Martha Abelson - Studio Share Photography Member Highlight


Here at Studio Share Photography we like to highlight members and their businesses so you can get to know them!  Hopefully you resonate with some of their successes and challenges as a small business owners.

Meet Martha Abelson of Martha Abelson Photography.  She has been on board with us since December of 2015.   I am so excited for you to check out her work!  She is definitely one of those photographers who shows off her artistry through her use of lighting, posing and overall connection with her clients.   I appreciate her professionalism and her tenacity when it comes to her business and how she runs it!

When I asked Martha whether she shot Nikon or Canon she said "other" - she's a bi-shooter, she shoot both Nikon (d700) and canon (5dmkiii).  :D  And it depends on what she's shooting as to which lens is her favorite (true professional answer for ya).  Martha shoots both natural and studio light, again, depending on her subject matter.   I happened to be in the studio when she was working with some dancers a while back - and it was so cool to watch her use the 86" plm umbrella shooting past them, spilling beautiful light onto her subjects as they jumped and spun. 

Here are some of the other questions I asked her:

Are you from this area? Why do you live in the midwest?

I am from NYC originally. I moved to Chicago for work 23 years ago and met my husband here, so the midwest is officially home.

Tell us a little bit about your family...

In addition to my husband, I have three teenage daughters, a sophomore in college and twins that are juniors in high school. I also have a cute but dysfunctional coonhound named Scarlett.

How long have you been in business?

Roughly 13 years.

What got you started in photography? And how did you build your skill set?

My path to becoming a professional photographer has been fairly typical. I started photographing my own kids, then my friend's kids, then one day woke up and discovered that I was in business. My path to legitimacy took a couple of more years, as I discovered that running a business was much more than just taking beautiful photographs :) Over the years I have taken many photography classes and workshops, both in-person and on-line, and am committed to ongoing education and improvement.

What type of photography do you specialize in?

I have two main areas of specialty, and for both I work both on-location and in-studio: Headshots/Branding Images and Family Portraits.  I also work with several dance schools to help with their portrait needs.

What are the names of 1 or 2 photographers that inspire you?

Annie Lebovitz  and Vikki Sloviter

What is the hardest thing about being a photographer?

Staying focused. There's always more a photographer can be doing, learning, exploring yet there are only so many hours in a day. To (at least try to) strike a good balance between my business life and personal life, I'm always prioritizing how I spend my time. The photographer/educator Sue Bryce tells her students to consider the question "does it make the ship go faster?" when considering whether or not to purchase the latest gee-whiz equipment or prop or studio doo-dad, and I think of that question often -- not just in terms of how I spend my money, but also in regard to potential investments of time.

What has been surprisingly easy? (if anything)

Staying passionate after all these years!

Would you be willing to briefly tell about a time that you were afraid in your business? And how you worked through that?

I had certain business policies and procedures in place for quite some time, such as providing online previews prior to in-person ordering meetings, that made aspects of running my business more challenging for me while providing no demonstrable benefit to my clients. Even though I knew I could serve my clients better with a more simplified workflow, I was afraid to implement changes because I thought clients would feel slighted in some way. I finally made a change, and found out that I had made a mountain out of a molehill. Giving clients an excellent experience from start to finish has little to do with any specific policy!

If you could share one piece of advice with a photographer just starting out, what would you tell them?

The non-photography parts of being a photographer are at least as important, if not more so, than the quality of your images. Learn how to interact with your clients and to treat them like gold even while setting expectations and boundaries. Learn how to price yourself profitably, and to deliver upon (or better yet, exceed!) your promises.

Why did you decide to be part of Studio Share Photography?

I decided that a studio space would allow me to expand my family photography business in a way that wasn't tied to the sunrise/sunset calendar or Accuweather, and would allow me to explore a somewhat different aesthetic where the environment takes a backseat to my subjects and their relationships.

5 years from now, where do you see yourself and your business?

I believe that creating an atmosphere that is supportive, warm and fun is the most important thing that I do for my clients because it's the best way to produce images that are not just beautiful -- but also help tell an important story about the person(s) being photographed. Five years from now, I hope I am continuing to make clients relaxed, confident and empowered in front of the camera, regardless of whether the purpose of being photographed is to help build their business or to capture priceless family memories.


So what are the dreams for your business?  Have you thought 5 years out?  Are there steps you're taking right now to move towards those dreams and goals?  If you need a professional, indoor place to shoot this coming winter, give us a shout out.  We'd love to hear more about your business and how we may be able to serve you.   Studio Share Photography has locations in Libertyville, IL and Barrington, IL.  

6 Helpful Tips to Capture Amazing Firework Images [Studio Share Photography - Lake County, IL]

How many times have you taken your 'good camera' to a fireworks show and walked away with less then stellar images?  Now is your chance to try again.  Here are some basics for a good capture:

#1 Take a tripod 

You will be working with slow shutter speeds and unless you are made out of stone, you will not be able to hold your camera steady enough.  

