Strain Photography co-founder Gary Alan Strain planned family vacations based on where the next photography convention would pop-up next.

"Every vacation that we had growing up was planned around the location of this convention," said daughter Brandy Strain-Dayer. "We didn’t get regular beach vacations or whatever."

I guess it’s been 40 years that we’ve been going, she said.

"I haven’t been going for 40 years," younger sister Jackie Strain-Mahar quickly said.

The sisters are a few years apart, but share a common bond being raised in a family photography business.

This year the convention is in Phoenix, Ariz., and it will be the sisters’ first time to present a program at Imaging USA, the largest annual photography convention hosted by Professional Photographers of America.

Strain Photography’s program is called The Best of Both Worlds. Named a year ago, Brandy says, the name is not meant to have any Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus references.

"We’re not going to come in on a wrecking ball," Jackie said.

The presentation will demonstrate how to combine high volume sports and school photography with a traditional portrait studio — something Strain Photography has successfully done since it was founded 40 years ago by the sisters’ parents Gary Alan Strain and Nancy Strain.

"With the photography market changing so much, a lot of small, full-time studios have to find different avenues of how to market their photography to keep surviving," Brandy said.

The sisters say it is rare for photography studios to do both portraits and school photography.

"Most people don’t think they can do both because they’re like, ‘oh I’m an artist I don’t want to do school pictures,’ so we’ve worked hard to find the balance between both of those," Jackie said.

Jackie does most of the school photography and Brandy does most of the sports photography with both sisters having their fair share of studio time.

When Professional Photographers of America President Ralph Romaguera became friends with Gary, he was a high-end photographer in Louisiana who only did portraits.

Gary convinced Romaguera that he needed to start doing school photography in addition to his portrait work.

"His sons now do school photography, and he’ll tell you it changed his whole way of thinking about a photography business, and changed their life completely," Brandy said.

The two sisters photograph every child in the Conway school district — fifth grade through twelfth grade — with the help of one part-time employee.

Since Gary and Nancy were photographing schools, technology has streamlined the process allowing their daughters to shoot, print and package a school’s photos in a few days.

Unlike a national company, Strain Photography is a local business that’s part of the community in which it’s established, giving the company a different motivation when it comes to quality school pictures.

"We want everybody to love their school pictures because when it comes time for the family portrait, or Christmas card photo, or senior photo, if they didn’t love their school picture, they’re not going to even think about calling you," Brandy said.

Since taking on more responsibility in the business, the sisters have become more involved in the community helping local charities through contests and incentives to food drives and donations.

The sisters also try to do fundraisers for Conway schools, so the money parents spend on school pictures finds its way back to the schools.

"That’s a big thing that sets us apart from a big, national company that comes in one time, does your school pictures and maybe doesn’t really worry about the quality," Brandy says.

Brandy and Jackie leave for Phoenix on Saturday, and their parents are tagging along.

"That’s one unique thing about this convention," Brandy says, "I know several of his friends who are retired, but they still come to this. It’s like the world-wide photographer get together."

(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at or by phone at 505-1215. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to Send us your news at