Advice for baby portraits sought.
November 24, 2008 9:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm taking my 5 month old daughter to have pictures taken at JC Penny. Advice needed.

Suggestions for things to wear or not wear, props, positions, how to get her to comply, and how to make the most of the session including advice on selecting a portrait package would be appreciated. I'll have her fed, clean, and hopefully well-rested.
posted by otherwordlyglow to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
We did this at Target or somesuch for a family photo for the grandparents. They had all the propping-up stuff and were experts in coaxing smiles out, so I wouldn't worry too much about those parts of it.
posted by true at 9:13 AM on November 24, 2008


They've got a lot of tricks for getting kids to smile at those places, so if she's in a good mood, you'll probably get some cute stuff. It's going to look like it came from a mall photo studio, but that's cool, because it is coming from one.

My advice would be to decide ahead of time who you'll be giving a picture to and what size you think you want to give them. Then check the available packages to see what fits best.

These department store/mall places will usually give you a chance to buy the proofs at some exorbitant rate; I've done this when there were a couple poses I really loved but that I didn't choose as the main one to have printed.

There may also be an option to get a disc of digital images: if you have access to a great printer this may be the right choice for you.
posted by padraigin at 9:13 AM on November 24, 2008


For us, the session is over as soon as we've got a nice smile or two on the roll. This has become more importantly as the number of kids has increased - trying to get all of them smiling at the same time can be a challenge. As soon as we get a good one, we're gone. Something about being stuck in nice clothes with a stranger making goony-faces at you seems to bring out the crabby in everyone.

In short: get in and out of there as quickly as you can.
posted by jquinby at 9:21 AM on November 24, 2008


The good news that little babies pretty much always look adorable so long as their faces are relatively clean.

Even if you don't have a digital printer, developing the photos from a disc may still be cheaper depending on your options in the area. They are almost certainly using digital there, and since additional digital files don't really cost that much extra I would find out if you can get a copy of all of the photos, even the "bad" ones. The photo of her bawling her eyes out is no good for the holidays, but it's perfect for the embarrassing slideshow at her wedding or a similar event.

I know you're already going, but I guess I kind of feel like the department store photo made a bit more sense when digital cameras weren't around and arranging and developing a good set of photos was difficult and expensive. I also wonder if the department stores hire people who are good at photographs, or just good at kid control.

When she's a bit older and can stand on her own, I'd recommend getting a shot by yourself outdoors, with a decent digital camera on a tripod (on time release if you want to be in the picture). My absolute favorite "kid" picture of all time in my family is the one my dad took with my younger sister. He's holding her in his arms in a field of flowers, and she's smiling her eyes out.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:59 AM on November 24, 2008


My own grandson's pics came from Penney's.

They do all the work. You just provide a fed, clean, rested baby. ;-)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:04 AM on November 24, 2008


It sounds like you've already scheduled it, so my advice to take the absolute first appointment of the day may be too late.

If there's a toy that consistently makes her laugh, bring that.

If she's not sitting up yet, the best photos will probably be the ones where she's lying on her tummy, resting on her arms, so pick an outfit with a cute collar or cute sleeves, because the front of the outfit won't show. (lesson learned by me: I bought a super cute sweater vest from Gymboree just for our Easter pictures at 4 months. The cute little whale didn't show in the pics because he was lying on it.)
posted by peep at 10:11 AM on November 24, 2008


i managed a mall portrait studio for years.

the first appointment of the day is a good suggestion. going during the week and not on a weekend is also good. don't bring any more than 2 outfits. no matter how cute the outfit is, the comfort of your child is more important to a good picture. i suggest putting her in whatever you want her photographed in and just have her hang out in it for an hour - does she get cranky? pick another outfit. make sure she's rested and fed, but don't feed her immediately before the session (recently fed baby + tummy poses = puking baby).

before you go make a list of everyone who is getting a picture and what sizes they will be wanting. the sheet sizes should be something like 1 8x10, 2 5x7, 4 3x5, 8 wallets. consider these groups when you think of who gets what. make a list of what sizes you want. so many mothers think only about the relatives and forget about their walls - then you get home and have 10 8x10's and no 3x5s. i'm not sure about penny's but they should have a photo cd option. they are using digital cameras but they don't have same day printing (the same day printing their most direct rival offers isn't very good anyway).

they will try to over sell you. they will have huge wall portraits that are all framed and arranged. trust me, your baby will take cuter pictures in the 9-16month range. wait until then for the big stuff. honestly, your valentines day pictures will be so much cuter than the christmas pictures just because of the age of your baby (7 months is really when studio portraits get great - the baby is more responsive and sits up better).

something to keep in mind - target and pennys are the same photo company. they use the same equipment and pull from the same talent pool.

finally - please remember that you've chosen to take portraits at the busiest time of the year. unlike most retail, the portrait season has been in full swing since the beginning of october and will last until the week after christmas. the staff is over worked to an extreme degree. the managers are working 6 days a week, many of those open to close. they are lifting kids, and props, and kneeling, running, and lunging. add the angry parents, the sick babies, and the toddlers that take baseball bats to the photographer's shins (every christmas season i was pretty much bruised from ankle to knees) - just cut them a little slack. the workers are making no more than 8 an hour and the management probably doesn't make more than 14/hour. many do this out of a love for children and photography, but this season can sap that will from a person. it's not an easy job and it's often very thankless. a kind word and a little patience can make the difference.

good luck!
posted by nadawi at 10:54 AM on November 24, 2008 [20 favorites]


Wow. Thanks for all the advice. I'm going to check out cute outfits at Babygap today but don't plan on anything all that elaborate. Generally she's a pretty content baby so I think she'll smile pretty easily. The appt is not the first of the day but it is a week day and I plan on being super patient and hoping for the best. I'm not too worried about them being "mall quality" that's actually part of the appeal of all this.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:08 AM on November 24, 2008


I can agree with basically every single thing nadawi said-- I worked at a mall studio as well. I absolutely loved the people who would get to the computer after a shoot and whip out a piece of paper with exactly how many sheets they needed, in what sizes, any enhancements they wanted, and so on. It made that aspect of the sitting go really smoothly, which is always appreciated when you have a line-up of increasingly impatient moms and kids waiting for their turn.

