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Up until the past 3 years, I can’t remember ever needing photos and not having a Sears Portrait Studio, Walmart, Portrait Innovations, and the like come to mind (and of course, you know…that good ol’ gold Olan Mills crest in the corner of your photo which made it o-ffici-al)!

They’re cheap, they’re fast, and can usually result in you leaving the studio with prints in hand. Why not?

Both my maternity photos and Kent’s 6 month pictures were taken at The Picture People and Sears Portrait Studio, respectively. Actually, both sessions were booked because I’d found a “great deal” on Groupon.  Up until the past 3 years, I learned that cheap and fast photography does not equate to great pictures…and even more-so, rarely results in to a great experience.  And since pictures are worth a thousand words and essentially provide lifelong reminders of where you are and who you’re with at a point in time, a lasting bad memory from a photo session may not even be worth the $100 you ended up “saving”.

Lay Down on Your Stomach

I must admit, had I not gotten through this stage of “plastic portraits”, I wouldn’t have these stories to tell. And my fiance Lee and I wouldn’t be able to share these laughs over them. While proofing our maternity session (I was 38 weeks and HUUUUUGE), the young lady showing us our photos suddenly stopped her sales pitch, looked at Lee and said “Has anyone ever told you that you looked like Simba from the Lion King?” I couldn’t help myself and started laughing. He, embarrassed, politely smiled and said no. Okay, so that has nothing really to do with the quality of our portraits, but it was untimely and awkward. (And I’m still not loving these photos because I look as huge as I felt!)

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(Photo Cred: The Picture People)

Right before we moved to Upstate NY, we went to Sears to take family portraits.  Our session started 15 minutes late and the photographer seemed clueless as to why we were agitated at the beginning of our session, with a fussy 6-month old baby. She had captured a few shots of a couple of normal poses with a generic Christmas backdrop. Then, she looked at Lee and said “okay, now lay down on your stomach.” To both of our surprises, he said “No. No, I’m not doing that.” My fiance is a pretty agreeable guy, but that tummy pose was NOT happening that day! HAHA!

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(Photo Cred: Sears Portrait Studio)

Turning Point

My son was born 3 short years ago.  We did not take photos in the hospital, but my dear friend from college, Cameron Robinson of Arthur Cameron Photography had us covered and did not disappoint. I guess you could say that he birthed us into the world of independent photographers. Although, I’m sad to say that I no longer have the soft copies of those images. THANK GOD WE GOT PRINTS (yes, this is why you should always print your photos, people)!

While we lived in Upstate New York, we met a family through a mutual friend. Carolyn Hoerl, owner of Two Sparrows Headbands, is such a talented woman and a dear friend.  It was through Carolyn that I met her sister, Nancy Noble Barnes of (nancy.noble) photogragraphy. When I saw the images on Nancy’s Facebook page, I was nothing short of mesmerized.  Her images were genuine, clean, and very emotional.  I HAD to book her!  Blew. My. Mind. She’s so good, y'all. Before we moved back down to South Carolina, Nancy took our family portraits. I was nervous that day because I wanted everything to be perfect: our clothes, our hair, Kent’s mood. It was even supposed to rain later that day, so I’d called her to see if we could move it earlier. She agreed. During the session, we weren’t forced to lay on our stomachs or do awkward poses.  And no, she didn’t comment on how any of us looked like Disney characters. Even with a busy 16-month old she worked her magic. See for yourself.

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(Photo Cred: Nancy Noble Photography)

There was no turning back. There was no way I could ever pay the same price for a forced, uncomfortable session, with generic backdrops, instant turnaround (meaning no editing or fine tuning, except for a couple of black and white filters), and less of a connection with my photographer.  You simply cannot match the experience, not to mention the quality and deliberate artistry that went into each image.

Since then we’ve committed to booking photographers…artists who have a passion for what they produce which is evident by their style and quality.

This is us in Rincon, Puerto Rico in 2014. 

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(Photo Cred: Nilka Gissell) 

I debated earlier whether or not I was going to post a disclaimer for more or less knocking those big corporation turned photography studios…I think I should make clear that there’s nothing wrong with a Sears, Walmart, or Picture People.  They provide a service that many are satisfied with. As I look over the photos my family and I have taken over the past years, it’s evident which photos deserve to be printed, framed and placed on our living room walls, forever going into history as memories that should never fade.  Those moments can never be replaced. The photos will always be just photos, but the experience is always worth the investment.

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