Longtime Palatine resident turned passion for photography into thriving business
In 2018, the Palatine Area Chamber of Commerce and the Palatine community experienced a great loss with the passing of Bob Kramer. Kramer Photographers had been a Chamber member since 1987, and Bob, its founder, had served on the board of directors the past three years.
“We will miss Bob’s smile and always positive outlook at our meetings and committees,” Chamber Executive Director Steven Gaus noted. “And we will miss his friendship.”
Kramer grew his passion for photography into a thriving business that has truly stood the test of time. For nearly 40 years, Kramer Photographers have been creating photographic keepsakes in downtown Palatine.
The formative years
As a high school student in the late 1960s, Kramer was drawn to photography far before founding his business in Palatine in 1979. He started snapping pictures (free of charge) for the Loyola University Ramblers basketball team, cross country and swim teams, simply because he enjoyed it. His father worked at the university as an accountant.
Kramer went on to attend Loyola, where he had his first paid job at the Hall of Fame Dinner. He worked the room to ensure he got all the best shots for the yearbook, and when he presented the bill for his services, the athletic director’s response was, “We can’t pay these prices!”
Instead, the athletic director insisted the university triple Kramer’s payment, because he was so happy with the final product. Kramer then realized it might be possible to make a living with photography.
Though he had realized his passion, there were no photography courses at the university. He found a film study class, and although it was full, he persuaded the instructor to squeeze him in.
“He put me to the test; I actually ended up teaching portions of the class throughout the semester,” Kramer said. “When you’re passionate about something, things just seem to come easier.”
A first and second career
Although his desire was to make photography a career, by the time he graduated from college, Kramer was married with a young son and another child on the way. He received a degree in accounting just like his father, but after his first job as an accountant, he realized the career just wasn’t for him.
He was then hired by the Chicago Fire Department as the assistant director for public relations through a federal grant. He was living in Chicago, but moved to Palatine when one of his sons was diagnosed with encephalitis and needed special education classes. He said Palatine was then known for strong schools, and exceptional special education programs.
Kramer never forgot his passion, though, and photographed weddings on weekends while continuing to work his day job. When the federal grant ran out, residency requirements (to live in the city of Chicago) were established. Kramer chose to remain in Palatine due to his son’s special needs.
It was at this time that he hit the proverbial fork in the road in regard to his career. The year was 1979.
Kramer started working out of his house, and then in 1980, he rented a space at 160 N. Northwest Hwy. (currently Casey’s Automotive) until five years later when he bought a building at 17 E. Palatine Rd. near Plum Grove Road.
Business began to boom, and after several years and hiring a dozen or so employees, Kramer Photographers outgrew the space and moved to its present location in 1993, the former Hanson’s True Value, at 101 W. Palatine Rd. The more than 10,000-square-foot space is at the southwest corner of Palatine Road and Brockway Street in downtown Palatine.
Over the years, Kramer was also chosen to teach at the prestigious School of Professional Photography, more than any photographer in the country.
A familiar name from the past
Apparently, there was more than one Kramer photographer in Palatine over the last 150 years. In early 2000, a customer brought in an old photo for retouching and copies, and the corner of the photo was marked with “Kramer from Palatine, Illinois.”
The original photograph was obtained by [Bob] Kramer, which was from the late 1880s, and was indeed, from another professional photographer by the name of Kramer who operated in Palatine more than a century ago. The Professional Photographers of America had this man with the last name of Kramer listed as a member of the organization since 1907, while Bob Kramer has been a member since 1970. A somewhat strange, but interesting coincidence.
Reflecting over the years
Kramer observed that technology has changed the photography industry dramatically. The majority of his early jobs consisted of weddings – with more than 6,000 shot during the span of the business. Now, the business is primarily focused on children, family and individual portraits, in addition to weddings and small commercial photography jobs.
What makes the service so specialized, is the extensive use of
lighting, the variety of posing and an ample supply of props from the late 1800s to today, which help to set the stage and the feeling of the portraits, Kramer said.
He added that creating a relationship with the people they are photographing, in part through a pre-portrait consultation, helps his team to truly understand what their clients are looking for in the end result.
“We help them design a special portrait that is unique to their specific needs,” Kramer said.
“Many times, the pictures we take are of a milestone time or event for a family; when babies are born, weddings, anniversaries, loved ones who are getting older or are sick,” Kramer said. “We provide a fun and upbeat experience, and an opportunity to capture a moment in time for families to cherish for generations.”
Content courtesy of Palatine Patch & Vicarious Productions