Roger’s Portraits: Thirty Years Serving Athens On The Courthouse Square

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Roger Bedingfield, who with his wife Vicki, “hung out a shingle” on the Square in 1984, and is coming up on his 30th year celebration near the Courthouse. However, there is much more to the story than just “hometown boy makes good.” Roger was born and raised in the area, having graduated from Tanner High in 1970. He had planned on a career as an architect, but realized that designing buildings wasn’t his true calling, but “designing” memories and capturing them on film was. By “chance,” in 1972 he went to work for Olan Mills studios, spent a year there, worked for B&R Studios in Scottsboro, and then went into business for himself in 1980. For several years he travelled to various stores in North Alabama and took pictures of children, then after opening the studio in Athens, was able to slowly phase out being on the road.

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Roger calls himself the “children’s portrait specialist,” and to this day still gets great joy out of capturing childhood on camera and converting it into a priceless memory. “I have kids who walk by the studio and start crying if they can’t come in, because we have so much fun,” he told me. While I was in the studio, a young mother that he began to “shoot” when she was about 4 years old came in with one of her kids, and he is happily now on to photographing the next generation. He takes pictures for children in several of the area’s day care centers, and loves to get out of the shop to do his work. He also enjoys having people come to him. The studio prop room is full of all manner of items that make a portrait “pop,” and there are a number of backdrops from which to choose, including a green screen. The green screen is used to layer in special effects through the use of Photo Shop, the software program that has taken portrait photography to new heights.

12-20-2013 2-33-50 PMPortrait studios, as is the case with so many industries, have had to adjust as the result of new technology that, as Roger puts it, “has put the ability to take great pictures in the hands of the average person.” He recalls attending a national Professional Photographers of America conference in 2005, where a Vice-President of Kodak flatly stated that they would stop producing film in 2010 because of digital photography. Roger wisely learned how to use Photo Shop, and did it entirely on his own. The result is that the studio survived the “sea change,” and loves what technology has done to expand the industry.
Nothing, however, can replace the relationship between an award winning photographer and his subject(s), and though the industry was shaken up for awhile, Roger remains a busy man with family reunions, weddings, special events and in-studio portraits. He showed me a piece he is just finishing up that will be unveiled soon in the Courthouse. It is of local members of the Bar Association, and he gave me a brief “tour” on his computer that showed how he took the photos of each and configured them into what should be a historic photograph that will remain in the Courthouse long after he’s gone.

Roger is a true romantic at heart, (as exhibited by the cover shot taken with his beautiful wife Vicki,) and greatly enjoys doing portraits for Valentine’s Day. He also learned an invaluable secret in successfully shooting weddings, (which can be very stressful for everyone,) and that is making sure that he answers to only one person, whether it’s the bride, the bride’s mom, or the wedding director.

12-20-2013 2-34-28 PMAnother of his photographic “loves” is restoration, something which is now much easier and cheaper with digital software. “There is always a story behind the photo,” he says, and sometimes that is a literal statement. “We have found old love letters, other photos, deeds to property, all kinds of things stored behind the original,” he said, “and it’s always wonderful to see the look on the faces of the people when they see the restored photo and other treasures they knew nothing about.”

Roger describes himself as “the average person’s photographer,” and by that he means that he “makes people feel comfortable,” and has no interest in being anything other than easy to work with while creating a high quality portrait. “I’m not the most expensive, and I’m not the cheapest, but my work is good,” he said. He has won awards in the Southeast through the regional Professional Photographers of America competitions as best in class, but he doesn’t set much store by trophies. He lets his work speak or itself.

“So, why should I come to you?” I asked. He fired back with a shameless grin, “Because I am good.”

Come let a love for people, photography, and decades of experience be put to work for you at Roger’s Portraits, and watch him “capture a memory.”
Roger’s Portraits
115 W. Washington Street
Athens, AL 35611
Phone: 256-233-4443
Cell: 256-431-6332 (no “s” on portrait)
Facebook: Roger Bedingfield/Rogers Portraits
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner