My thoughts on “A Letter on My Doorstep: Portraits are more than Paper”

This “letter on my doorstep post “ has been posted in several places over the past few days.  The first time I read it my reaction was “Hellz Yeah!”  Like many professional photographers, I constantly hear, “Your prices are too high”, and a letter such as this feels like a huge confirmation that what I do is worth what I charge.  The post kept surfacing on photographer’s sites and forums, and then yesterday, my sister posted it on my Facebook page and I read it for the second time.  This time however, I thought about the mother who chose, as one of her final acts, to write to a photographer.  I thought about my clients and I imagined getting a letter like this from one of them.  It was – is – truly heartbreaking.  The mother obviously valued the photographer’s work, so why cancel the family session?

My hypothesis is this mother started thinking about the hassle of buying new clothes.  She dreaded getting the kids up and dressed and looking nice for photos.  Then dragging her grumbling husband to the session.  She thought about chasing the kids, trying to get them to sit still.  Then she thought, “I’m paying $500 for this?!?”  So she cancelled, thinking she’d reschedule next year when the kids were a little older and better behaved, and went and had some fun.   I don’t blame her!  What she didn’t anticipate was her diagnosis, and I think what she regretted more than the cancelled session was the carefree moments.

The minutes, hours, days, and weeks before she heard, “You have cancer” were the last she had to dream of her kids graduating, getting married, having babies.  Once she heard those words, there was no way to go back and capture what life was like before.  It was forever etched on her face.  What the mother is really saying when she writes,

“…if I could give back all of those things that I purchased this few weeks after I cancelled my session with you, knowing what I know now, and have that session, well… I would do it in a heartbeat. “

is “I wish I had documented what it was like in those carefree moments before cancer.”  Of course, any of us, if we knew our time was short, would pay any amount for the memories of now.  I know that the point of this mother’s letter is to bring to light the value of professional photographers, and I absolutely think everyone should get the best photographer they can afford. However, photography is a luxury purchase and the fact is not everyone can afford a true professional.

What I would like to ask is that every mom who reads this calls a friend and asks the following question, “Will you come over (tomorrow/Thursday/this weekend) and use my camera to take some pictures of me playing with my kids?”  Ask a friend to give you 30 minutes so that you can capture those carefree moments.  Because you never know when the next freight train is headed for your life. 

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