Many of my clients, aka "Pixure This! Family Members" know that I have been a photographer for 25 plus years! But what many don't know is how I came to be a photographer. So today, I thought I would share my story with you!
While I was in college in the early 90's, I was working part time at a drug store in Brecksville. I was happy with where I was at because it was just a job to fill the gas tank so that I could get to classes and back. One day, a very nice gentleman named Steve, approached me stating that he was opening a photo lab a few stores down. He stated that we was looking to hire a few great employees and that every time he came into the drug store, I greeted him with a smile and we chatted about life. He offered to show me around his new store that was still under construction. I can't begin to remember how many times I turned him down on his kind offer. Again, I was happy where I was at, working just to get me through school. Finally, after his continued attempts, I gave in and agreed to visit after work. Steve showed me around and hired me on the spot.
Steve had a great little business in the Brecksville shopping center called One Hour Motophoto. It was a locally based franchise photo lab and portrait studio. The store consisted of a nice variety of frames, 35mm film and picture developing and two portrait studio rooms. We had a handful of employees, some of the nicest people I have ever worked with, in fact I still remember everyone's first name to this day. Here I learned C-41 (film) developing and how to print the film onto paper, of coarse with the help of a few very large machines that quite honestly, were a bit intimidating at first. Instantly, I fell in love with the process. I absolutely loved printing. I saw every frame as a challenge, exposing it to the proper exposure by hand instead of just hitting an auto scan button. Steve taught everyone the tricks of the trade and for that I am forever indebted to him.
In our slower time, he tasked me with some telemarketing, which I absolutely hated. It was cold calling local families offering a free portrait session. I can't tell you how many time I was hung up on! But, it was Steve and I just adored my boss, so I did as he asked. After a few months of watching our in house photographer, I became intrigued with the studio. Steve offered to send me for classes at the home office and allowed me full access to all the film and test sessions I could do after hours. Soon, every friend of mine became a test subject for me to practice on. After Steve was confident in my work, he allowed me to be a back up photographer in the studio...and I was hooked!
I was the last of the original crew members to part ways with Steve and his franchise. I would have stayed but I was offered a position in another local camera shop where I could learn more about the equipment itself. So I made the jump to Laurel Camera in Strongsville. This is where I purchased my first studio system, a Novatron three headed kit and the brand I still use today! From Laurel, I was thirsting for more knowledge of the photography business. I used the second bedroom in my duplex as a make-shift studio and dabbled in how to advertise my services. I visited countless business, hanging my business card on any cork board in sight and chatting with people in hopes to find a lead for freelance photography. I managed many other photo labs in northeast Ohio though the years. Eventually I learned more about the processing machines...so much that I could practically tear one apart and put it back together in my sleep. My father always stated that I was mechanically inclined and I guess this proved his theory. I actually applied to be a service technician at one of the largest film processing machine companies, at that time, in the world. After chatting with a few of the service technicians over a few months span, I came to realize I would, sadly never be hired there because of my gender, no matter my qualifications.
I was never satisfied with the amount of knowledge I was learning over time. I had many mentors and teachers and took many classes. Eventually, photo labs were becoming few and far between and photography studios just didn't hire anything other than an assistant. My love of studio work continued to grow and with that growth came an interest in partnering with local businesses who would host portrait events. While I was working at a studio, they had partnered with another local pet retailer for Santa Portraits and I was called on to be the photographer. Little did I know, there was no planning involved on either side for my first ever Santa Paws event. I was almost ashamed when I realized the lack of planning! Let me set the scene for you....a skinny kid dressed up as Santa, a sheet as a backdrop in the store room where we were conducting the shoot and Santa sat on a metal chair! Well, we all know where that lead, right? I loved doing this type of session so very much that the next year, I stepped out on my own to make these types of sessions better. Each year I added services, added props, changed scenes, added new locations and Santa Paws Portraits were born! Many of you to this day are still family members I met along the way and I most certainly couldn't have done this without you! So to all of you, thank you! Thank you for entrusting me with your beloved pets and thank you for allowing me to become part of your lives!
It was at this time that I realized how photographing pets just became second nature to me. I have always connected with animals of all kinds, and from a very early age. As a kid, I used to set up a "jump" in my grandparents four seasons room, which consisted of two boots and a broomstick. I would work with my aunts dog for hours. The poor thing, I'm amazed he put up with me! When I was a toddler, I placed a towel over my aunts dogs head while he was eating. He gave me a stern growl. Yes, you guessed it, I did it again! This time he bit me in the face. I still to this day remember the color of the washcloth on my face as my parents rushed me to the ER! Every morning, I look at those scars in the mirror and am thankful for the lesson I was taught. Respect, listen, and communicate. Years later, we were visiting a petting farm and a jealous billy goat gored me in my side. My mom never fully understood why I wasn't traumatized by these events and to this day is amazed at how I work so well with animals. She is the first one to step up to the plate when someone says "Oh, you will never get my dog to sit"! Of coarse my two biggest fans are my mom and my hubby!
