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Friday, July 31, 2009

Review & Giveaway: Sears Portrait Studio

Well the intrepid folks at Sears Portrait Studio thought it would be a good idea for me and the Hubei Wrecking Crew to come on down and evaluate their services. So who was I to argue? Just kidding, actually I did argue, many times, citing my passion for photography, my anal retentive nature, and (most importantly) my children's high energy levels and extreme intolerance for photography studios. Actually I stressed this last point several times. But they were undaunted and assured me that they were up for the challenge and did, indeed, want to hear what we thought. So we scheduled a session, I browsed the web site and picked out a fun beachy setting, then I got the girls all gussied up and off we went. Here's the skinny:

The Bottom Line

Sears Portrait Studio gets an "A" from our family. Honestly, they knocked our socks off. The girls liked them, I liked them, and everyone loved the pictures. Seriously loved them. The studio did a great job and really listened to my dire warnings about the twinados—they had two photographers there on our job, one to take the photos and one to wrangle the kids. It worked out so perfectly. Here are a few of the shots:

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Some of the other shots, as well as a quick collage I made, are here if you want to see them.

Things I Liked

  • Mobility: The camera was totally mobile. With a wheeled, adjustable tripod, the camera could instantly move in any direction, angle, etc., or be taken off for worms-eye views, etc. Really important with two wiggly, fast-moving twins.
  • It Just Worked: The equipment worked flawlessly. Oh man, soooooo nice, and so not the experience I've had with previous chain portrait studios. This is make or break for us. If the equipment malfunctions, you miss the shot. And trying to get the girls to recreate whatever they were doing that was awesome and cute, well forgeddaboutit.
  • Speed: The photographers kept things moving at a very fast pace (always key with young children), and adapted to what the girls were doing as they went along. For example, Ree was supposed to hold her sunglasses at one point, but instead put them on (and looked adorable) and they didn't even blink. Just allowed her to show her own personality.
  • Hands-On: The wrangler was funny, personable, and not afraid to touch Ro and Ree, rearrange poses, tickle, slick down stray hairs, make a fool of herself, whatever. The two photographers were also intuitive enough to realize that Ro and Ree responded much better to the girl. So the girl took the lead on wrangling them and interacting with them, while the guy took the pictures.
  • Skin: The flash setup and resulting skin tones were spot-on, without any editing. Yay!
  • No Shot Limit: Sears Portrait Studio had no limit on the number of shots they could take or view. No Limit!!! Have you used the chain photo studios? Just when your kiddos are starting to look awesome, you hit the 6-shot limit in the online interface and everything grinds to a halt while you view the images, decide which are keepers, and delete some to make room for more shots. No limits is so superior and so much better for the flow with young kids that I just don't even know what to say. :-)
Things that Could Be Improved

  • Don't Email My Password: When I created an online account with corporate Sears Portrait, so I could view and share the photos with family, they sent me a confirmation email that included the username and password I had chosen. The hair on the back of my neck goes up when big companies do this. In this day and age, with all the digital ID theft going on, it just shouldn't be happening. (Again, this wasn't the local studio, this was done by corporate.)
  • Faster Prints: It takes about two weeks to get your photos if you order matte instead of glossy. Not a big deal, but if you've got a specific deadline, like the holidays, don't forget to schedule early (or just order the glossy finish, which you can get immediately in studio).
  • Looking Directly at the Camera: Ok, this one is seriously minor, but I wish the wrangler had positioned herself a smidge closer to the camera so the girls weren't looking sideways in some of the shots. I know this was primarily a result of having two folks in there, one to photograph and one to wrangle the kids, which was a huge advantage with the twinados, so I'm not complaining AT ALL, just mentioning it as a tiny area for improvement.
  • Processing Time: The actual photography time was very fast (maybe 30 minutes), but then it took a fairly long time to get everything in the system, choose the pictures (primarily my fault since I liked them all), process the order, and print the CD. My mom was there with me, but if she hadn't been I just would have done the portraits, then come back later without the girls to do all the choosing and processing. Easy to do, just keep that option in the back of your mind if you don't have help with you.
  • Direct Phone Numbers: The corporate Sears Portrait Studio web site doesn't give local studio phone numbers, only the main corporate phone number. I had to wait on hold for 8 mins 25 secs before the corporate rep answered and gave me the local number. Yowza! Do you know how much damage the twinados can do in that amount of time?
My personal tips for a successful portrait session with your kids

  • Do not, I repeat do not, arrive early (any waiting time in the beginning can directly be subtracted from the amount of time your kids will cooperate during the session).

  • Decide ahead of time on a tiny bribe for cooperation, and don't be afraid to show it at various times during the session (bribes can be miniscule, say a half a stick of gum, two M&Ms, a small toy, or playtime at grandma's, whatever resonates with your kiddo).
  • Use only one outfit and one background if you know you're going to want to frame a collage of pictures for your wall or the grandparents' wall—this way you'll get the most possible shots to pick from.

  • Get the kids comfortable, then discreetly step out of the kids' eyeshot. Your kids will focus on the photographer and camera, plus they'll usually listen better to someone else (at least for a few minutes). Step back inside each time they change poses or whenever your kids get a little unruly.

  • If your kids are difficult, be honest and let the studio know ahead of time. Say it several times if you're really worried, and suggest that they put their best photographer on the job or even have two folks there (one to wrangle, and one to snap away).
The Giveaway!

One Salsa in China reader will win Sears Portrait Studio’s Silver Collection Product (a $260 value), which includes 10 custom “mix and match” portrait sheets, your choice of two collages/composites, and one 10x13 wall portrait. Plus, you get a CD of your original images with copyrights and up to 10 standard enhancements, such as black and white, sepia, vignettes or borders. To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post with a creative idea (a prop, an outfit, a background, a location, whatever) for Ro and Ree's upcoming 4th birthday portraits. One entry per household, US residents only. Entries will be closed at 8am on Friday Aug 7, 2009, and the winner will be drawn at random, announced, and notified by email that same day (so make sure your profile has an email address or I've got some way to contact you). The winner has 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

**** Comments for this giveaway are now closed and winner will be announced shortly.

158 comments:

Ladybugsmom said...

Well first we LOVE Sears and have not nothing but great experiences...the same things you mention are also things we have brought to their attention...as for creative birthday ideas for #4...are they riding bikes yet..how about bikes and cute bicyle attire? a thought
Emily

Sarah said...