#2  Be Strategic about Your Location

Put yourself in a place where you have people or other objects actually in the shot.  This helps give perspective and interest to the actual firework.  (similar to shooting the moon/sky).  Silhouettes, skylines and anything reflective are great compliments to your actual subject.  

#3  Be Trigger Happy

Timing is everything.  Sometimes you can predict when the next shot will be fired, but since we live in a digital age, just keep pressing the trigger.  You can cull it down later.  

#4  Set Your Focus to Infinity 

Here is a 'how to' article if you've never done this to your lens.  This is crucial because at night your auto focus is going to fail you.  Turn your lens to manual focus and turn it to the infinity symbol.  This will allow you to push the trigger down every time.

#5  Shoot in Manual Mode

Start with your fstop around f14, your ISO to 200 and your shutter speed to at least 1 second.  (Your shutter is what you will mess with more than anything - the longer the shutter speed, the more light it lets in, the more light trails of the fireworks you will capture) These settings are meant to give you a starting place.  Experiment from there to see what works best for you - depending brightness of the fireworks and how far away you are from the display.

#6  Use A Fast Zoom Lens

I used a 70-200 2.8 lens for the images in this article.  This allowed me to get in close to the action and gave me the flexibility to finesse the composition as needed without having to physically move forward or backward.


Have fun!  Happy Independence Day.  :D


Small Business Funk [Studio Share Photography - Lake County IL]

 Photo Credit:  Bethany Brinkworth

Photo Credit:  Bethany Brinkworth

Do you ever get in one of 'those modes'?  You know, where your small business is just...well...there?  A lull in your leads, no urgent things to attend to, and maybe other parts of your life have just filled your days?  I mean, I know many of us run small businesses part time in order to have time for other important things in our lives.  But when we DO have the time to circle back and continue to invest, it can be hard to press on.  

I think I'm in a small business funk.  And I need to figure out how to get out of it.  There is a ton of work I could be doing...but none of it HAS to be done today.   Do you get me? I can make lists with the best of them - but actually implementing the non-urgent, long term goals seems so challenging....why is that?  I know, I know, I can hear my business coach telling me to "chunk it down, don't look at the task as ONE BIG ELEPHANT, just take it one slice of elephant steak at a time."  But sometimes even those small steaks don't seem so appetizing. I just waste time staring at them, holding my knife and fork.

So, since blogging is one of those steaks on my list, I figure I'd get my thoughts out 'on paper' and maybe some of you can help me dig back in.....or at least sympathize with me as I sit and stare at the elephant's feet.  :D

Sometimes I think I just need to find refreshment.  Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.  I am continually amazed how all of that is connected.  If I'm out of whack in any of those areas, it effects the other ones.  Which one of these areas needs fine tuning?  Which ones have facets that need attention?  It may be as simple as just getting more sleep.  Everything looks better (and less monumental) when we're well rested.  

You know - it's probably time to 'go back to my WHY', too.  (yes, another business coaching tip....he's kind of annoying like that...these phrases just come back to haunt me every now and then).   Why am I in business?  Why am I serving the people that I serve?  At the end of the day, what is it all for?  What dreams and passions have gotten buried in my apathy?  What really drives me to do what I do?


I guess in these few moments of reflection it boils down to a few things for me:  seeking God, finding rest, loving well, and remembering my WHY.  

Alright, i'm going to ponder this a little longer and then go sharpen my knife and set the table for an elephant steak lunch...and maybe take a nap afterwards.  You with me?





Meet Robin Hansen - Studio Share Photography March Member Highlight

 Photo credit:   Hillary Kaye Photography

Photo credit:  Hillary Kaye Photography

I feel like the days are just slipping by!  With 4 days left to spare, let me introduce to you to Robin Hansen of Robin Hansen Photography. Each month I like to highlight one of our Studio Share members and tell you a little bit about their business!  I find it comical when I am introducing someone I have never met - but let me tell you, the way others speak of her and the reputation that follows her makes me confident that she is one worth getting to know!

Robin has been a member of Studio Share Photography since July of last year.  Hopefully as you read a little bit more about her, you will resonate in some way....and be encouraged.  :D Grab your coffee...

Which side are you on?


What's your favorite lens to shoot with? 

35mm 1.4. That bad boy never leaves my camera body.

What does most of your work consist of? 

Natural Light

Are you from the area? Why do you live in the midwest? 

I am originally from Naperville, IL.  Love the midwest, especially our summer trips to the lake in Wisconsin (where my husband and I met).

Tell us a little bit about your family...

I married my Wisconsin college sweetheart, who brings out the best in me. Truly. He's so darn positive. We have two darling blondies, Josie (7) and Macie (3), who make me laugh, cry, and pretty much evoke every emotion possible on a daily basis. They are my everything, and the fuel to my photography journey. 

How long have you been in business?

6 years this fall.

What got you started in photography? And how did you build your skill set?

Like most mamas, my first born got me into photography.  I was inspired to get a nice camera and document her cuteness.  I built my skill set from a lot of trial and error, classic YouTube videos, and taking Sweet Shots classes with the amazing, Amy Tripple. My best advice to those learning is consistent practice, practice, practice.

What type of photography do you specialize in? 

