A Photography Pilgrimage

We just got back from a trip to the East Coast to visit younger son, Lane and his beautiful wife, Leslie. Great trip, great visit... (he made me paint his fence) #tomsawyered

On the way there, I (Chet) fulfilled a lifelong goal -- I made my pilgrimage to the George Eastman Home and Museum

Chet's selfie at George Eastman Home

Early photographers had to mix their own chemicals -- smelly and messy!

Early photographers had to mix their own chemicals -- smelly and messy!

Who was George Eastman? If you are old enough, you may have heard of Eastman Kodak... One of the largest, most successful companies in America -- now basically gone.

George Eastman did NOT invent the camera, or film, or photography... but he did take a highly specialized, highly technical process that was only available to skilled professionals, and make it available to everyone. Eastman didn't invent photography, but you might say he invented the "snapshot". The Kodak Brownie Camera made pictures available to everyone. Prior to Kodak, a well-to-do family might have a portrait made once or twice in a lifetime, but after Brownie came out, everyone had pictures, and lots of them!

George Eastman introduced the Brownie in 1900... and in 1902 he built a 30,000 square-foot, 50 room mansion, surrounded by 8 acres of fantastic gardens and landscaping. (You might say the camera was a success.)

I learned about the Eastman House in SIU Photography School, back in the late 70s (yes, I'm THAT old!) and have wanted to see it all these years. It did not disappoint.

The home and grounds are spectacular, and the history of photography on display was priceless. I can't wait to go again.

When we left the museum, I experienced a little bit of sadness -- maybe it was nostalgia -- but some of it was also due to reflecting on families, and history, and the role photographs have in both. Needless to say, there are plenty of photographs, from a hundred years ago, of Mr. Eastman and his family and friends in and around the mansion ... and one of the main pursuits of the museum today is the care and restoration of historic films and photographs. 

George Eastman and me...

George Eastman and me...

But, many experts believe our current generation, which thanks to social media, is the most-photographed generation ever, may eventually be the least-known generation, because almost all of our current images are never printed or archived, but exist only on a phone, or "in the cloud" (wherever that is...). It's not so much that the files may be physically lost, but that they may become unavailable due to formats changing over time. I have a crate of LPs that I can't play because my turntable died years ago, and who knows how many floppy disks we have lying around. Right now I could still find a turntable or a floppy drive if I really needed to, but how much longer will that be possible?

Photographic prints, like the Portraits we make here at the studio, are durable for generations, and most importantly, don't require electricity or technology to see them. All you need to enjoy your Family Portrait is your eyes!

If you have the opportunity to visit the Eastman House and Museum in Rochester, New York, do not miss it! It is well worth the trip!

The "Have it All" Family Portrait Option

The Family Portrait Session was pretty typical; Mom and Dad, three grown kids -- one married with a baby boy, and (great) grandparents. The location was the family farm, on a pretty spring morning.

Andi, the mom/grandma made all the arrangements (also pretty typical), and we had a fun time photographing the family while visiting and trying to get the dog and the baby to both look at the camera at the same time.

About a week later, Andi came to the studio to see the results, and she loved them all!

She loved the one of the whole family under the tree... but she also loved the one of them on the porch of their home.

Of course she also loved the one with the great-grandparents and grandkids...

But also the one of just the kids... and of course, the new little grandson!

Ultimately, she decided that since she loved them all, she should HAVE them all!

Andi's 24x36 Wall Panel

Andi's 24x36 Wall Panel

We created a unique multi-image composite that incorporated all her favorites into one beautiful 24x36 inch, framed wall art, to be proudly displayed in the home. We also created two more composite images, each slightly different to emphasize different individual images -- one for the great-grandparents, and one for the married son and his young family. These were printed and framed as 16x24 pieces.

The point is, there really AREN'T any "typical" Family Portraits -- because there aren't really any "typical" families. 

Composite Portrait Panels are just one of the many unique products at our studio, in addition to more traditional framed images. The right portrait for your family might be something completely different... but we want you to know that we are ready to work with you to create whatever you desire.


