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Review: "Inside Contemporary Children's Photography"

By Marianne Drenthe

Educational materials for children’s photographers are a common sight these days and with good reason … there seems to be big business in showcasing the in’s and out’s of this specialty in photography. With so many photographers opening up shop, an equal number of established pros are getting in on the teaching game. It can be tough to know where to turn for good, solid, usable information.

I’ve seen some good, some bad (ok, awful) and some overpriced educational materials. I have heard horror stories about poorly produced DVDs and instructional materials. I admit I may be particularly picky as I do some teaching as well, and I'm particular when it comes to my business and the art and skill involved with photographing children. When you adheres to stringent rules about your own work and what you produce, you tend to be equally hard on others.


“Inside Contemporary Children's Photography” with Tamara Lackey displays impressive quality. Once you begin, you are immediately sucked into Tamara’s world. Her speaking style is effervescent, friendly and instructional. This DVD is unique, in my opinion, because it’s filmed in an infomercial-like style; it’s the very why of how this DVD pulls you in and keeps you watching. Who can resist a good infomercial? Not me!

Though I was a bit leery to review a photo-education DVD because there’s so much out there that falls short, I’ve only heard good things about Tamara Lackey’s presentations, so I was excited to see what she had to share. Being confident in my own business and experience children’s photography, I was doubtful that I’d get anything new out of watching it. On this point, I was wrong because she gave some great tips.

Having said that, this DVD and its content is mostly geared to the newbie children’s photographer. Do I think there is anything for more advanced photographers? Yes. I picked up a couple of tips on using reflectors and lighting, and I was entertained.

The quality of the production and information presentation is good. It’s under two hours, and Tamara goes over a lot of content. It isn’t intended to be in-depth, but it’s a great starting point. A new photographer could watch this DVD, then use the content like a checklist to go into more depth later and do some DIY research.

The highlight of this DVD is watching her interact with kids and their families. Observing her work one-on-one (or one-on-four or five!) is pretty cool, and for newer photographers I believe this is where this DVD shines. Also, seeing Tamara work in her studio is a helpful introduction to photographers without studio-lighting experience. Even I got a couple tips from this DVD that made me consider new ideas for my own lighting setup.

I love that she incorporates reflectors and strobes in her work. Many photographers adhere to the “natural light only” tenet, while I feel it’s shortsighted to deny the beauty and power of augmenting natural light.

The things I didn’t love about this DVD are few and not worth mentioning. I believe that for the price, $199, this is a good DVD for the photographer who’s just beginning or is new to children’s photography. We found it available for $179.95 at at the time this review was posted.

Award-winning Chicago baby, children’s and family photographer, Marianne Drenthe, operates Marmalade Photography in suburban Chicago. Drenthe’s work has been published by Wiley Publications and has been featured by several industry publications. Marianne’s photographic work can be found at