Some photographers may have a hard time distinguishing themselves from all of the other professionals available, but one Ahwatukee Foothills resident just took a leap above the rest.

Lauren Murray's photographs recently won second and third place in the Teen Scene section of the national 2010 Tiny Tots and Big Kid Shots photo contest.

The 29th annual contest was hosted by McKenna Professional Imaging, a nationwide photographic processing lab used by Lauren Murray Studios. Out of more than 750 entries, the company handed out national prizes to 14 studios, including Murray's, said Mike Moss, marketing manager for McKenna.

"I was so excited (to win)," Murray said. "Even though I didn't get anything physically tangible, I got the exposure."

She entered the contest for the first time this year, and along with entering photos in the national contest, Murray conducted a local contest for clients as well, she said.

She went to local businesses like Stroller Strides, a fitness program for moms with their babies, and Desert Mountain Music, which offers music classes for babies and parents, to get prizes for contestants.

Clients would then sign up for the special discounted session, and have their photographs entered into the local and national contests, Murray said. A local photographer and a mom judged the photos.

The local winners received prizes and free prints of their winning photograph.

For the national contest, judges picked winners based on charm, personality and expression capture of the child, Moss said, though a good photo enhances those characteristics.

A grand prize of a $1,000 savings bond was offered to the subject of the photo, and the studio received a free print of the picture and a $200 credit with the imaging company, according to McKenna's website.

Murray's winners, second and third place in their section, each won $25 and $15 gift cards to Toys "R" Us, Moss said.

Murray believes the combination of her subjects' expressions and her ability to capture their true personality is what made her photos win the national contest.

Though her photos won in the Teen Scene section, Murray specializes in newborns and babies.

She said she fell in love with photographing children when she began taking school portraits as she was getting into photography in 2003.

Murray became a member of the Arizona Professional Photographers Association and Professional Photographers of America, got her business license, and started her own company in 2005.

"Children and babies are where it's at for me," Murray said, and as the mother of a 2-year-old, she has the patience and ability to work with them.

She mainly focuses her work on newborns and babies up to a year old, though she takes photos of children in their teens and a little bit of wedding photography as well.

Murray likes to have photo sessions outside if possible, but with newborns she stays at the family's home.

"Anybody mobile, I like to do it outside because you can catch the kids in their element," she said. "But for newborns, it is important for them to be in their zone."

As a high-end boutique, Murray's focus is on the family, she said. She limits herself to one photo session a day so she can give clients her full attention. While she may not have as many clients as other studios, Murray has relationships with hers and they keep coming back, she said.

"I pride myself on being a relationship photographer," Murray said, adding that the only props she uses with newborns are the parents. "I am telling the story of mom and the baby or dad and the baby."

She also has products available for purchase from personalized jewelry to purses, though she admits they aren't the moneymakers for her business because they are expensive to produce.

During the summer months, Murray said business slows because nobody wants to take pictures outside when it is hot. In an effort to increase business, Murray invited clients to go to San Diego during a week she would be out there to get beach photos.

She said it was a lot of fun and many of her clients usually plan on escaping from the heat to California during the summer anyway. Murray is planning another photo retreat to Payson later in the summer.

To contact Lauren Murray Studios, call (480) 560-0235.

Jolie McCullough is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.


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