Amy asks, “Are studio photographs of your kids worth it?”

Her answer is a qualified “yes.” It’s obviously a personal choice—and nothing against photographers who do this style of work or folks who use them—but for me, I find that the everyday snaps I make of my family doing what they do are a much more cherished documentary of our lives than any posed studio portrait. Kids running down the hall, out of focus hands and faces grabbing for the lens, asleep in bed, cooking dinner—these are the moments life is made of.

Studio portraits are really, really nice mug shots. They can be beautiful. I even shoot photos like this myself. But nothing beats a large collection of everyday shots of people doing everyday things to tell a real story about a life—regardless of any perceived difference in quality.

By John Watson

John Watson is the original founder of Photodoto. If you're interested in what John has been up to, you can browse his personal blog.


  1. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve always hated going to those things. And while they can be rather well done, that sort of posed, set up photography bought from some seedy place in the mall with those stupid backdrops has always struck me as entirely fake, impersonal, and mostly useless. This is mostly aimed at the seedy places in the mall like I said, as it is not impersonal or fake at all if you take the pictures yourself. Well maybe a little fake, as all posed photography is a little fake at least, but I digress. It’s good, though not surprising, to hear that you feel the way you do.

  2. Yes they are worth it, but only if you have aging relatives (mostly female) who value them. That being said, if you’re at all photographically inclined, it’s worth it to learn how to make this kind of photography yourself.

  3. I love looking through photos of my kids. Specifically, MY photos of my kids. Seeing them laughing and playing, rather than just sitting there with a fake smile, is so much better. The old studio shots of them are interesting, but the ones we look at every day are the ones we took ourselves.

  4. It’s true that I say “yes” to taking these photos. But I completely agree with you all, too. Take photos of your children yourself! Take TONS of photos of your children yourself! But, for those who are not as photographically inclined (read: many of my readers), I have to admit, it’s an easy solution for nice headshot-type photos for the grandparents to suppliment what you’ve already got.

    I take tons and tons of photos of my daughter with my own camera, and I love those shots most of all because they are candid and show her true personality. And admittedly, I took these portrait shots with a blog post about them in mind, but I ended up surprisingly glad I did it. Maybe I just see the irony in them and it makes me laugh. Who knows.

    And as a non-elitist photographer, I think it’s fine to suggest it as a viable option to budget-conscious parents. 🙂

  5. We take lots of photos at nearly every opportunity to capture the moment and fill up the scrapbooks. However, we also get the kids portrait taken at milestone dates (birthdays) and group ones on certain holidays like Easter and Christmas. Of course it helps that our local Sears takes pretty good shots and they are relatively inexpensive.

    On the negative side of the portrait question… I recently read on Thomas Hawk’s site about his experience with a “professional” portrait studio. As I recall, even after he spent a couple thousand the photographer was still pressuring him to buy some extremely pricey poster size prints. To make matters worse, when he asked about getting them digital so he could put them on his media center – the pro denied that request. When Hawk mentioned he could simple scan them the pro remarked that that would be a copyright violation. At that point I’d have told the photographer to DIAF and left with nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for respecting copyrights. But, it was the attitude of the pro, their unwillingness to work with the customer’s requests and their repeated sales pressure that got me steamed.

  6. I have plenty of pictures of my kids as you describe, but I also like GOOD studio shots on occasion to break up the collection. Frankly, there are no good pictures of ME with my kids, and good studio shots offer that. Granted, I’m not talking about the Sears pictures, but an expensive sitting with a quality photographer. But as Shaun’s story above demonstrates, you need to ask questions first.

    While on a cruise recently they had little “studios” set up around on most evenings and we got some great family shots. Those are shots that I couldn’t get on my own with a timer.

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