It’s fair to say that I feel strongly about the value of a family portrait. In 2018, my siblings and I scheduled a family portrait for our family during Christmas week. But my mom fell ill during that time, so we postponed the session. A few months later cancer had consumed her. We were not able to make the family portrait we’d planned. It happens to a lot of families. In fact, this situation reflects what I’ve said about the two times to make a family portrait: now or when it’s too late. Like the cobbler whose children have no shoes, this photographer was not able to put together a family session for my side of the family. It’s not that we didn’t have a photo with all of us in it at various points in my and my children’s lives. We just missed the chance to make it happen when we wanted it to happen.
I’ve often wondered if my feelings about the value of a family portrait are based on the fact that I earn my living from making them. Am I interested in this concept only because my family depends on the income from making portraits? I don’t think so. I believe the root is the idea of legacy.
“Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Files are for sharing; prints are for preservation’? I couldn’t agree more. A portrait is not in a legacy state until it’s printed.”Jeffrey Dachowski
The desire for legacy is something I feel we all share, whether we need it for ourselves or want to help someone else create their own. In some cases, a drive for legacy involves wanting to create a company in which products and the name associated with those products stand the test of time through generations. Think of Westinghouse, Porsche, Jim Beam, Colgate, Remington, and Brooks Brothers, to name a few. Other people focus their efforts toward legacy on their desire for personal contributions that leave a mark on society.
On a smaller scale, most people want to leave a legacy to their own family. They hope that the images they made on their honeymoon will be treasured by their heirs. This is why many people need to have a professional family portrait. A portrait is a record of a life; it lasts longer than a memory and is usually more accurate than one, and it helps to bind the generations of a family.
October has been known as family portrait month for many reasons. In some parts of the country, it’s the first time the temperature is cool enough for kids to withstand a session outdoors. In the Northeast, we enjoy some of the most fantastic fall foliage the world has to offer, plus cool temperatures. Needless to say, it’s a busy month for family portraits around the country.
When was the last time you had your family portrait made? Maybe you have seven siblings. Maybe your family is you and your dog. In any case, having a printed portrait of you and someone you love is a great first step to creating some form of legacy. Have you ever heard the phrase “Files are for sharing; prints are for preservation”? I couldn’t agree more. A portrait is not in a legacy state until it’s printed.
“It can be hard to do, but making your own portrait is important. Making portraits for other families and helping them to create legacy is important.”Jeffrey Dachowski
Twice we have travelled to have our portraits made by some of our favorite image makers. Elizabeth Homan, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, API, came to photograph our family under the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City and, Kira Derryberry, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, made our portraits under the giant oak trees in Savannah, Georgia. Both were fantastic experiences we will never forget. Both created pieces of our legacy.
Some years our schedule doesn’t allow us the time for a professional portrait. In that case, I have to rely on the app on my phone to trigger my camera for a self-portrait. It can be hard to do, but making your own portrait is important. Making portraits for other families and helping them to create legacy is important.
A keynote speaker at Imaging USA earlier this year said, “To know and not do is to not know.”
You owe it to your clients to remind them that October is a great time to make a legacy portrait. You also owe it to your own family to slow down for 60 minutes and either hire a professional or make your own legacy.
Jeffrey Dachowski operates a photography studio in Bedford, New Hampshire, with his wife, Carolle.