The Business of Family Portraits: Michele Celentano & Monica Sigmon at Depth of Field 2023


Family portraits have come a long way since the heyday of department-store setups. In this episode of the B&H Photography Podcast, we examine business and creative factors at work in this constantly evolving field, recorded on location at B&H’s 2023 Depth of Field Conference. Listen in for fresh insights on family portraiture from two specialists serving very different market segments.

Above photograph © Monica Sigmon, Sigmon Taylor Photography

Our first guest is Michele Celentano, a serial entrepreneur who’s shifted from weddings to families to her latest focus on the big business of school and sports portraits. After getting the scoop on her career trajectory, Celentano describes how she’s modernizing and redefining this very lucrative market.

After a break, we chat with Monica Sigmon about the central role that formal family portraits can play in establishing a visual legacy and building self-worth among your clients, while she also elaborates on the complex economic factors involved in pricing your work.

Guests: Michele Celentano & Monica Sigmon

One of Celentano’s long-time portrait subjects, Carolyn, walking her…
Portrait of extended family, made outside their second home in Arizona…
Family portrait outdoors in a southwestern landscape.
One of Celentano’s favorite portraits of a family group, made on…
Mark, a single father, won a portrait session at a golf fundraiser…
A studio portrait of a mother and her son, who Celentano says has the…
Nothing gives Celentano more joy than generational portraits of…
Celentano has made annual portraits for this family for the past 15…
A second version of the same annual family portrait, this year in…
Selecting clothes for a group portrait is an important consideration…
The leading lines of a walkway to an underpass is one of Celentano’s…
One of the final prompts Celentano gives during group portrait sessions…
Celentano traveled to Utah for this family portrait, due to the…
Michele Celentano headshot
Michele Celentano

Black Label dancer session
A contemporary twist on a formal portrait
Black Label portrait of siblings
Dancer session
Black Label portrait of sisters
Dance company photographed with more of a modern approach than usually…
Three sisters, commissioned portrait for dining room
Dancer session
Family portrait of 4-year-old sister with twin 2-year-old siblings
Black Label couple celebrating 30-year wedding anniversary
Dancer session
Black Label family portrait
Monica Sigmon headshot
Monica Sigmon, Sigmon Taylor Photography

Episode Timeline:

  • 3:37: Celentano’s early mentors, professional groups that helped coach her in business, and early advice she received.
  • 9:55: Reinventing yourself, from weddings to portraits to school and sports photography.
  • 14:25: Adapting a business to the volume market for school sports portraits.
  • 16:52: Differentiating between school sports portraits and senior portrait styles and modernizing the approach to deliver a clean contemporary look.
  • 19:28: Believing in the work you do to manifest a value-based experience for your clients.
  • 24:58: Episode Break
  • 26:14: The power of a family portrait to change the way that children and families see themselves, and the value of formal printed portraits that lock in time as part of family history.
  • 34:14: The shrinking of the family portrait specialty as a full-time career.
  • 36:00: Sigmon’s Black Label portrait series as a premium style of formal portrait.
  • 37:42: Explaining a family portrait shoot to kids to get them on board with the concept, while minimizing studio clutter and props to keep the focus on the portrait session.
  • 44:25: The importance of taking control of the shoot and the experience. You are hired for being an expert in what you do.

Guest Bios:

Michele Celentano has enjoyed a professional photography career of more than 30-years, from her start photographing weddings in New York City, through a shift to newborn, children, and family portraiture to her recent focus on the school and sports portrait market. Widely known as the "Queen of Group Posing,” Celentano has a passion for teaching and giving back to the photographic community. Her artwork has been published in numerous books and in a wide range of professional photography magazines.

Monica Sigmon is on a mission to revitalize family portraiture. After opening her Williamsburg, Virginia, photography studio, in 2000, she quickly built a successful business with a reputation for excellence and cutting-edge imagery. The recipient of two prestigious degrees from the Professional Photographers of America, she is a popular speaker, traveling nationwide to offer entertaining programs on marketing, building your brand and running a luxury studio with authenticity. Sigmon is also co-host of The f-Stops Here podcast.

Stay Connected:

Michele Celentano Website:

Michele Celentano Instagram:

Michele Celentano Facebook:

Michele Celentano Pinterest:

Monica Sigmon Website:

Monica Sigmon Instagram:

Monica Sigmon Facebook:

Monica Sigmon Twitter:

Monica Sigmon Pinterest:

Host: Allan Weitz

Senior Creative Producer: Jill Waterman

Senior Producer: Mike Weinstein

Executive Producer: Yermy Weiss

Editorial Director: Shawn C Steiner