Why do coffee shops exist? Coffee is easy enough to make at home, right? It’s definitely cheaper. Has the same overall effect. So why do people, including myself, frequent coffee shops of all shapes and sizes. And why do these shops exist on just about every city corner, nook and cranny, with personalities as unique in style as the baristas who tend to your artistic brews. The same principles that apply to the novelty of coffee shops pertain to most businesses, including custom photography. Many people argue that in a generation when everyone is a photographer, spending money for a “professional” is overrated and unnecessary. Funny enough, that's an attitude that purveyed around the idea of Starbucks when its cultural influence was first inaugurated. 

Over three posts, I'll dig into the details of how I believe two seemingly opposite industries actually have an uncanny amount in common. I published this short mini-series a few years ago when I first started, but thought it could stand a revitalization. For this new area, readership, and in honor of the launch of this new sparkly website (whoo!), I’m bringing back this mini blog series because of the value and perspective I think it offers to all of you! 

Part 1. Luxury

I can brew coffee. But I can’t put that cute little leaf design at the top of a cappuccino. I can’t make a cappuccino at all. Mmmm cappuccino…. Does it change the taste? Not really. But it does make me smile. It feels personalized, a touch of welcome at the start of a day or a midweek treat. The cute packaging and customized blends end up on hundreds of instagram, pinterest, and twitter pics daily. Seriously, google “coffee”  and I guarantee you’ll be stretched to find some generic financial firm coffee cup sitting on someone’s counter filled with flat, immobile Folgers. It’s not as pretty as a locally brewed vanilla latte.  

Does pretty matter? Not always. But sometimes. And sometimes you just want some freaking caffeine now. I get that. But sometimes pretty on the outside means pretty on the inside. And I get that, too.

When it comes to photographing milestones of the most precious people in your lives- your husband, your newborn baby, your senior graduating from high school – pretty does matter. It matters for the outside and the inside. You can hire someone to take a picture and you’ll get a picture...eventually…that you may or may not do anything with. Or you can hire someone who gets to know you, works to capture your personality in a place that holds significance, produces flattering images that pop, helps you design how to best showcase them in a way that reflects the style of your home, prints them with the quality and color in which they were captured, and delivers them to your door with a smile.

People value different things in life, but usually they value those things because of the way they make them feel. Some women couldn’t care less about the upkeep of their fingernails, while others make a specific point to schedule mani/pedis every month. Some fall in between…(“my nail polish has been cracking for days but I just can’t be bothered to take the time to re-do them…” –ladies and gentlemen, my confession of the day.)

Some men (cough, my husband) would buy an enormous high definition TV and full surround sound as opposed to bed to sleep on, (those were his bachelor days, to be fair.) While we all value different things, we all value something because of how it enhances a certain aspect our lives or the lives of others around us.

Give and Take

There’s always give and take when it comes to how we spend our money, but some luxuries are worth a little extra time/money/research/ etc. depending on their purpose and how they fit into one’s particular lifestyle. And luxuries also tend to be synonymous with occasional, as in no you don’t get a venti caramel macchiato every morning before work. But maybe the first Monday of every month, that sucker sets you off on a happy foot and the other days you brew from home. And to that I say,

Go on with your bad self.

Your “luxury” could be anything from a Friday night greasy delivery pizza with a movie on the couch to a specialty makeup for which you’re willing to splurge because of how fantastic it makes your skin look and feel. It may be a custom photographer because you want an eye popping canvas of your family together to be the focal point of a warm and inviting home. Or you actually want to be in the pictures and looking like yourself instead of behind the camera or in your playground clothes with dirt on your knees. Or you’d love if someone could capture how sweet your boy’s smile really is right now without that awkward forced smile he seems to insist upon these days. See what I’m getting at here?

Custom photography isn’t common, hence the name. There are definitely occasions when that candid snapshot is the perfect way to capture a moment. It’s true that everyone really does have a camera these days so having “professional photos” is about more than the photos themselves. If you value the captured moment of the most genuine expression of the most valuable people in your life, you want to remember the authentic details of a season in life and you want to have fun doing it, then a custom session may just be a luxury that’s worth a little extra to you. That experience, feeling of pride, and smile-inducing display isn’t going to come from you’re iPhone.

If you have any expendable income at all, everything for which that portion is used could be considered luxury and used for the enhancement of life and happiness for you, your family, or others. Interestingly, few luxuries allow for that enhancement for you, your family, and others, but custom photography does.

Custom portrait photography continues to exist because some people find a piece of happiness from looking at beautiful artwork around their home of their loved ones. And yes, quality is part of luxury. Luxuries can be pleasing, inviting, career boosting, vanity-driven, extravagant, frivolous, or any combination of the above. Is it worth more than 2 months of mani/pedis? One date night at a nice restaurant? The newest phone upgrade? ½ your wedding budget? And extra day of vacation? It’s up to you to decide what quality of work for your portrait experience is worth in the scheme of things, and everyone will have a different opinion. Which is fine.

Bottom Line

I like to get coffee at a local coffee shop every now and then because I like the extra little treat of something tasty I can’t make myself. But also, I love the ambiance of that inviting environment a coffee shop tends to have that breeds diversity, art, and conversation. To me, that feeling is worth a couple extra bucks because I not only get a boost of caffeine but a boost of inspiration. I challenge you to take inventory of what is really important to you, what makes you and others close to you feel good, and question whether or not you are spending your “luxury money” on things/experiences that actually demonstrate what you value. 

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