If you have any coupons, bring 'em out before you start talking prices. And if you have any specific ideas about poses or other things you want to do, it's totally okay to tell the photographer. If you don't like the way a picture turns out, explain why rather than saying "I just don't like it." If you're specific, as in, "her smile looks weird" we can fix it immediately on the next shots rather than trying to figure out what is wrong.

I hope this doesn't happen to you, but sometimes, you just have to give up. The baby is crying, you're getting frustrated, the photographer has run out of every single trick in the bag, it's just not going to work. If you feel like you should throw in the towel, schedule a re-shoot to try again. We'll feel bad about it because you don't get your photos right away, but it's worth it to get a smiling baby in there.

It can be a lot of fun if it all works out. Relax, don't get frustrated, and if the baby's in an agreeable mood, it should turn out wonderfully.
posted by riane at 11:11 AM on November 24, 2008


Yep, start with a well-rested baby - that is key.

Sometimes you'll get a photographer that just naturally has a good rapport with children, and that's when the pictures turn out the best.

Don't be afraid to bring a toy or a something that makes noise and entertain the baby behind the photographer while he/she is taking the picture. At that age, I played peek-a-boo with my daughter and she liked that.

If you can have them do a naked picture, sometimes those can be super cute. I've got one with my chubby daughter in a washtub, surrounded by rubber duckies at that age. It is adorable. She probably won't find it so adorable when she gets older, but oh well ....
posted by Ostara at 1:25 PM on November 24, 2008


Boy does this bring back memories. We had to go back twice to get a decent pic from JC Penny's. (And I finally took that last one and did a little Photoshop magic --our daughter had an underbite and her lower front teeth were in front of her top fronts so I did a little dental work. -g)

Well, now she's 12 years old and has had braces to correct that underbite. What a beautiful smile. Hope your experience at JCP provides some great memories for you.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 1:28 PM on November 24, 2008


We just took our now 6 mo old to JCP for pictures about a month ago. All the above sounds good, but the most important thing I remember was that we were there way longer than I had anticipated - almost two hours. Take some water or snacks for yourself if you are the thirsty type. The baby did fine and they definitely were experts at getting her to smile.

Be aware that to get the good deal with the coupon (you do have one right? they are everywhere - free sitting and 4.99 each sheet) you have to select everything right then and there, so have in mind (or write down) what you want before you get there. We were getting photos of the SO and baby and I along with my brother and his family so we had lots of different scenarios and family to think of.
posted by Big_B at 2:58 PM on November 24, 2008


This response is probably too late, but I took my 5 month old daughter to Walmart's portrait studio last Monday and the woman there was just awesome. She loves babies and kids and is a terrific photographer.

We had an 11:30am appointment, but had to wait for her previous appointment to choose their package. We ended up being there for about an hour and a half altogether. While we were waiting we had a small feeding and a diaper change.

When it was finally our turn, our girl started to cry so it took a few minutes to calm her down enough to start taking photos. I didn't have any specific ideas on poses I wanted and trusted the photographer to set things up. I had picked up shoes for the occasion since she doesn't really wear shoes yet, but the photographer suggested ditching them since we'd only see the soles anyway. She was wearing tights and I think the stocking foot look worked out.

My mother held the baby from behind to keep her from tipping over and my father kept the stuffed animal props from falling off the table on the other side. I stood where the photographer wanted the baby to look and got her to smile. We had toys that she liked and that helped get her attention. Altogether she took seven poses and five were keepers. We bought the disc with the copyright release and have been printing our own while we wait for the photo package to arrive.

I ordered some 4x6 prints from Snapfish to put in my photo album, but since the photos were taken in a digital format the 4x5.3 prints would have been better. I don't like the way the 4x6 photos were cropped.
posted by asianvikinggirl at 11:15 AM on November 26, 2008


Just circling back to say that it all went really well. We arrived plenty early so that we could feed and change my daughter right before the session - saving her "nice" clothes until the last moment and hoping she wouldn't spit up on them. I had bought her a very simple bright red outfit - matching hoodie and leggings that really looked good against the black backdrop they used. We also took some shots with just her diaper on (they provide white diaper covers) while sitting on the quilt that her grandmother made. The photographer was great - she had all the poses in mind, knew how to make her smile and get her attention and really captured some great shots quickly.

The coupon really helped and we got a whole bunch of pics in several different poses all for under $50. I guess there is an option to go online and get the digital files but I haven't checked it out yet. The cashier thought it might be pretty expensive - maybe $100 for all the shots but that after 90 days they drop the price.

The collage and montage options they offered us were totally cheesy and we only ended up getting the actual posed shots but they do offer a lot of choices. All in all, it went great and I think the grandparents are gonna love the pictures!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:02 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


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