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Photographer zooms in on a senior's personality for portraits

"My focus is all about my clients," said Jamie Bodenstab — but resisted adding, "pardon the pun."

She's the owner of Studio J Images in Blooming Prairie, the photography studio she opened after operating out of her home for about two years.

"I want satisfied customers, I want them to have a personal experience, I want them to love their pictures," she said. "I treat them like they're the only client I've ever had."

In this day of digital cameras, nearly everyone seems to think they can be a photographer.

"Oh, yes, I hear that," Bodenstab said. "They have friends that will do it, or say, 'My aunt is pretty good with the camera; she'll just do it.'


"I actually had a senior (in high school) come in who'd had a friend take the pictures, and her mom wasn't happy with them," she said. "They were shocked at the difference a professional photographer makes."

Graduation photos make up the lion's share of her business, Bodenstab said, but she keeps busy with family photos and weddings, too.

She prides herself on her non-traditional, original shots.

"We create different backgrounds and outdoor locations that are unique to us," Bodenstab said. "We're constantly finding new places and new ideas so our seniors have something fresh and original."

Last year's classic car graveyard, for example, has given way to what she calls "the attic," an industrial space.

Bodenstab was "out of the gate running" with her new business nearly three years ago.

"That first year, I had gotten so busy with seniors that I couldn't do it alone," she said. "I knew Chad, and we have a great professional chemistry. He handles things the way I'd handle them. It just works."

That's Chad Roehrick, the photographer she works with on every shoot — with no creative differences.


"It's actually better," Bodenstab said, "because everything runs smoother. If I'm posing or arranging someone, he can be working with the lighting and technical part."

She has what may seem an unorthodox approach with senior pictures:

"We want to cater to what they want," she said. "We play loud music of their choice; we want to give them the experience. We use humor and really get to know them. We push the creative and fun."

Although not a requirement, Bodenstab likes to have a parent along during senior pictures.

"When the parent is with them, both the parent and the senior are happy with the results," she said. "There are no surprises. We always get the traditional (shot) that mom prefers and the non-traditional that the senior likes. We try to help them find a common ground."

Bodenstab attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, where she first studied graphic design before switching majors to photography.

By using lighting techniques and software programs that can do everything from shed weight to eliminate braces or wrinkles, there's no reason for a bad photo, she said.

"You can have a regular digital camera, but when you come to us, we make an ordinary picture phenomenal," Bodenstab said. "My philosophy is you only get one chance at pictures, so why not make them the best they can be?"

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