Fun! I am not a prop person, so my 4th birthday suggestion for a location would be a candy store with a really creative and colorful display case! Then, let them go to town on a big lollypop!

Derek and Jennifer said...

I have to agree that I like Sears and have been pleased each time I've gone. Thanks for the honest review and the suggestions. Kid's photo shoots are not on my list of favorite things to do but I'd love to win your package! Picture time is right around the corner for our family.

An idea is to get plenty of yellow and pink flowers and the white backdrop and play up their love of those 2 colors.

Victoria said...

Since Ro and Ree love being in the kitchen. i suggest that they try to bake their own cake (with you and tubadad's help of course) for their 4th birthday. and you do a photoshoot of them in little chef outfits right in your own kitchen in the midst of them making a cake. hehe

M's 玠玠 said...

Wow what a great thorough review!! Thanks!

A location for the twins' 4th birthday portraits. Maybe a local garden with an abundance of beautiful flowers? A beach is always a great location for fantastic photos. CA must have great beaches!

Thanks for the opportunity to win!!

Diann said...

My daughter (20years old) just had (spontaneous) triplet boys! They are 6 months old and can't afford to have their pics professionally taken, so I would like to win this for her!
You are so creative, I am sure you have already thought of everything but I can picture your girls with ladybugs and butterflies. Maybe cute sun in the back ground with flowers...
that's all I got! :)

Good Luck!

goldeelox9 said...

Oh I want in...I think Taking pictures of the girls with 4 of what ever prop you guys use. Like 4 Balloons or 4 Pumkins.

~Lisa
goldeelox9@yahoo.com

Cara said...

What about pettiskirts in their favorite color (of, course) out in a field of tall flowers.

I really like Victoria's idea of the cooking/little chef photoshoot, but let them have a (small) flour fight in the kitchen......

Gina said...

An idea that I just got from a friend is to take in whatever are their favorite toys of the moment and use those in some of the portraits. That way, looking back you/they can see immediately what they liked when they were four. For example, her daughter's My Little Pony toys were set up and the camera was snapping as she played with them.

Jennifer said...

I just took my nephew's 2nd bday pics at the beach. They turned out adorable!! So of course I must choose the beach!

Kiy said...

I have to say, we did not have good luck with Sears the two times we've tried them (9 mo pics and 18 mo pics). However, that said it could be our location - the area in which we live is known far and wide as having terrible customer service! Can you imagine? It's not just Sears, it's every store, restaurant, etc. Needless to say, that was one big X in the column for 'pro' for our decision to move. So, if we are lucky enough to win (yay!) we could use our gift certificate in our new locale of SC! :)

My idea for 4th birthday would have been down on the beach, before I remembered that you used the beach for this photo shoot. I just think beach when I think of your family (imagine that). Hmmm, how about a carousel? The girls each on a horse, TubaDad standing as a spotter (but out of the pics as you are clicking). You'd probably have to find a park/carousel that would work with you, on a pretty slow day. But it would be really cool if you could pull it off. (Oh, and shots of both standing still and in motion.) Gosh, now I want to do this!

Cheers, thanks for the new section, it rocks!

Kiy

Brandi said...

We just brought our little one home from Hunan a couple months ago and would love to get some professional pics done.

As for ideas for the girls' 4 year photoshoot....how about combining a bunch of their favorites to use as props. Toys, food, etc... or maybe going on location to one of their favorite places (aquarium, candy store, etc...)

Can't wait to hear what you decide to use. I'm sure the pics will be FABULOUS!!!

mamadaisy said...

they look so cute in with the beach backdrop -- I would have to suggest grass skirts and flower leis for the next shoot. Although it will be getting closer to Halloween by their birthdays, so a pumpkin patch might be better.

lots of fun!

Christy said...

I love their white dresses and fun flower clips!

My favorite bday party idea is ice cream sundaes at home. What's better than getting a bunch of four year olds sugared up and letting them run wild at home?

Seeing how cute the girls are with a beach theme, maybe you should have a hula party with grass skirts and kiddie umbrella drinks!

christina said...

How about a bento portrait? They enjoy making bentos so much. If not then maybe a bento themed party (I know it doesn't address your question about what theme to do for their 4th birthday portrait but I thought I'd throw it in there anyway). Or maybe they can decide in the same way that you let them decide how to put their outfits together and see what fabulous idea they come up with.
christina

metaphase said...

Ok, so since I'm a scientist I'm about as creative as..well..a scientist. So, I may suggest a pastoral setting- not cowgirl, but simple, semi-country dresses with shots by a distressed barn, old plow etc. That's the best I got, sorry.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog and have been following it for many years now. The twins are adorable and I love your posts about the creative things you do with them -- it gives me ideas for my 2 little boys (the first was born right at the time you were coming home from China with Marie and Rose).

As far as a birthday picture -- I always loved having birthay parties for my dolls. It might be cute to take a picture of the girls having a doll birhday party.

I'd love to win the Sears giveaway.
Amy G.

teridr said...

Maybe pictures with their beloved yellow buckets?

Ok, maybe not. :) But how about they each get to bring their four favorite toys or books?

Teri

Miss Lila in Atlanta said...

Good Heavens! Are they almost four already!!!???
I follow the girls everyday and love them to bits. They are sooo cute!

How about the girls all dressed up having tea as a photo shoot?

Love your blog. So much fun and upbeat!

Love, Miss Lila in Atlanta

Catherine said...

SO many great pics of your adorable cuties!! How ever did you choose?? Sears did a great job!

Guess this Canadian can't get in on the giveaway but I'm just thankful to learn about Sears great photography studios. Hopefully they're the same here, north of the border.

Not too sure about 4th birthday photo shoot ideas. They seemed to be into dress-up last visit. Would a dress-up theme work or would you prefer more normal stuff? What about a swimming theme as they're flourished when it comes to their swimming independance lately?

Whatever you decide I know your pics will be beautiful and fun!!

Jodi said...

I think that for at least a few of the photos that you should let the girls pick their own outfits. That would be a great way to remember the famous Fashion Friday Challenge.

I also agree with the poster that stated you should include the Bento boxes into their birthday somehow.

Thanks for the great review!

Stephanie said...

