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September 2016

Teddy Bear Portraits Photographer Profile: Gary Dalone

By | Daycare and Preschool Photography, Professional Photographers | No Comments

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!

7 Tips for Your Best Preschool Pictures

By | Daycare and Preschool Photography, Photography Tips, Portrait Photography | No Comments

7 tips for your best preschool pictures. Teddy Bear Portraits.On school picture day, you want your child to look his or her best. After all, these are professional portraits that will last a lifetime and that you’ll want to display in your home and share with family.

Here are 7 tips to help you prepare your child to take the best preschool or daycare photos possible. Whether it’s the first school picture day, holiday card photographs, or a family portrait session, these tips will help make a great shoot.

Tip #1: Choose the right outfit for picture day

The night before photo day select 3 to 5 outfits for your child to choose from. Find clothing that he or she loves and that you know looks good on them.

Picture day isn’t the best time to break out that new, itchy wool sweater from Grandma. Instead, make them feel comfortable. When your child looks good and feels good, professional photographers will capture it.

Bold, vibrant colors work just as well neutrals to show off your child’s personality. Both kids and cameras love color. Use your child’s favorite color combinations for fun, memorable photos.

It’s better to avoid clothing with slogans, oversized logos, and loud patterns that can distract from your child’s smiling face. Clothing should complement and not compete.

Tip #2: Focus on the hair

If your child is due for a haircut, have it done at least 2 weeks prior to the photo shoot. If your child wants a new hairstyle, look through a few magazines together and choose a cut that he or she loves and is easy for you to maintain.

Find a style that you both love, but save the dramatic haircut for after picture day.

When school picture day arrives, comb and style your child’s hair prior to morning send-off. If you’re concerned that your child can’t maintain the style until the photo session begins, don’t worry. Professional photographers will take the time to style and groom each child.

Tip #3: Get a good night’s sleep

A soothing bath the night before portrait day will relax your child and prepare him or her for a good night’s sleep. If bathtime isn’t a happy time for your child, try a lullaby or reading a book before bed.

Also, consider playing calming music or leaving on a fan to generate white noise to drown out other sounds. It may help your child to sleep through the night.

If your child imagines monsters in the room when the lights are out, in their article, “How to Get Your Child to Sleep (Really!)” recommends the following:

“Indulge (a little) at tuck-in. Get her what she needs—the first few requests are probably legit. It’s okay to acknowledge her fears, too; it’ll soothe, rather than encourage, if you can spray “monster poison” (water) around or put in a nightlight.”

A child who’s had a good night of uninterrupted sleep is likely to look fresh and alert on picture day.

Tip #4: Don’t forget to brush

After breakfast, have your child brush his or her teeth. A couple of minutes is all it takes to properly clean teeth. Why not make it fun and sing a short song or watch a short video? is a site that encourages children to brush their teeth for two minutes twice a day. To help with that effort, their Watch & Brush page hosts short 2 minute videos that children can watch while brushing their teeth.

If your child needs a little motivation, play a short video that distracts him or her from the time spent brushing.

Tip #5: Practice making expressions

In the age of camera phones and selfies, you’ve probably taken hundreds—maybe thousands—of photos of your child.

If that’s the case, scroll through your collection to find a few that you really like. Show the images to your child and explain what it is that you like so much about it.

Your child may already be used to being in front of the camera. There’s no need to make too big of a deal out of picture day. As long as your child has fun and is comfortable, your professional portraits will look natural rather than staged.

Tip #6: Bring a favorite toy or blanket

Does your child own a favorite toy or have a special attachment to a blanket? If so, bring it along to the photo shoot. These souvenirs of childhood add a personal touch to your photos.

Consider items that your child may one day remember years after the photo shoot. It may be a hand-knitted blanket gifted to your child by an elderly family member. Or maybe it’s the teddy bear that you grew up with and that you saved especially for your own child to love.

These items aren’t merely props used to set a stage. They’re items that your child will always cherish and will one day appreciate seeing in a photo.

Tip #7: Remember that nobody’s perfect

Picture day at preschool or daycare is a rare and precious opportunity to capture your child in one brief moment. Next year, you’ll have the opportunity to capture them all over again in that moment.

Don’t worry about perfection. If your child has lost baby teeth, for instance, remember it’s a rite of passage that every child experiences. You’ll enjoy looking at the imperfections and quirky expressions for years to come.

As these moments happen, we’ll capture them, so you can remember them.