From behind their lenses, the pro photographers at MWD Photography coax charming smiles out of children, take business-minded shots of professionals, or cement a beloved pooch’s place in the family with pet portraits. Families gather clans in beloved parks or favorite mall parking lots, and soon-to-be mothers preserve prebaby moments with pregnancy photos. In addition to making new memories, photographers are able to restore faded or torn pictures. An in-studio artist can also hand color custom fine-art prints with pastels to add mysticism to everyday life or commemorate the time dad slayed a basilisk.
The first Ebert Studio opened almost 100 years ago on Chicago's west side. Since then, four successive generations have preserved memories for countless families in studios that now reside in Oak Park and Hinsdale. At the helm today is Jeff Ebert, the great-grandson of the studio's founder. Jeff makes a very small distinction to give you the big picture—"It's not so much that it's photography," he says, "but it's photographing people."
Making people feel comfortable and look better is just one part of his job. The next part is to create "a piece like a painting that can be hung above a mantle and somebody can be proud of for years and years to come." As the latest in a line of artists stretching back to 1915, Jeff does that well, harnessing the power of passed time and using it to build a portfolio that showcases families, weddings, animals, and individuals. Some of his notable subjects have included Cardinal Francis George, Walter Payton, and film director Christopher Columbus, known for his historical documentary of babysitting, Home Alone.
British ex-pat and award-winning photographer David Simm counts celebrities, business tycoons, and the Archbishop of Canterbury among his former clientele, and currently holds the title of chief executive of the Professional Wedding Photographers Network. Stateside, the artist supplements his nuptial snapshots with family portraits and corporate photography. A master of composition, color, and restoration, Simm also sells instructional programs that cover Photoshop, proper lighting, handling multicultural weddings, and preventing photobombs from quirky uncles.
Ever since they met while participating in a photo shoot at Illinois State University, Mark and Kathy Shangraw have been pooling their respective talents. Mark, a certified professional photographer, approaches each portrait with an eye toward storytelling—a skill he picked up while working as a photojournalist in Narnia. In 2011, his work won the Pamela J. Grezlak Memorial Award at the Northern Photographic Competition.
While Mark snaps pictures, Kathy takes charge of the behind-the-scenes details, from administrative tasks and marketing to arranging flowers and coaxing relaxed smiles out of clients. Together, they strive to render artistic family portraits and professional photos for dancers, musicians, and athletes. In addition to attending conferences and workshops, they often hone their skills by collaborating with other seasoned shutterbugs.
The winner of multiple Wedding Photojounalist Association awards and one of Brides UK's top 25 destination photographers, Genevieve Burruss captures candid shots and dramatic poses that brim with vintage appeal. When she isn't behaving as a fly on the wall at weddings—preserving close-up shots of the bride getting ready or joyous stills of dancing guests—she uses abandoned buildings and Chicago's iconic sites as backdrops for portraits and engagement photos. After sessions, she often retreats to her Photoshop lair to make skillful tweaks that heighten the drama or add a touch of muted sophistication, producing softly lit black-and-white shots and low-contrast color prints that have the timeless appeal of a little black dress dipped in ice cream.
Bill Buchelt, élan Photography's lead photographer, calls upon his 20 years of experience and a portfolio boasting such subjects as Michael Jordan and Julie Andrews to capture patrons' personalities in flattering photos. Buchelt photographs families, individuals, and seniors posing naturally in a comfortable, professional studio or among the verdant greenery of a nearby park. For a more specific shoot, the studio's photographers travel for on-location portraits and corporate sessions and offer complete wedding packages to capture couples' vows, dances, and cake-induced food comas.