2007-05-02 / Business

Keyport photography studio says no to 'cheese'

Expressions Photo Design shoots to always capture subjects acting naturally
BY TAMMY McKILLIP Staff Writer

BY TAMMY McKILLIP
Staff Writer

PHOTOS BY TAMMY MCKILLIP
Jill Caren, of Morganville, shoots some photos of her daughter, Rachel, at her Keyport studio.PHOTOS BY TAMMY MCKILLIP Jill Caren, of Morganville, shoots some photos of her daughter, Rachel, at her Keyport studio. KEYPORT - Jill Caren said growing up in a house without family photos on the walls made her feel unloved. So when her own daughter was born five years ago, she was inspired to open a photo business that catered to kids.

"There was nothing in the house that represented that children even lived there," she said. "Now, as an adult, I have no pictures of me as a child. Just last week, my daughter asked me what I looked like as a kid, and I had nothing to show her. To me, that's kind of sad."

Caren, of Morganville, said she opened her Keyport photo studio and unique gift boutique, Expressions Photo Design, in 2004 as an alternative to the larger corporate-run studios, where teenage employees handle the kids and generate "cheesy" grins.

"The thing that makes us totally different, and I can't stress this enough, is that we capture natural childhood expressions," she said. "We're not trying to make the kids smile. We capture who they are at the time. There's no posing. There are no chairs to sit on. They just come in and play."

Jill Caren recently moved Expressions Photo Design to a new studio on West Front Street to take advantage of the better space and lighting.Jill Caren recently moved Expressions Photo Design to a new studio on West Front Street to take advantage of the better space and lighting. In addition to hourlong sessions, Caren said another unique attribute of her studio is one-of-a-kind, limited-edition "themed sets," which change every month. From vintage baseball sets and costumes, to an actual indoor fishing pond, she said her stages allow kids to come in and interact with their environment in a natural way.

She said her company also has another photographer, Jamie Facer, who has 20 years of experience and will travel to a client's home or a local park to photograph families in their natural setting.

"We have something called 'A Day in the Life¿' where we go to your house for three to five hours to capture you and your family just doing what you do every day. Nothing posed - just candid, photojournalistic photography. At the end, you get a complete custom photo book of about 50 images from the day."

Caren said that, although she is not "catering to the Wal-Mart crowd," most of her photo packages are affordable, with session fees starting at $40 an hour and prints ranging from $35 for a basic 8-by-10, to $199 and up for collections. In addition to photos, her shop offers photo-related gifts, such as personalized photo stones and jewelry, handbags and photo puzzles.

Another aspect of her business is creating coffee table books and collages from people's personal photographs, slides and digital cards.

"You can do similar things online," she admits, "but the difference is that these are custom, hard-bound books. They're not just a couple of pictures on a white or brown background. They're designed and laid out in a really unique fashion, and we use regular binderies, which [produce] much better quality."

She said that her collages can incorporate sentimental items, such as trophies and sports shirts, in addition to images and that they are mounted on canvas and ready to hang. She also produces pop-art images, such as Andy Warhol-like photos.

She hopes to launch a school-related program in the fall, where students can learn photography through her studio and the school, and then have a photo contest and show at the end of the year.

"They call them kids' click classes," she said. "When I was a kid, I was never given any options. I was told I could be an accountant or a lawyer - all of those boring things. It would be nice to give kids another option."

She said she recently moved from 54 W. Front St. to her new location at 43 B W. Front St. because she needed more space and light.

"It's a much nicer studio," she said. "We're overlooking the water, and we have a whole wall of windows, so it's all natural-light shooting."

Caren believes that parents are challenged when they try to take pictures of their own kids because the kids are resistant, whereas they will usually behave well for a professional photographer.

"Your kids don't want you shoving the camera in their face," she said. "I know you can't take pictures of your own kids because I can't take pictures of my own daughter. Kids love pictures, though. They love looking at themselves. They love looking at their friends. They love looking at their families. Parents should try harder to take natural pictures."

Expressions Photo Design is located at 43 B W. Front St. in Keyport. Hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (732) 264-8838 or visit www.expressionsphotodesign.net.

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