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why, Why, WHY?

Beware.  This post contains a rant.

Digitals versus Prints.  That is the debate among many photographers.  Each has their own business model and beliefs about what a photographer provides their clients.  I personally choose to offer both, prints and digital images, however I specialize in offering a selection of professionally printed wall art as opposed to a disc of images.

I have this belief for several reasons, which I have discussed in another blog.  You can read more about those beliefs here.  But this post is not about my beliefs regarding this matter.  

I know why some clients choose digital images.  They like having the ability to print the images as they wish.  Others like to have a hard copy for safe keeping.  I completely understand both of those reasons.  However, I hear stories from other photographers about clients completely editing the images they've received from a photographer and/or slapping Instagram filters on them.  I do not understand this at all.  Why hire a photographer if you're just going to edit the images yourself?  

We don't hire a dentist to clean our teeth to just go home and clean them ourselves.

We don't hire a hair stylist to cut our hair just to go home and cut our own hair.

We don't hire a mechanic to change our car oil just to go home and change the oil again.

The list goes on and on...

So why do some hire a photographer just to go home and edit their images after a photographer has already done this?  

Most of the time this is actually illegal per the copyright terms within a photographers contract.  A photographer also has a certain style with regards to their editing - they only produce a certain type of photograph.  They are typically hired for this particular style.  When someone alters this photograph, they are altering their style.  Therefore the photograph no longer accurately represents their work as an artist.  

That is all.  End of rant :)  

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this matter.


Simple Guide for No Regrets

If your walls could talk, what stories would they tell or would they be silent?

Over the past three years I have heard the same regrets over and over...  

  • "I have so many photographs of my oldest child, but I hardly have any of my younger children."
  • "I wish I would have taken more family photographs that included the parents and grandparents."
  • "I'll just wait until I lose some weight."

Procrastinating is easy.  The truth is that life doesn't pause for us to lose weight or give us extra time to take family portraits.  We are only given so much time.  

I've been thrilled with the recent increase of families that are including grandparents in their family sessions!  I hope this trend continues because I truly believe these photographs will be cherished for YEARS to come.

I've also made it a point to have parents get in a few of the poses with their children, as well as have parents take a few photographs with one another.  Many couples haven't had their photograph taken since their wedding!  

Below is a guide so that there are no regrets later.  It's not a program.  There's no contract to sign.  Just have your family photographed!

One day, you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.
— Paulo Coelho

Help!! I NEED Inspiration for Our Wall Gallery!!

So...I have this HUGE wall in our living room that is absolutely perfect for displaying photographs of our large family of eleven...yes ELEVEN.  In 2012 I put together a wall display that I loved, however we have since added 3 family members and now it just feels squished with several 8x10 prints in frames.  To see what I mean, check out this Print Size Guide I found on Pinterest.

This guide was found here:

This guide was found here:

Now you can see what I'm talking about.  In my opinion, I feel like an 8x10 is not proportionate with the wall and the sofa.  I need photographs that are at least 16x20 for the family portraits and 11x14 for individual portraits.  I could go larger than that, however I have to remember that I have to fit in 9 individual portraits and 2 family portraits.  If I go too big on the prints, I will run out of wall space.

Through photographing other families and seeing the wall art they've ordered in beautiful large canvas, prints, and metals, made me realize that I want those same beautiful large wall art pieces of my family!  I want friends and family to walk into my living room and not have to get close to the wall to look at an 8x10 print, but rather be able to see my family's portraits the minute they walk into the room.

Now that I know I want larger portraits on the wall, the question is how to arrange them in a gallery?  I have been obsessed with looking for ideas!  Every time I look at ideas, I just end up with MORE ideas and this huge task is not any closer to be narrowed down.  So far my favorite article which discusses several ideas can be found here.  This is seriously like the mother ship of wall gallery inspiration articles!

I have the wall.  I have the portraits.  Now what?  I'd love to hear and/or see your ideas!

For further reading, please check out these articles which I included in this blog: 6 Creative Ways to Display Your Photos and Top Ideas to Create a DIY Photo Gallery Wall Layouts

More Than A Picture...It's Wall Art! Part Three: Canvas

We are going to continue our discussion about wall art in this blog post.  This is the third part in our five part series on the topic of wall art for your home or office. 

In the first part, we discussed the reasoning and beliefs behind offering our clients professional quality wall art opposed to pictures.  We then began discussing the first type of wall art that we currently offer - collages. 

In the second part, we discussed the differences between print quality with three local retailers in the Central Texas area and compared those prints to a professional lab's prints.  There really is quite a difference!

