Local photographer Deanna Seymour is on a mission to give parents an alternative to the “typical” children’s portrait—and to show them how a fun photo can become a family’s own piece of archival art.
Our son turns seven in less than two weeks, and I can count the number of times we’ve had professional photos taken of him that aren’t school photos on one hand. Actually on one finger.
A photographer friend gifted us a photo session shortly after the kid was born, but since then we’ve relied on iPhone photos and the occasional candid shot captured by a friend with a camera to document his childhood.
It wasn’t for lack of wanting. I love the idea of having beautiful pictures of my kid, I just don’t love the idea of paying a ton of money for something that, given our son’s inconvenient tendency to be of his own mind, could be a disaster if he’s just not feeling it.
And then there’s the tendency of some kids, including him, to go all Chandler Bing when they need to smile on cue. Who wants to pay for that? But a professional photo capturing that moment just before he gets the giggles? Or of him making the craziest face he can think of? Or of him giving some side-eye, like he does approximately 40 bajillion times every day? Yes, please, thank you, take my money, where do I sign?
Capturing those moments is exactly what local photographer Deanna Seymour does during her photo sessions. Deanna owns Wild Design Photography, and makes it her business to provide parents and families an alternative to today’s more “typical” portrait options–or as I call them “Here we are in a field, sitting on barrels of hay” photos.
My family and I very rarely (if ever) sit in fields and/or on barrels of hay. Photos of us playing Uno and eating chips would be much more accurate.
“I think [those photos] are great for some people, but […] I’ve always been more interested in the people I’m photographing than in the setting or the clothes or props,” Deanna explains. “If there’s too much emphasis on all that stuff, the great expressions are lost. So my favorite shots are the ones with a solid background and a kid, just being themselves.”
“Let them be themselves! Let them be wild!” she adds.
And Deanna is really good at helping kids get to the point in the portrait session where they actually feel comfortable enough to be themselves and be wild–like really, really good.
“It’s nice if you can take your time and chat with them a little first before just jumping right in with the camera,” says Deanna. “I also play a fun game where we pick prompts out of a bag–things like ‘make a fish face’ or ‘act like you just ate something really delicious’ will inspire some pretty funny faces and then something great happens. They forget they’re having their portrait taken, they start laughing, and that’s when the really great photos happen.”
Deanna attributes her ability to quickly establish a rapport with kids (and families) to her experiences as a teacher. After transferring to VCU, where she studied photography, Deanna worked for several years as an art teacher–but she always had side businesses going on as well, including (but not limited to) photo booths.
“The photo booths [were] one of my crazy side business ideas. I’ve never been a fan of super posed portraits, and I just found that people were willing to let go and just be silly in the photo booth and I loved that, so I went with it,” she says. “I really think it was a crucial stepping stone for me to get where I am today with my portrait style.”
Deanna’s experience as a photo booth photographer not only informs her portrait style, but also her approach to making her clients (those posing and those paying) comfortable. While Seymour does private sessions with kids, families–and even pets–her Wild Kids! Portrait Events make a party out of the portrait-taking experience.
Organizing a Wild Kids! Portrait Event is ridiculously simple:1
- Deanna helps you select a date.
- You invite a handful of your friends and their kids over.
- Put out some snacks–nothing messy, please!
- The kids take turns getting their pictures taken in front of a colorful background of their/your choosing. When they’re aren’t posing, they’re playing with their friends.
The whole she-bang is essentially an hour-long, stress-free, well-documented playdate–which is what Deanna Seymour wants for her clients.
“I know that sometimes going to get the portraits taken, and waiting for your turn, and being in a strange place can all lead to those awkward family photos. So I thought that maybe if they were taking them at a friend’s house it wouldn’t be so bad, and they would be more relaxed about the whole process,” Seymour explains. “The idea is to keep the kids (and parents, but mostly the kids) happy! Happy kids usually take happy portraits. I just thought it would be a better experience for everyone involved.”
No one pays a sitting fee, and the host gets a monetary credit for each family that comes to the portrait event.2
“You get a $25 credit for each family that attends your event. I didn’t want to put emphasis on the sales, cause I didn’t want it to be that kind of party,” says Deanna. “People can buy portraits or not, but you invited them, so you should get something for that.”
That credit can be used to spend on gift sets and digital files. About a week after the event, Deanna will set up a time to meet with guests individually to reveal their portraits and go over pricing options. Prints can be purchased a la carte or as wall art packages, and Wild Design partners with The Organic Bloom to offer custom framing. Deanna also provides custom design help for those (like me) who want to display photos of their kids but aren’t sure how to do it.
“My clients can send me a photo of a wall in their house, and I can create a mock up of what their portraits will look like on their wall,” she says. “It’s all to scale, and we can change the sizes, add frames, pick frame colors and make a really clear decision about what they will love most in their home.”
Getting those prints up on the wall is key for Deanna. While most of us are all about digital options when it comes to photos these days, she wants to help us take our kids’ portraits to the next level.
“In the age of digital photography, a lot of photographers offer packages with just digital files. I think that is a great disservice to the parents out there,” says Deanna. “Everyone has the best intentions to get those photos printed, but unfortunately a lot of those photos never make it past a computer screen. Then hard drives die, or computers crash, and your memories are gone forever. I feel very strongly that clients should get photographs from their photographers. I offer digital files too, because I do think they are great to have, but I just want my clients to have that archival print in their family for years to come!”
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For more information on Wild Design Photography, visit wilddesignphotography.com.
- I know this because I just hosted one last weekend. And no, I received absolutely no compensation from Wild Design Photography for this piece. The whole process was so fun and easy that I feel like I need to tell everyone. ↩
- And a $50 credit for each guest who then books his/her own portrait event. ↩