It was 2006. My oldest daughter was about six months old and I had been enticed into a department store photo studio by a "FREE 8 x 10" coupon. I got all my baby gear together, dressed my baby in her prettiest outfit, and drove to the mall. The mall was a zoo of people - high schoolers in baggy pants and skimpy shirts, cell phone salesmen in black ties, women asking if I might like to try grapefruit-pomegranate lotion as I passed by the shops. Shopping centers are not my favorite place to be.
I arrived in the portrait studio, checked in at the counter, then decided to nurse my baby. Then, we waited. And waited. And I started to get nervous that my baby would get hungry again or fall asleep or get cranky.
Finally, we were called back to the makeshift studio - our choice of backdrops (solid colors, a rainforest, a window frame, etc.) and glaring lights overhead. The "photographer" was young - 18, perhaps 19. I questioned her a few times about photography; her knowledge was slim to none. She knew how to use the equipment and had a repertoire of poses that she used, but that was about the extent of it. I remember cringing as they set my baby down on a piece of fabric, trying not to think about when it had last been cleaned (if ever). The props were all kinda cute, I suppose - but, again, I was worried about all of the germs that lingered there.
Then came the anguishing part - the part where they show you all of the pictures and try to sell you packages at absolutely ludicrous prices. 5 pictures for $100 (a smokin' deal...um...no)...and we wouldn't even get to have a digital file! It was absolutely heart-wrenching knowing that the rest of those pictures, those beautiful smiles, were all for naught.
After the whole ordeal, this is what I ended up with:
It's cute, right? Yes. But it did take an hour of my day. And it was expensive. And I can't make any high-quality copies of it.
Then, I wised up and bought a DSLR. One of the smartest purchases I've made in my entire life. Now, I can do photo shoots anytime, anywhere. I can plan around naps and nursings...and there are absolutely no wait times. I have all my own props and I get to keep EVERY SINGLE PICTURE...forever. That, my friends, is positively priceless.
I know DSLRs aren't cheap, but - in the end - you'll actually save money. And you'll have all of those precious memories for ever and ever too.
So, sayonara JCPenney, Sears, Picture People, and Target. You won't be seeing me anytime soon (or ever again). I have a DSLR. And my spur-of-the-moment, every-day pictures are better than your fancy-schmancy studio ones (and I haven't even read my camera's manual yet). I just took these pictures this afternoon, in fact...
NOTE: I took the above pictures using my Sony DSLR-A300K (starting at $499.98 on Amazon.com).