This year will mark Marmalade Photography’s 10th year of being in business as a professional Chicago children’s photographer.  Marmalade Photography is my baby and as one of the top choices for child, baby, and family photography in the Chicago area this past ten years has been a blur of beautiful people, loads of emotion and lots of love.  This has been (thus far) an amazing journey and I hope to serve my clients for many more years to come.

I have created a new interface for my work.  This new update will allow me to showcase past clients in a brand new website.  For the most part I have selected work from the previous four years to showcase to give new clients an idea of what Marmalade Photography’s current vision is.  In the coming weeks I hope to add some “blast from the past” type favorite galleries to showcase my children’s photography style as it has evolved in the past ten years because I think that would be a fun addition to an already great update.

I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on the new site.  Feel free to move through it and check it out (AND don’t forget to leave a comment for me here so I can check out your feedback!):  Marmalade Photography’s New Site 

Here’s a quick screencap of the home page of this Chicago Children’s photographer ‘s new site:


Take some time to explore the new site and feel free to drop us a line on the contact page and let us know what you think.  xoxo


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  • Melissa - May 20, 2015 - 3:58 pm

    Lovely portrait!

  • Corey - May 20, 2015 - 4:05 pm

    Congratulations on ten years of producing beautiful work, Marianne! I love the new website!

  • marmalade - May 20, 2015 - 6:26 pm

    Thank you Corey!! <3

  • Tonya Palubo - May 20, 2015 - 8:09 pm

    Beautiful work!!Chicago is so lucky to have you!!

On occasion a phone call will come through to the studio inquiring what Marmalade Photography offers in terms of pricing, services and session types.   I am taking this opportunity to discuss the importance in differences of the various types of photography services that are widely available today.  Marmalade Photography is a custom photography specialist, to find out more please read on…

To make my analogy I will compare photography services to automobile makes and models.  Much as there is several price points/luxury points of cars, from base to luxury, photography is much the same.   In photography there are different levels of services. At the entry level the first that comes to mind is the portrait studio that you might find at large discount retailers, the type of studio chain that offer 1,008 pictures (of one pose) for $4.88 or even the photography you may see at the hospital, which might be billed as “custom” but as with  corporate studios the photographer hops from one room to the next snapping photos.  I would liken that offering to be similar to getting a base price Yugo.  Yes the cost of entry is cheap, but you get what you pay for. The photography may be acceptable but often times the photographer is new (might even be taught on the job to push the button of the camera under certain conditions).  You may or may not have a wide range of products produced by volume labs (or in house labs).  These products may be produced under less than optimal conditions: perhaps the printers or computers used in production are not calibrated to print (resulting in poor quality photo color reproduction).

Then there are mid-entry products, more like the Chevy Cavalier or perhaps one of Hyundai’s more mid-priced offerings. The experience is more in depth (you may be offered a number of poses to choose from) however you are constricted by time limits and corporate policy (have you ever had one of those mall chain studios tell you your 1 1/2 year old cannot be shirtless in that cherub outfit for Valentine’s Day? If so, you know what I mean.)   At this point, you are spending money on someone else’s vision for your photography needs. Your input may mean little to nothing to them, cost of this level of photography is slightly higher and if you want custom products and large wall portraits you’ll pay nearly as much as you would with a custom photographer.  You may even find an independent photographer that has little business knowledge and offering the “disk of images” at cheap pricing.  This sort of segues to our next category, the “weekend warriors”.

The “weekend warriors” as they sometimes are affectionately called in the photography world, are typically hobbyists who purchased a ‘good’ camera and charge for services because they have been told they take a “pretty pictures”.  Oftentimes these are start up businesses who may likely not have a lot of business experience and are dabblers.  You can occasionally find a photographer in the early stages of the business doing fabulous work but more often than not you can not determine if that photographer produces consistent work, often they may not. Recently I had a client tell me about an experience where they commissioned a “weekend warrior” to take images for their one year old to memorialize this time in his life. Several months later, when they FINALLY got to see the images taken at one year, I was commissioned to photograph that same child at 15 months of age because they were disappointed in the images they finally got a chance to see.  The images and the experience fell short.   It seems that more often than not the experience may be satisfactory but the final end product – the precious images of your family captured in time, your littles, are lackluster or inconsistent with what the photographer showed as their best work.