I am a natural light photographer that specializes in maternity, newborn, children, seniors and families.  I crave styling my client sessions while incorporating life, light, and connection into my work.  I also teach workshops and offer mentoring. I love people!  Relationships and collaborating with others inspire me. Photography has allowed me to gain a unique glimpse into various lives.  Working with so many amazing clients and photographers fills my soul.

What are the names of 1 or 2 photographers that inspire you? 

Ohhhh...there are just so many talented photographers that inspire me. I have always loved me some Spanki Mills Photography and the way she captures movement. I adore Paisley Ann Photography's work. It's pure magic. Her images are full of romantic adventures, and she captures light in the most emotional way possible. 

What is the hardest thing about being a photographer?

Capturing my own children's moments with my big girl camera. Funny how that is the reason I started this crazy journey, and how this business has removed me from that very simple idea of taking my own kids pics. Seems to be a common pattern in photographers. Hope to break that funk soon.

What has been surprisingly easy? (if anything) 

I think I started my business at a really good time. Facebook was a super powerful way for me to attract new clients. I have been really blessed with booking sessions throughout the year.  Social media has made it harder now for new businesses, so I can't stress the importance of client referrals. If they have a good customer service experience with you, word will travel, and business will come.

Would you be willing to briefly tell about a time that you were afraid in your business and how you worked through that? 

Taxes. Taxes are a scary thing.  I delegated that daunting task to my helpful hubby, and hired a really good accountant. Best business decision ever for my mental health. Ha!

If you could share one piece of advice with a photographer just starting out, what would you tell them? 

Invest in taking workshops or mentoring (online or in person). When I first started I would WAY over-edit. For real! My kids eyes looked like creepy aliens. I used to buy every action possible, and watch a million photography tutorial YouTube videos to teach myself. It was really bad. Until I took my first newborn workshop, I didn't really know what the heck I was doing. It's so eye opening to learn in person, and this will really help you find your personal style. 

Why did you decide to be part of Studio Share Photography?

I was going craaaaaaazy having my studio in my home.  It stressed me out like no other.  At the point in my career I needed something more professional, and the SSP was the perfect stepping stone to get out of the house.  So much happier now!

5 years from now, where do you see yourself and your business? 

Goals! I love goals. I hope to be just as passionate about my job as currently. I would love to incorporate more travel sessions, and one day have my work featured. 

Would you rather get up early or stay up late to edit?

Stay up late

Would you rather eat something sweet, salty or both?  

Sweet and salty 

So there you have it.  Did you find some things in common with Robin?  Do you want more information on how to be a part of our community?  Contact us!  We'd love to hear more about your business and how we can serve you! 

Happy Monday.  :D

Shawntell Marak - Studio Share Photography Member Highlight

Each month I like to give a shout out to one of our current Studio Share Photography members.   Meet Shawntell Marak of Shawntell Marie Photography.  She has been in business since 2011 and a member of the studio share since July of 2015.

I like having Shawntell around because she can always make you laugh and she tells it like it is.   I appreciate her honesty about the ups and downs of owning a photography business.  She may not even see it, but it’s really cool to see her work improve over the last few years!

Grab a cup of coffee and read through some of the answers she gave me to these questions.  Maybe you can relate.  

Which side are you on:  Nikon or Canon?  And what is your favorite lens? 

Nikon, 24-70mm(canon users insert eye roll *here*)

Does your work consist of natural or studio light?

Either - depending on the situation 

Are you from the area? Why do you live in the midwest? 

I was born and raised in early in life in WA state.  My later years were spent in the SW suburbs until late around 1999 when I ventured up to Lake County.

Tell us a little bit about your family...

Married 11 years and 1 little boy named Aiden who is 9.  (hate to break it to you, Shawntell, but he ain’t so little anymore!  :D)

What got you started in photography? And how did you build your skill set?

It was by sheer luck I came into photography.   I had has a child recently and went through some post-partums where I was questioning everything about myself.  I wasn't who I used to be, but yet, I didn't feel quite like I knew what I wanted to be now.  I took a photography class and fell in love immediately.  After that, it became an addiction.

What type of photography do you specialize in? 

I'd like to be known for boudoir, but I also shoot portraits.

What is the hardest thing about being a photographer?


Would you be willing to briefly tell about a time that you were afraid in your business? And how you worked through that? 

The fear on business never goes away. I'm always questioning if I'm doing the right thing.  The best way to work through it is to talk with fellow photographers.  Realize you aren't alone and be willing to hear new ideas.

If you could share one piece of advice with a photographer just starting out, what would you tell them? 

It's not easy and requires a lot of work to make it.   Find who you are and stick to it.  Find YOUR style and clients will come to you for it.  Don't under price yourself! 

Why did you decide to be part of Studio Share Photography?

I wanted a controlled working environment and a place to receive clients in a more professional matter.  I also wanted to be part of a group that supports each other and learns together.

If you've been a member for any length of time, how have you seen your business grow?

