The priceless benefits of keeping a tradition of portraiture
Mar 24, 2019 | By: Allison English Watkins
Starting a photographic tradition can be easy, keeping it going over time is where it can become a challenge. But for those who put in the effort to keep their portrait traditions they build a priceless piece of family history. There are many different ways to create a photographic tradition. For example, some people choose to photograph all their children individually at the same age. Many of my clients have been working towards completing their traditions gallery for more than 15 years. Some of the common milestone ages are 1,2, 3, 5, 8, 12 and senior year of high school. As parents we start these traditions with excitement but as time passes and life gets more and more chaotic these photographic traditions get harder and harder to keep. Often times as life gets crazier we need a bigger window to capture the tradition, instead of a first year portrait they finally make it in as 18 months. The truth is that in the grand timeline of life, it won't matter if you missed your milestone age by 6 months or even a year. In the end you will cherish your gallery as a whole. Your heirloom portraits will be what you would rush back into a burning house to save. And most important, according to Marie Kondo, this gallery will bring you joy your whole life and for generations to come.
Twice in the last 2 months I have had the opportunity to finally complete the traditions gallery for 2 families. One family has 6 kids and they decided to capture each one at age of 1, in the studio, on a light background, wearing an antique romper. They have 5 boys and only 1 girl and all 5 boys worn this timeless heirloom romper. With as much energy as one year old boys have, it's amazing the romper survived. But finally, after almost a decade and half, the collections is complete with 6 matching 11x14's on the wall.
The second family decided to capture their kids around age 3 in a garden. This has given us a few challenges because in Utah we don't have year round gardens and this family lives on the other side of the country. In order to keep their tradition we have used indoor green houses to photograph in the winter. Sometimes the 3rd year is more like the 4th year because it has to coincide with their travel schedule. But in the grand scheme of life, a few extra months doesn't really matter. This little boy, in his adorable seersucker suit, is the youngest of 5 sisters. Completing this gallery of 5-16x20 garden portraits has taken 15 years but will be treasured for a life time.
TIPS FOR DESIGNING YOUR OWN TRADITIONS GALLERY
1. Choose an age that emotionally means a lot to you. (There is always something special about those 1 year old faces that get me!)
2. Choose a style that will be classic, not trendy, so you carry it forward and have it always look good. Keep clothing simple and timeless. (Think about how classic Ralph Lauren always looks good. Stay away from clothing that over powers your child.)
3. Choose a location style that can be consistently reproduced. (Studio- light or dark, Location- gardens or structure)
4. Choose a photographer who you enjoy spending time with and will still be in business by the time your gallery is complete. (You will definitely be building a relationship with your photographer )
5. Choose a photographer that will produce archival portraits that ensure longevity to your family gallery. (Don't display your gallery where a ton of UV light can damage it. But if you do, be happy you chose a photographer who is still in business to fix it. Let's be honest, discount printing=discount quality and your gallery is a long term investment.)
As a photographer, these are the moments when we realize that we truly capture family history for generations to come. When portraits are printed and displayed they impact our daily thoughts with the reminded that we belong to a legacy much greater than just this day or this moment. Printing imparts permanence- it shows the world we were here and part of a family. Digital files are plentiful in this day and age but don't have much value until they are printed and displayed. I always tell my clients a digital file is like a half baked birthday cake- all the ingredients are present, but it just isn't finished yet. A cake doesn't become enjoyable to look at or to eat until it is finished. Digital files aren't finished, they are like half baked cakes, you must finish them to enjoy them. In 25 years as a photographer, technology has changed so many times that the only constant is actual printed photographs. I have files created as negatives, files saved on hard disk, CD's, DVD's, many many hard drives and now the cloud and the only way to ensure forever enjoyment is to print.
Congrats to these great families who can now say they completed a major accomplishment by sticking to their personal photographic tradition.