Custom Photography vs. Department Store Studios

By: Ashlyn Dawson WITTONS-7 575
We are all familiar with local department store photography studios. Perhaps we have even had our baby or family photos taken there. Very few of us have ventured out and hired a professional custom photographer, many of us might not have even known they exist! There are quite a few differences between custom photography and department store photography. Let’s dive in!

First let’s define custom photography. Custom photography is about having a unique experience. It’s about finding someone who will photograph your newborn or family in a way that represents you, your personality and your style. It’s about receiving that 1 on 1 attention that you just can’t get at a department store studio.

There are many hours invested in custom photography. Time consulting with you to understand exactly what you’re looking for, time spent preparing for your session, time spent shooting, time spent hand editing each and every one of your images and time spend preparing and perfecting your prints and product orders. Local department store studios simply do not invest the same amount of time in you and your family. You are rushed through a 20 minute session while you try and balance keeping all of your children cool, calm and collected. And as you look back you see more families waiting in line for their turn. It’s simply not the same experience.

Many department store photographers are not technically trained to use a Digital SLR (professional camera). Technical skill is a big part of being a photographer. There is nothing better than hiring a photographer who knows their camera and understands how to operate it. When I worked at a department store studio, learning to operate the camera was not part of our training. The extent of learning how to use that fancy Canon 5D was to simply point and shoot. I don’t know about you, but the idea of paying someone to do the exact same thing I can do with my own digital camera is not appealing to me. Finding someone who has been technically trained to use their equipment is imperative! Not only will they be able to capture more precious moments, but a photographer who knows how to operate their camera will deliver much better images for your wall!

Custom photographers will often travel to locations that suit your style. For instance there may be a local forest you enjoy walking with your family. It’s unique, it’s sentimental, it’s fun and creative! Department store studios are not mobile! They will not come to the park, the beach, a trail or your home to capture your family’s unique personality. In the past people settled for posed “say cheese” type photos. Those days are long gone! Moms are now looking for someone to really capture the personality of their families. They’re looking for someone to capture the love, the connection, the happiness and joy their family members bring to their lives.

Department store studios do NOT edit your images. Once your session is over, they are uploaded to a computer and presented to you. They do not take the time to hand edit every individual image. They will not take those blemishes out, they will not take the redness out of your baby’s skin nor will they take out any scratches or scars your children may have. What they capture is what you get! Editing can transform your images from dull to wow. It really helps to enhance your family’s unique personality and bring a touch of glamour to your photos.

Custom photographers have great reputations and expertise. Many custom photographers will spend time and money attending workshops and taking courses to enhance their skills. They spend countless hours cultivating and fine tuning their skills and perfecting their craft. They always keep up to date with the latest photography trends to ensure that what you get is fresh, fun and current!

Always remember that custom photography is not a need, but a luxury. It’s about a personalized experience that you just can’t obtain at a department store studio. It’s about understanding what the client wants, and providing them with breathtaking images. Not everyone is looking for the experience that you get with hiring a custom photographer and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, there is nothing wrong with having your portrait taken at a department store studio! It works well for some people and as long as they are happy, that is all that matters. However, if you are looking for that unique, fun photography experience then consider hiring a custom photographer for your next newborn or family session! I promise you won’t regret it!

*Photo courtesy of Ashlyn Dawson

Ashlyn Dawson is a leading newborn and family photographer in the GTA. With over 200 clients captured over the past two years, Ashlyn’s simplistic and unique style is like no other. She is truly talented in being able to capture the essence and uniqueness of your newborn and family. With over four years of experience and being mentored by the famous Robin Long of Robin Long Photography, Ashlyn is continuing to perfect her skill and her style. She has been featured on the Daytime talk show as well as local television in the Durham Region. You can find her online at , and

Become an
Baby Care Tips Member

for exclusive contests, articles and promotions!

Baby Care & Parents Information - Oh Baby! Magazine Canada