Having the studios has allowed me to know what I'm walking into for lighting and space requirements.  Because of this, I know what my objectives and results will be when the shoot is complete.   When shooting at unknown locations, I have no idea what I am dealing with as far as lighting and scenery until I get there typically , therefore it's hard to guarantee my results will be what my client was wanting and what I promised.

5 years from now, where do you see yourself and your business? 

I hope to be specialized in boudoir exclusively. 

Would you rather stay up late to edit or get up early?

Get up early to edit

Would you rather eat something sweet, salty or both?


I’m continually amazed at the tenacity and persistence it takes to run a successful photography business.  It is not for the faint of heart.  I think that’s one reason I have such a passion for bringing photographers together - to encourage them and, like Shawntell said, ‘to be part of a group that supports each other’.  We need it!  In photography and in life in general!  

If you want to learn more about becoming a Studio Share Photography member or about our Barrington or Libertyville locations, contact us.  We’d love to hear from you.  

Keep pressing on, Shawntell, and all you other photogs out there.  Keep dreaming big, gathering good business practices and refining your skill.  You can do this! 

Member Highlight - Monika Wlodarska

Our first member highlight of 2017 for Studio Share Photography is Monika Wlodarska.  She has been with us since last June at our Libertyville location!

 Self Portrait

Self Portrait

Want to know what's crazy?  I'm introducing you to a photographer that I have also not actually met!  My family and I moved to Florida (I'll save that adventure for another blog) right before Monika signed on.  

So...we can learn together about her!  

First of all, you can check out her work at Monika Wlodarska Photography.   She specializes in newborn and children photography but is currently working on building portfolio of woman portraits. She loves photographing children, but she says she's also a perfectionist and photographing adults gives her more control of the photo session.

She shoots Canon and the 85mm lens is at the top of her list.  I asked her who took her head shot - and it's a self portrait!  I'm amazed. 

Below are some of the other questions I asked Monika.  I am continually amazed at how different all of our stories are.  So many things shape us, and shape the images we create.  

What does most of your work consist of:  natural or studio light?

Either - depending on the situation

Are you from the area?  Why do you live in the midwest?

I come from Poland.  I lived in Chicago for a while and moved to the Round Lake area 13 years ago. I graduated from fashion design/sewing school in Poland.  In the US I became a nurse and a photographer.  I consider myself a "maker".  I constantly create things.  I love sewing, crocheting and most of all creating photography art.  I make most of the props for my photography: hats, blankets, rompers and more.

Tell us a little bit about your family...

It's just me and my husband.  Our families live in Poland.

How long have you been in business?

I've been in business for 4 years.  I still do this part time as I work as a nurse with mentally disable adults.  Working my way to do photography full time.

What got you started in photography? And how did you build your skill set?

I started learning photography about 8 years ago. I bought my first Canon dslr (just because it looked nice lol) got very frustrated because it didn't work like point and shoot camera so I had to learn how to use it.  I became hooked and fascinated with every kind of photography.  I started with landscapes, learned how to use strobe lights from, I was taking product pictures and creating conceptual photography, Kirlian photography, macro photography and learning all possible techniques. Then about 4 years ago I started photographing children and families.  Great thing about photography is that you constantly evolve, feels like possibilities are endless and you learn new things all the time.

*pause* for those of you who don't know what Kirlian photography is - I had to google it too, no worries.

What are the names of 1 or 2 photographers that inspire you?

For beautiful clean portraits: Lisa Visser  and for life changing teaching:  Sue Bryce

What is the hardest thing about being a photographer?

To putting myself out there.  I'm rather shy and introverted person and it is not helping building photography business. Getting into photography business is absolute life changer for me, it is not just about photography, there are so many other skills I learn everyday: marketing, selling, changing the way of thinking.

What has been surprisingly easy? (if anything)

Visualization. I have photographic memory and I'm able to visualize all session details before I start shooting so I'm not going blank during the session and I work according to pictures I see in my mind.

*pause* - that is so cool!  woah.

Would you be willing to briefly tell about a time that you were afraid in your business and how you worked through your fear?

I'm most afraid of networking, this is my biggest challenge ever. I still haven't worked through it yet, but working on it every day, figuring out how to meet new people and doing it.  It is very difficult for me, especially when i don't have any family here.

If you could share one piece of advice with a photographer just starting out, what would you tell them?

Develop your own style, photograph what you really love.  Experiment with different techniques, learn strobe light so you can shoot in every light conditions.  Photography is all about light.

Why did you decide to be part of Studio Share Photography?

I do on location photo sessions and at my home which I wasn't comfortable with at all, as I live in small townhouse.  It didn't look professional.  I was stressed and didn't feel like i was giving people good service.

If you've been a member for any length of time, how have you seen your business grow?

Having access to large fully equipped studio I realized i can offer much more to people and decided to offer woman portraits sessions with hair and makeup, I also feel more confident and professional.

5 years from now, where do you see yourself and your business?

In 5 years from now i see myself as a portrait photographer specializing in woman and children portraiture in Chain O' Lakes area.

Would you rather stay up late or get up early to edit?

Stay up late to edit

Would you rather eat something sweet or salty? or both?