Part Three:  Canvas

Canvas gallery wraps are a classic way to showcase your family portraits!  Just as we discussed in last week's post with regards to print quality, the same is true with canvas gallery wraps.  Simply put, you get what you pay for. 

When I first began my photography career, I had a fellow photographer that helped me with the business side of things.  She ordered a canvas from an online retailer and was horrified when she received it due to the quality of it.  I remember it clearly, she told me that it was "fine," but she did not feel it was professional quality and felt that her client deserved the best.  She promptly ordered the canvas from a professional lab and was so much happier with the results.  Upon hearing about this, I wanted to see the quality for myself so I purchased a few canvases of my own family. 

I ordered one from CVS for less than $20 on a 50% off sale.  Upon first look and having little experience with canvases at this point, I thought it looked alright.  It didn't amaze me, but I wasn't disgusted either. 

I then decided to order one through Shutterfly for about $90 full price.  Again, it looked alright.  It was pretty much just like the CVS canvas.  I honestly expected a difference in quality due to the increase in price.  I did not find that to be true in this case. 

I then decided to order a canvas of our daughters for my husband on Father's Day from a professional lab.  Yes, there was an even larger price difference, but when I received it I was AMAZED!  The quality was substantially different and worth every penny!  The professional canvas felt much more sturdy and looked vivid, whereas the other canvases looked dull.

Advantages of Professional Quality Canvas Gallery Wraps

*  A solid wood base creates a very durable, no-sag surface

*  The tightest, cleanest canvas corners in the industry

*  A thick, black backing that comes standard with hanging hardware and wall bumpers

*  UV-free protective coating allows the product to be wiped clean with a damp cloth

An example of a canvas gallery wrap printed from a professional printing lab.

An example of a canvas gallery wrap printed from a professional printing lab.

At Smith Family Photography, we offer canvas gallery wraps in two popular sizes - 11x14 and 16x20.  If you'd like one in a different size, we can definitely do that as well! 

Check back next week when we discuss Part Four:  Vivid Metals.

More Than A Picture...It's Wall ART!

It's more than a picture, it's wall ART!  That sounds fascinating to me, but what does that actually mean?  This topic is going to be a five part series, with each part focusing on a certain product that we are offering our clients.  If you visit the "About Me" page of our website you will find a lot of information about us and our beliefs.  We believe that if you are putting in all this effort for photographs, you want products that are quality - you want products that will last a lifetime. 

We strive to provide you with the service that you and your loved ones deserve. With that being said, typically a great amount of planning and preparation goes into a photography session - everything from deciding on a photographer, choosing coordinating outfits, choosing a location, etc. All of those factors take a great deal of time and energy! We want that time, effort, and energy to shine in your portraits! For that reason we have a large selection of print products to offer you in your personal online gallery - everything from standard professional prints that will last a lifetime to beautiful canvas gallery wraps and vivid metals. The products that we offer are professional quality and will last a lifetime. They will become cherished memories for generations. They will be beautiful pieces of art that are displayed on your walls for years to come.
— Anna Johnson-Smith at Smith Family Photography

Part One - Collages

Collages are a popular item that we began offering last July.  I personally have always loved collages, however I wasn't sure that others shared this same love until one client received her online gallery and adored her family photographs, but asked if I could create a collage for her with certain images.  I told her that I'd love to put something like that together for her and she loved it!  After that I began contemplating the inclusion of collages in each online gallery.  I began planning and finally decided to include at least one pre-made collage in each and every online gallery and provide the option for building a personalized collage if the pre-made ones do not meet your needs and/or wants. 

Since the introduction of collages in the online galleries, nearly every client chooses at least one collage!  They have become THAT popular!  They are a great way to display your favorite photographs on one print.  This makes them a perfect addition to your wall of photographs, as well as a perfect gift for friends and family. 

An example of a customized collage that was ordered as an 11x14 print.

An example of a customized collage that was ordered as an 11x14 print.

Most collages are ordered in print form, however sometimes they are also ordered as a canvas gallery wrap.  I had a client show me a wall display of various canvas gallery wraps to make an art piece for a wall in their home.  She wanted a large canvas gallery wrap, 30x30.  I put together a customized collage that was very similar to what she was looking for with separate canvas gallery wraps. 

An example of a customized collage that was ordered as a 30x30 canvas gallery wrap.

An example of a customized collage that was ordered as a 30x30 canvas gallery wrap.

As you can see, collages are a creative way to display your favorite photographs from your session!  The sky is the limit and I love creating one of a kind pieces of art that are printed at professional printing labs so you know you are receiving a quality product that will last a lifetime plus some. 

In two weeks we will continue this topic with Part Two:  Prints. 