Hi M3,
Longtime lurker here...love following the exploits of your twins! And can relate to so much, since we have a 4.5 year old and an almost-4 year old--virtual twins from China! They and their 9.5 year old brother keep us on our toes...

Anyway, love the new review section and great review of Sears! My dirty secret is we have never been to a portrait studio with the kids! Would love to win!

For the 4th birthday shoot, I suggest playing with the "Salsa in China" theme...maybe combined with the kitchen suggestions...so the girls preparing some yummy Chinese/Mexican fusion cuisine?

:-)
Steph

Anonymous said...

I like Sears too. We've had better luck with some photographers than others, though.

The only idea I have for their 4th birthday shot is to do an overhead shot of the two of them together forming the number "4." One could bend while the other one is the straight line-- know what I mean? I'm not creative at all, but that might be a bit different and fun.

Ansley

Heidi said...

Have you thought of doing a Fairy Grotto Picture. A couple fairy dresses, a fake rock and flowers/leaves and they would look like two little fairies. We had one done when my daughter was 4 at a chain called Sadie's and it is a picture I will always treasure.

Gramma said...

Howdy! Gramma here in Austin entering to hopefully win Sears photo session for my grandchildren.
Two thoughts on picture ideas for Ro and Ree... I can just see them playing school with an old fashion desk. Take turns posing as student in the desk and teacher at a little chalk board. This might be saved for photo op just before they actually start kindergarten.
Second idea is just having the girls looking so lovely in traditional Chinese dress.

Lilly said...

Fall scenerio is my favorite, specially since they were born in the fall. The amazing and vibrant colors of red/orange maple leaves, red apples and pumpkins will set a great background for the twinados. good luck and thank you for the giveaway!

Darcy said...

I would let them pick their outfits and props. This would give each of them an opportunity to show their individuality and personality (within some guidelines). Then, they might be even more cooperative as they helped plan. They are both so cute that whatever you do their pictures will be adorable!!

You could do photos with them and cupcakes, too...

Gracencameronsmomy said...

I'm so UncreatIv, so I'll just suggest actually going to the beach. That's my favorite place to take pictures... Love the sears portraits!!!

Natalie said...

I love your blog and your girls are adorable.
How about dressing them up in a Chinese outfit holding parasols.
Whatever you decide, I know it will be great.

Katie J said...

Count me in! How about musical instruments? Perhaps 4 of them?

snickie said...

I LOVE Sears portraits, I tried 3 or 4 others before them and I wasn't as happy with the results. We request the same photographer ever time, though I've heard great things about all of them in our local studio.

And for the girls, since they're turning 4 I think it would be cute to let them play dress up in moms closet. Such little ladies!

Tracee said...

I think you should let them pick their outfit. I loved your Friday posts and the combinations they chose. It's so relevant to their current age and would be a priceless reminder!

Libby said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE Sears Portrait Studio! They did both of my boys pictures at 3,6,9, and 12 months and I ALWAYS got great shots out of them!

One thing I always did was try to take SOMETHING personal with us for the photo - a bike, a favorite toy, bear etc. Just to personalize the picture a bit more. Other wise, I have never had a bad experience there!

Sandra said...

I think fairy/angel wings would look cute!

Becky said...

How about renting a few puppies or kittens to play with...and then surprising them with one as a birthday gift?
I know, crazy suggestion, but it would make for some cute photos!

Becky
(who still has yet to show you the hair style I tried to describe about a month or so ago!)

um...if I am the winner...then you can reach me at my email...
yobeckyshop at gmail dot com

Dee said...

I would love to win this. We just brought our girl home from China in April and haven't had any professional pics yet!

How about using big, bold yellow and pink Gerber daisies for your 4th b-day shoot? Those flowers are so bright and happy...just like your girls.

JMF0628 said...

Ok so this is what a friend of mine did for her kids birthday pics--whatever the age she used 4 of some object to surround as props--for example they have OCT bday so she had 4 pumpkins from x-small to large and incorporated some fallish things too-leaves, and cute fall outfits to go along (she did jean overalls).

Your girls are soo adorable!! I am sure whatever you choose will work out perfect as usual with your pics.

J

Emily said...

ok- with 4 kiddos-- i SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO want this prize--

ok-- cute thing for their 4 year old shots.....i love fall themes-- so sitting on REALLY big pumpkins- throwing leaves...sitting in a tree....

emily A

Sara said...

Great opportunity for a great Sears prize! Love your Sears pictures!

For the 4 yr picture...I'm thinking cowgirls...with chickens, ropes, fencepost -- the whole nine yards. Yee haw! TubaDad could wrangle all that together, right?

Anonymous said...

We haven't had a family photo taken in nearly 6 years so this prize would be wonderful to win!

Your girls are going to be FOUR? That's impossible! :O) I can't imagine a photo op that wouldn't go well with such photogenic girls. Since the girls will be going to school soon how about a school themed shot? Backpack, apples, lunch bags, etc?

Blessed-with-3

Pamster said...

At the portrait session near my daughter's first birthday, I took in a cloisonne tea set purchased in China on our adoption trip. We also had a Chinese baby doll and a stuffed panda. Those are some of my fave shots from the session. The combination of favorite toys and a piece of her heritage was just perfect.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/qcaller/791207304/in/set-72157600782304205/

Mama-Beans said...

What a fantastic giveaway!! Someone sure will be lucky!

For your two, since you live near photographic paradise, I'd dress them up in all white ( or maybe... all turquoise?) and take them to the beach with a pair of kites. Faces uplifted to the sky with the bright bold ocean mixed with the vibrant colors of a good kite in the background.... perfection. Then wait for sunset and get some stunning silhouettes with the ocean & setting sun in the background, and your princess' holding hands in the foreground.

Anne at annenda@q.com said...

ummmm....what about a photoshoot making/eating salsa????

Jacquie said...

Well, who's taking the photos? You? If so, that makes it easier. I love outdoor shoots. Lighting is always better. My first inclination would be to say a favorite park with lots of greenery for a pretty background. What about balloons for props? Kids love those and they always bring smiles and laughs. Being as you're in California, how 'bout the beach. Again, perfect background and "Happy Birthday" or some other message could be written in the sand. Or a heart with the girls' names written in it with a big "4". Of course, the girls should also be somewhere in these shots.

