COLONIE — Local business, iSmile Studios, started with the idea to make taking photos more convenient and affordable to now 14 years later looking to grow even more.
iSmile started in 2008 as a photography studio in Colonie Center. The business started with a photography program they still run today, iGrow. iGrow is similar to a subscription service for a child’s first year of life where every month parents bring their children in for photos documenting every stage of their life. At the end of the year the program culminates with a cake smash and parents receive a collage of all the photos throughout the year.
“It’s oversaid, but it’s so true– you can’t get those moments back,” Stephanie McCauley said.
The studio also does family portraits, pets, headshots and anything in between. A few years in, McCauley reached out to her former high school about the possibility of doing school photos. From that first yes, a fun side project for McCauley turned into iSmile Studios disrupting the school photography sector in the Capital district. The studio now works with pre-schools to entire school districts.
During the height of the coronavirus pandemic the studio hurt in some aspects, but thrived in others. The studio was able to secure schools for school photos that they otherwise wouldn’t have had access to. Most of the time schools or districts are contracted with bigger studios, but those studios can’t transition outdoors in cases like the pandemic leaving the door open for iSmile Studios.
“It gave us some school districts that we would have never gotten,” McCauley said. “It helped us pivot and think differently, and that’s always a good thing.”
iSmile Studios is getting ready for one of its busiest times of the year: Easter. McCauley jokes that it’s like a mini Christmas for the studio, just far less stressful. The studio creates an Easter Bunny session where kids interact with the iSmile Easter Bunny and also include a family portrait without the bunny.
Looking to the future, iSmile is looking forward to expanding their studio to a new location. Through the pandemic, iSmile found their silver lining in natural light photography. That silver lining has pushed the studio to find a new location with an outdoor space rather than having customers specially book a session in an outdoor space for a natural light session.
The studio has been featured in national and international trade shows and conventions as speakers and teachers in the photography industry. iSmile Studios is also a locally owned, family owned, and woman owned business. The studio also takes being a local business to a new level.
“We also buy all our paper, ink and supplies locally. We’re a big believer of giving back locally,” McCauley said.
For iSmile Studios, the pandemic may have caused some setbacks, but in other ways allowed the studio to progress. It’s not about just making money for the business, customers are family to the studio. That sentiment is to continue as the studio continues to grow.