The role of portrait photography in the age of the iPhone

SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – We live in a generation of amazing camera phones, social media, and discount stores. Unlike the days when I started, the ability to snap a photo is such that images of anything and everything are more ubiquitous than ever before. You realize that more and more as the age level continues to drop to the point where in a given 3rd grade class you may find that half the students have their iPhone handy, and can snap photos all day long.

I post pictures to Facebook and other venues almost daily, and I love to look at what pictures friends have shared with me. However, it is easy to overlook to the differences between pictures and portraits, and the role that portraits have for you and your family. It is often difficult to explain why our portrait prints are priced higher than the discount stores where anyone can have a pictures printed for under $2. Somewhere along the way, the ‘craft’ and ‘art’ of becoming a photographer was lost by many and equipment availability became the only criteria.

Pictures verses Portraits?

Pictures are something you should take daily. They make you smile or laugh. Anyone is capable of taking a great picture whether they use a camera phone or a fancy camera. The other day, I was working out at Shrewsbury Health and Racquet Club, and as my partner and I were huffing and puffing trying to jump rope (something that is so much harder than I thought) we both looked across the room to see the most tender moment happening before our eyes. Two seniors, maybe 75 years old, were sitting on the weight bench, and as the man was trying to curl this 5 pound dumbbell, his wife put her arm on his back to keep him stable. I know it sounds weird, but it was very, very loving and warm. Thinking quick, perhaps like a photographer, I reached into my pocket, grabbed my iPhone, and snapped a photo of that fleeting moment so I would remember it later. That, my friends, is “taking a picture, but it is not a portrait.

A fine art portrait will capture much more than a fleeting moment. It captures part of you. It is a lasting memory of loved ones. Something you want to look at over and over and becomes more valuable to you over time. It captures the milestones in a lifetime of growth. Quite simply, it provides cherished heirlooms for you, your children and grandchildren.

Creating Art Portraits

So what do you need to create such an art piece? Oddly enough it sometimes isn’t about the cost of your equipment, although clealry that plays a role. More important is passion, dedication, technical knowledge, creativity and experience. When you invest in fine art portraiture, you are not simply purchasing ink on a piece of paper. You could upload your iPhone photo to the web and print it out for under $2. Instead you have something that has value to you and it takes skill on the part of the photographer to create it. You are investing in what it represents. It is this passion for photography that true artists treasure, and the vision that our clients share.

A finished quality portrait is not something that is produced quickly. It takes training and discipline in the arts. Understanding and controlling light and capturing emotion. Craftsmanship and vision to produce a final canvas or framed art piece that you love to view each day.

Do these things have value? I suppose it depends on your viewpoint. I went to Legal Seafoods with my family, which is always one of our favorite places. We had a lovely lobster dinner, which cost $150 for the four of us. It was a great hour and a half, but now it’s over, devoid of any lasting memories. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it all over again, of course, but how do I compare that with spending the same amount on a breathtaking portrait of my family that will be hanging over my mantle twenty years from now, when not my children, but my grandchildren are here for dinner?