Winter Wakeup Event

It's cold.
It's gray,
and... well frankly -- we're bored!

Christmas is over, school's back in session and everyone is just bundled up in their cocoon.

"Shrek" at QCT, and "The Heiress" at Quincy High School

"Shrek" at QCT, and "The Heiress" at Quincy High School

This is always the slowest time of year at the studio. We had a fun little burst of activity with some theatre events; the Quincy Community Theatre Quilta Awards, QCT's "Shrek", and the QHS Winter Play, "The Heiress". And of course our annual Valentine Special is going on (Valentine's Day is over, but the Special lasts till the end of the month)... but mostly, we're looking for some excitement.

So, to liven things up, we decided to try something new, it's a:

Winter Wake-up Event

What is a Winter Wake-up Event?
Well, that's up to you...

Do you have an idea for an off-beat picture? 
Now is your chance to be creative. Have some fun, think outside the box (or picture frame).
We want to try new things -- you have great ideas -- let's get together. Bring us your ideas: maybe the kids having a snowball fight, maybe a Family Portrait in your jammies in front of the fire. Maybe something you saw on Pinterest... 

Bring us your ideas and inspirations

Bring your ideas and inspirations. It can be just you, your family, your kids... group of friends... group of strangers(?), you name it!

This Portrait may not look that "crazy" or "daring", but YOU try bringing THREE CATS...

This Portrait may not look that "crazy" or "daring", but YOU try bringing THREE CATS...

Be silly, fun, crazy, daring, edgy, creative, artsy..., outrageous!
(Or maybe the only thing outrageous is that you are finally having a portrait made, but that's OK.)

Gather your ideas and call 217-228-1385 (or contact us). We'll talk, we'll plan, and then we'll schedule a time for whatever crazy thing you can think of. 
What if this sounds like fun... but you don't really have any ideas? Don't worry, we've got a few of our own... 

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It was an ordinary day... until this mom called

Yesterday was a great day.


I was in a really good mood all day… and it started with a phone call I received.

Mid-morning, a mom called to schedule her son’s Senior Portrait. She told me that she was calling because we had done her older son’s Senior Portrait a few years ago, and she wouldn’t think of going anywhere else.

She told me how much she loved the older boy’s portrait, and how happy she was that they had come to us before. She went on to say,

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“There are so many new photographers today — I see them everywhere, all over Facebook; but their pictures just don’t have the ‘look’ that yours do. There’s something about the Portraits you made of my older son that stands out. So many pictures are just snapshots, or frankly just… bad. Yours have a depth that shows my son’s personality. He’s a good looking boy, but you brought out his best features and really captured who he is. 

I never get tired of looking at them.”

Now, am I just telling you this story to brag about my Portraits? (Well, maybe a little…)

But really, no, I’m sharing this because of how good I felt all day yesterday, just because of one phone call.

We really do put a lot into our work. Each portrait is a unique effort and we try to make every single client look as good as they possibly can. We hope that our portraits have a positive impact on the people that see them… but to get that kind of feedback, years later — to receive that acknowledgement and appreciation — really made it worthwhile. A few simple words changed my day for the better!

Think about all the interactions we have each day with all kinds of people — friends, strangers, and business transactions of all kinds… Imagine how great it would feel if someone noticed something you did and simply let you know that it was appreciated!

I’m going to start looking harder for ways to let people know that I notice them and what they do. Not just a perfunctory “Thank you”, but a real acknowledgement of their effort. Almost everyone says, “Nice pictures” when they see their portraits, but the Senior mom who called me noticed what it is that I really take pride in — the capturing of her son’s personality in a timeless portrait — one that she will always enjoy looking at!

Imagine what the world would be like if we all just simply noticed each other and complimented the good work that others do! 

Looking at the BIG Picture...

Here is a special project we've been working on recently...

30x60 inch Family Portrait

This is a 30x60 inch portrait we just finished for a great family in our Kid's Club. We will be personally delivering it in the morning.

We typically show samples of portraits in 20x24 or 24x30, and a lot of people say,

"Whoa! We can't hang that in our house -- we don't have room".

But as you can see, this FIVE FOOT WIDE portrait looks incredible hanging over the couch on the eight foot wall of our 8x18 waiting room. (I will almost guarantee that your living room is wider than 8 feet.)

This portrait is an example of our Portrait Commission Series. At our studio, we have our basic portraiture, the "Works Package" series, and Portrait Commissions.

The Portrait Commission is for those who have an idea... or a "vision" for something that is a little different, something that is not on the regular menu. A Portrait Commission starts with a call or a visit to the studio and some brainstorming. Do you want to incorporate a GIANT tractor and planter into a GIANT print? Do you want a set of "Day in the Life" portraits? What about a destination, or a series of images over time, or... whatever you can imagine? 

Needless to say, we LOVE doing Commissions, because they require us to stretch! Sometimes Portrait Commissions are a little higher in price than the regular menu items... but not always. Sometimes they are just different and unique.

If you have an idea for something "different", please give us a call, or use the Contact Us here on the website. There is no charge to come in and tell us about your dream, and we would be thrilled to try and make it come true!

Here's a closer look!

How Do I Order My Portraits?

Why No Disks or Online Proofing?

Imagine you hire a designer like those guys on HGTV to create a new interior for your home. Suppose she hands you a stack of paint samples and says,

"Take these home and pick out the one you like, then let me know."

Would you feel cheated?

When your Portrait images are ready to be viewed, we like to show them to you first at our studio — in our special private projection room, adequately sized so you can see all the fine details.

First you will experience a moving slide presentation of all the images, set to music. Then, after you have seen each individual image, we will help you review the images, comparing them, examining them... until you have chosen the very best poses to fulfill all your needs; whether a large home décor piece, or a collection of smaller images to display as a grouping, or to give as gifts.

Sometimes clients ask if we can just "post them online so we can pick out what we want"... but we look at that as the designer just handing you the paint chips. Most people, after ordering in person at the studio, agree that it is much easier to decide when you can see all the images on the big screen, the same size that they will be on your walls at home, and they agree that it is helpful to have an expert to consult during the ordering process.

Now — to be honest — sometimes it is not feasible to return to the studio for viewing and ordering... sometimes we make family portraits while everyone is home for the holidays, or there is some other reason why the decision makers cannot come to the studio. In those cases, we can post images online... but it is definitely not our preferred method.

Of course, the most important thing is for you to get exactly the right images for your needs, and we will do whatever it takes to make that happen!

Backgrounds and Props


We have lots of different backgrounds and props, but really, that's not what makes a great portrait. A portrait is supposed to show your personality.

We'll use the right background and the right props to help your portrait look good, but we won't clutter your image with unnecessary props.

Remember, the main attraction of your portrait is YOU!

Greatest Fear


There are a couple of good reasons for this:

  1. No one likes to be "put on the spot".
  2. No one likes to look bad.

People say,

"Oh, I don't take a good picture!"

What they are really saying is,

"I hate it when I'm put on the spot and I have to "perform" -- I hate trying to 'look good' for a picture... I can never smile on command without it looking fake."

But what you may not realize is that it's not up to you to make the portrait turn out, it's up to the creator of the Portrait! If you feel "put on the spot", your photographer is not making you feel comfortable.

At Coonrod Photography, it's not like "having your picture taken"; it's a whole different experience.

If all your previous portrait experiences were "school pictures" or standing in line or being told, "Sit on the box and smile!" you're in for a big surprise.


Here's a secret we've learned: If your Portrait experience is unpleasant and uncomfortable, your Portrait will look unpleasant and uncomfortable!

We take your portraits seriously, but we don't take ourselves seriously. If getting your Portrait isn't fun, it's not worth doing.

Your session will be fun, and when you have fun, you'll be comfortable - and when you're comfortable, you'll look great! We know it sounds simple... because it really is. When you feel good, you look good -- and we will do everything in our power to make sure you feel good at our studio!