When you give, you get

I always look for ways to learn more, as both a parent and professional.

So when our local parent-teacher association asked for volunteers to help coordinate annual picture day at school last week, as a dad and photographer, I couldn’t resist.

Now for me, when it comes to volunteering, I have witnessed, first hand, the power of instant Karma. It might be the generalist in me, the lover of all things, but I always get a great deal of insight and enjoyment from each experience I contribute to. There’s always something great I get in return, when I give a part of myself to any cause.

Picture day was no exception to the cosmic law of give and take.

And it took alot.

As anyone can imagine, photographing hundreds of kids, from kindergarten to 6th grade – in one day – is a major undertaking. I was one of nearly a dozen volunteers to assist the faculty and a corps of about 12 photographers at four portrait stations in the gymnasium.

The biggest insight, professionally, was how much organization and process is going on, behind the flowery scenes and flash bulb pops.

We’re talking about many, many kids here, all at once and one right after the other. They each have their little envelope of money, with their package selected, and a corresponding card with a bar code.

They start up on stage, in the back of the gym ,where they get their class group photo taken, and then the kids are paraded out onto the floor to get their individual portraits.

This is mass production photography.

It’s up to the photographer to keep track of who’s who in the picture and make sure the envelope matches the person in the photo, so that each family gets the right prints back from the lab, with the right amount of photos enclosed.

These picture-day people have been doing this for a long time – you know, you remember getting it done too – and they have it pretty well figured out by now.

But as someone who is always studying others in my own industry, my head was spinning seeing hundreds of envelopes and little cards and bar codes flying around.

I realized pretty quick why annual, package-style, school photos are often so void of creativity. As Philip, one of the photographers there said, “It’s more important for us to be standardized than fancy.”

(read: The same “granny’s porch” backdrop for everyone, and flat, uninteresting lighting.)

But he’s right. To do that many photos in such a short period of time – and to keep it all creative – would be a tall order.

And he said, even if it was possible to be fancy, the extra time and effort for creativity on such a scale would drive prices way out of most families price range.

It was a super valuable lesson for me.

For a while, I toyed with the idea that I might expand my business model to include annual school photos.

Suffice it to say I no longer toy with that notion.

I’ll stick with smaller groups in better settings, like families in their homes or kids at the park, which on that scale, allows both creativity and affordability.

The hours flew by on the big round clock, hanging on the gym wall. And once the last class was process for pictures, I realized how much I really like kids.

Some folks don’t. I get that.

Others like their own kids, and that’s good they should, but they don’t care for other people’s kids so much.

But I just like ’em.

I am inspired by their curiosity and their willingness to learn. I enjoy their enthusiasm. And I know quite well that kids fib, lie and make up tall tales by the dozens – still – they have a certain honesty about them that most adults have lost or misplaced.

It’s a simplicity. It’s the ability to participate with and see things for what they are, without making strong or analytic assertions about them.

Kids have the ability to be in the present, not planning the future or replaying the past. They don’t worry. They smile for real, from ear to ear.

Present in the moment, they make enjoyment seem effortless.

It’s a goodness and a realness that as we grow into adults – for some reason – we lose.

I lose mine more often than not, but I always get it back in the company of kids.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , ,

2 Responses to “When you give, you get”

  1. Kelly K. Says:

    You should go into teaching when you get out!

  2. Anastasia Devlin Says:

    Luke, I don’t think there’s anyone you don’t work well with. To me, school photos are like the frying pan of photography. Make it here, make it anywhere. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: