What's the difference?

A couple months ago we had our portraits taken. As part of the church directory project, we dressed up and headed to our appointment with the Olan Mills photographer. I am happy to report that it went exceptionally well. It was fast, painless and even the kind saleswoman wasn’t pushy at all. We left ordering very little, but we did order something.

On a sidenote, Joy kept kicking me under the table every time I was about to open my mouth and share that we were photographers.

It was interesting, though, having the tables turned and being on the other side of the entire process. Did I learn anything about sales and photographer/subject rapport? Yes, a little. I was also reminded WHY we do what we do, and even more importantly, I was reminded WHY WE LOVE WHAT WE DO.

Here are the 2 images we ordered.One print was included just for participating in the directory. The other one we purchased. They are scans off of 8x10 prints. And yes, that is illegal. But I’m doing it to illustrate a point, not to make reprints to give to our family for Christmas. We paid for these, and trust me, we won’t be displaying anything that we didn’t pay for.

Image #1 is a lovely family image that does a good job of showing what our family looked like for our appointment.

Image #2 is a lovely child portrait that does a good job of showing what Graycen looked like for our appointment. She is lit well, the colors are nice, and the exposure is right on. At the last minute the photographer grabbed the white pillar and set it on the table and then took the branch of leaves and haphazardly placed it on the pillar. I think he was going for the juxtaposition of the new against the old….a young child against a several-hundred-year-old pillar with a vine growing up around it. But it’s quite obviously a fake—you don’t have to have been there to tell. And what gets me the most is that he was in such a rush that he didn’t even notice the two leaves that appear to be coming out of her head. Fortunately though, they distract from the fact that the image crops along the bottom, right through the middle of her hands. We had been there for about 3 or 4 minutes by the time we got to this shot, he had other people waiting and it was obviously time to move on.

Please understand, I mean no disrespect to our church photographers. They do an outstanding job at what they do…creating nice photographs and publishing church directories.

We, too, are photographers. But how are we different? On a banner in our studio hangs the following quote by one of the most celebrated portrait photographers of the modern era:

“The difference you see in my photographs is that I was not afraid to fall in love with my subjects.”
Annie Leibovitz

Annie's quote reminds us of the difference in being a boutique studio versus a photo factory. Whether we're photographing a subject we just met for the first time or someone we've know for 10 years, our goal, like Annie's, is to naturally fall in love with our subjects. It's not something we have to try to do, it just happens...naturally.

The couples who hire us to photograph their wedding do so because they value individualized attention to detail and our approach to capturing their style and sophistication on one of the most important days of their lives.

And the families who hire us to create portraits, do so because they value unique, stylized, fashionable images that show the love and bond and strength of a family or the style and independence of a child.

Shortly after we got our church directory pictures back we created this image of Graycen.

No, it’s not perfect, and it probably could have been lit better, but which one do you like more? Which one tells a story? In both images she's posing, but that's what she does. This is her being her. And that’s the difference. That's why we do what we do.

Oh, and one more thing…If the church photographer had kept us a little bit longer and somehow Graycen had gotten punch-drunk with laughter, look what else he might have caught! :-)


Alex Rodriguez said...

Love your shots, my church did the same thing. I am not a big fan of the pictures either so I did the next best thing suggested to my wife she give them to my mother in law! lol

Now they are proudly displayed at her home next to the shots I have taken of our girls.



Shyla said...

Our family did Olan Mills pictures EVERY YEAR and when I was in 8th grade I proudly announced that my life goal was to be an "Olan Mills Photographer"

Thank GOD, I was spared and found the light.


MsB said...

In defense of church photographers, I think they may be restricted, especially with such a short time-frame and people waiting in line. You're right, they do a good job; but, why my husband and I haven't had our portraits taken is because I am not a fan of "cookie cutter" portraits. I want our lives and our style best depicted in our natural environment and in our natural "poses." This is why I love to capture the lives of my clients in their own style. The only professional images my husband and I have of each other are from our wedding over five years ago. Okay, I think it's time to update! =)

Denise Skelton said...

I love, love, love what you had to say in this post. I think it's important for our clients and for us as photographers to understand and appreciate why we do what we do. Thanks for your take on this today!

Unknown said...

Great post Garrett. You were even able to use the word juxtaposition which is what I was thinking this whole post was about. Love it.

K.C. said...

I can't wait to have ours done on the 11th for our directory:) I like this post, thanks for sharing it.

Urban Bridesmaid Photography... said...

I had a few pictures taken over here in the UK with Olan Mills because they gave you a free portrait. I always ended taking only the free one because I didn't like most of them. I guess it is because they don't really have more than 5 minutes to spend with you.

I did like the makeover ones I did with them - maybe I should always wear makeup!

But you are right capturing the personality of a person is a completely different kettle of fish...

Davina said...

I LOVE those pictures you took of Graycen!! They are awesome.