Being a School Photographer

Is being a photographer really glamorous?

Most people that I talk to think that my profession as a photographer is exciting and glamorous. A common perception of my life is that I live a jet setting lifestyle, uploading my recent images to our cleverly designed website (which happens to get 100,000 hits a month…no problem), I love all photography, and I can make everyone look like a hot model during any time of day, in any situation.

“Oh, you’re a professional photographer…how exciting!”

Well, not really. I enjoy my life as a photographer only because I have focused on the photography I like to do. I estimate that my photography business is 90% school photography and the remaining 10% being weddings (I now do one a year), family portraits, business headshots, and high school graduating senior portraits.

Personally, I enjoy working in the school photography environment because I like kids. Yesterday, I was at one of my preschool accounts and four different mothers came up to me separately and said how much they enjoyed my photography over the years. Two of them had older kids in the local elementary school and they both complained about the poor quality and poor attitude of the school photographer there. It does take a certain type of person to become a school photographer and I’m that person.

Most other photographers (and some of the general public) look down on school photographers because they don’t consider us artists. I beg to differ but they learn that attitude because most of the school photographers are huge, cheap photography chains. The people that work for these huge chains are not photographers; they are merely people trying to find themselves. They are paid poorly and it reflects in the work they produce. The chain photographers usually don’t last too long before they decide to jump ship and do something else. In the meantime, they don’t enjoy the school photography business and thus produce a lousy product and tarnish the school photographer image.

As a self-employed photographer, I am paid much better, produce a high quality portrait product, and actually enjoy my job! I’m part photographer, part clown, part counselor, and all fun! Parents want to have a real, natural smile from their child. I don’t mind being goofy to entice that smile from kids to get that fun portrait. It is part of the job and it makes the job fun.

Sometimes, a parent will let me know they are a photographer, a little scared that I’ll feel threatened. I like to meet other photographers because they often have a little tidbit that might help me in my business. Exchanging ideas is awesome!

Some parents want to get into photography as a business. “How do I become a photographer?” is a question I’m asked a lot. Most don’t want to become a school photographer like me, so I have no problem giving my advice and telling them about my experience. Honestly, the photography business has changed so much in the 18 years I have been involved in it that I am always learning new things!

My dad is also a school photographer (since 1968) and He has seen more changes that I have! He still loves photography. People always ask me if he is going to retire. I laugh at that question. He loves school photography too much to quit.

Which made me start to think that perhaps I should share my school photography business knowledge with my own website that talks about it. In the near future, I’ll be developing my new blog and website
If you haven’t had a chance, surf on over to my website at
Thanks for reading! As always, I welcome your comments!

Snow Camping

Happily, I have returned from one night of snow camping this past weekend with the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scout troop left on Friday morning and spent two nights out there. Luckily, I had First Aide and CPR training so I was able to go up for only one night. My son spent two nights in the igloo he and his fellow scouts built.

Snow camping isn’t my favorite type of camping because, frankly, it is cold. It isn’t just a little cold, it is freezing cold and I really don’t like to be cold. Yes, I admit it; I’m a fair weather camper.

Now that my son is in Boy Scouts, I’ll be doing a lot more camping. Considering that we live in the Seattle area, we’ll be doing a lot of camping in the rain. To my benefit, our Boy Scout troop only does one winter camping trip a year. I personally don’t think I’d want to do more than one winter camping trip a year. Like I said earlier, I like to be warm.

When you are winter camping, you are sleeping outside (in a tent) with the temperature at or below freezing or in an igloo (which is at freezing or below because it is an igloo). Mind you, if you are outside in a tent and it is 20 degrees, it’s darn cold. And if you are in an igloo, you are slightly above freezing because of your body heat and it is still darn cold. Since the temperature in the igloo is slightly above freezing, it is never toasty warm and comfortable until you get into your sleeping bag (which you hope is a very good zero degree bag). Why would you want to be comfortable? That is a silly idea. No, you’ll never be in a nice warm cabin, sleeping in a nice warm bed, with lots of nice warm heat. Instead you’ll be outside in freezing weather, bonding with other equally frozen comrades.

Of course, I’m usually warm during a winter excursion because I’ve learned to stay dry. I have lots of layers of dry clothing and I like them to stay dry. When I was a scout, I was wet and cold during snow camping and it wasn’t very fun. Now, whether it is snow, rain, or sunny camping, I always stay dry, warm, and comfortable. I learned the hard way that camping isn’t much fun when you are miserable, wet, and cold.

Now camping in Hawaii is much more fun and enjoyable. I was fortunate to be able to camp in the Puget Sound and to camp on the island of Kauai (Hawaii) during my scouting career. On Kauai, the camping was warm. However, I do remember at one Camporee (an event where all the troops of the island would get together and camp for a weekend) up at Kokee that it pour rain the whole time. When I talk about the rain to people on the mainland, they always comment “But it was warm rain”. Sure, but water is water and you still get wet and miserable. If you don’t properly cover up your gear, it will get wet and you’ll be even more miserable. And if you happen to be my brother (he is an Eagle Scout like me) you might forget to bring your sleeping bag one year. Luckily for him, I had everyone donate their towels to him to use for blankets. Sure, they didn’t cover his whole body, he looked like a bum on the beach, but at least he was warm that weekend.

If you get a chance to visit Kauai, I highly recommend you consider staying at my parents’ guest cottage. Here’s the link: They also offer wedding services on Kauai and that link is:

What’s better than cat puke? Spilled Pickle Juice!

I’m proud to announce that at 10:15 pm, I have finished cleaning out the refrigerator after the “Great Pickle Juice Spill of 2011!” Yes, nothing beats having your son announce that at the bottom of your fridge sits a pool of pickle juice ready to be clean up. Instead of sitting down and enjoying a good book or watching some mindless television (who doesn’t like Jersey Shore??), I spent my evening pulling out the bottom two shelves of the fridge, cleaning them off and then….thinking to myself….

…since I am cleaning the bottom out I should also clean all the other shelves.

Out comes all the milk, cheese, eggs, Uncle Ray’s BBQ sauce, ketchup, mayo, Chinese hot mustard, jelly, beer, spinach, carrots, Jell-O, sour cream, etc. Out come the shelves to be scrubbed off with a beautiful solution of warm bleach water, gently scrubbing off the crumbs, dried out spinach, and other odd spills.

Looking into the empty fridge, one can step back and admire the cleanliness that has claimed its stake in the modern world. Yes, inhale softly the sweet smell of a clean fridge and relax knowing your eggs are once again safe from the foul smell of spilled pickle juice.