Photographer Gary Dalone has been with Teddy Bear Portraits by Nationwide Studios for over 30 years. In fact, he was the 11th employee on board back in 1981. Gary has contributed to the growth of the company by wearing many hats over the years. Today, he wears two: Territory Leader and photographer.
Originally from Massachusetts, Gary found his way to Washington, D.C. after college and joined the company in photography and sales. He was then transferred to Florida, where he represented Nationwide and Teddy Bear Portraits for 18 years. His loyalty and dedication to the company brought him to Nashville in 2004, where he continues his work today.
As a seasoned photographer of “cute little guys” as he puts it, Gary has not only mastered the final product—a really great shot of an adorable kid—but also the process involved in maintaining relationships with the directors and staff members of the daycare centers. Always a photographer, he also sold the pictures from day one.
As Gary describes his work, “It’s a personality thing. If you like kids, and play with them, then there’s success. The kids can tell if you’re phony or not. The only real way you can know if the photographer is really good with kids is to see them in action at the daycare center. You can know everything about the state-of-the-art equipment we have and take great photos, but if you can’t connect with the kids, it’s just not going to be the best shot it can be. Over the years, we have hired people with no photography background because of their personalities with the children. You can train them to shoot, but you can’t train personality. ”
“When photographing kids, you gotta get in there and get a flow going by making it fun. It’s not like a wedding. Kids pick up on a stringent process in a second,” Gary continued.
“Controlling the room” is another aspect of the job that Gary identifies as extremely important. He advises new photographers on making sure the energy and flow of the shoot goes smoothly—particularly with the sequence of the ages of the kids in the photo shoot line up.
“New photographers get a 2-day shoot, and they don’t know much about the flow. If you walk in on a Monday, and they have the infants, toddlers and older toddlers all scheduled for Monday morning, and they have the 3 year olds and 4 year olds scheduled for the next day, that could be a recipe for disaster.”
Gary often advises new photographers and new bookers to book and shoot the 3 year olds and 1 year olds on the first day and 2 year olds and 4 year olds on the second. Then do the siblings.
“Think about it. If one kid starts crying because it can be scary, other kids will follow. This upsets the children, the teachers, the staff and could extend the shoot past the allocated time. You can’t have a young child watching another fussy child, and you can’t have one kid ruin the energy of the room or the day. Sometimes I have a really awesome kid, really happy and well behaved. I’ll keep him in the room for 5 kids in a row—he or she makes the other kids comfortable. The same goes with siblings. Shoot the bigger sibling first, then slide the little guy in.”
When it comes to parents, sometimes there’s a point at which a photographer has to ask them, or daycare staffers, to step out. Always keep some help in the room, sometimes there can be just too many grown-ups. “Compliment the staff on how great they are with the kids, and it helps keep parents out of the room if necessary.”
Gary has a natural way with the kids, and a loyal following of centers. He knows how to work with children to maintain a happy environment on portrait day and capture an incredible shot of a child. He understands the directors’ needs on portrait day, which contributes to repeat bookings.
His favorite response from the parents, which he hears often, is, “This is the best picture my kid has ever taken!” He laughs knowing that they may not know what it took to actually capture that smile, but that’s okay. That’s part of being an incredible Teddy Bear Portraits photographer.
Want to grow your career in preschool and daycare photography?
If you’re a professional photographer who loves to work with young children, visit the Teddy Bear Portraits careers page to find a position in your area. We’ll be looking for your application soon!