Thursday, Feb. 6
Cindy McClanahan Ellis has seen the photography industry evolve throughout the years, and her family’s business has evolved along with it.
“I started working here when I was 12 years old,” said Ellis. “I think about when I was a small kid helping [my dad] in the dark room at home. I remember helping him with the big dryers and I remember him being up all night having to develop [photos].”
Ellis now manages the business that her father started in 1961, McClanahan Camera in Warrenton.
Her father, Robert “Pooch” McClanahan, began studying photography when he was 12-years-old. As a young man he learned from photographer, Marshal Hawkins, who is best known for his shot of first lady Jacqueline Kennedy that appeared on the 1962 cover of Life magazine.
McClanahan served as an aerial photographer in the Marine Corps. When he returned from service, he opened up his shop in Warrenton.
According to Ellis, the services that the store offers have evolved over the years along with trends in the industry.
“I remember taking trips with him and delivering tons of film to National Geographic,” said Ellis.
Now days the industry has gone digital. McClanahan’s has adapted by offering the latest products in digital photography.
“I think my dad has been very smart to change with the times,” said Ellis.
The store offers services that are on the cutting edge of printing and photography.
“We have an app for your cell phone,” said Ellis. “For instance if you‘re Apple, we have an app that lets you hook up into our kiosk printing. So, you can print right from your phone.”
Ellis is especially excited about a new piece of equipment that allows for a user to wirelessly connect a smart phone to an optical zoom lens.
“This is a Sony camera, but it actually interfaces with your cell phone,” said Ellis. “It connects wirelessly to your camera. It has a great 10x optical zoom.”
Ellis believes that technology like this Sony camera is an example of the way that the industry is moving.
“Our biggest worry with the digital age is whether this generation of kids is going to have pictures, because they take tons and tons of pictures on their cell phones but they don’t back them up,” said Ellis. “If you’re saving them on your computer only, what will happen when your computer crashes?”
Because of the nature of the digital generation’s photography patterns, Ellis has joined the industry’s effort to educate people about saving their photographs properly.
“That’s where we’re trying to educate people so that we don’t have a generation that doesn’t have pictures. That’s the industry’s big push,” said Ellis.
McClanahan’s offers a variety of services to its customers. They provide passport photos, enlargements and reprints, framing, large format printing, a copy and printing center, graphic services, photo retouch and design, image scanning, archiving and video transfer, and courses and seminars.
Ellis said that while their prices are the same as what you would see at a big box store, what sets them apart is the knowledge and service that the staff provides its customers.
“We do a lot of photo lessons,” said Ellis. “You can get an individual lesson on your camera, or if you buy a digital SLR camera here you get a free group lesson.”
Whitney Suits, the store’s photo lab manager, has worked at McClanahan’s for more than 11 years. She produces prints in the lab for customers.
“We take time to adjust and make sure that everything looks nice,” said Suits. “It’s comforting to know that the work that you send out is going to be around for awhile.”
Suits said that the store prints on archival paper, which lasts for about 80 years. When printing on other paper from home, the print will only last about five years before it begins to fade.
As the nature of photography changes, McClanahan’s continues to adapt to serve its customer’s needs.
For more information, visit