About Mary Beth Kully
About Schoolhouse Pictures
“I didn’t like my child’s school picture… but I bought it anyway.” That’s what I heard from so many parents. Being a mother of school-aged children myself, I understood exactly what they meant, because I felt the same way. That’s why as the founder and CEO of Schoolhouse Pictures, I do my best to make sure we address the things that parents don’t like about traditional school pictures. However, that’s not what initially led me to start Schoolhouse Pictures – I actually got into the school picture business quite unexpectedly.
Here’s my story:
For more 20 years I worked in a corporate setting, most of those years in the education industry. Like many working mothers, while I enjoyed my work well enough, what I really wanted was to be with my young children, who happily spent their days at a Bright Horizons child care center. So that I could have a least a small glimpse into their day, I put a disposable camera in each of their “cubbies” and asked their teachers to take pictures every now and then.
When my eldest daughter went to first grade, I wanted to be involved in her school day. I was fortunate enough to work very near my daughter’s school, and so I asked the teacher if I could be the classroom photographer. She said that she never had a classroom photographer and welcomed me to be the first. So on Halloween I showed up with my camera – along with most of the other mothers. I thought to myself “this is not really what I had in mind – how was I adding value if I was taking the same pictures as everyone else?” So I asked the teacher if she would mind me taking pictures of the students in the classroom doing their work while the she was teaching. Thankfully, she welcomed me into her classroom, and so throughout the year, I would randomly drop in and take some candid pictures of the school day. I also expanded the original idea to include pictures from violin class, the library, the cafeteria, and recess.
At the end of the school year I sat down to create a collection of pictures that I could put onto a DVD and give to the parents of each child in my daughter’s class. I began to notice that the candid shots I had taken truly captured the unfettered emotions on the faces of the children and I was so inspired that I just had to see if this could be a viable business. It occurred to me that …
- Parents would treasure this glimpse into their child’s school day.
- Students could have lasting memories of their school years.
- Teachers could be shown doing what they do best – teaching
- Education is so important and we spend so many of our years in the classroom, yet the academic journey is not documented.
It took me 8 months from concept to first client. During that time I drew on my 20 years of business experience to think of all the questions that a school or parent might have and to develop an efficient process. Since I was aware that privacy would be a concern for parents, one of the first things I did was hire an attorney who specializes in photography. Together, we created a process that is very safe and surprisingly easy.
In 2008, I launched Schoolhouse Pictures! The business grew significantly to include clients in California, D.C, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia!
Although the business was doing well, I began to notice that schools didn’t always have time to work with a second photography company to offer candids, but they all offered portraits. I initially resisted offering portraits because it’s an oversaturated market and frankly I found the pictures to be extremely boring – they look like pictures taken at a department store. What does that have to do with school?
I decided that if I were to enter the school portrait business I would do it in way that was entirely different than all the rest. After doing some research and talking with other photographers, Schoolhouse Pictures began offering portraits in 2011.
To ensure that the pictures we took didn’t resemble the usual, standard school portrait offering, I borrowed ideas from the candid side of the business. We had seen so many great features of schools and centers that I decided to incorporate elements of school into the pictures – lockers, murals, stone walls, front doors, chalk boards, etc.
As the business continues to grow, I remain committed to the initial premise on which Schoolhouse Pictures was founded – offering parents great pictures that truly capture the essence of the academic journey.
Schoolhouse Pictures – reinventing the look of school pictures.
Mary Beth Kully, mother of two school-aged daughters, and the founder and CEO of Schoolhouse Pictures.