It’s 2021 — not the best time to be small business owner. The effects of the pandemic have made it difficult for many of them to survive. But despite COVID-required closures and other mandated measures, Thomas Photographic Services has been holding on — and it makes this year’s decade-in-business milestone that much sweeter.
“Like everyone, we were shut down at the end of March 2020. We were more than terrified about our future. But the community offered us such love and support, and we faired pretty well. We offered porch pictures in April and May of 2020 for over 200 families,” said Angela Thomas, who runs the business with her husband, Colin.
“It was a stressful year nonetheless. Photographing in a pandemic was frightening," she said. "We didn’t have enough information from the state on what was safe and what wasn’t. For awhile, it felt like the government had new guidelines on how the virus spread each week.
"We bought three air purifiers for the studio, four-layer masks and practically held our breath for an entire year. We’re both fully vaccinated now and feeling better stress-wise as to what is and is not safe. We are still taking all the extra precautions we can and will continue to follow all government guidelines.”
Angela and Colin met at Harrington College of Design in Chicago as photography students.
“We are both trained as commercial photographers, but after graduating in ’07 and ’08, the market soon crashed, and commercial jobs were few and far between compared to what they once were,” Angela said. “So we started working with families for portraits and headshots. At that time we were home-based. In May of 2011 we took a leap of faith and opened our studio. Now, 10 years later, we are going strong and enjoying working with new and repeat customers.”
Their studio is at 18705 Dixie Highway in Homewood’s Southgate business district.
Angela’s passion for photography began in high school, but she went on to a traditional university where she learned that she wasn’t on the right path. In 2006, she moved from California to Illinois to attend Harrington College of Design and pursue her dream of becoming a photographer.
Colin went back to school after a career change and attended while running a landscaping business. He had always enjoyed taking pictures and wanted to do it as a career.
“He saw photography as a creative way to work with people and make lasting memories for others,” said Angela.
The first few years were scary, with lots of uncertainty, but Angela said they’ve continued to grow and stay strong in their commitment to provide quality photography services and products.
“We started the studio in a downed economy with little more than the shirts on our backs,” she said. “Colin’s dad, Rich, gave us the money we needed to open our doors. If it wasn’t for him, our dream would not have become a reality.”
There was never any doubt of where they wanted to go into business. Colin is the fifth generation in his family to reside in Homewood. The couple have a 2-year-old daughter, Elloren, whom they are happy to be raising here as generation number six. “We knew we wanted to be in Homewood-Flossmoor as this is where our roots are,” she said.
The community’s support has meant so much to the Thomases.
“We have been supported along each step. We found people wanted to support us and help us through the worst of the pandemic,” she said. “When we were shut down in March and April, we had a surprising number of people bring in photo restorations and other scanning/retouching jobs that we were allowed to do, even if we couldn’t photograph yet.”
Photo restoration is just one of the services that they offer, along with family and children portraits, headshots, graduation sessions and wedding photography. They also provide school photography for five different preschools in the area.
Photo sessions can take place indoors or outdoors. For indoor sessions, customers need to arrive in a mask, and it can only be removed while actively being photographed or in the changing room.
Angela said that family and child sessions are very special because they love seeing babies grow into toddlers and preschoolers as time moves on.
“We specialize in capturing genuine smiles and not just the ‘cheese face,’" she said.
To keep up on different offerings and view some examples of their work, follow Thomas Photographic Services on Facebook and Instagram and visit their website at thomasphotographicservices.com.