How Much Do Senior Pictures Cost?
Yep, this is one of the first questions most people ask, but it shouldn’t dictate your decision. Am I more expensive than other photographers? Yep. Are there other photographers priced higher than me? Yep. Are there photographers who shoot for little or nothing? Yep. None of that matters to me. What matters to me is the relationship I have with my clients, the memories we create together, and making sure you have something tangible to enjoy once your little bird leaves the nest. Can you guess what the next question people often ask?
But Was It Worth It?
Nearly every client that comes through my door spends more than they were planning, but 100% of them are glad they did! You can read reviews and ask around, but today we’re shaking things up and letting the parents take the wheel so you can learn a little about what makes my sessions different.
A Parent’s Perspective
Meet today’s guest blogger, writer by day, and mom 24/7 to 5 kids, Janelle Stahl. Also known as Marissa’s Mom. She’ll take you behind the scenes and tell you why she’s glad she had her daughter’s senior portraits with Magical Memories by Michelle. This is Marissa, one of my wonderful graduates from the Class of 2020!
The One Thing All Moms Do
I’m one of those moms. For my first kiddo, I have a Sears Portrait package dating back all the way to 1994, in 6-month increments—all stored neatly in a plastic tote to protect them from humidity. The second kiddo has her fair share of portraits, too, all stored in the same tote. It gets a little skimpier for the kids after that. The days start to fly by, things get busy, and before you know it those staged studio sessions grow fewer and further between. I also faithfully purchased the school portrait packages, twice per year, per kid. (By now, I’m pretty sure I could have purchased a yacht. Ok, well at least a really nice boat.) Care to guess where those pics are stored? Yup, in the plastic tote.
Why the Tote?
Because those pre-planned packages come with approximately 50 of the same image of your child making the same face, with their head tilted at the same awkward angle. If you’re lucky, the school pics happened BEFORE recess. Otherwise, you’re also the proud owner of a lot of pictures of sweaty, dirt-streaked children with hair that you didn’t even know could defy gravity like that. These pictures are in the tote because there are only so many people you can gift them to on Christmas, Hanukkah, Mother’s Day, and Groundhog Day. (Yes, when you have that many of the same image, you become a very creative gifter.)
And Then Life Happens
The years have a funny way of zipping past us in a blink, and before we know it, that little boy we stuffed into a snap-bottom sailor suit for baby pictures has graduated trade school. The red-head who dressed up as Ariel has gotten married. And the next one is getting ready to graduate. You reminisce and realize that eventually all your studio photographs were replaced by in-the-moment snapshots, often blurry, sometimes unrecognizable, but full of memories. This was me as Graduation 2020 approached and I proudly watched another kiddo prepare to graduate. This would be the first one to leave home to go to college though. She’d be going out of state, flying the coop. Maybe it was an early case of homesickness in reverse. Or a minor mid-life crisis. Or potentially even a feeling of mom-guilt at having realized there was a substantial lack of photographs to document the most recent years. Whatever it was, when the topic of senior pictures came up, I was ALL IN!
Let’s Call the Portrait Studio
Thank goodness for friends, luck, and being in the right place at the right time. You see, I had the good fortune of mentioning this topic in the presence of Michelle—yup, the very Magical Memories one. She told me what she does, how she loves to work with seniors for their portraits, and how she really differentiates every photo session and focuses on building self-esteem and confidence. She laughed at the perplexed look on my face. “Yeah, I missed all that at Sears and Walmart,” I told her. I was intrigued, and I’m not gonna lie. I checked out her biz as soon as I got home. (As well as her google ratings. Trust me; they’re up there!)
The Big Difference
I was convinced Michelle was an awesome photographer, but I knew she wasn’t cheap. I wanted to know the true difference between what we would get if we went with her vs. doing pics ourselves or even going the traditional studio route. Boy, was I schooled!
Here’s what I learned:
You won’t get a ‘45 pics for $19.95’ coupon at Magical Memories, BUT at the (I’m gonna call them Bulk Photo Producers…BPPs)…at the BPPs, you won’t get the experience you get at Magical Memories. I couldn’t even believe everything our daughter’s senior portrait experience included…sure didn’t get all this at a discount BPP:
- Loads of prep-time with Michelle
- Amazing style guide & help with fashion & make-up
- Guidance & referrals for hair & make-up pros
- Access to a stocked-to-the-brim style closet
- A 3+ hour photo shoot at multiple locations (moms, wear comfy shoes!)
- Professional retouching…but only what we wanted
- Out-of-this-world keepsakes
I also learned that my already-amazingly beautiful and talented daughter had another side to her—one that I had never seen before. I probably wouldn’t have gotten to see it if she hadn’t been working with Michelle. Here’s what happened.
I don’t know how to explain it. Michelle has a way with these kids. I’ve now seen her work with Marissa, my daughter, as well as a few other grads, and she puts them at such ease in front of the camera. She develops a rapport with them that, within 15 minutes, makes the camera, the worried mom, the make-up bag, the cell phone, and everything else magically disappear. (See what I did there? Magical?)
When we first stepped into the ditch (it’s beautiful, don’t worry), Marissa was stiff. And she might have been ‘tromping like an elephant,’ although Michelle would only say something like that out of love. BUT…
And it’s a big BUT! Within 10 minutes, those two were laughing like sorority girls at a carwash fundraiser. The props, the stress, the mom, the heat? All of it forgotten!
A complete transformation occurred before my eyes, and I was able to stand back and watch Michelle capture images of my daughter. The beautiful daughter that I see every day. The girl that I’ve seen for 18 years as she’s grown and flourished and learned.
At her senior picture photo shoot, Marissa was looking forward to a limitless future. Graduation, college, competitive diving, working toward a career, so many things! And at that same photo shoot, her mom was filled with dreams for her daughter’s future; but she looked back—just for a minute—to glimpse that little girl with the freckles and curls who carried a very ladylike purse full of pacifiers with her when she was four years old.
I don’t know how Michelle did it, but at Marissa’s senior picture photo shoot, she managed to take Marissa through an entire journey of the things that have contributed to the wonderful person she is today. We had fun. We laughed. We were exhausted. I saw my girl transform in into the carefree, lighthearted spirit she’s always been right in front of the camera. And it happened in such a natural way! Michelle captured the glint in her eye. She captured the way she tilts her head when she’s being goofy. She captured how she loves her dog, Savannah, more than anything else in the world.
I can’t tell you how long Marissa’s photo shoot lasted, but I can tell you it was longer than three hours. And I can tell you that never once did Michelle get tired! We were the ones to call it…she wore us out with her energy, ideas, and enthusiasm for her art. And in the end? Did we end up with a packet of cloned prints of the same image? You can bet we did NOT! We invested in heirloom-quality keepsakes that will last forever! We have an beautiful image box, a wall collage, and plenty of different prints to share with the entire family. We even have a flash drive full of her digital images and slideshow!
To my previous two kiddos: Mom is very, very sorry. I think I have some very fine snapshots of your graduation. And I promise to get fabulous graduation photos for my grandkids! To the next two: Your graduation photos will also be with Magical Memories by Michelle, so they will be equally as fantabulous!
That’s all I can say. As I read Janelle’s words for the first time, I cried. I didn’t even get through the first few sentences and needed to stop. It’s overwhelming to hear such a detailed about one of my photo shoots. Now you’ve heard what a senior portrait session is like, how it all comes together, and why parents choose to hire me for senior portraits. Price is what you pay, value is what you receive.