Jenn D said...

what do Ro and Ree love most of all right now? incorporate that into their pictures....maybe let them choose one article of their favorite clothing, a favorite baby doll, hair accesory, something along those lines that way when you look back you can say "oh look you used to love that..."

Denise said...

Love Sears and their smile saver program! My youngest, from Chenzhou, is turning 4 in October as well... I am planning this for her 4 year old portrait --- 1 - with an outfit and hairstyle of her choosing (she is a major clothes horse and has her own definite style!) -- she also will get to bring 1 of her favorite dolls/toys with her (this way I am able to scrapbook/document her fav. outfit/hair/toy at 4 years old!)... and then the 2nd session is my tradition -- in a Chinese outfit with some beautiful Chinese parasols in the background as props... and with our Chinese Raggedy Ann doll... Thanx!

Denise

p.s. Also - I read this in a magazine a while back and have tried to do it with all three of my girls... get them to sign their name (whatever stage of writing they are in!) on your frame or scrapbook page or whatever...every year... it is fun to see how their "signature" changes over the years!

Alice said...

You could find "4"s all over the place. You could take their picture with 4 Bento boxes, and their breakfast could be all fours, like four mini pancakes, etc.

RainyD's said...

for a sweet remembrance of their birth country and they are riding their awesome trikes I think one of the "bike taxis" would be cute

One on the bike and the other in the carriage or both in their carriage and one of their beloved stuffies on the bike

Jan said...

Have not yet tried professional photography. Would definitely go with kitchen props. Professional type chef jackets that you would see on the food network, chef hats, rolling pins, big serving spoons, lots of colorful veggies like broccoli, red and yellow bell peppers, oranges, apples even a pineapple. A couple of pots and pans and measuring cups. Maybe some bento boxes End up with a photo sporting a completed bento lunch! Yummy!!

Jennifer said...

This is a great offer. It is about time to update our pictures. I am not good with creativity. My only suggestion is a favorite toy or item that represents their individual interests at the time.

Michelle said...

There are various crafters now that make adorable shirts that say "4" and the child's name and make a matching hair bow too! My daughter will be 4 in October and I have ordered one for her pictures. Commemorates the age!

Julie said...

I love Sears. I used them for years until I bought my own digital SLR and started my sideline photography business.

Props....favorite toys, favorite books, lots of colorful balloons...

Jen said...

The photos are adorable! I love having my daughter's photo taken outside, very natural. Wild flowers, trees, even a beach, dunes, would look great! Thanks
Jen

Stephanie said...

We haven't been to Sears for a while now, my youngest has never been there. We'll have to give them a try again! How about two real birthday cakes as props. You'll probably get some good shots with them and the cakes, and then some good shots when they spontaneously dig in!

thefourpates said...

Ok, the best pics I ever got of my daughter was her eating her fave candy/food. It just hapened to be ice cream and she spilled it and dropped it and it was the biggest mess ever, but turned out to be the most awesome "real life" pics too! Let them get messy is the key!

Willow said...

A big chalkboard background. With notes form mom and dad written on it, and filled with drawings from the girls and lots of 4's.

Cara said...

I haven't tried Sears, but I'm willing to give them a shot after reading your experience.

As far as a photo shot, with all of the swimming success this summer any chance of an underwater photo? Depending on how comfortable they are under the water, I've got some cute ones of my niece at this age.

The Hernandez Herd said...

Ok, If you have not already done this . Plant a tree. Take a phot in front of their tree and you can watch it grow each year. Our daughter is afew months behind yours and this is so much fun already. The tree will be there forever and even if you move you can come back and visit it. We also hold a giant 1,2,3 etc so it is clear what birthday it is. Victoria
www.hernandezherd.blogspot.com

Book Voyages said...

First of all thanks for the review...Now Birthday shoot ideas for the girls. Twinadoes....begs for a Dorothy theme! Don't forget to borrow a Toto!
Lisa

Debbie said...

I have used Sears in the past several times too. My only reason for going somewhere else is to get a change in scenery as they tend to use the same props over and over again. If you have a good photographer, the prints are nice. For birthdays with my girls, I like to have them photographed with the big number that corresponds with their age. Sears has the big numbers and the kids always look cute sitting or standing next to the # of their age.

Debbie
lingjing13@roadrunner.com

Jenna said...

The thing that I think is the most important for a birthday photo is to capture the year.
You talk a lot about the girls but I couldn't find anything that they were obsessed with, other than each other and the oriental trading magazine. I would take pictures with something that will always make you thing of them being this age. Something they learned how to do... like ride a bike, start writing their letters, or an obsession that when they are 20 you can look back on and think... man I didn't think that would ever end.
My only other idea is LOVED their 2 year old outfits, I loved that it said the number 2 on it. I would love to see another outfit like that for them.. maybe one that they help create so they will be proud to wear. I know there are not many more years you can get them to wear their age so I think you should take advantage of it.
I know no matter what you do it will be cute!
One more idea is get a favorite toy of theirs, I don't know if they still like that bike or the big bubble but a toy they can both pose with and you can get some great photos!

FinsUp said...

I made this comment before, but I couldn't win anything there, so I'm repeating myself!

Find 4s in your environment, on signs, buildings, etc... or make them out of stones or stuff around the house.

Leslie

Kathy said...

Great information! How about Fall/pumpkins since October birthday. Last year Sear (by the way) had my son lay down with his hands behind his head and leaves all around and they shot from above him. It's one of our all-time favorites!
Kathy jkcronauer@comcast.net

Kim said...

Never used Sears before but always willing to try something new.

Over here on the East Coast, when I think of the fall, of course pumpkins, changing color of the leaves is great but what I think about is Renfaires! Yes Renaissance Faires - great outfits you can dress them up in with flower wreathes in their hair.

Yes, we're *those* sort of people, who have dressed up to go to faires *chuckle*

Lisa & Jason said...

How about letting them pick their own clothes and a favorite toy for the shoot? Show off that fashion sense!

Sarah said...

My idea would be to have the girls in adult sized vintage looking dresses with pearls, gloves, and big hats... playing dress-up.

I'd love to try Sears. Our daughter has been home for 7 months and we've only had her photo taken professionally just once.

Chris and Erin said...

My triplets are 12 weeks old and will be very expensive to take to get photographed so I would love to get the Sears photo shoot!

