“ Offering services throughout the South of England and South Wales. Our in house trained photographers provide contemporary, priceless images to our customers at great value for money. „
After giving birth to our Daughter, we were given a My First Year Photoshoot Package which was purchased from Buyagift.com by my Brother-in-Law for Christmas.
This package deal involves three photoshoot sessions over the first year and we decided to do this at 4, 8 and 12 months of age. Included in the deal is a free 8" x 6" photo of your choice.
Our local studio in Staines was Dawson Strange and the Manager there Kate was the person that took all our photos. Our Daughter Emily has developed a great rapport with her and both of the photoshoots have come out amazing. We even booked a family photoshoot when Emily was 6 months old so we have had 3 experiences there so far.
You book a half hour photoshoot session and if your child is ill or not happy, they will happily rebook for you. Fortunately Emily has been well-behaved all three times. The last time she was not in a great mood, having just been woken up but within minutes Kate had her smiling and giggling.
Kate likes to spend time before taking the photos to develop a relationship with your child in order to put them at ease. Dawson Strange have a great array of props to use during the photoshoot to make each session unique and she lets you have a sneak peak immediately after the photoshoot, before booking you in for the proper viewing session a week later.
The prices are not too bad from our experience, considering the prices of some of the companies out there and if you are on a budget, you can always just take the freebie. This photo package costs £39 from Buyagift.com but there are other deals that Dawson Strange offer. The family photoshoot was £20 and we received a free 8" x 10" photo of our choice.
When we viewed the 4 month photoshoot, we were stuck for choice for the freebie and ended up buying the CD of the shoot for £650. However, we could not justify spending that amount each time and the Family photo shoot was just as good so we ended up buying three additional photos for £40 each.
It is all a matter of choice and they do have special deals at different times of the year, for example they did offer two lifestyle framed photos of 5 poses for £150 rather than £125 each - which we purchased for the Grandparents.
The more items that you purchase the more discounted they become. For instance whatever we bought in addition to the CD was taken off the price of the CD. So we bought three lifestyle photos, extra prints plus the CD for the price of the CD (if this makes sense!) so it was even more of an appealing offer.
I entered one of the photos we had the copyright to in the recent Practical Parenting/Dentinox competition and our Daughter was one of the ten finalists. She won the Greater London part of the competition - which was a really nice surprise but it was a great photo taken by Kate at Dawson Strange.
At no point during the viewing process did we feel pressured into buying any additional prints. The good thing is that they keep the photoshoot on file so if you cannot afford to purchase at that time, you can purchase at any point in the future - so it's even less pressure. You can ask for a set of the photos on an A4 sheet of paper so that you can order over the phone if you so wish. I like this option as you are able to look at the photos at home at your leisure and even show other family members, in case they wish to purchase prints.
Without listing all their prices and offers, you can look at their website which provides all this information on www.dawsonstrange.co.uk
I cannot praise Kate highly enough for making our photoshoots a pleasant experience with our now 9 month old Daughter. I would highly recommend dealing directly with Dawson Strange or their sister company which is a mobile photo studio called Supertot.
Professional photography always seems to come at a price and, to be honest, I can be a bit of a one for a bargain. When it comes to photographs of children I think that the choice of photographer and photographic studio also matter greatly - as an adult we can smile on cue irrespective of our feelings towards that two, but as a young child it can be hard enough to get them to smile even if they do like everything and next to impossible if they don't.
Most pro-photography experiences that I have had have not been good. Ruined wedding photographs (despite a great portfolio) and a useless, out of focus, replacement shoot left me in little doubt that I could probably capture my new child as well as some. However, on a wander through our local shopping centre I happened upon Dawson Strange's studio and a notice in the window caught my eye - VIP Babies. What the studio were offering was a classic marketing ploy - free photographs of your child at various key stages in their early life with a couple of "photo for £5" thrown in at other times. All in all there were 5 offers.
Knowing that I could resist the urge to purchase additional photos I decided to sign up and, in due course, booked the first sitting.
