What I re-learned about photography at a funeral.

I was at a funeral yesterday.  It was a great day though.  A really great day.


Grandpa lived a long life.  And he lived it well.

The celebration and the visit with many memories were good for the soul.  So were the laughs with cousins close at heart yet spread by miles of America the beautiful.  A land grandpa fought for in WWII.  And a land he tilled his entire life as a farmer.

It really was a great day.


Funerals are full of pictures.  They tell the stories.  Yesterday I saw pictures of grandpa’s youth I’ve never seen before.  Pics of his family.  Pics of war.  Pics of his farm.  Pics of him playing as a kid.

Pics of moments and relationships that speak a legacy that words can’t quite articulate.

I’ve never been more certain of the power, and importance, of photography than I am right now as I write these words.

There’s something else though.  Soul and Story.

One picture in particular had me staring…daydreaming for at least a minute.  I took out my iPhone and took a picture…of the picture.

From a technical standpoint, this pic isn’t great.  Harsh mid afternoon lighting.  Eyes in the shadows.  But for some reason, none of that even matters in this photo.  This photo has all that truly matters: soul and story.

Grandpa in his prime.  Old enough to be the wise, quiet man I remember.  Young enough to see the brute strength of his hands and arms.  A hat tipped up to let off some of the steam of sun baked work.  The blue collar of a proud farmer.

And a look.  This look….  Is it a grateful smile that lunch is ready?  Is it the grin of a dad looking at one of his 5 kids snapping the picture?  Or maybe grandma took the pic.  Yep, that’d make a man smile.  🙂

Then it dawned on me.  Soul.  I enjoyed the daydream behind the story of this pic.  But one thing became certain.  This image, to me, speaks not only grandpa’s story.  It speaks his soul.  This is who he was:

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The soul and story of SPS.

Since the very beginning of Shultz Photo School, I’ve made it crystal clear that my drive isn’t about teaching people to become pro photographers.  There have been a LOT of folks come through SPS who have opened studios.  It’s not a bad thing.  All good.

But my heartbeat…what makes me come ALIVE here at SPS…is helping parents fall in love with photography.  If I can help parents enjoy photography, I’ve given them the best hobby on the planet.  And I’ve given their families a true treasure.  They’ll take photos that will speak soul and story.  They’ll capture legacy.

As I say often, you’ll build a treasure.

Why the photo isn’t dead.

Some say that video will overtake pictures.  I think video is powerful, no doubt.  But folks, the picture will forever be here to stay.

Photos require the viewer to participate.  To interpret.  To imagine.  Videos are more about observation.  You watch a video.  But you look at a picture.

Something interesting also happens when you look at an image that triggers a memory.  Pictures usually recall a first-person account of the story, even if you weren’t the one behind the lens that day.  Pictures trigger a first-hand perspective.

And if you weren’t there, you use your imagination.

Case in point:


WOW!  I absolutely love this portrait!

I notice the simple yet perfectly executed lighting ratio. The catchlights at 10 o’clock.  The intimacy of an eye-level perspective.  But what takes the cake?  Soul.  The expression.  The eyes and the smile.

I wonder where he was.  What he was thinking.  What his day looked like.

And that’s what I love about photography.  As great as the motion picture is, the still image will always be alive and well.

Guarding our mission.

We have a lot of plans this year for SPS.  Courses, memberships, blogs, even t-shirts :).  But there’s one thing I’ll keep in the center of every last thing we do here: soul and story.

We teach parents to take better photos, sure.  Style stuff (lighting, composition, editing, etc).  But at the end of the day, soul and story take the cake every single time.  If all we do is get you shooting…trust me…we’ve succeeded in our calling here at SPS.

Keep shooting.

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7 thoughts on “What I re-learned about photography at a funeral.”

  1. Thank you. This is why I love SPS. I have learned to watch my children, to really observe them and to see moments differently. I appreciate the encouragement and validation of the moderators and fellow SPS members. I hope as the business grows you can maintain the sense of community you have now. And I hope you can help me learn how to take better pictures when there isn’t enough natural light available! 🙂

  2. I am so sorry for your loss, Kyle! I love how you point us back to the ultimate purpose of photography — to not only capture memories but also capture the heart and soul of the people we love!

  3. I very rarely comment on posts, but this article that I received in my inbox this morning made me cry. Your passion and belief in what you do is palpable, and I wanted to tell you that. Beautifully written, thank you for sharing.

  4. This was such a well said article! Actually brought tears to my eyes. You hit it right on the nail, yep nailed it. Soul.

    Thanks for all your tips!

    Karen Patterson

  5. Thank you Kyle. You put into words exactly how I feel about photography. I have many old pictures and when I’m feeling bored or am missing someone I’ll look at those pictures and all kinds of thoughts and memories come flooding back. I’m thankful my mom had a passion for taking pictures and I hope someday my family will feel about my pictures the same way.

  6. Thank you for this reminder of why I wanted to go into photography in the first place back when I was a teenager. I ended up switching my major to Physical Therapy which is also very rewarding. I let one of my college professors convince me that my photos were not good enough and I was easily discouraged. We recently have been faced with the possibility that my 91 year old grandmother has bone cancer. I have been saying that I was going to do a video of her telling her memories of her life and now with this news it pushes me to want to do it even more so. But I also want to document her last days (as I have throughout my life) with photos that capture her “soul and story.” She is a strong woman who’s helped so many in different ways and she loves cooking for anyone and everyone who shows up at her house. I also plan on putting a recipe book together with photos and back-stories/memories so that family members can have a copy. Again, thank you for the reminder and the renewed encouragement to do what I had already been thinking about doing.

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