Community Building, Media, Personal Development

Portrait Photography: Stroking The Ego or Immortalising Memories?

5.00 avg. rating (99% score) - 1 vote

At a recent playdate, the conversation turned towards portrait photography.  Many of the babies at the playdate were turning one within the next few months, and their mothers were eager to capture this milestone by booking a family portrait session with their preferred local photographer.

Portrait Photography: Immortalising the Evolution of a Family

Who doesn’t love a good portrait? Especially when it comes to a family—and especially when the family includes at least one baby or toddler. I mean, check out this shot, this one, this one, and this one, all Instagram shots from fellow mom bloggers.  And don’t get me started on the time I spend on the websites of two of my favorite photographers, Toni and Negeen.

Portrait photography can immortalise the most beautiful things about a person, a family, or any group of people who are being photographed.  These portraits can serve as a reminder of the polished, happy, well-dressed people we can be, which is a great thing to have on those days.

You know the ones I’m talking about.

My husband and I had hired a photographer for our engagement. our wedding, and to celebrate our little one’s first birthday.  To this day, looking at the selected few we printed, framed, and hung on our home’s walls brings us great joy, even on the most difficult days.  These pictures have become, in a way, touchstones.  They remind us of the bright, beautiful days, of the potential we have, of the dreams and hopes and goals we had.  They have not only come to reflect our evolution from couple to wedded couple to parents, but also remind us constantly of the reasons why we decided to embark on this path that is marriage and parenting together.

Portrait Photography: A Way of Stroking the Ego

However, I don’t think that even the best of intentions are immune from the corrosive effects of the ego.  I got some amazing insight into this from one of the mothers at the abovementioned playdate.  At some point during the conversation, she started listing the things she had to do before their session, which had been booked eight months ahead of time.  She mentioned a stylist (to help the family pick out coordinated outfits), a hair and makeup person, and a massage before the photoshoot to make sure everyone was relaxed and happy.

Another mother turned around and said: “Now I know not to feel jealous when I see your perfect pictures on Instagram!”  And while it sounded like she was just joking, it was clear, to those of us who know her, that there was an edge of bitter truth to her words.

Organised Mom froze; she looked at her friend, then softly said: “I would never, ever post anything with the intention of making anyone jealous.

Producing and Consuming Media with the Right Mindset

There is a line between taking pictures to immortalise the evolution of your family versus showing the family off.  While some let their creativity run wild and share the fruits of their efforts on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram—the same way that I, a writer and overthinker, share the fruits of my creative efforts here—some others pursue taking creative pictures because they want to prove that they are better than others.  And while wanting to share joy and beauty is commendable, purposefully stroking envy isn’t.

The ego comes into play both when producing media and when consuming media.

One can take the time to create an artistically beautiful portrait—polished looking, matching/coordinated outfits, happy countenances, beautiful backgrounds—for the sake of beauty itself, or to prove that they are better than others.  And one can take the time to look at artistically beautiful portraits so enjoy their beauty…  Or to prove to ourselves that we are better or worse—both of which are reflections of the ego—than those whose pictures we are checking out.

And it’s unfortunately not that hard to go from admiring the beauty of a picture to comparing ourselves to its subjects.

Taking Yourself Into Account Each Day

How do we not fall into the trap, then, so that we can always gain that boost of energy that comes with seeing beauty?  I, for one, want to make sure to never be that poster or that consumer; I just want to post pictures that will make people smile, laugh, sigh with happiness, or feel inspired, and I just want to smile, laugh, sigh with happiness, or feel inspired by the post of others.

We should ask ourselves why we are posting; are we doing it to share joy, or to stroke envy?  And we should also ask ourselves why we are looking through pictures; are we doing it, again, to share joy, or to stroke our own envy?  Intention seems key, here, as well as ownership.  But while we have to take ownership of our actions and reactions, we can’t take ownership of everyone else’s actions and, especially, their reactions to our pictures.

Final Thoughts

Portraits, both those taken by professional and amateur professional, are available to everyone with a smartphone now, and can be shared with anyone who has access to social media.  We have to learn to be responsible for what we produce, share, and consume.  We have to keep ourselves in check to make sure that we are producing, sharing, and consuming media for the right reasons.  It’s difficult to do this, but really important in order to create a healthy online world.

How do you deal with someone who posts pictures in order to make others feel envious of them? How do you contribute to making our online world a better place?

Looking for a photographer in Montreal or New York City? Check out Toni—she’s downright amazing!

5.00 avg. rating (99% score) - 1 vote

10 thoughts on “Portrait Photography: Stroking The Ego or Immortalising Memories?

  1. I think the most important thing is to be genuine to yourself about why you want portraits that have true meaning for you and those close to you. There will always be those with more than you and those who are worse off. So long as you remain true to your loved ones and are genuine in wanting to preserve moments in time and special memories…you need not worry about those who would feel envious. We all have to follow our own path with our loved ones to achieve happiness. Just my thoughts on this good and thought-provoking post.

    1. I love this! Yes, authenticity is so important! But — lol — what if you are the kind of person who does think about others? 😛

  2. That is an interesting post, I never thought about online pictures. I usually post pics of my kids and nature. I really like your final thought about making a healthy online environment. I wish I could say that I am confident to let my kids watch every pic online, now I realize why. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I know what you mean — I myself sometimes am hesitant to click on something or read something (I usually avoid comment sections, for example.) I do have hope, though–there are so many amazing blogs, for example, with straight-up awesome comment and next to no negativity!

    1. Woah, good point, Tanya–this is, in a way, a lesson in mindfulness. Funny, until I read your comment, I didn’t realise this. Thank you for pointing it out!

    1. Shhhhh we don’t use the “A” word (aged) here! 😉 Just kidding. I imagine you might also enjoy seeing how the family grows, through marriages and kids?

    1. Ah, the selfie craze. There is such a thing, I feel, as healthy selfie-taking behaviour. But when people seem more concerned about selfies to post online than enjoying the moment, then I get uncomfortable…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *