Be still, say cheese

At Work

A studio photographer records a steady stream of high school graduates, babies


October 18, 2006|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to the Sun

Peggy Cilento


Sears Portrait Studio, White Marsh Mall

Salary --$32,000

Age --55

Years on the job --24

How she got started --She said she always loved photography and took the job with no formal training. She learned on the job and says her photography gets better each year.

Typical day --Cilento works either 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. five days a week, with Sundays and Mondays off. Cilento starts the session by meeting with the customers to find out what they want and what they are looking for in the photographs. She spends about 20 to 25 minutes shooting the photos.

Afterward, Cilento is responsible for showing the customers the photographs and explaining the price packages.

Cilento estimates that she spends about 45 minutes with each customer. Most of her photographs are of young children, but she also works with a lot of high school students having their yearbook or graduation pictures taken.

A lot of her job is sales, but she does not work on commission. The busiest months are November and December.

The good --"I love taking pictures."

The bad --"Mechanical, when things break down."

Popular photos for children --"Barefoot children and bare butts on babies."

Technological advancements --When she started, the cameras used film and it took three weeks to get the proofs back to the customers. Now she uses a digital camera.

The proofs and any enhancements, including black and white, close-ups and corrections, can be viewed immediately.

The customers have the option of printing the photographs at the store or sending them to the lab to be printed, which takes a few days.

On working with children --"Most of the time it's fun."

On working with crying children --She calms them by showing them toys and talking with them. "Most of the time they come around. Sometimes they don't, but most of the time they do."

Advice to parents --Cilento advises parents who want a good photograph of their child to make sure the children are well fed, not tired and that it's not the same day they went to the doctor's office for shots.

Holiday season --"It's challenging. It's nonstop from the time you walk in in the morning until you stop at night."

The reward --"Just seeing the parents happy when they see their child's picture."

Philosophy on the job --"Make the best of it. If they are comfortable with me and I'm comfortable with them, things usually go smoothly."

Extracurricular --Believe it or not, Cilento says her hobby is photography, especially taking photos of her 16-month-old granddaughter Miranda. She also enjoys photographing animals, including her two dogs.

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest Special to The Sun

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