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Where are you located?

I shoot on location anywhere or at my studio on Timberlake Road in Lynchburg, VA. Meetings and consultations also take place here. This way, we can relax and enjoy each others company in a quiet, stress-free environment. I often have snacks and drinks too! Coffee, anyone?

Will you be taking my photos or other staff?

I am the sole photographer of Susan McLaren Studio which means that you will speak directly with me- always! I love the one on one communication that I get to have with my clients so that they never get lost! Occasionally, for weddings and family sessions, I may have an assistant present but this depends on my second shooter's availability.

What should I bring to the session?

I have newborn props on hand such as blankets, wraps and headbands. However, you are welcome to bring any props meaningful to you and your family.

How early should I book my session?

My availability varies each week and last minute sessions are not always an option during the busy seasons. I say, the sooner the better! Of course, I am flexible if you have a last minute session! That is one of the benefits of a studio- you don't have to wait on the sun!

Why is photography so expensive?

There are an array of prices out there for photography and if you don't want to hire an amateur to take your photos, you may find the prices to be a bit high. This is because there are certain costs associated with running a photography business. After a family session or the 5-10 hours spent working a wedding, the photographer spends hours and hours of editing. Also factoring into cost is the type of equipment a photographer uses. These are not the typical point and shoot cameras. The high-end camera bodies and lenses a photographer uses average about $2,700 each. Photographers also carry backups in case their equipment fails. In cases where your photographer shoots film, the rising costs of film must also be considered. Professional photographers often bring about $15,000 worth of equipment to a wedding. Then there is the cost of transportation to get there and insurance. Also, how did you hear about your photographer? Whether online or through a referral, the photographer must pay for the website and other resources it took to get his/her name out there. Additionally, education is a major part of photography for a professional. After all, the more educated they are, the better their techniques and the better you will look!

All these things and for some photographers, more than these things, factor into how much photography costs.

When and how do I pay?

Wedding payments are due four weeks prior to the wedding date. Family and portrait session payments must be made at least one week prior to the original session date. Payment can be made with card, Cash app, check or cash.

What should I wear?

Great question! I have a blog post on that here.

What time of day will my sessions be?

The best time for photos outside is the Golden Hour. This is when the sun is just before the horizon line. This creates long shadows and soft light. This and twilight are my favorite times to create beautiful portraits outside. I understand that this may not always be the case because of availability of family members and weather, so there are other equally wonderful options! In-home sessions are done near the windows in your home. This is best done in the middle of the day when the sun is nice and bright outside but the light inside will be soft. One of the reasons why I love the studio is that we can create portraits anytime of day and under any weather circumstances (except maybe hurricanes-- eek!).

Can you take out the scratch on my baby's face or make me look skinnier?

Absolutely! I create natural works of art that you can pass on to family members. I am constantly studying to find the best ways to do this. I have found that the looking skinnier part comes down to proper posing and lighting. For newborns and wedding photos I use the same type of editing to smooth out blemishes so that you look your natural best. I do not advocate over editing or altering clients to be what they are not. I truly believe you are beautiful in every way and over editing is not my goal. Posing and lighting are very important for any one no matter the age, weight or gender. Proper posing and lighting will do wonders and look more natural than crazy Photoshop "magic."

When can I view my photos?

Depending on the session and amount of editing required, turn around times can vary. Wedding photos are complete within about 2-3 weeks and portraits sessions are within one week. If any additional editing is required, an additional week may be required. I will communicate this with you throughout the process!

Why can't I get the digital images by themselves?

I once was a "shoot and burn" photographer but I quickly learned that, although dearly loved, my photos were soon forgotten. Years later, they were left in the depths of the cyberspace abyss. To spend hours and hours getting the perfect image and editing photos to have them forgotten was heartbreaking. In the art world, painting and photos are hung in museums and collectors' houses for all to marvel at. I am no Van Gogh but I strive to create images that you want to see everyday and never forget. I want to create pieces of art that you can pass down to your legacy to remember these times together, for always. In saying that, I do understand we live in a digital world. So, I provide the opportunity to download photos when you order packages, prints or albums.

What's the difference between Copyright and Print Release?

I want my clients to be able to share and print their photos! When asking for a copyright, most are asking for the print release. So here is a breakdown of what these mean.


Copyright is defined as "a person's exclusive right to reproduce, publish, or sell his or her original work of authorship." Copyright is a legal right that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution.  As soon as I click the shutter, the photo is mine, unless I sign over the copyright. Copyright gives me the rights to alter and determine how the photo should be reproduced and distributed. My photos represent my brand. I must protect the quality of my brand. It devalues my products to let someone else edit them and is then no longer a SMP photo and I feel I am doing my clients a disservice by providing them with a half completed product or unable to guarantee my normal quality. 


A print release is different as it gives an individual permission to reproduce images for their own personal use. With a print release, clients can order prints, canvases, albums, etc. I encourage you to do that for yourselves and your entire family! However, you are not able to sell the photos or alter them besides the natural cropping that may occur when printing. With the print release, you can share your photos and post to social media or print in any form. You may not, edit or alter the images, including adding filters, claim the work as your own or use for commercial gain.

Do you have payment plans or discounts available?

I understand that life can get in the way and circumstances arise so I try and be flexible to offer payment plans upon special request. However, full payments are due before the session which is why I suggest requesting a session sooner rather than later! I also offer discounts to college students and those that serve in the military.


Do you offer gift certificates?

Yes! You can contact me to order one here.