and think you guys spun a pretty one-sided twist. But I guess that’s just how media works. What can ya do? Senior portraits, in many cases, are more for the parents than the teenager. So it’s not about spoiling a child in most cases. It’s one more thing to make senior year special. It doesn’t have to be that expensive. You read Maritza’s comment in favor of hiring a professional photographer but then added a comment about looking back on it and hating it years from now. If it was done professionally, chances are pretty high you are not going to be embarrassed by the photos years from now. It’s the backyard snapshots done in harsh high noon sunlight that you’ll be embarrassed about.

The $1200 mentioned by the Huffington Post is apparently a national average. I can see that. There are very wealthy parts of the country that probably spend twice that on senior portraits, and there are areas who spend a fraction of that. The average amount spent on senior photos around us is probably closer to $300 or so.

Special photos for senior year is not a new concept. I went to a studio to have mine done nearly 30 years ago. I have no idea how much they cost, but I’m sure they were more than having the photographer hired by the school do them. It wasn’t a vanity issue then at all. That’s exactly the spin they were trying to put on it in this report. Vanity and being spoiled. There is a certain amount of vanity these days with all the social media networks. However, these photos are used in graduation announcements as well, and they represent a time in a teen’s life where they are transitioning from childhood to adulthood. Some are leaving the nest to go off to universities. Some are staying home to attend local universities, colleges, and trade/technical schools. Some are entering full-time jobs immediately. A few are getting married and moving out (or not moving out).

Senior portraits commemorate a rite of passage. That’s a priceless thing!

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Shameless plug time! I’d be remiss if I didn’t promote my own photography here. I offer senior portrait photography as well as family and individual portraits and smaller weddings. See my website and my photography blog!

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