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School Pictures vs Children's Fine Art Portraits

What is the first thing that pops into your head when your little one comes home with that big envelope announcing that it's time for school pictures? I'll be honest, I've been a Mom for 34 years and every year it was the same for me... I would think "a waste of money on horrible pictures". Still, we don't want our kids not to be the only ones not getting pictures so we do it. Year in, year out. I have a file labeled "school pictures" and that is where almost all of them have landed through the years. I know that sound horrible but it's true! I never understood how they could take a picture with the kids hair sticking up or a dirty face. It takes two seconds to fix that.

Still, year in and year out, schools hire the same photographers. You get your envelope home and pay for photos before you ever see them and you don't get to pick the one that you want. At the same time you are sending your little ones to school with money and hoping that it gets there. You wait for weeks and then you get your photos... crazy printed backgrounds or bright colors with harsh lighting. Most often taken at an angle that makes our child's head seem very large in proportion with their bodies. Yikes!

When I started my business, I was taking portraits of children in my small studio and these are samples of what I was doing while I was building my portfolio. I had no thought of school portraits at the time.

One night I thought "I would love to have school pictures like this!"

One day I looked at my photos and thought "I wish school pictures could look like this." I pride myself in capturing real personalities. I'm not a "look at the camera and smile" kind of photographer. Yes, they look at the camera and smile but it's in conversation and my goal is REAL smiles! That became my mission!

I put my plan together, step by step process, paperwork, marketing... the whole package. I took my proposal to our school, where I know so many of the kids and staff... a school that I am involved with on a day to day basis. My meeting went well and I was pretty sure that we were all set and then I said the dreaded words... "All I need is a small space near a window". He stopped walking down the hallway with me and said "but he sets up in the auditorium." I explain, I am a natural light photographer. It's softer and more flattering. I know that the process will be different but the results will be worth it. In the end (after weeks of waiting) I was told that they just did not want to make changes.

I get it! Change can be challenging but change can be a good thing! I currently photograph small schools, preschools, etc. I am keeping the schools small because I am able to turn the photos around very quickly... the last one was shot on a Wednesday and images delivered on Saturday for parents to choose the image of their choice. Sticking with small schools has allowed me to continue the other side of my business which is families, newborns and other types of photography.

What would you say to this process? I come in and take photos on a designated day, spend a few minutes with each child and take their photos next to a window with a simple, neutral background for a timeless image. Each child has 5 poses in color and black and white options delivered to them via email in a password protected gallery. They can chose their pose for one of four packages ranging from $16 (for two 5x7's, four wallets and a class photo) to $72 (for a 16x20 canvas, one 8x10, two 5x7's , eight wallets and a class photo). Parents also have the option to purchase the entire package of all ten digital images for $50 with a print release). The orders are placed right in the gallery so no bulky envelopes or money for kids to carry. Better photos, better prices and better turn around than the typical school portraits.

These are a few of the poses that this mama had to choose from. How do you choose?? These are my idea of what a school portrait should be and although some schools are not ready for change, I am committed to my mission so I will be offering Children's Fine Art Portrait Mini Sessions and offering the same packages that I offer my schools. I will run these Fine Art Portrait Sessions in October, January and April each year with no sitting fees and will take place in my home studio.

The school photographer will take your child's photo for the yearbook but they do not have to be the portrait that you hang on the wall and share with your families. The choice is now yours.

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