Sweet and salty


If you haven't's winter.  And it's cold.  Want more information on membership at Studio Share Photography?  Contact us.  For real.  We want to help provide you with a professional space and an encouraging community!

Meet Bethany Babineau - Studio Share Photography's December Member Highlight

You totally have to meet Bethany Babineau of Paint The Sky Photography.   She is one of those people that just brings life and her photography is top notch!  Every time I see her post an image, I think there is no way she could top that…and then...she does.  Simply amazing.  

 Photo Credit:   Emily Hernandez

Photo Credit:  Emily Hernandez

She signed on at our Barrington location of Studio Share Photography before we even opened the doors for that location in January of 2016.

Bethany shoots Nikon and her favorite lens is the 35mm.  Most of her work consists of natural light.  

She has lived in Fox River Grove, IL her entire life!  When she moved out of her parents’ home, she only moved 3 blocks away.  Can you tell she’s a home body?  She continues to live in the area because their entire family is local and they couldn't live without them!

Bethany and her hubby have been together for 13 years (since she was in high school) and have been married for 5 years.  They have a little girl on the way - due in March!  They are excited and nervous!!!  (I know how often this child will be photographed….all photographers’ children need counseling in their adult lives, I’m convinced).  She didn’t tell me this, but I know she has a sweet, little, white pooch who is also well photographed.  That dog is in for a real surprise.  

Bethany has been in business "officially" for a year.  But she started about 4 years ago.  She specializes in newborn, children and family photography.  She has lots of fun props to use for little ones!  I am so NOT a prop person so I’m always amazed at any of our members’ creativity!

When I asked Bethany what the hardest thing was about being a photographer, she said, "time management".  (I’m desperately trying not to laugh too hard as they prepare to welcome a new, precious little time sucker into their lives).  She says having work time and play time is hard to balance especially in the busy seasons.  Isn’t that always the case?  It’s a constant re-evaluation of what is priority.  And a constant balancing between addressing the immediate while still dreaming/planning for things a little farther out!

When it comes to what’s been easy about her business, Bethany says she has always been blessed building her clientele.  She is not much into marketing herself so she is very, very lucky that word of mouth has kept her going over the years!

I asked Bethany if she would be willing to share briefly about a time when she was afraid in her business - and how she worked through it.  She says, “I think the scariest part has been taking the leap and going full time with my business. When I first decided to start in photography I worked 3 part time jobs which helped pay for my first camera. As I continued to get busier I dropped a job and dropped another - and this year I took the plunge and went full-time in photography. It was terrifying and still is some days, but I'm blessed to be able to do what I love all the time!”

If she could share one piece of advice with a photographer just starting out, Bethany would tell them, “just keep swimming and try not to compare yourself to others”.  She knows it’s easier said than done but wants to encourage photographers to focus on their work and their style and just be inspired by others in the business. 

I’m always curious to know why photographers decide to be a part of Studio Share Photography.  I can do my best to understand the market and guess what the needs are, but I learn the most from the feedback I get from members and their experience!  Bethany said she was so excited to be presented with the opportunity to be part of the share. She was like many others, going to clients' homes and setting up a mini studio anywhere she could.  She says it was a lot of work and hard to not have consistent light, since she uses only natural light.  She still looks back at her work and can see a huge difference since she has started at the studio share! It makes life her easier when knowing the lighting that she is walking into and having all the equipment there to use!  

Bethany has definitely seen a big growth in her business!  She think her clients, old and new, appreciate the experience she can now offer.  Studio Share Photography is a nice, comfortable clean space that her clients enjoy coming to. 

What does her business look like fiver years from now?  She didn't eve know how to answer this one.  She is so happy with where she is at now in her business that it's hard to imagine things being even better!  She want to just keep going forward, improving on her skills and continuing to learn!  I can’t wait to see how Bethany grows and matures, as she enters motherhood and refines her work.  I think her prospective as a mother will only enhance the beauty she already draws out of her clients.  

Like most of us, Bethany would rather stay up late to edit….and as far as choosing between a sweet and a salty snack, she can’t choose….it’s both.   I think she and I would benefit from taking stock in Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby ice cream, right Bethany? 

Are you in need of a warm, professional place to shoot this winter?  Contact us.  We’d love to chat with you about what membership looks like and how Studio Share Photography can serve your growing business.  It would be our pleasure.  

Meet Serena - November Member Highlight

 Photo Credit:   JC Photography

Photo Credit:  JC Photography

Want to meet one of our 'oldest' Studio Share Photography members?  *wink, wink* Yep, she goes WAY back to October of 2013 when she signed on a month after we first opened.

Serena Hughes is one of the most caring, helpful, selfless people I know.  Check out her work at myshutterbugphoto.  Her specialties are high school seniors, families and professional head shots!  It has been so cool to see her business blossom!

She's a Nikon shooter and loves the 85 mm lens.  Most of her work consists of natural light - but I know she's beginning to master studio light as well!

She lives in Grayslake, IL now, but was raised in Mundelein, IL. and was born in PA.  (truth be told a small part of her feels like that is another home away from home when she visits there).