The studio near us is in a small retail unit and is split into two public sections, a front section that takes bookings and is where you chose (or get sold!) your photos and a back section, separated by a curtain, which is where the shots take place. Aside from the rather key safety fact that there are no physical doors between the studio and the shopping centre, we have found the studio to be an excellent choice for children's photography.
The studio is geared up for youngsters with suitable seats, wedges, toys and backdrops to make even the most surly child stop crying (note I didn't say smile!). The biggest problems when photographing children seem to be getting them to stay still(ish) and getting them to smile. Pre-booking a half hour session means you can book the time of day your youngster is most likely to be happy but you can never guarantee their mood! Each of the photographers that we have encountered have been really good with our son, trying their hardest to get the right shots and capturing those, sometimes, rare smiles. We've had a couple of very good sessions where our son was cooperative and we've had one disaster session where he just wasn't in the mood despite the photographer's best efforts.
You don't pay a session fee for most Dawson Strange photos or, if you do, it's low (£5-10 at time of writing) which means that you haven't wasted a fortune if the photos don't turn out well. This, in my opinion is a particular bonus where children are concerned. All of our sessions have been free and a free colour 10x8 inch shot included.
One of the other big upsides is the fact that you can chose any of the colour shots taken as your free shot. This compares much more favourably than other providers (such as Pixiphoto) who insist that you have the first shot taken (or maybe their own standard shot with a prop that you might not have chosen). Often the first shot is one of the worst as neither baby nor photographer have worked each other out.
Each session has seen around 20 colour and 10 black and white photos taken and so there are many to chose from. Traditional poses are included as are shots with props, depending on the age and mood of the child. The only downside with the shots is that they still seem to use film and so colour and black and white shots are not interchangeable. I understand that this is to change.
Photos are ready for viewing about a week later and, at an appointed time you come back to the studio to view the shots some of which will have been pre-mounted. Here's where the sales pitch starts. The additional photos are not cheap (a framed set of 4 black and whites will set you back around £130) with single colour photos starting from around £30. However, although the sales girl will go through all prices with you whether you like it or not they are not pushy at all. We did succumb to one framed set from one sitting as it captured our son brilliantly but on all other occasions we have left with just the free print. Frames are available for purchase but again are not pushed. This, again, compares favourably with other studio experiences.
The quality of the shots has been impressive. Even sessions where our son seemingly failed to stay still have resulted in some great shots (with or without smiles). Also, the 10x8s don't look like blown up 6x4s as was the case with another studio we used for an adult shoot. 99% are in focus which seemed quite good. The only real issue I had with two of the shoots was that the lighting for some of the shots (or the exposure) was wrong resulting in white background shots that looked a bit washed out. There was still enough choice that this wasn't that much of an issue though.
Having had one session it seems that you end up on a mailing list and I have twice been called with special offers, in one case another free sitting. You can opt out of this but it's nice to know that you're not discriminated against by not buying lots of photos - those free sessions are still available!
If you have a Dawson Strange studio by you (mainly west London and Wales for some reason!) then I would highly recommend them.
Four years ago before I started at university I decided to buy my mum and dad a personal, thoughtful but not overly expensive present. I knew it was possible that I would be moving away to university and would not be living at home.
I wanted to buy a gift that would last a long time and would be a special present. I can remember looking through Argos, Woolworths, Boots and Debenhams gift catalogues and in everyone was impressed by the 'experience gifts'. I thought it would be lovely to spend a day in a photography studio having perfect family snaps taken. The only problem was that these gifts seemed to cost between £30 and £120 and not all guaranteed a free print and some only allowed two participants. I wracked my brain for days desperate to come up with the perfect inspiration. One day whilst shopping in the local City Centre I managed to come across a professional photography studio tucked away in a small back alley.
At that time they were offering a £10 photography session with a free 12" by 10" print. I thought this sounded perfect so booked it up. The lady on the desk asked a little about the participants to gauge an idea. She wrote out a small receipt and handled it over explaining that I needed to bring it back when I was ready for the photographs.
I then explained that I wanted it as a present and would I be able to book after Christmas or would there be a time frame to complete the sitting. As soon as she knew it was a Christmas present she wrote out an elaborate voucher/certificate for me to present in an A5 envelope. The present was starting to take form and I was delighted.
