Tips from local pros will ensure you log your growing family’s very best moments.
As any parent can tell you, children grow up way too fast. The desire to hold on to our children at each stage of life is compelling. Of course, no one can stop time, and besides, we all want to see our offspring develop and mature and face life’s challenges. It’s just that it’s nice to hold on to a souvenir of those younger years.
Capturing a moment in time in a child’s life can be one of the most important things any parent can do. Almost all parents are novice shutterbugs, photographing various milestones in their children’s lives. Every birthday, school function and family vacation is carefully documented for posterity.
But for some parents, amateur photos aren’t enough. Professional portraits are an invaluable way to document a moment in a child’s or family’s life. Treasured for generations, they can serve as a way to remember life’s precious moments.
Portrait photography or artistry can be costly and should be viewed as an investment in a family’s legacy. Before signing up for a photo session, however, there are a number of things to consider. Selecting a Photographer Lorraine Johnson of Franklin’s Artistic Images by Ernie K, has a number of tips for helping people choose the photographer that’s right for them. Lorraine and her husband Ernie have been in the portrait photography business for more than 30 years and have won various awards and certification as Master Photographers.
Johnson suggests first looking at samples of each photographer’s work before making a final selection.
“Look at their work and see if they are consistent, but that every child doesn’t look the same. A good photographer should be able to do the same thing technically for every subject but have enough creativity to be able to make each session show your child’s personality.”
Ashley Segroves, owner of Ashley Segroves Portraits, agrees. She notes that it’s important to key in on the personal philosophy and mission of the photographer before settling on a pro.
Much of the work Segroves does is in the studio. She tries to photograph the spirit and emotion of her child subjects and frequently photographs them jumping around the studio exuberantly.
“I really love what I am doing,” she says. “My goal is to get a photograph that captures mood, emotion and spirit. I really want to make someone smile. I love it when a parent looks at a photo and says ‘that is completely my son.’ That is the best thing for me.”
The Photo Shoot
Approximately 80 percent of Allyson and Jeff Clifton’s work, who co-owners of Allyson Clifton Photography, is comprised of kids’ photography. The Cliftons suggest that parents plan ahead to have a successful photo shoot.
“Patience and having plenty of time are really important,” notes Allyson. “Don’t expect to be able to rush off to another appointment. The least amount of clothing changes for the little ones are best. As for clothing selection, keep it simple. We want to go for that natural look and see kids for who they are. So in years to come, the picture isn’t dated, and it’s something they can enjoy for a long time.”
Ashley Segroves suggests selecting clothing based on the personality of the individual being photographed. “I don’t ever recommend that people bring strange props or dress a child in unusual clothing,” Segroves says. “If it’s black and white, a T-shirt and jeans is adorable. I also never tell a subject to smile, because that will just produce a fake smile. I am there to get something real.”
Todd Morrison of Morrison Photography also photographs a lot of children, with them comprising about 90 percent of his and his wife’s work. Morrison notes that making the wrong selection of clothing for the sitting can result in an unhappy customer.
“I think ultimately you want something that stands the test of time, something that’s not cute or trendy,” he says. “You want something that will be appealing and timeless. Sometimes moms have a busy outfit that might be handmade by an aunt that has a lot of embroidery on it. There can be pressure to put the child in it, but it’s important to remember that you are photographing the child and not the outfit.”
He also suggests avoiding logos and visible brand names, choosing instead a simple timeless item that won’t date the photo.
Choosing the Photos and Planning Ahead
Just one photo of a newborn might not be enough to document development. Many local photographers offer panels as a package option for parents. Allyson Clifton Photography offers a panel of photos chronicling a child at ages 3, 6, 9 and 12 months of age. Franklin’s Artistic Images also offers such an option, but suggests capturing what they deem “the seven ages of childhood.” This includes the child’s first year, age 2, age 3, age 4 – 5, age 6 – 8, age 9 – 12 and age 13 – 15.
Most place return your “proofs” so that you can begin your selection process anywhere from a few days to a few weeks later. Tanya WHO, owner of Reflections by Tanya, can show her clients images the same day. She projects a 40-by-40 image on the wall, or for traditional proofs, she gets them back a week later.
Consumers must first examine their budget before committing to any portrait package. Prices can vary greatly but most photographers are willing to work with customers to fit their needs. Sitting fees for area photographers range in price from $30 to $150, and prints can range in price from $20 for a single five-by-seven picture up to over $1,000 for a custom mounted 24-by-30 inch photo. And that doesn’t include the frame. Getting the finished pictures back usually takes between four to six weeks.
Custom Painted Portraits
The high end in portraiture, however, is a custom-painted portrait. Chad Boyd, a local portrait artist who specializes in oil on canvas, claims children as subjects in two-thirds of his work. Boyd has trained with internationally acclaimed portrait artist Everett Raymond Kinstler, who has painted five U.S. Presidents, including the official White House portraits of Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.
“Photographs are wonderful and there are a lot of great photographers around, but a photograph can only catch a moment in time,” says Boyd. “I spend a lot of time with a person in order to catch someone being themselves and to try to translate that onto canvas. I have a little more at my disposal because I take photos and have multiple sittings with the subjects.” Boyd also works with the subject on which room the finished portrait will hang in and will work with the client on the best setting for the painting’s background. After that, he will take hundreds of photos of the subject, spend hours getting to know them and will then work on a head study. Boyd notes that the head study is his way of making “color notes” and gives the client an idea of what the final product will look like.
The other benefit of portrait artistry is that it allows the client many options about the look of the painting. Subjects can rearrange or smooth out hair, change the color of a dress or alter a background altogether.
For a recent portrait, he changed a wicker sofa to a more formal upholstered one and eliminated the placement of a window. For another commission, he turned a lamp in the background into a trophy for a portrait of a child who is strong in sports. Such touches make custom portraits special and Boyd’s work worthwhile.
“Those little touches can say a lot about the person. I have to spend time with the subject in order to get that,” he says. “I feel like I am telling a story with every portrait I paint. Ultimately I hope that the viewer will ‘get’ that person in one of my portraits without knowing anything about them.”
While generally pricier than photography, Boyd offers black and white portraits from $600 and will paint a full-length oil on linen for $4,800 for one person.
A Common Goal
While prices and philosophies of photographers and portrait artists will differ, they will all tell you that longevity and preserving a subject lovingly are the primary goals of any professional.
“The ultimate goal in creating any art is to evoke emotion,” states Todd Morrison. “My goal is to capture something in that child, so that the viewer shares in the emotional feeling of the photo. If they laugh because it’s cute or they sigh because it’s beautiful, you have drawn out some sort of emotion in the viewer.”
Chad Boyd agrees. “I want my work to be a piece of art in addition to being a cherished portrait, and that what’s really exciting for me.”
Laura Roberts is a local freelance writer and mother.
LOCAL PORTRAIT AND PHOTOGRAPHY OPTIONS:
Allyson Clifton Photography 941-1513 • allysoncliftonphotography.com
AMD Photography 849-7501 • amdphoto.com
Artistic Images by Ernie K 790-2680
Ashley Hylbert Photography 426-0265
Ashley Segroves Portraits 228-3594 • segrovesphotography.com
Chad Boyd 397-7077
Child Art Portraits 771-4111 • childartportaits.com
Griggs Photography 391-0667
Jan Andrews 292-6382 • janandrews.com
Morrison Photography 859-5970 • morrisonphotography.com
Reflections by Tanya 826-9000 • reflectionsbytanya.com