Serena is married to a wonderful hardworking man, and they have four kids, ranging in age from 8-21.  This past April they became grandparents!  Serena says she is so blessed to have a loving family, not to mention two awesome extended families!

She has been in business for approximately 8 years but it was less than part time while she was home with the kids (can you relate?).   She feels the last 5 years is when she really started paying attention to the business side of things.

I asked Serena what got her started in photography and how she built her skill set.  

Serena said, "My Aunt gave me her Canon AE-1 (film) and I was in love! Learning to develop your own film is something I truly can't describe how satisfying it can be. Watching your image emerge was so suspenseful, and fun. From there on I just dabbled and did photography as a hobby.  In 1999, we lost my nephew, and I was the last to photograph him with his brother.  I realized the power of photography in that moment and that's when I started to take it more seriously and learned more about the artistic side of it. My interest in photography grew over the next few years, and fell into place to become a small business.  I learned what I know from other photographers, as well as taking classes, attending a few seminars, hands on, and of course, research".

Serena have gone out in search of the high school senior market.  "This is the last guaranteed photo shoot we do for our kids as parents. There's something about taking these photos of young adults about to embark into the real world, they're excited and happy".  Her favorite part is hearing a parent tell her, "you captured their smile, the one I remember when they were 5"!

Photographers that inspire Serena, besides her close friends, are Sandy Puc and Jen Basford.

When I asked her what the hardest thing was about being a photographer, she said believing in herself and her style.  She struggles all the time in worrying about being good enough. Especially now that there seems to be so many photographers out there,  she can get stuck comparing her work to others.  (easy to get caught in that rut)

Serena thinks it's surprisingly easy for her to get her clients to feel comfortable shooting with her. (I can totally see that!)

Every time I interview a member, I like to ask the question about a time when they were afraid in their business, and what they did to work through that.  Serena says it was only two years ago, she had to adjust her business plan and pricing.  She lost a lot of clients due to raising her prices, she struggled emotionally with this and agonized over it.  In time, however, she has gained many new clients.  They value her work and she feels a lot more confident in what she does!  What a testimony!  This is SO COMMON to photographers in the first few years of their business.  Having the courage to walk through this stage of a photography business and actually come out the other side is so cool to watch.  Nice job, girl.  Keep up the good work!

If Serena could share one piece of advice with a photographer just starting out, she would tell them, "embrace your own style"!  That sounds like a great idea....may take a little bit to figure out what it is....but still a good thing to strive for!

So, like I said at the beginning, Serena joined Studio Share Photography a month after we opened.  Inviting clients to her basement felt a little awkward and she wanted a studio but the price tag of renting her own space was just too much for her to afford. A fellow photographer friend of hers took her to an open house at a studio in town, that's where she met me (Jenni), and she knew she needed to join!  I'm surprised I didn't scare her off.  :D  

She loves being able to offer studio and on location sessions. Serena says having the space has helped her stand out in the style she enjoys.  She gets to stay true to her style both indoors and out...her business now has the ability to shoot year round.

5 years from now Serena sees herself incorporating more studio sessions with her high school seniors and sees her business soaring!

When all is said and done, she would rather stay up late to edit rather than get up early.  And she originally told me that she would choose salty over sweet...but a few days later she changed her mind after telling me she was just pulling a pan of salted caramel brownies out of the oven.  Yum....doesn't that sound good?

Are you tired of having clients come into your home?  Are you ready to take your photography business to an improved level of professionalism?  Contact us.  We'd love to chat with you about how Studio Share Photography could serve your business!  Don't be afraid - I promise it will be a worth it.

Maria Martinez - Our October Member Highlight

You have to meet Maria of Maria Nicole Photography!  She has been a member here at the Libertyville location of Studio Share Photography for over a year and a half.  She has an infections laugh and a creative drive none can match!

 Photo credit:   JC Photography

Photo credit:  JC Photography

Why do I want to introduce you to these photographers?  Just to get you a peek inside some of the other togs on the front lines with you - maybe make you feel a little more 'normal' (whatever that is) and not alone.  

Maria is a Nikon shooter and her favorite lens is the 70-200 2.8.  She shoots in both natural light and studio light depending on the nature of the shoot.  

She lives in the northern suburbs of Chicago because this is where her family is from.   Maria's family consists of my 3 babies: Joshua 5, Ariana 3, and Miss Ainsley who is 5 months along with her wonderful finance John and lab Dakota!  She is also very close with her parents, sister, grandma as well as her aunt and family! She considers her friends my family as well <3  (so basically Maria is a lover of people and has her hands and heart full!)

Maria has been in business for 3 years.  Sh started in photography when she was young and always had a passion for it.  In high school her passion really developed with film and then it turned into her career.  She specializes in family photography and high school seniors but loves weddings and events as well.  She ends up photographing many newborns as well.  Because she does weddings and families, those families begin to grow and come back to her for more!