I wasn't expecting them to be so kind and helpful and walked home that day feeling so excited and proud...in fact I couldn't wait to give it to them I nearly let the surprise drop a few times.
Christmas was beautiful; I explained my intention and explained why I had bought the gift. I had never seen anyone cry for being so happy...in fact I had never seen my mum and dad cry. I think they felt sad at the prospect of me moving away and the really heartfelt, touching gift. They seemed to broadcast it to the whole family so I was pleased that my cheap present had made them so happy...especially when I had spent more on other gifts.
Anyway there is a point to this...maybe even two...
BOOKING THE SITTING
I didn't end up moving away to university as I was fortunate enough to get into my first university and the photo was forgotten for a few years. Last year however when I started my dissertation and I went though a hard time at university my mum and dad mentioned that they were excited about seeing me in my gown and that we would have to get a nice photo taken. I remembered back to the voucher and hoped that despite moving to another studio on the other side of town that it would still be valid.
I visited the studio back in August to book an appointment and the woman who took my payment was still there. She remembered writing the voucher and said that she was 'overwhelmed' by my kindness. She congratulated me on my degree and booked me straight in without any issues.
She explained about the sitting and told me what to bring, wear and how to dress. She also suggested that we went prepared with ideas of 'special' poses so that they could set up a background.
ON THE DAY
We arrived 20 minutes before our sitting as advised. I was able to go upstairs with my mum to dress into my gown and the photographer arrived shortly after. She seemed very professional and well informed on the best background, pose and lighting. In fact we seemed to be in and out within 10 minutes but she took so many beautiful photos.
She used a variety of backgrounds and explained why she was using each pose. It felt so beautiful to be stood around my family and certainly a day I will remember...its not every day you can get that celebrity treatment for £10.
VIEWING AND COLLECTION
About 2 weeks later our photos were ready and we were allowed to pick the free print up. Whilst there we did feel a little pressured into buying additional snaps and if my dad had not been there I would have ended up paying over £500 on additional photos luckily enough my dad is more assertive and explained that he was happy enough with the large print.
I must say that in a strange way the whole experience brought us closer together. It was the first time I realised my sister was proud of me and was happy to see me graduating. Until that point she had ignored the fact but during the sitting she asked to have a photo taken with me so that she could show it off to mates and feel proud. The time we spent together as a family at the sitting and during the viewing was lovely.
I can't see many people having a problem with the prices especially when they have little ones they want to show off to the family. In fact if I had more money I would have purchased the whole collection. You can expect to pay £30 for four passport sized photos, £30 for a 7" x 5" photo or 4 pictures for £150 (framed). This is actually very well priced compared to similar portrait studios.
The £10 per sitting offer is still going but be warned that they only accept one voucher per family so you can't keep going back, this offer is still very good as they give a free 10" x 12" photo. After that a sitting alone will cost £20 and you will not receive a free print.
A LITTLE INFORMATION ABOUT THE COMPANY
Dawson Strange were founded by Eric Strange in 1968 and started out as a small business in Cobham, Surrey. The company has won many awards from BIPP and Kodak.
There are studios all over the UK in locations such as Staines, Swindon, Uxbridge, Watford, Woking, Exeter, Plymouth, Cwmbran, Penarth and Pontypridd. For more information about your nearest store take a look at this site --- http://www.dawsonstrange.co.uk/studiolocations.html
The present was an ideal gift for Christmas and I would urge any families to purchase a sitting. I felt it was a lovely day out and a day I will treasure for a very long time. We did have a few issues with the fact that the sitting was only for my family and I therefore had to book with Portrait Place for individual photos and couple shots with my fiancé. I did find in comparison that Portrait Place were more relaxed and offered a much better service. Whilst we really enjoyed the day we felt they could have been more organised. The photos looked great but the service was not perfect.
The manager looks a lot like Winifred the Witch (Bett Midler) off of the film 'Hocus Pocus' so I wouldn't recommend you take your kids after watching this film. ;-)