The Battle of Prints vs. Digitals

What's better...printed photographs or high resolution digitals?  Well, that all depends.  As a mom, I like to receive high quality prints from a photographer, but I also want access to the high resolution files for a backup.  I know I will more than likely never even access the files, but I just feel some sort of security knowing that I have another copy that I can access IF (big IF) something happens to that print and I need another one.  My fear is just that...a fear.  Chances are if I am hiring a professional photographer, my high resolution files are securely stored and backed up multiple times in a variety of ways.  So IF something ever happened to the original print, I could go back to my photographer and ask her for another print.


In June of this year, I recently made the move to offering prints.  I still offer high resolution digitals as an option.  I try my best to meet a variety of needs and I realize that some clients prefer a disc.  What I have noticed however by making this move is that more clients actually choose prints over digitals.  This makes me very happy!  Why you might ask?  Well, if I print your portraits at a professional lab I know that you are receiving high quality prints that will last a lifetime.  I know the colors will be true and accurate.  I know the cropping will be what I composed.  I just have control over knowing that you are receiving exactly what I created for you.  I spend anywhere between 15 minutes to 2 hours on EACH image that I present to you in your gallery.  I want that same quality to show in your prints. 


Before June I only offered high resolution digitals on a disc.  This caused a great deal of headache for me as a photographer because clients would complain about the colors not looking accurate.  Some local chain stores use printers that give a yellow tint to the images.  Others give a blue tint.  And others are green.  Then there is the quality of paper that is used by these chains.  Some use a high quality paper, while others use flimsy photo paper.  I haven't even mentioned the issue of poor cropping! 

I sent the same high resolution file to 4 different companies for my own "test" before I began offering prints to see for myself if there were really any noticeable differences. I can honestly say....YES!  There are very noticeable differences!  I sent the file to the professional lab that I use, WalMart, Walgreens, and CVS.  I looked for colors and tones and paper quality. 

  • Professional Lab - The colors were accurate and true.  The paper quality was high and was printed using a matte finish.  It was not flimsy.
  • WalMart - The colors were a little on the yellow side, but honestly not too bad.  The paper quality was alright and was printed using a matte finish.
  • Walgreens - These were by far the worst!  The colors were very blue and cold feeling.  The paper quality was flimsy and it was printed with a glossy finish.  There were white rectangles around the entire image because the crop did not match up to their machines.  I would have been very upset if I received photographs that looked like this!
  • CVS - The colors were very saturated and looked green.  The paper quality was the worst.  It was very flimsy and had a bad glossy finish. 

The results were clear and in front of my face.  If you are interested in seeing them, just let me know and at our session I will make sure that I bring them for you to see.  The issue arises because these chain stores might not calibrate their machines as often as a professional lab does which can really affect the colors.  I might order my prints from WalMart today and go back one week later and they could possibly look different based on their calibration.  I know that the prints I order from the professional lab will always be correct.  Printing photos is their business.  They do not sell medicine or milk...just printed photographs and wall art.  I want you to have consistent prints, time after time.


There is yet another issue with discs and/or digital files - one that is not widely discussed.  Recently, Internet pioneer, Vint Cerf, warned about a digital "dark age."  He claims that we will lose a vast amount of our digital information, including important photographs. 

We think about digitizing things because we think we will preserve them, but what we don’t understand is that unless we take other steps, those digital versions may not be any better, and may even be worse, than the artifacts that we digitized.

He also explains how technology changes very rapidly over time and at some point, discs will not be able to be read by our current machines.  This makes sense.  Just think about floppy discs!  I recently read about a woman that could no longer access her parents wedding photographs because they were on a floppy disc.  How sad is that?  He also explains about "data rot."  Data rot is when digital material decays over time on a drive, disc, or usb.  A better option available right now for saving digital files is by using a Cloud service.  However, Cloud services are expensive and there is no guarantee that the Cloud service you choose will be around in the coming years.  You can read more about data rot here. 

One of the best options you may have right now for ensuring the long term survival of important photos is to print them out physically (with materials designed for longevity) and to keep the prints in a safe place.

At Smith Family Photography we back up all our digital files - your precious portraits - a minimum of 3 times with various methods.  Yes, this is very costly.  However, if you are going to trust me with your precious photographs, you need to trust that I will have a copy of them for the years to come. 


Tips for a Successful Session

Smith Family Photography developed from a need that I had as a mother.  We have a "his-mine-ours" type of family, which consists of nine children.  Family photograph sessions with a family that size are typically very expensive and stressful.  Kids do not want to cooperate.  They fight.  They argue.  They give goofy faces.  They are KIDS!  Although they are kids, photographers have a set amount of time they can spend at each session, which just adds to the stress. 

