[Story] The True Value Of A Photograph

Being in the industry, I know how valuable a photograph is and what it means. It contains memories that can be cherished for years and passed on to generations. We look back at these memories and they are priceless. Often, we wonder if the general public truly feel the same way, especially considering how little some people are willing to pay for quality work. Here's a story that caught my attention about the value of a photograph that really touched me.

Photographer, Jeanine Thurston, received a letter at her doorstep on July 2nd of 2011.

Jeanine writes:

 “There will be no portrait photos in this post. This letter wasn’t mailed – it was at my doorstep when I got home a couple months ago. I read it, I cried, and read it again – probably a hundred times by now. It wasn’t easy to read – and honestly, as much as it validates what I do for a living – I wasn’t sure I was going to share it either – Until today, when a past client said that my print prices were too expensive. If you choose to read through the letter, you will know why I’ve finally chosen to share it.”


 The Letter

Jeanine -

Today I am writing for a couple of reasons. I have some quiet time at the moment and need to get a couple of things off my mind. I will leave this for my husband to deliver to you when he is ready.

You photographed my wedding, you photographed my first pregnancy and my first baby. I contacted you awhile back to photograph my 2nd child and family. After getting prices and realizing I would want all of the pictures as we love your work – I decided against spending $500+ – which is what I normally spend for portraits and prints with you.. Please know it is not because I don’t value your amazing eye, or how much we love the experience.

That week that I decided to NOT do a session with you, this is how I spent some money.

On Sunday I called and cancelled our session. Monday I went out and got my hair cut ($39+tip), and colored ($65), Thursday I had my nails done ($24), my family went out to dinner at a somewhat expensive restaurant for no particular reason costing us $79 + tip. This was just 4 days since canceling our session, already totaling over $200 for un necessary things. My nails only lasted about 2 weeks, my hair is gone, and seven weeks passed when I got the phone call from our doctor. It was not something I expected and the cancer has spread very quickly. I will be leaving my husband, my 6 year old girl and my now 2 year old – not by choice. It is very hard for me to talk about it which is why I need to write you.

I watch your Facebook page and your posts about the value of a photo and if I could give back all of those things that I purchased this few weeks after I cancelled my session with you, knowing what I know now, and have that session, well… I would do it in a heartbeat.

Now my time is done and there are no more chances for me. The next time someone cancels a session – my wish is that you forward this letter to them. Time is fragile, it is gone before you know you had it. If you charged $200 for one print it wouldn’t be enough for what it is actually worth. I cringe to think that my priorities were a manicure over a memory to pass onto my babies and husband.

My love and thanks for what you have given us from past photos. I am so sorry that I did not see it as more than paper until now.

Karen L.

[Via Source]

You can also read an updated post by Jeanine here.


Pratik Naik

As a new member of the team, I'd love to hear from you! You can reach me via my facebook or my website.   




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Daniel Lisbona's picture


sad....but true at the same time. i had some clients ask for prices and then never hear from them again. It seems to me that since everyone has a camera, pictures have lost their in-the-moment value....it isn't until some time passes by and you look at your old phone pictures and really start appreciating the ones that a professional took.   

Garrett Graham's picture

It does seem a bit extreme to me to post the letter...especially if it is real )-: I think it might have been more tasteful to paraphrase it.

Harun Butt's picture

edit; Nevermind. Reread it and saw her "wish."

As true as parts of this post are, it seems to be kind of a desperate ploy to justify the photographers prices. I am sure the letter is real and that I dont think anyone is tacky enough to make this story up. It should have been kept private. Do we really need to beat the price justification dead horse any more?

Ron Sanchez's picture

the reason why choose photography is because how a photo can capture an image and preserve it for ever, and every time you look at that picture you go back to that moment, this story has made me realize that even more. I pray that family is ok. 

My God... deeply touching!

kymber palidwar's picture


Norm Cooper's picture

I photographed a beautiful young woman, daughter of an old friend, several times over the last few years... her Mom and I were trying to get a pre-Holiday shoot of the family but it never worked out...  then the girl was tragically killed in a freak accident two days before Christmas. I kick myself for not trying harder to set up the shoot, which would have been a cherished memory for the family.

For the Memorial, her mom sent me a 22kb cellphone image that was her favorite, taken a few days before the tragedy, for me to up-size and print.. not the best shot, but one that was very important due to the timing of the image as well as the emotional attachment to it - the moment - forever captured - forever remembered... the power of that image...

she asked that I create a slideshow for the memorial, her image is the last frame

that is what I want to work to capture from now on - moments of a lifetime, for a lifetime

Dan Cruz's picture

a moment of silence and reflection after reading this...

The Dark Room Co.'s picture


this inspired me to blog about it:  http://www.thedarkroomblog.com/2012/01/05/yolo-photographic/

Hans Spiegelaar's picture

hmmm. don't quite understand *why* this was posted. if the original poster was really that moved, she should have offered a free shoot. if she didn't do that, this post is a useless sentimental ploy.

also, let's not pat ourselves on the back too quickly. (many people wrote something along th lines of "so glad I'm a photographer, that I can give this to people").

first of all, the photographer didn't "give" her client the last shoot, only a bad feeling about spending the money otherwise.

second:  non-posed, informal images can easliy carry the same, or oftentimes more emotional value as any professional shoot

maryanne gobble's picture

I wrote a blog response to why I think this lacks class to post.  http://maryannegobble.blogspot.com/2012/01/letter-to-my-doorstep-what-is...

Wao!...Pratik. What a touching story.  I can see why you have posted this. As creative people we often forget how truly we can change people's life with our work. We sometimes worry too much in how much we can make out of gig.  Thanks for sharing. Is there a follow up on this?. How can I help?

Pratik Naik's picture

Hi Fernando, 

 There's definitely a follow up, it's in the link at the bottom of the post where she replied to the responses she's been getting because of the letter. I hope this helps!

Scott Davis's picture

Very moving.

Brian McCarthy's picture

Jeanine, if you're reading this, thank your sharing this.  It was an act of bravery on her part and on yours. 

Anonymous's picture

The person who wrote the letter did say she wanted the message to be passed on, so I don't really see it as being tasteless or whatever. But the message is true - people don't always realise how important photos can be until it's too late, or they are lost - you can can ask nearly any mother what they would grab (apart from the kids, of course) if their house is on fire and they are likely to say the photos.

And sure, the photographer could have given a free shoot - but would the woman want her family to have photos of her without nails and hair and generally on her last legs? I wouldn't.

I look at some of the replies and think that some people are really quite jaded.

John Godwin's picture

I can't help but feel there's a lack of class in posting this. Not least because it imposes the notion that people who cancel shoots are doing so in a frivolous manner. What if someone cancels on me because they found out that day that they have cancer?

Also, do we know if this woman offered the lady a free shoot? Because that's what needs to have happened if this letter is to be taken for what it is.