Finally you have several levels of custom photography at its’ finest. What does a custom photographer offer that no other type of photographer mentioned does?

  • A custom photographer takes the time out to do a pre-session consult with a client to obtain information about their clients thoughts and ideas for their session. What are their expectations? Will they be concentrating on one member of the family vs. the entire family? Will there be relationship based art or is the session intended to be more traditional? Clothing options and selections? Is there a favorite location (or backdrop) that they have in mind?


  • A custom photographer will invest time before and during the photography session to ensure that the clients’ thoughts and ideas, their vision, is achieved. Sessions are given extra time, they do not feel “hurried” or rushed. Sessions tend to be custom made for each client, focus is on their family members, their relationships or a portrait study of the child being photographed. The goal is to to really focus and explore those subjects’ and their personalities.


  • A custom photographer is willing to take time out to consult on clothing choices during and before the session. Stressing the importance of highlighting a clients’ lifestyle and fashion sense is more important than stressing out about colors (or lack of). Every session will take on its’ own personality through clothing selections and a custom photographer will focus on this instead of choosing to tell clients to wear khaki pants and white polo shirts.


  • A custom photographer is concerned with working personally with their clients to ensure that they experience a high level of satisfaction with their services. Unlike the chain studios and entry level studios mentioned above, you are an individual and your thoughts and ideas are a major priority as is customer service pre session, during the session and after you take delivery.


  • A custom photographer will consult with clients on image selections and making final image choices for purchase of their photographic art. Because you are treated individually so is the final end product, a custom photographer holds a certain degree of pride of having their work displayed in your home and most likely will be more than willing to help you design a custom wall display for your space.   Typically the higher end custom photographer will have a working knowledge of design principles and aesthetics and may even have a trick or two up their sleeves to assist you with wall art displays of your photographic artwork.

At the heart of it custom photography is considered a luxury vs. your entry level cookie cutter chain photography experience. Custom photography may not be for everyone, clients who enjoy taking a more active role in the creation of their families’ memories as well as have the desire to have portrait art that is truly personalized.  These clients will likely budget and allot time and investment for it. There is a great deal of time involved in creating high end custom photography sessions for a client and you pay for great service and a superb end product in the quality, heirloom quality images you purchase.   Custom photography can be likened to fine dining (as a fellow photographer once said to a group of us): when you are looking for only a meal to fill you up and squelch the hunger then perhaps that going to Charlie Trotter’s downtown may not be the place to go to just “fill up”. However when you are looking for something truly special, to satisfy the desire for exceptional service and a fantastic experience to talk about to all your friends and family, then you would completely opt to go there. Custom photography is much the same beast, the Mercedes/BMW/Lexus of the photography world, where the intangibles make the experience truly wonderful and the images themselves make the investment of money and time truly worthwhile.


This is a repost of an article that I wrote several years ago.  The Googlebot is not pleased with the way it is formatted and I am moving it to my blog for better readability and blogging purposes.

If you are a photographer and would like to repost this article feel free to do so with the proper link & accreditation to Marianne Drenthe/Marmalade Photography at .

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I’ve known this family for a number of years now and was thrilled to photograph them again at my favorite field location for my last session of 2014. Thank you Gretchen & Brian for allowing me to photograph you and your handsome little men! Enjoy the post session showcase of this Chicago family photography session with three (handsome) brothers and their wonderful mom & dad:



Busy! Busy!



What a great storyboard! Love these images – will look great paired with the family wall portrait in our beautiful metallic finish!

Post session update: prints were delivered and they were gorgeous!  So thrilled to complete yet another Chicago family photography session for yet another satisfied & happy repeat Marmalade Photography client.  Thank you M Family!