My country girls.

My country girls.

As a mother, I hated photography sessions and the majority of the time I was less than impressed with the results.  I wanted to provide an affordable photography service specifically for families.  I strive to provide a relaxed atmosphere for the session and understand kids are kids.  A little bit of patience goes a long way with them, as I found out during my time as an elementary teacher. 

When you book a session with us, you will more than likely get to meet members of my family.  After all, Smith Family Photography is a family company and we all work together to provide a service to our clients.

I am constantly researching various areas of photography and currently I have been doing a TON of research on helping my clients prepare for their upcoming session.  I have heard many clients tell me that they want to have a family session, but they don't think their kids will cooperate and it will just be stressful.  I can honestly say that was me a few years ago! 

I recently stumbled upon an article titled, 101 Family Picture Tips and Ideas by  This artcle is FANTASTIC!!  They discuss so much more than getting kids to cooperate! 

1.  Printable Planner.  The site has a printable planner that you can use to help organize all the session during the planning stage.  You can access it here. 

2.  Choosing a Photographer.  I would love to work with you and your family, however I do realize that for whatever reason we might not be able to do so.  In such an instance, I can give you some referrals for other photographers in the area that might meet your needs. 

3.  Choosing a Location.  After you have chosen a photographer, you can nail down your location.  This is typically done at the same time as actually hiring a photographer.  You might have a specific location in mind, but if you need assistance in choosing a location I am happy to do so and provide you with example portraits from those locations.  I have several "favorite" locations that I like to use in Limestone County and Waco.  One of my favorite locations is at a private family ranch.  No other photographers have access to this location which includes a covered bridge!

Rustic exclusive location with a covered bridge.

Rustic exclusive location with a covered bridge.

4. use or not to use.  For family sessions I like to keep props to a minimum if they are used at all.  I don't want the props to distract from the family.  With seniors on the other hand, they typically need some props to personalize their session.  The same can be said for small children.  They need things to keep their interest.  I like to talk with the client and determine what type of images they'd like to have hanging on their wall and go from there when deciding whether or not to use props.

5.  Poses.  After the session is booked, I will begin planning the session.  This includes possible poses.  I will actually make a list of poses that I'd love to use for your family.  Each list is unique in that no two lists are ever the same.  I want your session to be just as unique as your family is - no two families are the exact same so why should their photos look the same?

6.  Clothes - What should we wear?  Last week's blog was all about what to wear.  You can read it here.

7.  How to Look Good in Front of the Camera.  There are several stances you can do to make yourself look more flattering in front of the camera.  Most things are simple, quick adjustments to your position, posture, and stance. 

8.  Getting Your Kids to Cooperate.  Rewards, bribes, peek-a-boo, singing, magic words, etc...nothing it seems is off limits when it comes to finding ways to get kids to cooperate.  What I have found is that they need time away from the camera every now and then.  They need to play and have fun!

Even when kids are taking a break, you can get authentic photographs of them!

Even when kids are taking a break, you can get authentic photographs of them!

9.  Getting Your Husband to Cooperate.  Bribes, rewards, compromises...they all work with husbands too!  Include your husband in the planning.  Chances are he won't want to help plan for the session, but at least you are doing your best to include him and make him a part of the session.  No one likes being told what to wear, how to stand, where to sit.  Give him some ownership in the session.

10.  Ordering Your Portraits.  Yes, ordering your portraits in printed form.  After all, you want nice photographs to display proudly on your walls and to give family members prints for their walls.  I recently began to offer prints rather than a disc and the main reason for doing so is that a disc so many times gets shoved in some random drawer and the portraits are as good as gone.  You went through all that hassle to plan a session, get everyone's outfits to coordinate, spend a lot of time on location with a photographer, and you want a disc??  Or would you rather have nice, professional quality prints that will arrive ready to be displayed on your walls?  Every session with me includes an online gallery that makes ordering prints (and digitals if you wish) extremely easy from the comfort of your home. 

11.  Displaying Your Portraits.  Looking for unique ways to display your beautiful, professional quality prints?  This article has several examples that are unique!  When I work on your portraits in post production, I have this very thing in mind.  I want all of your portraits to look uniform so that they can proudly be displayed by themselves or together in a large group.  I view the portraits that I work on as a work of art that should be displayed on your walls for years to come.

The article also includes a few extra tips that don't really fit into any of the above categories.  You can read the full article here.  If you are interested in booking a session, please don't hesitate to contact me.  Now is the perfect time of year with the holidays quickly approaching.