My idea would be to take "fall" pictures- in cute fall dresses with fall leaves around them. Maybe a picture of them jumping into a leaf pile!
-Erin

1Love+1Life=2B+2Gether=4Ever said...

I just wanted to thank you for your positive feed back regarding the sears portrait studio I am an employee and Sears in Pleston and am so happy that you had a great experience. Ps if I win please just pass it on to another person that commented I just wanted to thank you!

Abby's Mom said...

I'm thinking big fluffy tutus. One yellow and one pink of course :) Put on some music and snap away while the girls dance.

jls714 said...

I am a studio manager for Sears Portrait Studio and I am so excited that you are getting ideas from other loyal clients. I just wanted to give you an idea that I started with my niece for her 2nd Birthday portraits. I let her pick out her theme. At 2 years she wanted flowers. Her 3rd birthday we did a stuffed animal theme. And for her last birthday session (4th) she wanted to play dress-up. We got her Mommy's dresses, make-up, a feather boa, etc. She had a blast. She has already planned out her 5th birthday, which is coming up real soon. She loves being involved in the decision making. Hope your session turns out beautiful!!!!

aroundtheworldand2kids said...

I'm going to love this review stuff!

Debbie said...

Cute pictures! My little one just turned 5 and I need to get her portraits taken. I never know what outfit to go with. Casual or dressy?? Decisions, decisions.....


sorry about the delete - signed in under the wrong google account

Merynne said...

My princess is getting ready to turn 3, so I would just LOVE to win this package! I could totally be repeating someone else's idea... I don't know how you'll get through all these! ;)
I am liking the Rock Star theme, so cute! Make outfits ahead of time... old jeans with holes, maybe add some paint and a shredded t-shirt or cute tanks, leather jackets, etc. And then for the background some simple black curtains with huge silver or gold (or whatever color you want) stars. You could make your own with posterboard, glue and glitter then seal it with a spray adhesive so you don't find glitter on everything for the next year;) If you are doing it at home you could do their names/initials too...

The McKitterick Family said...

I love Sears as well, we just did my daughters 2 yr. photos and they turned out beautiful... even though she was being completely difficult!

I love to save money, so this summer I have been garage saling for my daughter and have come across some really nice almost new princess dress-up dresses (like the ones that you can buy at Target or other stores), they are too big for my daughter right now, but I would guess by the time she is 4 they would fit her perfectly and have a blast dressing up in them. So I think as your girls look like little princesses they should dress up like little princesses! They would have so much fun. They could have little tiaras and wands, & maybe little purses as well. I already have all of the stuff that I need to do this for my daughters either 3rd or 4th birthday and can't wait to have some of her little friends over to dress them up as well!

We also brought my daughter to Chuck E Cheeses for her birthday this year, she had a blast and I am sure any 4 year old would have a blast going there for their birthdays as well!

Good luck & Thanks for the opportunity!

Kelly
krm19cmm@yahoo.com

Jeff T said...

What says California and girls??? Beach. That is pretty simple. Although my 4 year old went with Princess and Pirates. So go figure.

Teresa said...

Let them dress up in whatever they want and bring some clothing from their closets to use in the background. They can look like fashionistas with their "closet" surrounding them.

Hannah said...

I am not the best with props but I would say since they love clothes they could each wear a tee that says "she's four!" with an arrow pointing to the one standing next to them.

I have seen some really cute pictures in corn fields lately or take them in fancy clothes to very Urban areas. You could find something in town with a large 4 on it and have them stand near it.

Mission To Macie said...

very cool giveaway!

I have to agree with Merynne...rockstars for sure......love that idea!


Jill :)

Antinette said...

I think I would take them to the beach. Dress them in plain white tees with the number 4 on them and cute fluffy tutus and bare feet. Then I'd give them some bubble wands and watch them go- nothing sweeter than a child's expression when blowing and chasing bubbles...
Antinette Mama to Hadley

Family of 4.... said...

I am a mom to two foster to adopt daughters that we just finalized their adoption this past week. I have yet to take them for any portraits but I will keep Sears in mind.

I'd say do you have any shots of them in any traditional Chinese attire (you probably have done that before) or I also like the chef ideas that people have had.

Good luck and I enjoy reading your blog.

Molly

Mom of 3 said...

First of all your daughters are absolutely adorable!!! Our local Sears studio has always done us well... The manager has been there for 13 plus years and is fantastic with little kids.
As far as ideas...
Studio- have the girls wear bright colorful clothing that best represents their personalities... and stick with the seamless white back ground and just let them be them....
On location- Urban shots are cool and something very different I have seen lately are underwater photography sessions!!

Anonymous said...

Hard to accept that Ro & Ree will be 4 year's old.
If you are using Sears again for their 4 year portraits, they have a great white standing number 4 , I love the number showing in the picture, because I can see how old they are immediately. How about a couple of feather boas, pink and yellow ones. lots of color and not too many props to deal with.

Bella

Diana said...

I think a birthday cake with 4 candles would look GREAT!!! I always took my kids to Sears and have to say I was always happy:)

Kim_M said...

I want in. I always like pictures of my two year old and four year old playing with their favorite toys around the house.

fuzzandfuzzlet said...

I think pictures focusing on everything they have "four" of would be cute.

Four feet, four hands, four legs, four arms etc etc.

Christi and Abbey said...

Thanks for sharing, I would have never gone to Sears, but just might try it now. How about rebus style signs (or text abbreviations) printed out large focusing on the number 4 for the girls to hold or as banners (ie Sisters4Ever, Ready4Fun, etc.)

Christi
christi_416@hotmail.com

Keri said...

Number 4 is a big year and the girls are looking older now. This is a great age to capture them before they start losing their teeth and their looks really start changing. I would get something in a classic outfit that is going to remain timeless that is suitable for framing in a large portrait. Green grass and a body of water make for lovely portraits. I don't think you can beat the outdoor shots.

Keri

Anonymous said...

So cute! Sears did a great job. Have you ever done shots of the girls walking away on the beach or down a tree-lined trail, holding hands?
I love your blog!
Kirsten
kirstenozp@yahoo.com

In Due Time said...

I could be wrong, but I haven't seen a pic with a R or M initial. Maybe it's because I'm from the south and we love monogramming everything, but I think it would be adorable to have an R or M or even a #4 in the picture.

They will be adorable regardless, though!

Faye said...

