Focused on Preservation

Cindy Ellis and McClanahan Camera

Cindy Ellis has her eye trained on preservation. She is a conduit between the images captured on camera through photos and videos and the memories grandchildren will enjoy, whether that is in a few years or several decades away. Cindy helps to preserve memories for as long as possible.

At McClanahan Camera she has remained one step ahead of technology and knows leading photographic preservation trends. Cindy marvels at images taken in the late 19th century which have held up. “People don’t understand that paper and ink quality matter. Images printed on home computers will only last a few years,” she cautions. Six days a week, Cindy may be found at the corner of Broadview Avenue and Winchester Street, happy to share her knowledge.

Cindy’s father, Robert “Pooch” McClanahan opened his photography business on Main Street in 1961, and for 57 years, ran this family-owned and operated business. The business has evolved with the times; McClanahan has sold satellites and cell phones, and rented videos to keep their business diversified. Today there is enough diversification with photography to keep them busy. One of the newest services added is the custom mat cutter; it allows them to mat just about any size document.

From darkrooms to the digital age, McClanahan Camera has weathered a tumultuous storm of changing technology which continues to sweep through the industry at an unprecedented rate. Although Cindy now runs the business, her parents still come in and share their valuable knowledge whenever possible. Her mom’s eye for color is second to none. As a matter of fact, Pooch and his wife and business partner, Bridget, are simply eager to make it to Florida where they traditionally spend a month after a busy holiday season.

McClanahan is more of a service business than a retail business. Inside customers will find retail items such as tripods, lenses, cameras, and frames, but will also find computer kiosks which will transfer images from a smartphone for easy printing. From there, customers are only a few clicks away from printed images in hand. Each image printed is adjusted to create the best possible print, photocard, or photo gift.

When Cindy isn’t downloading the latest software upgrades to keep things running smoothly, she is working on educating her customers on safety: “If GPS is turned on, coordinates can indicate the location where the photo was taken, which may pose a safety issue.” Cindy also works with Fauquier Parks and Recreation on classes for people in the community to learn how to take better photographs. Cindy also schedules one-on-one tutorials on how to use the multi-lens camera purchased by an eager budding photographer. She organizes free events to help people improve their photo skills. “I can help you learn everything about your camera with private classes, or I can instruct a group of people how to take photos at sporting events, or in low-light in just an hour,” she says.

The business-woman is also a photographer, who focuses on sporting events. “With a senior and sixth grader, and three nieces and nephews, we are at sporting events all week long,” she laughs. Cindy, who received a nursing and economics degree from UVA in 1992 came to work for the family business when she and her husband decided to start their family: “With a young family, commuting into Washington, D.C. wasn’t ideal.” Now her kids are just a few miles away during the school year – something which Bridget and Pooch enjoy. “We love having our daughters and five grandchildren in the area,” says Robert.  

“People used to come in all the time asking to see me. Now they come in asking to talk to Cindy,” Pooch says about his daughter and her breadth of knowledge on the wide spectrum of photography. “A large part of what we do involves preservation and image restoration.” While the photos taken in the late 1800s have remained, the images burned to a CD just a few years ago have likely come to the end of their life. “People take a lot of pictures. It’s easy to go to a sporting event and take over 100 photos, but we aren’t printing too many. Posting images to social media lowers the resolution, which makes printing them larger than a 4” x 6” difficult,” Cindy says. She encourages people to print more photos, and recommends printing highlights from each year and creating albums – something she does for her own family.

McClanahan customers often tell Pooch they could go somewhere else, but prefer to come visit with him, Bridget, and Cindy. It’s the familiar faces, the deep roots and level of customer service which has Cindy knowing nearly 70 percent of the people who come through the door; something unique to small, family-owned businesses like McClanahan Camera.

McClanahan Camera is located at 306 Lee Highway, Warrenton. For more information call them at 540-347-2533, or visit the


Aimée O'Grady
About Aimée O'Grady 46 Articles
Aimée O’Grady is a freelance writer who enjoys transforming stories told by Fauquier residents into articles for Lifestyle readers. She learns more and more about our rich county with every interview she conducts. She and her husband are happy with their decision to raise their four children in Warrenton.

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