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  • Linda - March 3, 2015 - 2:11 pm

    What nice photos of a great looking family.


Close to 900 billion photos will be shot this upcoming year just in the United States.
Daily on Facebook: 300,000 photos are uploaded
On Instagram: 30,000 photos per MINUTE are uploaded

Digest those numbers for a moment, will you?  The bulk of these 900 billion photos will be taken digitally.  In my blog entry from yesterday  I spoke of printing more and my call for a “print revolution”, I don’t think it’s feasible that all 900 billion of those photos matter enough to be printed but I do believe the moments that matter should be printed.  In the aforementioned blog post I touched upon losing images to “the ether”, the digital no man’s land where, once a drive fails or there no longer exists hardware to read the data on your media.

It occurred to me that awhile back I watched a TEDx video about this very topic so I did a quick Google to search it out for this series on my blog.  In the video renowned photographer Kevin Gilbert speaks of the love of photography, of storytelling and the progression of time and he mentions how his littles are grown up and off to college now and how documentation of the big moments matters.  He calls himself a crusader of photo organization.  I want to join him in this crusade, more importantly I want people to PRINT MORE!!




In the video Gilbert asks several pertinent questions relating to his love of photography in a “DO YOU” format:

  1. Do you have a camera
  2. Do you have a camera?  Do you have a camera phone?  Do you have a dSLR?

He addresses the audience as “The Lost Generation” and asks many questions which include:

    • Do you cherish the memories of your life?
    • Do you love your spouse?  Your boyfriend/girlfriend? Do you love to take pictures of them?
    • Are there moments in your life where you think: I GOTTA SHOOT THIS PHOTO?  Those real moments in your life, moments you want to be able to access later via visual form.
    • Do you love your children?
    • Do you shoot photos of those children you love?

Do you have those little moments in your life – those moments where you say: “Do you remember that?”Do you carry a phone with you everywhere?

Finally he asks the big questions – the question that you may have heard me ask you, blog reader, before:


Can you find photos quickly if you need to?

Do you back up your photos?  Do you print your photos?

What if some business that holds images in the Cloud goes out of business?

Are your photos in danger of becoming part of this Lost Generation?  Anything can happen!  Loss due to acts of God, loss forces of Nature, technological failure, technological changes or even theft?

If you leave the phone at the hair dressers or the nail salon and it walks, how will you retrieve those images?  Some of the most important image(s) of the past year likely sit on your phone, do they not?  Have you already forgotten about 1/2 of the photos you have already taken?


– get memories off old devices
– back up photos in multiple locations
– organize in one central place
– get photos off social media sites: bring them back into your life
– put photos into stories to share with generations to come
– have fun with your photos
– put your photos together & tell a story
– savor the little moments

If you don’t take time to do it for yourself then do it for the generations to come.  They will thank you for telling your story.

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Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!!

Today I am grateful for all those things that have contributed to my life to create the perpetual feeling of gratitude for my life, my family and those I love most.  I appreciate my husband and children more and more with each passing year and especially so this year as I realize how quickly time is passing with my (now) teenagers.  It feels like it was just yesterday my little littles were running around the house, playing dress up in their Disney Princess dresses and clip clopping on my wood floors with those plastic princess shoes that have long been cast away & replaced with VANs, Doc Martens or UGGs and stylish high heels.  I am also grateful for the realization, all those years ago, that time passes ever-so-quickly and for the sheer quantity of photos I have taken AND printed.  Granted I haven’t organized said images (that’s this years slow season project!) but they are printed and off my hard drives.  And for that I am grateful because I suffered a near miss this past year when BOTH my main & back up drives of personal photos crashed (thankfully I was able to transfer the bulk of my photos to other drives and media!)

This blog title says “a call away from digital” and that isn’t entirely true.  I’m not here to BASH digital photography entirely, it’s great for sharing with friends and family via email or social media and it really does serve that purpose well.  HOWEVER  by using solely digital to display and store our media we do our images (and ultimately ourselves) a great disservice.