Hi M3-- Loved the pictures. They are so cute. I wish we lived closer. My girls would love a playdate with your girls. They would love to be "salsafied". lol.
I have one word for your 4 year pictures. LIGHT. I just took my girls out in the evening. Put them in tutu dresses and let the light do all the talking. Check it out on my blog. See what you think.
Good Luck.
Faye
www.twiceuponatime2007.blogspot.com

Michele said...

Of course these pictures turned out great. They are of your girls who always take great shots.

We've never used Sears here but I'll look into them for our next photo shoot.

My idea sort of echoes others' ideas but with a twist. I do like the fall theme since they are fall girls but do they have corn mazes around there? If so, that could make for some really great shots. Between the bridges up above the tall corn, to the intersting patchways, to the light streaming through the rows of corn...it was a place for some great shots for us last year.

grumpy chicken's mommy said...

Great shots from the studio! I'm thinking you need to use umbrellas (fun cute ones) in your next photo shoot since the girls are always wearing their rain boots - that would be a cute pairing and so "true" to the girls!

:)

Lisa V said...

Adorable photos! The girls are beautiful. I have an appt with Sears Portrait Studio on Monday for my 4 month old daughter. Im really excited after reading your post.

My recommendation for their 4th birthday would be with sunflowers. They looks like they have big joyful personalities and I think the sunflower would really complement that.

Jen said...

Great review! There are so many good ideas in the comments...how about a wacky one? Have the girls create the number 4 by laying on the ground.

wendy said...

i already made this suggestion, but I am going to make it again, cause I really want to win that sears portrait package, I have not used them yet, but was not overjoyed with one or two others I have used in the past. My suggestion, was to have Ro and Ree form the number 4 with their bodies and you shoot from overhead, looking down on them.

Dee Dee said...

I haven't tried Sears but I'd love to!! I thought the outfits the kids came up with for Fashion Fridays were priceless. You could let them pick their outfits for their pictures as a way to remember their style!

Lisa said...

We also love Sears. I have used them since our first daughter was about 6 months old.

For your girl's fourth birthday pictures. Hmmm...maybe holding a number 4 or holding up 4 fingers. I am afraid I am really unimaginative. You always take such beautiful pictures of them. Have you asked the girls what they would like to do for their b-day pictures? They might come up with some great ideas on their own!

Michelle said...

While at some friends for a rainy day picnic, they photograhed my daughter with her pink and yellow striped bumble bee umbrella - holding it in various poses (randomly chosen by her) - the photos were beyond cute!

Donna said...

Fill a trunk with dress up clothes/accesories and let the girls choose their attire. The trunk, a chair, and a full length standing mirror could be used as background props. I also like tea party with stuffed animals/baby dolls shoots at age 3 or 4.

coco said...

Great review. I have followed your blog since you got your referral to go China for your daughters. I have enjoyed following your blog for years.

We adopted our daughter from China 2 1/2 years ago and I still haven't had her picture done professionly yet...I'm such a procastinator. I just have blown up some my own pics. I know, not a good excuse.

Idea for 4th bday pic.... How about a Tea Party in frilly dresses!

Colette
bobco1@cox.net

BRITTANY said...

SEARS IS AWESOME WHEN IT COMES TO TAKING PICS!I WILL ONLY GO TO SEARS TO GET PICTURES DONE OF MY 4 MONTH OLD!!!!I THINK YOU SHOULD EITHER LET THE GIRLS PICK WHAT THEY WEAR AND TAKE ONE OF THEIR FAVORITE ITEMS SO THEY CAN SHOW THEIR OWN PERSONALITY.OR LET THEM DRESS UP AS PRINCESS OR DISNEY CHARACTER( SNOW WHITE, ARIEL,ETC..). I THINK THEY WOULD LOOK EXSPECIALLY CUTE DECK OUT AS LITTLE PRINCESSES.LET THE GIRLS PICK THE BACKGROUND AND U CHOOSE ONE.THANKS FOR LETTING ME GIVE MY OPINION.BRITTANY
BRITTBEE25@YAHOO.COM

Karen said...

I really don't get my girls' pictures taken very often because it does seem like a chore to make the appt, dress them, show up on time, then wait while the studio is behind trying to catch up. It sounds like your session went smoothly, though. I'll have to give Sears a try.

Suggestion: Dress them warmly, even though it is California and they may be sweating! Grab a few pumpkins. Set up a couple of hay bales and have the girls "arrange" the pumpkins. Get ready and shoot!

Anonymous said...

I have soo much admiration for people that make their living doing studio photography of children. Thanks for this review. You make me want to go try it out. We always end up with 2 out of three children looking at the camera. I'm thinking we should make an appointment in your garage. :0 Too bad we're in MN.
Have a great day. We love you site and look forward to our frequent visits.
Jen and Co.

Anonymous said...

We've had luck in the past dressing the kids up in their sports uniforms (baseball and gymnastics). Mine are a boy and a girl and we put them back to back with heads turned to face the camera. Turned out CUTE!
vmccloud86@yahoo.com

Gina (Caleeo) said...

What an amazing giveaway. You are so dang creative it would be hard to top anything you have done.

If you wanted to make an investment - have you considered the American Girl Bity Baby Twins? Could get matching outfits for the dolls and girls!

Anonymous said...

Great review ! Thanks! An idea for a photo shoot -- Gilroy Gardens. You all seem to love it there. What joy on your kids' faces for their favorite rides, etc.

Ilene, mommy to April Lauren
ilenesg@earthlink.net

Meg said...

thanks for the review and the opportunity to win a photo session! I kind of like the idea of the girls with their dress up clothes- they've been into an independent dressing thing now and it may be fun to see them do it in photo sessions!
thanks
Meg

Maura said...

We've been reading you guys for awhile and I don't think I've ever seen a full pink and purple princess theme!!! The twinados don't necessarily seem like they would sit for tea in a poofy dress but that might be a fun theme before they totally refuse! Tiara's, fluffy boas, the works!

Good Luck - we'll be looking to see what you end up with :-)
Maura

Katie said...

Thanks for the info on the experience. I am always looking for ideas for my little monster (said with love), since he goes a little wild and then won't smile at a camera. I would suggest something a little weird just for fun - why not have full length mirrors so your two become four playing dress up. It gives a tongue-in-cheek double message.

Thanks,
Katie T

KW said...

