Style: Candid, natural shots taken either on the beach or in the Palm studio. Experience Our outdoor session with the softly-spoken Marius feels more like a playdate, only there’s just us. We muck around on the beach, fling pebbles into the waves and have a running race – a pleasant afternoon and great for kids who may lose the plot when confined to a studio.
Tweaking: Rogue pimples and ‘Speedo man’ who’s inconsiderately wandered into your sea-side shoot are easily zapped.
Result: The soft, spontaneous style captures our personalities and is great for smaller prints, while studio-based shots would suit larger, wall-mounted images.
Value for money: Dhs295 for the one-hour shoot with consultation, viewing and a desk-mounted, framed A5 print. Small, unframed prints are good value at Dhs40-70. Larger canvases and frames start at Dhs750 for a 30cm image up to Dhs4,950 for a 1.5m shot. A disc with 25 low-res images will set you back Dhs2,900.
04 368 6355; www.djphotography.net.
Style: Colourful, contemporary, arty shots taken at the swanky Dubai Mall studio.
Experience: An extremely professional studio experience, our photographer Murrindie is chatty and friendly, but with a no-nonsense, ‘let’s get this done’ style. She has clear ideas about what poses work well, and tells us exactly what to do to help her achieve them – much-needed direction that instills confidence and helps put us all at ease.
Tweaking: Lots of cross-processing and clever editing to brighten the eyes and enhance colourful clothes.
Result: More works of art than family snaps, these fabulously funky – almost pop art – shots would make a great, powerful statement on a large wall. Murrindie manages to capture some classic kiddie expressions, including ‘the belly laugh’, ‘adorably anxious’ and ‘so-grumpy-it’s-funny’.
Value for money: A one-hour shoot with a free 20cm framed print – which, to be honest, is too small to do these shots justice – costs Dhs199. Canvases range from Dhs720 for a 30cm image, up to Dhs3,120 for a 1.5m frame. Montages are available, as are high-res images in a digi-frame, but these are pricey and you must buy the frame from Pink Pepper.
04 434 0437; www.pinkpepperuae.com.
Style: Fun and colourful studio shots.
Experience: Helen rings us the day before to talk through the images we want and advise on what to wear. While not dismissing the omnipresent ‘jeans and white shirt’ style, she’s a big fan of colour and not shy about doing crazy stuff to get the right shot. She snaps away with our seen-better-days cuddly pooch perched atop her head, while we scream, wrestle on the floor, fling rose petals around and charge at her at high speed.
Tweaking: Some photo-shopping to make the most of colour and erase small blemishes.
Result: Plenty of quality images to choose from, we were glad we’d heeded Helen’s advice and brought some bright clothes which suited the lively, action shots.
Value for money: Take advantage of the studio’s regular ‘free family’ weekend sessions and book in for a no-obligation hour in the studio. If you like the results, frames and canvases are reasonable value at Dhs360 for a 30cm image up to Dhs875 for a 1.5mx1m whopper. Montages are available, and you can pop up to 40 high-res edited shots (in black and white and colour) on a disc for Dhs1,200.
04 422 4166; www.riot-art.com.
Rupi & Rupert
Style: Simple shots of teeny tots, Roopam specialises in photographing newborns (0-three weeks) and young kids. She offers on location ‘baby’s first photo session’, which revolves around the new arrival, but she’ll also do the whole family.
Experience: A mum herself, Roopam knows just how hectic those initial weeks of parenthood can be, and happily takes the stress out of bubba’s first shoot by providing all manner of props to make the image special, as well as incorporating that special toy or favourite blankie. She does anything (within reason) to make friends with the kids, producing Chinese umbrellas, musical instruments and bubbles to ensure naturally happy shots.
Tweaking: Standard post-processing, not detracting from the natural results.
Result: Gorgeously soft newborn images and – with older kids – naturally funky shots full of personality and with a stylised edge.
Value for money: Sessions start at Dhs900 including a disc with at least 20 high-resolution images (often many more) and one 33cm x 48cm unframed traditional print.
050 640 0575; www.rupiandrupert.com.
Style: Controlled and contemporary black-and-white images, occasionally cross-processed with a vivid splash of colour. Stu himself focuses on fine art photography.
Experience: Incredibly professional from start to finish, including the impressive studios with private bathroom, water cooler and baby changing facilities. A booking coordinator discusses clothes, make-up and photography styles in advance so we’re well-prepared for the shoot with Paul, our photographer. He reminds us that kids don’t have to have a perma-grin to look happy (just as well, considering our young model is not in a beaming mood) before successfully combining picture-taking with peekaboo, car races and puppet shows to coax her interest. Paul, as per our wishes, concentrates on family shots, so we have a large but focused selection of striking images to choose from at the viewing. Stu also takes some fine art photos in which, thankfully again, our pouting princess was not required to smile.
Tweaking: Even Quasimodo would look gorgeous after being ‘Stu-ed’. All sorts of techniques, from air-brushing to colour-enhancing to head-swapping are applied to create the ultimate, pixel perfect shot. A painstaking process, the editing happens after customers have viewed and selected the image.
Result: No-one ever looks ropey in a Stu Williamson portrait and, we’re delighted to report, we were no exception. Stunning images that combine simplicity with a wonderful richness, we reckon they’d stand the test of time on any wall. While we were initially unsure about the fine art style, the final image blew us away. The ‘angel’ shot of our daughter was unlike anything we’d seen before – a unique, timeless work of art.
Value for money: The fact that they offer an interest free credit payment plan indicates Stu Williamson is not the cheapest option around. A portrait session costs Dhs395 and includes a framed, hand-finished 30cm portrait. Canvases and frames range from Dhs950 for a 30cm print, up to Dhs5,250 for a 1.5m image. Fine art photography, shot by Stu Williamson, starts from Dhs5,000.
04 348 8527; www.stuwilliamson.com.
Style: Traditional, classic, fun photos shot in Charlotte’s welcoming studio.
Experience: Armed with seemingly bottomless buckets of toys, treats and props, Charlotte knows just how to push kids’ buttons and is a firm advocate of bribery and corruption to get nippers to do exactly what she wants (even Georgie, the ageing family pooch, can be roped in to weedle a smile out of the grouchiest tot). Parents are advised to shush and take a back seat because this lady – a mum of two young boys – certainly knows what she’s doing. Our young subject revels in the hats and over-sized sunglasses, while getting flung on a beanbag is a huge – and hilarious – hit.
Tweaking: Standard techniques to add vibrancy, the HotShots team also zap blemishes such as, in our case, a dog-eared Elastoplast.
Result: Although Charlotte would be hard-pushed to find a less cooperative model, our little grump managed to look chirpy and adorable in the final, fun selection. On CD, the varied and versatile shots are ideal for emailing back home, impressing on facebook, processing into cards or small prints or enlarging onto canvas for the wall.
Value for money: Dhs950 for your hour-long session and CD with 24 images in both colour and black and white with no copyright. HotShots will also do processing at very reasonable rates.
050 428 3660; www.hotshotsdubai.com.