Children lined up in the gymnasium, most in carefully selected outfits and styled hairdos.
It was school picture day at Heber Hunt Elementary School. The children were waiting for their turn in front of the camera. In a snap, that they look like at that moment in their school careers was documented to serve as a memory for family and fellow students in yearbooks.
Christina and Allen Phillips, territory managers for Inter-State Studio and Publishing, were behind the scenes freezing that moment in time.
The husband-wife team, with five other employees, worked three cameras Tuesday to photograph 27 classrooms at Heber Hunt.
Each of the their roles is clearly defined.
“I take care of all the paperwork issues; he takes care of all the (photography) equipment,” Mrs. Phillips said.
The Phillipses, of Sweet Springs, took over the territory from Mrs. Phillips’ father, Bob Burke, about five years ago. Burke, who retired after 45 years with the company, still works with the Phillipses. They manage a 13-county territory with 150 schools. Eight employees work under the Phillipses.
Mr. Phillips started as a photographer about 10 years ago. He was drawn to the profession because of fond memories of when he was young, and a school photographer gave the children nicknames, such as “Cowboy.”
“He gave you a name, made you smile, and it was a big day,” Mr. Phillips said. “I was impressed with it.”
The job comes with little anonymity. The Phillipses say they are often recognized in stores and other places in the community.
“You walk through Wal-Mart, and a kid will say, ‘Hey, it’s the school picture guy,’ ” Mrs. Phillips said.
Mrs. Phillips has worked in the school portrait business with her father for most of her life. Now, she works on a laptop that includes a database that makes the names of students with their pictures. The database also includes the grade, name of teacher and picture order.
The school sends Mrs. Phillips a file with the names of the children in each classroom in advance of picture day.
“That way we won’t have to type it all in,” Mrs. Phillips said.
Photographers move quickly through each class.
“We try to be very efficient with our time, so we aren’t in the school all day long,” Mr. Phillips said.
The Phillipses also prefer taking photographs early in the day and before lunch.
“You want to get them done before they get dirty, or their hair gets messed up,” Mrs. Phillips said.
The Phillipses keep an eye on details. Mr. Phillips told one boy that his shirt was on inside out. Mrs. Phillips mentioned to another child that his necklace clasp was showing.
“I always say, ‘It’s a mom thing,’ ” Mrs. Phillips said. “...You have to watch for stickers and things like that.”
Inter-State went to digital photography in 2000. Mr. Phillips said it gives parents more options when ordering pictures and reduces the number of re-takes.
It still takes a photographer’s touch to capture the child’s expression.
“I think the best thing for a photographer to have is patience in knowing when to take the picture,” Mr. Phillips said.
Practice helps a photographer know when to the moment is right. Mr. Phillips said he generally has the child say something, such as “yes.” He tried to get a shy fourth-grader to open up by saying “girls.” That didn’t work.
“Now say, ‘A girl took all my money,’” Mr. Phillips said.
The boy said the phrase with a smile, and Mr. Phillips got his shot.
Middle school students are the most challenging to get to smile, Mr. Phillips said.
“They take beautiful photos, but when one doesn’t want to smile, all of them don’t want to smile,” he said.
The younger children sometimes give the best photograph, Mr. Phillips said.
“I think because they haven’t developed that ‘cheese’ smile,” he said. “You try to make them happy, so they naturally smile.”
The Phillipses stay busy, working out of their office from home and shooting sports team pictures on the weekends.
Mrs. Phillips pointed to a calendar chalk full of penciled appointments. “That’s our life,” she said.
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