This weekend at the Money Buffalo household got me thinking of a tradition that has spanned many generations and if it is still relevant today. The newborn baby photo shoot. Yes, pictures of cute babies taken by a professional photographer. In the age of smartphones where you can take a picture & instantly send it to anybody with a cellphone in an instant, are family pictures going the way of the Dodo bird?
I must say that we finally had formal pictures completed of our baby this past weekend. She is four months old, and not quite a newborn anymore. I remember seeing infant pictures of me taken every couple months, taken at a professional studio like Sears. This was in the day of 1 hour photo stores & 35mm film & 110 film cameras that maybe took 30 pictures per roll and you needed to develop the pictures before you could see what you took. If you wanted a higher resolution photograph, you needed to see a professional.
How many of the 1000s of digital pictures have you erased to make space for more pictures. If you had to replace your camera, er… smartphone, were you able to save any of those digital pictures before replacing the device?
So we haven't exactly followed in our parents footsteps when it comes to baby pictures. I confess, we are guilty of taking pictures of our baby with our iPhone or camera & having the pictures printed or just texting them. Why?
From a household budget perspective, technology has made photographs taken with your everyday personal device cheap & good-looking. Look at the advertising campaign of the iPhone 6. It was all these pictures taken from around the world from a cellphone! The picture of the Eiffel Tower looked better than when I saw it in person. This means the money your parents put aside for pictures of your & your siblings, you can use for something else, like buying ice cream or putting towards their education.
Despite the leaps & bounds photography tech has made in the 29 years I have lived thus far, a professional photographer still offers several advantages such as backdrops, controlled lighting, and editing options.
Why We Chose To Have a Formal Shoot?
This is a finance blog after all. You can spend anywhere from $40 to $200 for a photo shoot depending on who you use & what options you choose. Obviously the $40 option will be locations like WalMart, JC Penney, Sears, etc. We had a family friend, with a photography background, take our pictures. We waited until the fall, when the leaves turn color, as we only budgeted for one photoshoot of baby & some family pictures of us three.
We could have had a family member take some pictures of us at the same local state park, as we own one of those “fancy” Canon Rebel digital cameras. But we lack the expertise when it comes to lighting, positioning, and editing. As this is our planned Christmas gift to the grandparents & great grandparents this year, we wanted something that looked classy.
To a certain extent, we did the formal photographs as it is a tradition. Looking back 20 years from now, we will be glad to have these pieces of nostalgia. It is a memory we will forever cherish.
If we took these pictures with our own camera, would they have the same emotional value to us?
Would we even remember we took them & deleted them by accident because our memory card was full?
Why We Haven't Done Formal Newborn Baby Photo Shoots More Often?
As I mentioned earlier, we are on a budget. For your average picture of our baby that we send to our relatives, we are happy with the quality that the smartphone takes. Camera phones have progressed a lot in a few short years. It is hard to compete with the price of free.
One rather unusual thing we do, is my wife texts a daily pic of our little one to my parents (who live 7 hours away). I say unusual because how many grandparents see a new picture of their grandchild every day of the week?
We still upload our pictures to the internet & have them printed at websites like Shutterfly & Snapfish. We then mail a couple pictures to my grandparents (baby's great grandparents) so they can see how much she has grown. We try to do this monthly. It helps us stay in contact with our relatives, plus its a cost benefit of taking our own pictures. 🙂
Yes, my parents would have their film rolls developed and would mail pictures to my grandparents at regular intervals. The main difference today, is we can upload and print on demand. And if you really wanted to develop a roll but didn't have quality pictures to take & didn't want to wait until the next big outing to finish your film roll, you don't need to take a bunch of “burner pics” just to finish the roll.
Are Newborn Photo Shoots An Outdated Tradition?
I don't think newborn photo shoots will ever become extinct. There will always be a demand, but it will not return to what it was. Households spend money on different items now. Just 10 years, phones were basically only used for voice & limited texted. Today cell phones can be used to pay bills, watch TV, monitor your blood pressure, & take hi-resolution pictures/video to record every second of your life.
I feel there are several negative consequences to the digital camera revolution:
- Households spend a lot of money on a monthly smartphone plan (at least $40/month per line)
- A “free” built-in feature is a nice camera
- Even five years ago, cameraphones did not take great full-size pictures
- Why pay somebody when you can get good looking pictures yourself at no additional cost?
- A “free” built-in feature is a nice camera
- Do People Still Value Studio Quality?
- Photo Technology Brings Instant Gratification
- Do people want instant pictures of reduced quality immediately or wait for a developed picture
- You can instantly send a free picture of your baby via text or e-mail
- You need to wait for studio pictures to be developed & need to be scheduled
- Studio quality is desirable if you want a specific background or want to show off your precious bundle
- Free & Unlimited Digital Pictures Reduces The Incentive To Use A Professional
- You will still want a professional to do your wedding, senior graduation pictures, and the annual yearbook photo
- Now that every smartphone owner has an awesome camera, professionals are no longer the only people that own decent cameras to take a formal family portrait or all those monthly baby pics
How Can I Save Money With A Professional?
For national photo studios, you can save money by looking for coupons in parenting magazine or the internet. Click here for JcPenney studio coupons (they acquired the Olan Mills name).
It is a little harder with non-chain studios. You might be able to negotiate prices based on your budget or competing prices in your area, but photography is one of those niches where you pay somebody for their skill & the occasion.
What I Think
My thoughts should be pretty clear on this by now. I value professional photographers & we used one for our wedding and for the 4 month picture of our baby (this was also our family picture for this year's Christmas card & the source of this post). You can use one just to do basic shoots as we did.
In our great grandparents age, the only pictures the family owned was the ones taken by a photographer because cameras were expensive, big, and rare. The only pictures I saw of them when they were young, were the occasional formal baby/toddler studio shoot, their wedding photo, & a photograph for significant wedding anniversaries.
Now you can capture an event on your smartphone & it almost seems as if you can touch the person through the screen. We play a lot for these phones & cameras that have this capability, so it makes sense to develop what pictures you can by yourself.
My fear is that as time & technology progresses, are people disregarding quality and are pictures becoming part of the “throw away society?”
I think every family should budget about $100 for photos of a newborn or at least print some pictures to keep in a memory box for when your digital device goes dark.
Thanks For Reading My Thoughts On This Topic.
What do you do when it come to family photographs? Do you think the newborn photo shoot is an outdated tradition?
Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.