Why Custom Photography?

It’s challenging to decide to schedule a session with a professional photographer especially since these days, there are so many options for documenting your family…

  • do it yourself with a cell phone or a point and shoot camera
  • visit a commercial chain studios, like Target
  • find a fancy boutique studios
  • find a photographer who works outside of studios

Often, we simply do what we know.  I grew up visiting chain studios as a kid so that was where I took my kids when they were little.

The Dreaded Studio Photo Session

I remember my last experience at a chain studio years ago.  My kids were 1 and 2 years old and I planned out my morning to get to the studio early so that we would manage the pictures between nap times.  The photos were “meh.”  My kids weren’t too difficult as far as little ones go, not cranky but rather they were fairly cooperative.  The background was white and blah and the props were pretty banged up from use but none of that was a problem.  To me, the focus was my kids and getting their beautiful smiles!

The photographer would snap a shot and show it to me on the monitor asking me if I liked it.  It was an ok shot but not that great shot I hoped for.  Then I had to decide if I wanted to keep that one or try for another.  The pressure was frustrating.  Why did I have to choose in the moment knowing that my kids were losing patience and getting closer and closer to snack time and naptime?

We finished up with the “meh” photos and then it was time to place the order because once you stepped out of the studio, the prices increased.  This was another point that I found frustrating.  In the moment, I’m trying to figure out how many prints I need for immediate family and extended family.  I have 2 babies who are done performing, done with their snacks, done with their toys and just ready to be done.  The fussiness increased.  The sales person tried to up-sell me on packages, digitals, collages and vignettes.  All for some “meh” pictures.  Pictures that didn’t even begin to show the personalities of my kids!  I got flustered.  The numbers conspired against me.  I spent too much.  I left with hungry, cranky babies and I felt sick and frustrated.

No one should have an experience like that.

Certainly, not all photo sessions are easy but they can be so much easier without the pressure to get one shot and buy it before it disappears forever.  To me, that’s why I switched to custom photography.

What is custom photography anyway?

Custom photography is an experience.  It is all about the photographer providing you, the client with personal attention in order to create beautiful portrait art for your family.  When you choose a custom photographer, you’re entering into a creative partnership.  The photographer acts as an artist and guide, assisting you in creating unique works of art that truly capture and tell the story of your family.  At least, that’s what myself and some of my other fellow photographers strive for.

Custom photography is no longer just for weddings.  There are photographers who specialize in everything- from newborns, babies, kids, seniors, families, couples to events, head shots, and boudoir.  And there are custom photographers that do it all.   While it may feel so overwhelming, it is a very worthwhile experience to have portraits created with a custom photographer especially if you’ve only ever gone to chain studios or have never had professional portraits taken.

It seems like it should be so easy-hire a photographer, get pictures, DONE.

But who do you hire?  How do you know which session option to pick?  Products or digital files?  Mini session or full?

Even within the professional photography industry, there are a wide variety of options.  Established studios often offer photo sessions and then an in person ordering session, also known as In Person Sales or IPS.  There are shoot & burn photographers who hand over the digital files after your session, sometimes not even edited.  There are photographers that run back to back sessions that have you in and out in 20 minutes, similar to the commercial chain studios but on location.  And there are photographers that spend hours planning your session, gathering props, even helping to style your clothing before your photo session.

I’m here to give a little guidance into the process of choosing the right custom photography session for your family. Over the next few days, I will share some suggestions for working through the process of choosing a photographer.  These are not hard and fast rules.  Instead they are tips that I’ve learned from being in the industry as a photographer, as well as a client, to hopefully make this experience a little less daunting and more enjoyable.


Today, I have a custom photographer that I use for our family photos.   We meet with her every couple of years.  She takes her time with us.  She doesn’t pressure my kids or me or my husband because she knows us. Best of all, she makes the whole experience fun (even when one kid is miserable with un-diagnosed strep throat).

That’s the kind of experience that I want to encourage all families to seek out.

Christmas family portrait

Our family photo with strep throat- can you guess which one of us is sick? 🙂 Thanks to the talented Jen McKen

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Hi there, it's Jodi!

I hope you enjoy my work and please let me know if you have any questions about photography, art, or anything at all.

When it comes to portrait photography, there are a lot of options. It's important to me that I help my clients create the session and have the products that are the best fit for their family!

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family, senior, headshot, and creative

portrait photographer for the Pittsburgh area including:

Cranberry, Fox Chapel, Mt Lebanon, Sewickley, Upper St Clair, and Wexford