How Much Is a Memory Worth?


I spend a tremendous amount of time volunteering to photograph charitable events for causes I support. I offer the photos to the beneficiaries to promote their missions, and I make the images available to the participants for what I think is a reasonable fee. A participant in a recent event questioned the prices, and I gave this explanation:

I heard that you commented on the price of photos from the ride. I understand how you feel because I felt the same way before I became a professional photographer. While I volunteer to spend the weekend taking the photos, there are actually costs involved in making them available to the participants.

First, my equipment needs cleaning and servicing after a weekend of abuse in all kinds of weather and being thrashed about in and out of cars and along dusty or muddy roads.

Second, there are a lot of costs involved in making the photos available. There’s the cost of hosting the web galleries, the cost of the Internet connection to upload large amounts of data, the commission paid on each photo for the back-end e-commerce processing, and finally the credit card fees.

Third, while you saw me working only during the ride, there are many hours of work afterwards to edit the photos (select the best ones from thousands), process them (make color corrections and other adjustments individually to all the photos), prepare them for upload to the web galleries, and actually upload them, which slows down my Internet connection to the point where I can’t use it for other work. To get the galleries online as quickly as possible for everyone to enjoy, I did this during business hours when I could have been focusing on other billable work.

Finally, these photographs which preserve the memory of your weekend are far better than anyone’s casual snapshots. I’m a professional, and I’ve made a tremendous investment in education and equipment so that I can offer photos of such high quality. I can’t continue that commitment unless I sell a few photos. While I volunteer to make the photos, a few of which the Pennsylvania Environmental Council uses to promote the ride, anything I can recover helps me to continue to volunteer for the ride, year after year.

I like to put it in perspective by thinking that the value of a great photo of a memorable event that you’ll treasure for years to come is worth the price of about three Starbucks grande skinny vanilla no-foam lattes, a treat I often give up to save for other treats for myself.


One thought on “How Much Is a Memory Worth?

  1. This is a thoughtful, lucid and humorous clarification Alan. I appreciate the effort and time that goes into your lovely photos. I too would strongly prefer my latte to be free but don’t actually expect that.

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