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Tom Brown, 63

Owner, photographer

Porta-Color Studios

211 State St. E


(813) 855-1515

How long have you been taking pictures?

36 years.

What types of portraits do you do?

I do mainly preschools and elementary schools. I don't do any seniors or high school. We also do group pictures, the class pictures. I use another camera for that. But I do family portraits, weddings, all kinds of family pictures.

How did you get interested in this?

I had just got out of the Navy and was doing construction work, and I had a friend who did photography at the old Zayres (department) stores. He said to come on in and he'd show me how to do it, at least it was warm and I wouldn't be outside freezing (in the Carolinas). I started out doing children's portraits and have been doing it ever since.

What kind of training did you get?

They gave us two weeks' training and then put us in the store photographing the kids. This was in South Carolina. And then when I came to Florida I went in business for myself. I've been in business now for 34 years.

What kind of camera do you use?

That's a 70mm Camerez Classic. We shoot 100-foot rolls of film and there's about 700 shots on a roll of film. The equipment is quite expensive, but I've had these cameras at least 25 years.

Does the camera auto-focus?

No, it's all manual focusing for each shot.

Why did you choose to specialize in school portraits of young children?

They sell better. Elementary and preschool pictures sell better than the ones with older children.

Do you have any secrets for taking pictures of kids?

I just like kids, and they can tell right away.

How long have you been doing pony pictures?

About 10 years.

How did you get into that?

I was doing regular pictures at Pasadena Community School in St. Petersburg and another man out of Miami had been doing the pony pictures for years. He quit doing them and everyone presumed that the pony must have passed away, because it was a real old pony he had. So I asked if they would be interested in me doing that and they said yes. So I rented a couple of ponies and just tried it and it worked out so well, and the kids enjoy it so much, I've been doing it ever since.

Do these two ponies belong to you?

Yeah, these are my ponies. I looked at a lot of ponies before I found the right ones. I really had to shop around.

How many children had their picture taken this morning?

Probably about 80 to 85. That's about average.

What is your favorite thing about the job?

I see the kids enjoy it. When they see a real, live pony, they get really excited about it. A lot of these kids have never seen a pony.

How many hours a week do you work?

Right now we do about 30 hours a week. When we do the pony pictures we try to leave the farm at 7 a.m. and we're usually back by 11:30 or 12.

How much money do you make?

It's hard to tell. The pony pictures usually sell good. But you know it just depends on a lot of things; how the economy is.


Tom Brown photographs a youngster outside of First United Methodist Church Preschool in downtown St. Petersburg recently for a costumed pony portrait. Brown provides individual and group pictures of young children for more than 30 elementary and preschools in Pinellas, as well as other schools in Hillsborough and Pasco counties.