Alice Park suppressed her creative talents for awhile, but her artist’s heart could not be restrained. She boldly threw aside perceived practicalities to follow her joy, becoming a premier child photographer in Atlanta. As she established Alice Park Photography, Alice recognized the need for an organization devoted to her industry and founded The National Association of Professional Child Photographers (NAPCP). Her tireless spirit seems outdone only by her boundless positivity.
How did you get from engineering to child photography?
I have always loved photography and have had a camera in hand since I was a young girl. My family did not believe pursuing photography as a career was a practical endeavor, so I decided to obtain a degree in engineering instead. One year later in the corporate engineering world, I found myself incredibly unhappy and confiding in my soon-to-be husband about my passion for photography. Savvy businessman that he is, he found a way for me to make a living doing what I loved most. And the rest is happy history!
As your started your photography business, what did you find yourself learning along the way?
I had to learn early on that defining who I was as an artist — and what set me apart — was crucial in building my brand and cultivating loyal relationships among my clients. In any service business, clients need to feel an emotional connection to you and your work. That is what makes you irreplaceable in their eyes. So, I worked hard to develop strong relationships with my clients and deliver a product that no one else could. It’s been the most thrilling experience watching my families grow over the years and developing such dear and valuable friendships.
How has your own motherhood influenced your photography?
It’s absolutely allowed me to develop deeper connections. Often, I walk into a client’s home for a session where nothing went according to plan that day — the baby did not nap, Dad is running late from work, and Mom never had a chance to shower. That’s my life! I feel motherhood has given me the opportunity to relate to the families I work with on a deeper level. In fact, it’s quite common that by the end of a session, the client and I are sharing open dates for a playdate with our kids!
What do you learn from your subjects?
I chose to work with children because I am in constant awe of their innocence and authentic sense of wonder. They are the most real subjects my lens encounters, and I honestly believe that I become a better person every time I leave a photo shoot. If we could all learn to find beauty and love in the simplest things in life, as our children do, I believe the world would be a better place.
Is there a “perfect” age to capture the wonder of childhood? Any tips for parents about how to document their own little miracles?
The fleeting “wonder years” happen before the age of 5, but there is no perfect age. My favorite stages to photograph are:
- Newborn stage: Capturing the family’s emotional connection to their newest member.
- Seven months old: The quintessential babe stage — sitting up well but not quite crawling; the rolls and baby goodness do not get better than this age.
- 1 year old: Such a milestone for both the child and parents!
- 18 months old: Toddlers full of curiosity and wonder. I absolutely adore this stage.
- Every subsequent year thereafter.
For parents, my best advice is to keep chronicling those memories. Whether with your mobile phone or with that expensive SLR you have yet to master, keep shooting! The best photographic memories are the ones actually taken.
What about some practical/technical advice for amateurs?
It’s not essential to have expensive equipment to cultivate your craft. In fact, some of my personal favorite images were taken with my iPhone. For those looking to improve their work, I recommend starting with the foundational elements of photography and learning to master light, composition, and how to visually capture your “shot” mentally before capturing it on camera. Sometimes, especially in this digital world, we become accustomed to holding the shutter down until the perfect shot is taken. As photographers, our role is to visualize the story we’re trying to capture, then use our technical fundamental knowledge to capture the image.
What would you tell someone considering launching a photography business?
I think what is often overlooked when starting a photography business is that there are many other elements of running a successful business than taking beautiful portraits. Only 10% of my time is devoted to actually taking the photographs. The rest is spent on marketing, post-production, printing, packaging, accounting, taxes, legal, design and development, branding, partnerships, website design, blogging, social media, growth, managing staff members, client relations and correspondence, and the list goes on and on. If you factor in all of the intangible costs of running a business — such as your time to accomplish all of the above — how should you price yourself to make this business truly worth your time? Start with analyzing this first, then ask yourself how you can build your skills and knowledge to run a profitable business.
What was your catalyst for starting the National Association of Professional Child Photographers?
When my husband I started our business eight years ago, we found there were very few resources in our industry specifically for child photographers. Our genre of photography was growing quickly with the advent of digital SLRs, but more information was needed about running our businesses. Our goal was to create a place for the professional child photographer community to come and connect, learn, teach, aspire and grow. We also wanted NAPCP to be a valuable resource for parents seeking professional child photographers in their area.
Tell us more about the growth of NAPCP, and what has surprised you most?
What has been so surprising (and humbling) about the growth of NAPCP is the level of connections within our photographic community. We are all mothers and wives, artists and dreamers, committed to growing and improving our craft so we can do what we love every day. It really is the perfect dream. We remain incredibly supportive of each other and continually collaborate to maintain the standards of our industry. This has been the most genuine measure of the organization’s success.
We hear that, even beyond your photography, you are a veritable fountain of creativity. What are some of your other “crafty” interests?
Yes, my love of photography has been the catalyst for so many creative endeavors — event planning and design; creative styling; stationary design; children’s storytelling and book-writing; teaching; cultivating strong communities and groups; finding innovative and powerful ways for creative individuals to connect. I love that I will never run out of things to do with my life.
We all have countless pictures held captive on phones, in hard drives or uploaded to social media sites. Can you give us some recommendations for storing those images, as well as pulling them off our screens and into a more tangible display?
The ease of snapping everyday photos has almost made backing up and printing your digital memories a cumbersome process. We’ve been spoiled with having the ability to take “too many” photos these days. At the end of every month, I set a reminder to back up my photos from my phone to my computer — which has three archival systems that safely store my photos in case anything were to happen to my computer. Once a year, I create a beautiful folio book for my son and smaller coffee-table books of our family vacations using Artifact Uprising. During holidays and special occasions, I take some of my favorite photos and turn them into personal gifts and display items using Pinhole Press. In our digital age, the convenience of creating beautiful and tangible products has never been easier. I love companies that allow you to order and print directly from your mobile device! In addition to Artifact Uprising, Pinhole Press, I also really like Printstagram and Stickygram.
What are some of your favorite Atlanta locations for shoots?
Honestly, I love shooting in places that are meaningful to my clients’ children. I feel that I am able to connect with my subjects on a deeper level when we are working in their space. My most favorite places have always been their new play fort, tree house or “house.” The magic truly happens there.
How about your favorite local spots just for fun — shops, restaurants, special places?
For fun, I love treasure hunting at local antique stores, estate sales and thrift stores. I also love being outdoors and would plan picnics with my family every day of the week (and in a new location) if weather allowed! Our family also treasures long, leisurely strolls in new neighborhoods we haven’t discovered before. This city has so much charm, and we love taking it in every day.
What are three things that you couldn’t live without (other than faith, family and friends)?
- My day planner
- My camera (of course)
- Eternal optimism
Thank you, Alice. We are all inspired by your creativity and enthusiasm.
And thanks to our own photographer, Cat Maxwell, for gorgeous photos. You can find her at catmaxphotography.com.