Sears Portrait Studio wants you to know that you can find special discounts and offers on portraits by joining our new Facebook fan page. Just search for Sears Portrait Studio under the Pages tab in the Facebook search function and then click the box to become a fan. :)

Anonymous said...

D'OH. (Dating myself, I realize). I left a comment/idea and forgot to leave my email. I never win anything, but it makes me happy to think that I might.

Here it is:
a calhounc at hotmail.com (without spaces, obv.)

Thanks. You've gotten so many great ideas here. I plan to steal shamelessly.

Ansley

Jennifer said...

I'm glad you had a good experience at Sears. We had my husband's family pictures done there (6 adults and 2 babies-5 mo. and 9 mo.). It was terrible. They were WAY late getting started, had 2 people in there but the photographer did a poor job. There wasn't a single picture that didn't have our legs cut off and half the wall above our heads in it. And there wasn't a single whole-family shot that somebody didn't have their eyes closed. Have you ever tried Portrait Innovations? We've used them a TON w/ my side of the family (6 kids and 8 adults) and have always been impressed w/ the end results/experience.
My 4th BD idea--outside with lots of vibrant colored flowers in the background with the girls in solid colors (either white or maybe even each in her own fav. color).

littleb55 said...

I have been following your blog for a long time and the girls just get more adorable with every picture you post. I have been to the SEars by me once and had a mixed experience but would be more than happy to try them again!!!

A prop idea would be a big antique frame with the girls standing inside of it maybe dressed in one of their funky self chosen outfit to offset the modern vs the antique.

Stacey

my email is littleb55@aol.com

Anonymous said...

I think it would be fun to do a tea party theme. Little birthday cupcakes, their favorite stuffed toys and a little tea set!

We just came home from China in April and we've done portraits once without any smiles, I would love to get some happy, smiley portraits!

my e-mail address is kelly_troy@juno.com

Kelly

Jamie said...

It's hard because you've already done all of the ones I can think of! How about climbing a tree? (I like the beach and the cake w/candles ideas too but they were already taken.)

Jamie S.

Eva said...

Awesome photos! And great endorsement of something I've been scared to try with my two.

I am not so creative on the ideas front, but perhaps 4 stuffed chili peppers?

Ronnica said...

I went with a friend and her then-3yo last year and had the same wonderful experience at Sears.

I love the idea of using bubbles in a photo shoot!

John and Nicole said...

Four year old photo suggestion-sweaters in warm colors playing in fall leaves. Did the Sears portrait studio know it was you before you came in for the photo session? Or did they ask you to do it anonymously, like a secret shopper?

dreamer said...

I left this comment a few days ago when you asked it in another post... but I'll send it again. I say bubbles, lots of bubbles from a bubble machine. It's a great backdrop on it's own, but with colored lights that reflect the full spectrum of hte rainbow cauhgt in the bubbles would be awesome. You can even create effects with lense filters. Beyond that, bubbles just make everyone laugh and kick up their heals and show exactly the spirit and essence inside.

Anonymous said...

Feather boas are fun, and tickly - resulting in lots of smiles:)

kshansen@msn.com

Allison P. said...

Just a heads up for the others reading this blog. I worked at SPS for 2 years, and I love the job. But for the typical session, shots are not unlimited. You're supposed to take 9-12, and if you over shoot too much, you get bad photo reviews. Like some of the other posters have said, not all studios/photographers are created equal in the company, so make sure you go to a studio that has good reviews, even if you have to drive a bit further.

Melissa Joff said...

Would so love to to win this for my daughter's first birthday pictures!

Hmmmm...props for fall birthdays- how about the girls jumping in leaves? Hula hoops would be fun too- or dress up clothes (too big dresses and shoes).

walternatives said...

I'd use a tuba as a prop!

Chrissie said...

Thanks for offering a great giveaway ... count me in!

csaestok@yahoo.com

Here's my idea(s) ... how about something with monkeys (I remember the post from way back when of those monkey shirts you bought from Target - too cute!) or pictures from that amusement park they love to go to (can't remember the name)?

Cora said...

how about the too of them looking in a mirror then you have 4, ok that is kinda corny but anything for a chance to win.

Deb B said...

How about having them outdoors at a playground or park climbing trees or pushing each other on swings...or my fave with my girls is having them coming down a slide together.
Deb

Jinji's parents said...

We have been a family since our gotcha day in 2006 and have yet to have professional photos taken.

Your review has inspired us. Thank you.

Mary

Jenn said...

I love your Sears portrait review!! I was just thinking about where to get Portraits done for my son's 3rd birthday--so I may have to check out my local Sears. :) Hopefully they are as great as the Sears you used. The girls pictures turned out great!
An idea for the 4th Birthday pictures, would be to frost a cupcake in the girl's favorite colors (one yellow and one pink) and then have each girl hold a cupcake with a candle, for their individual pictures. Then maybe an actual birthday cake with a #4 candle in it,for a picture of the two girls together. Good luck deciding, and be sure to let us know what you end up picking as a theme. Thank you for the entry in the giveaway. --Jennifer

Heather said...

My favs are the birthday table shots,with the decorations,presents,cake. It would be so cute to set it up on your all white background.

Sherry said...

After the Hilton sister comment you really need to have a dress up party with pictures to match. Sunglasses and little dogs too in the pictures. They are still young enough that it will be cute. In a few years -- maybe not -- too real then.

:)

looneytunes32 said...

I think a cute idea would be what I do every year on the anniversary of the day we met Megan (AKA "Gotcha Day" :o) ): We take a picture of her, holding her referral picture. Kind of neat to see the change from then to now, you know?!

Lisa said...

Those are adorable shots of the girls. Wow has Sears ever come a long way.

For their 4th year shot how about using the theme "4 and Fabulos" You could dress them in high fashion seeing how it's been a year of Fashion Fridays for them. It would be kind of a reminder as to when they started their "fashion" career.
I'm sure whatever you choose to do it will turn out "Fab"!!

Anonymous said...

Great Photos.

My grandson Thiessen has his 4th Birthday coming up. Love to do a photoshut with him leaving his footprints on a sandy beach.

Thea, (Tiasgarden@AOL.com)

Summer said...

How about Ro and Ree's four favorite things (each with their own favorite things--can be objects, people, things they like to do).

The Hickels said...