I asked Maria what photographers inspired her and this was her reply:  "Oh my goodness, my list of photographers that inspire me is longer than my contact list in my phone! I love so many photographers from their style of work to just the way they are as people"

The hardest thing about being a photographer for Maria?  Blogging. haha, no seriously.  Can you relate?  It seems like there are a lot of us who intend to blog, but never get to it.  That intention list can get long....

When I asked Maria about a time when she was afraid in her business, she said she's had many times...whether it was how to get clients or tough sessions.  Talking to other photographers has helped her tremendously.  Also taking the time to really know who SHE is as a photographer is a big deal. (tru dat)

I'm always intrigued to know what a piece of advice a member would give to a fellow tog.  Maria said to just "breathe.. and be YOURSELF. okay that is two but breathing should be a given, lol"

Maria decided to be part of Studio Share Photography because she needed to get out of her parents' basement.  HAHAH  But really, she wanted a professional space to go with the professional business she had developed. (for real - isn't that so common?  cramped in a space that is in their house or someone else's...and they are ready for a change...something more professional...can you relate??)   Maria has seen her business grow at the share just from having the opportunity to learn from other members.  She hopes in the next 5 years to grow in her skill as well as on the 'business' side!

Many of you can relate - when I asked Maria if she'd rather stay up late or get up early to edit.  She said, "stay up late to edit".  Yes.  I agree.  I wish I was a morning person.  And what would she snack on while she works?  Something sweet and salty, of course.  

Are you in need of a local community of photographers to be encouraged, resourced and propelled forward?  How about a professional, fully-equipped indoor studio to use during the long winter months ahead?  Contact us.  We'd love to get you connected.  



Meet Patrick - Studio Share Photography Member

 Photo Credit: &nbsp;Patrick D. Simmons&nbsp;

Photo Credit:  Patrick D. Simmons 

I think everyone needs a Patrick Simmons at their studio - just sayin'.   He is an excellent photographer with a humble heart and and is always ready to help.  Patrick has been a member of Studio Share Photography for about 9 months.  Check out his work!

I asked Patrick to be our Member Highlight for September - so we are just squeaking it in before the end of the month!  Why do I blog about our members?  I think it helps us all realize that we are not alone - that we have a lot in common with each other - that maybe by hearing a brief story about someone else's business, we might be encouraged to keep going.  Here are a few questions I asked him:


Which side are you on?


What's your favorite lens to shoot with?

Depends on the job but mostly 105 macro

Does your work consist of natural or studio light?

Either - depending on the situation

Are you from the area? Why do you live in the midwest?

Originally from Tennessee in a small farm town near Memphis. Came here for school then met my wife and the rest is history.

How long have you been in business?

I've been in business for 2 years

What got you started in photography? And how did you build your skill set?

I started with film back in the 90's shooting for newspapers then got away from photography to pursue my IT career. Back in 2011 I caught the bug again and the passion is stronger than ever. I developed my skills mainly from hours and hours of practice; tons and tons of dedication and many sleepless nights practicing.

What type of photography do you specialize in?

I specialize in beauty and advertising photography [shooting] mostly models for beauty and ad campaigns

What are the names of 1 or 2 photographers that inspire you?

Russell James and Yulia Gorbachenko

What is the hardest thing about being a photographer?

Balancing family life and work

What has been surprisingly easy? (if anything)

Nothing has been easy but understanding light has come more natural than anything else.

Would you be willing to briefly tell about a time that you were afraid in your business? And how you worked through that?

When I first officially started my business I was not getting a lot of responses from my marketing. The key that I learned the hard way was to stay consistent and never give up.

If you could share one piece of advice with a photographer just starting out, what would you tell them?

Never give up. It is not an easy road but keep the faith and you will make it through. If it was easy you would not appreciate your success as much.

Why did you decide to be part of Studio Share Photography?

I needed a studio that was close to home that I could shoot out of when I am in town. I travel a lot between Chicago, New York and LA so it didn't really make sense to buy a studio since I wouldn't be in there a lot.

5 years from now, where do you see yourself and your business?

5 Years from now I see myself having 4 home bases (Chicago, LA, NYC and Milan). Those bases will home a full production team including retouchers.

Would you rather get up early or stay up late to edit?

Stay up late to edit

Would you rather eat something sweet or salty?



I love the fact that SSP has such a variety of people who use the space:  from beauty to products to families to babies!  Their images continue to amaze me.  If you are in need of a studio space and live up in the north/northwest suburbs of Chicago, Studio Share Photography has two locations that are fully equipped with natural and studio light.  Contact us today!  

Jen Schild - Studio Share Photography Member

Let me introduce you to Jen Schild for our August Member Highlight at Studio Share Photography!  She is one of THE MOST positive people I know.  I always leave up-lifted after hanging out with her.  

Jen has been a member of the share since July of 2014 and her business is Bloom Photography.  Her focus is on high school seniors, families and newborns and uses both natural and studio light!  She shoots Nikon (which I'll forgive her for) and loves her 70-200 f/2.8 (I'm with her on that one)!