Okay, back to the Santa session...These Santa sessions lead me to other themed sessions such as my Luau/Beach Theme, my All American Theme, my doggie Boudoir Theme, my PJ Party Theme and my Boxing Theme, to name a few. Of coarse after years of lugging all of these themes around from location to location, it became too much for me, so I opened up my home, turned my one car attached garage into my studio and my third bedroom into my office. My poor hubby! I was slowly taking over our home in Streetsboro! In February of 2015 my hubby and I started searching for new homes that would accommodate us both in the surrounding cities. We quickly realized that we would need to do major renovations to anything we looked at to make it our own. My father had passed away in September of 2014, we were deciding what to do with this home, the house I grew up in in Broadview Heights. Hmmm, perfect location right off the freeway, his old wood shop could be converted into a studio and his plant room, right off of the wood shop could be converted into an office. To make it our own, we discussed constructing the addition that my parents always planned, before they divorced. The renovations were a large undertaking, but in a matter of 10 minutes, the decision was made! We were moving to Broadview Hts! We contacted a great local builder whose skills would allow marrying the old century home and my fathers high quality craftsmanship to the new 1200 square foot addition. During the renovations, the crew prepared my studio to kick off Studio and Santa Days with little time to spare!
Slowly during the past 3 years, I have been updating my business, going "back to basics"! What I mean is this...when I started doing portraiture on the side years ago, because it was 35mm film, the portrait process was very hands on and very high touch. I would schedule a consultation to plan the session. After the session, I would meet with clients in person to show proofs and to place their order and then in most cases hand deliver their portraits. With the insertion of the digital era, this type of service seemed to diminish rather quickly. I fell pray to doing what many other photographers were doing because I thought it was what my clients wanted. I never took part in what we in the business call the "shoot and burn" business model, where the session is completed, edits are made and digital files are delivered to the client via an online download. This is such a hands-off approach to photography and certainly does not serve the client. I have always believed that if you are going to pay for the time and talents of a professional photographer, you should show off that session on the walls of your home! In most cases these digital files never make it off the computer or off the disk, which sits in a desk drawer. I also never cared for placing images on an online gallery, although I will admit that I have done this a time or two due to certain circumstances. Again, this does not serve the client. In these past 3 years, I sat back and took a hard look at what I wanted to accomplish with my business. The single, most important thing to me is to create relationships with people. Many of my clients have become close friends, we have coffee, we are Facebook friends, I see their families grow up and am the first one they contact should a need for photography ever arise. I absolutely adore and am very honored shooting a baby session and then years later called on to shoot their Senior Portraits! Another important factor for me is giving back to our community via Portrait Fundraisers. I love to work with non-profits doing out of the box fundraising for them! I don't have a ton of spare time on my hands to donated, but certainly feel that I can make an impact and give back with my business! Another change I made is to go back to requiring an in-studio consultation before the session is placed on the books. During this consultation, we chat about clothing, backdrop/location options, products and pricing. Here I can answer any questions that may come up and this meet up allows us to get to know each other a bit prior to the session itself. Once the session is completed, we made a return appointment for the Preview and Ordering Session. During our Preview and Ordering Session, clients take a few minutes to sit back and enjoy a video presentation of their session, set to music. We then review each image individually. This allows us to play with each image and customize wall collections for specific rooms in their homes. This approach will never leave clients to fend for themselves, as I am with them to make professional recommendations along the way. I am always happy to visit my clients homes to help with the placement of their gorgeous new wall art!
My one on one, high touch approach, giving my clients the ultimate portrait experience is what makes me passionate about what I do. Portraits are not only an investment in money, but an investment of time. Clients typically visit my studio 4 times during the portrait process.
In addition to safety in the studio (lighting and backdrops are hung from the ceiling), I am always looking for new beautiful products to introduce to my clients. In fact, I have just added books and folio boxes to my line. Albums have always been an option, however these hardback books are a thinner, more up to date version of an album and are a perfect for your living room coffee table! An additional product newly added to the Pixure This! line are our Folio Boxes. These boxes are gorgeous and the perfect way to display and store matted 5x7's or 8x10's and are perfect to showcase your entire portrait session. Our Signature Box features a glass window display, a mirrored finish available in two colors and a matching easel to display one of your gorgeous matted images at a time. Your matted images can be rotated whenever you choose and are easily moved to other rooms. One of our most popular products is our metal wall art. Very soon, I will be adding a gorgeous, high gloss contemporary metal wall art design as well as rustic wood image options! To see what all of my excitement is about, I invite you to "like" my Pixure This! Photo Studio page and join me here on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PixureThisPhoto/ when I "Go Live" review all of our new products. I will announce dates and times in advance of when we go live, I welcome you to join me!
If you have made it this far, I want to personally thank you for allowing me to share my story with you! I am passionate about what I do and equally as passionate about my relationships and service I can provide to my clients, aka "Pixure This! Photo Family"! You certainly have a choice when it comes to your photography needs and one of my jobs as a photographer is to educate and inform. Here at Pixure This!, we are focused on the bigger Pixure!