This is my first time on your blog--found it through the Scholastic "Parent & Child" magazine article, so I'm not sure what types of photos you've taken in the past. We love to do photos at our local playground.

Also, we are big fans of Portrait Innovations for professional photos. Don't know if you have them in your area or not. They have totally mobile cameras and no limit on shots either. They have an everyday special of less than 10 bucks for tons of pictures of the shot of your choice.

Shannon said...

Thanks for the tips. And most importantly, a deep felt thanks from me for using the word INAUGURAL, instead of first annual which irks the beejeezus out of me.

For 4th Bday shots, I suggest princess, whirly twirly outfits. They love those things. Every time they put it on, you mention how much they love them.

rrouth said...

Oooh, props! Bunches and bunches of dolls to pose around the girls so you have to play "I spy" to find their darling faces!

Lemme win!

Megan White said...

How about something to do with swimming? I don't know if you'd want to do swim suits, but maybe beach towels and little 2 pieces with sarongs or something?

Megan97364(space)@(space)hotmail(space).(space)com

Linda V said...

I think while they are young enough to not feel odd posing in swimsuit- go with pool, fountain, or some water fun in their cute swimsuits.

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I have yet to try Sears so I hope you pick me:) I think for the 4th B-day pics you should go edgy. Some cool black and whites in front of the canneries. Your girls are adorable!
-Tami
tamirevel@yahoo.com

Tami said...

We will be going to Ukraine soon to adopt a five year old little boy, what fun it would be to have portraits done for his adoption announcements!

I enjoy simple shots...the girls on their bellies, elbows on the floor/table and chins in hands...dress them in something bright and use a white background. I think that would be adorable :)

tamimontilone@hotmail.com

Molly said...

I have never been to Sears for pictures, but after seeing how well your pictures turned out I would love to go! With 6 month old twin girls and a 3 year big sister, we love having photo sessions. :)

I think something with cupcakes would be fun. They could both be holding a cupcake and have lots of cupcakes on stands in the background. I can just picture one with them both licking off the frosting! :) Can't wait to see what you decide!

Mom 2 Four said...

How about that was then, this is now. Shoot photos of them now and put it on a collage with them over the past three years. That is how we do our kids birthday inviations each year.

Resplendentquetzal said...

For our son's 3rd birthday pictures we took a present with us for him to open at the picture session. It was a stuffed dino., and he loved it. The photographer got a picture of him opening it, and the surprised look on his face when he realized what it was. It made for a really good series of pictures!

Amy said...

Maybe something with school stuff? (books, school supplies, etc.)

Cindy said...

One of my favorite studio pictures of my daughter is next to a merry-go-round horse, so I am going to suggest that for your beautiful girls.

Mary said...

I think taking Ro and Ree's 4th birthday pictures in or around the playhouse would be fun.... or maybe on a teeter-totter. Something outdoors.

Terri said...

Let's make it interesting...hmm...how about the twinados with animals they love?

poppy said...

maybe an under the sea theme with bathing suits, snorkel gear and fishes. lots of room for creativity!
or an all beach event would be great fun as well.

MaLeah said...

I always make shirts with iron-on letters for my nephew for his birthday pictures and plan on doing the same thing for my son. You could make sure both shirts incorporate a number 4 somewhere on them and let the girls choose the rest of the iron-ons to be creative. Easy and non-expensive and who knows what Ro and Ree will come up with? :) You can find iron-ons at JoAnn Fabric, if you have one of those out your way, or a Michael's Craft store, etc.
From: MaLeah
adpi1999@hotmail.com

Sweet Coalminer said...

I didn't have time to read all the prior comments, but our theme is going to be water play if it's still warm enough in Oct/Nov. Sprinklers, swimsuits, and sprinkling cans. I know my kids' friends will really dig playing in the water.

I tried to get Sears photos of my daughter right before my son was born with a really pretty old-fashioned sprinkling can my mom had bought for her, but she absolutely refused to touch it that day. So we rolled without it. What can you do?

Sarah S said...

Im not very creative at all, but chefs outfits could be super cute, one with a wooden spoon, and the other with a whisk or something.

cheshire said...

Let them pick out their clotes for one picture like they have been doing.

chinamomxtwo said...

First, thanks so much for the chance to win--really need to do pics of my kids but it just hasn't been in the budget--so this would be a realy treat for ME!

Secondly--I have a great idea! Have them sitting amongst jars and jars of Salsa! I think it would be so cute!!:) And dress them in yellow, green and red.
(OR perhaps, you can call me crazeeee!)

Anonymous said...

I love outside pictures, especially beach pictures. We have also done the dress up thing (example: we have beautiful little angel pictures, with little feathers and clouds- sooo cool). Pick a theme- such as Hawaian dress(little hilo hattie outfits or a country theme and wear little bib overalls- don't forget to bring props, that go with the theme) Most of all have fun and enjoy. Action shots are great to such as doing a backflip or cartwheel and taking pictures in a sequence. They could dress up as little cheerleader for your favorite team. Another idea would be to let them bring their favorite stuffed animal and having matching outfits for the animals and the girls (build a bear has cute outfits that include shoes and sunglasses). Do they take karate lessons or have any special interest, if so work in there favorite activities.

Glenna
I will check back- to see if I win-not to computer savy -can't get google account to work. Thanks, best of luck, hope you get wonderful pictures.

wjrobb said...

Hello from a fellow dragonfly!
I would go with a carnival or country fair
Theme food, lights, games.
Wjrobb@comcast.net
Ruby Kate (Xiushan, 10/2006)

Anonymous said...

We've always had really great luck with Sears! We've actually used JC Penney alot too, but that's because those pesky $2.99 a sheet specials keep reeling us back in. However, it's always Sears for things like holiday & birthday pix.

For #4, I'd go with either a) fancy dresses or b) dresses like the ones TubaDad brought back from Italy (?) that they won't get to wear for long & you'd like to remember. As for props, simple is always best for us: empty boxes in various sizes wrapped with birthday paper & big bows (or a giant one they can both fit in), balloons, bubbles, birthday tiaras or hats, confetti, etc.

The beach shots were great! Can't wait to see the next ones!

~Michelle
www.yoichoichoi.blogspot.com

Maureen said...

Nice Pictures :)

I would suggest a back to school theme. Books, Large Pencil, Large Crayons...etc

Maureen
Long Island, New York