You may or may not already know it but time corrupts most forms of digital storage media & digital media types change as does the hardware that reads that media.  Believe me, through the years I’ve heard all sorts of excuses for clients to not have their photos on display.  I admit that one of these excuses makes me even more sad* then the rest because it’s not a final product from something that should be considered full service (professional photography):

I just never had time to go to the framer’s to put together images in frames.

My images are sitting in the original box they came in under my bed.

* “The photographer we used before didn’t offer printed images and our CD of pics is still unopened!


To go through the time, expense and considerable energy it takes to coordinate a family for photos and to not walk away with a final end product (a beautiful wall art piece or wall display or album) makes little sense.  How do you honor your families’ memories and this stage in your children’s lives?  At some point in the past few years it has been thought that clients need every photo from a session in digital form but once in hand the images never get printed (and sometimes not even backed up to another storage media). That’s a sad result of the digital age!

Are we better for having so many digital options in our digitally cluttered lives?  Is it better to line the walls of your home with generic wall art printed in mass quantities in some foreign land?  “Art” that may hang in thousands upon thousands of other people’s homes?  If a home is a reflection of your family than what does it say to hang generic pieces that have no personal meaning in your home?  I’m not sure that the answers to those questions satisfy me and they should most definitely not satisfy you!  Your family is unique, the people in your family are beautiful and your relationships are worthy of being highlighted in your home!!

Whatever your reasons are for not printing or not displaying your family’s history via photos, get over it – sooner rather than later!!  Having come close to losing our family’s history I assure you you do not want to put yourself in that position.  Images that once were an afterthought are now cherished: funny faces, silliness and things that in the moment I didn’t appreciate (and now almost long for) were almost gone forever!  Images almost lost of my (then) toddlers – now teens – playing dress up, playing house together, playing in the back yard, playing with our (now long gone) dogs because back when I went digital I mistakenly had the same mindset many people have: that these images will always be there for me.  NOT TRUE!!  My scare earlier this year reminded me of something I was aware of but it hadn’t hit home: digital isn’t permanent.  Think about the very nature of 1’s and 0’s – it’s just data!  Data that is meant to serve as storage for final output.  Data that is not tangible, it’s in the ether once a drive crashes or a USB media stick corrupts!

It’s heartbreaking to me when people invest in sometimes over a thousand dollars in clothing for a session, the time & energy it requires to put a family together and get them to cooperate for a session to only walk away (as well as hiring a pro photographer like myself) with a “disc” of images that may or may not ever see the light of day in print form after the session.  Photography has been devalued by digital, we are overloaded with imagery on a daily basis and it’s carried over into our homes, so many people don’t display photographic art in their homes while spending their hard earned cash on generic decor pieces found at big box stores.  🙁

Now don’t get me wrong – digital is WONDERFUL in so many ways but it isn’t the ideal solution for your end product.  You should view the investment in time, energy and cash as part of a larger plan.  WHAT will you do with your images?  WHERE will you display these pieces?  HOW do you plan on framing them to complement your decor?




I urge you to be inspired to print your images!  Get them off your phone!  Get your SD card out of your point & shoot camera and download the contents to your computer AND transfer those images to a lab for printing!   Commit to tangible photography, photography that can be viewed without the assistance of a (likely-soon-to-be-outdated) device.  Be it in prints on your desk, individual pieces of wall art or a full wall display or even in many albums print today to document your family’s past with the future in mind.



Go forward and commit to professional photography by commissioning your professional photographer to print beautiful wall art for you, I urge you to choose a photographer that is a skilled craftsmen, is committed to the art of printed photography by either partnering with a professional photography lab or creates printed art in house.

While we can’t completely forget digital, and we shouldn’t (it serves us well on many levels) let’s be inspired to print more photo art!   Here’s a little wall inspiration to allow you to begin your journey:




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