She and her husband both grew up in Illinois. She says: "I know that it might sound crazy but, I love it here. There is nothing like that perfect summer day and night. I also look forward to the snow!"  (I'm rolling my eyes now)

Jen's house is always full.  Kids, kids and more kids!  She has four beautiful children and feels like the luckiest mom/wife in the world.  Jen comments, "I have always known that I was put in this world to be a mom. I have a thirteen year old, twin twelve year olds and one five year old. I cherish everyday with them. Sometimes I wish I could freeze time for real, not just with pictures".

Photography has always intrigued Jen! After taking her first few photography courses in college the rest was history.  She feels the need to learn new skills everyday! Her most favorite conference that she attended was out in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Click Away)  Jen is inspired by lots of different photographers.  Every professional that she talk to, in some way, makes her want to be better.  

The hardest thing about being a photographer, for her, is dialing in her perfect balance of work and family. (can I get an amen?)  Jen commented, "There is always a portion of guilt that comes with the territory. I find myself saying quite often...I wish there were two of me."

The easy part, for Jen, is connecting with her clients.  She has several returning clients and loves to watch their families grow!

I asked her if she would share one piece of advice with photographers who were just starting out and Jen said, "I would tell them to make the commitment and not to look back. Take a deep breath and get yourself out there. Most importantly is not to compare yourself to anyone else."  (can I get another amen?)

When asked why she decided to be part of Studio Share Photography, Jen said "After meeting the owner, Jenni Chase, and seeing the studio space, I knew that SSP would be a perfect fit! The studio spaces are beautiful! I also feel like I am a part of a community."  

I'm always curious as to whether a photographer would rather get up early or stay up late to edit - and she said she'd get up early.  Oh my.  *yawn*.  And she'd rather eat something sweet if she had the choice between sweet or salty.   So there ya go.  

Are you in need of a studio space as we head into the fall/winter?  Do you need some encouragement in your business?  Contact us.  We'd love to talk to you and have you come check out the spaces.  Studio Share Photography has two locations, one in Libertyville and one in Barrington, IL.  This is NOT a co-op type set up.  There are simple monthly/hourly fees with an annual contract for each independent photographer that rents from us.  (you can also rent hours as a non-member).  Come, join us!



Photo Credit:  JC Photography

Meet Marna!

Marna Niebergall de Rojas is one of our Studio Share Photography members at the Barrington location.  She is an excellent pet (and people) photographer.  Marna is one of the most genuine people I know and I always leave with a smile on my face after hangin' with her.   Here are some of the questions I asked her - so you can get a peek into her life as a photographer: 

 Photo Credit: &nbsp;JC Photography

Photo Credit:  JC Photography

When did you become a member of SSP?

February 06, 2014

What is the name of your business?

Embracing Grace Photography

Which side are you on?


What's your favorite lens to shoot with?

Canon 70-200mm IS L II

Does your work consist of natural light or studio light?

Either - depending on the situation

Are you from the area? Why do you live in the midwest?

I'm a recent transplant back to the Midwest, after having lived in Acapulco, Mexico for 25 years. I now reside in Barrington.

Tell us a little bit about your family...

My husband, Ricardo "Chacho" Rojas is a very gifted architect who I met when I was doing business for Hyatt Hotels in Acapulco. We share many common creative interests so I'm sure we were meant to be together as partners in life. Chacho has 2 sons who are very dear to my heart and I love his 6 grandchildren like they were my own. Our home is a happy place where we share our life with 3 loyal canine companions and 2 divine felines, all rescues from the streets of Acapulco.

How long have you been in business?

I launched my business as a professional photographer 3 years ago. I wore many different hats before that.

What got you started in photography? And how did you build your skill set?

I have a BFA from the University of Illinois and transferred from a Liberal Arts background to Graphic Design early in my university career. Because I couldn't draw a straight line, and failed miserably in my painting classes, I was drawn to photography as my medium of choice to communicate my ideas. I shot film back in the 70's and loved my time in the dark room. My first "real" camera was a Canon Ftb, the old manual work horse of the Canon family. I've had the good fortune to live in a Tropical Paradise for most of my adult life, and Chacho and I have traveled to beautiful many countries around the globe............I've always had a camera slung over my shoulder. Always observing and shooting people and nature.

What type of photography do you specialize in?

I look for God's "Grace" in everything I photograph. People. Animals. Nature. I was one of the founding members of an Animal Welfare Organization in Acapulco (Happy Tails Acapulco, A.C.) It was the first organization of it's kind in that city to be recognized by the Federal Government. I used my little point-and-shoot to photograph our rescues and post them on the Internet. The photos were compelling and we received much-needed support from the community. I've always had a soft spot for the underdog, and continue to volunteer my photographic skills to local shelters and rescue organizations. I'm honored to be a member of HeArts Speak, a global network of photographers and a global network of animal photographers, graphic designers, writers, illustrators, painters and advocates who provide our time and professional services, pro-bono, to animal welfare organizations in our communities.

Who or do you END UP photographing the most? Why? (if different lol)

Studying the bond we have with our companion animals is a passion for me. So although I have a special focus on animals, I also love photographing the people they love. I'm probably not a good match for anyone who has an allergy to cats or dogs because I usually arrive at my sessions with a few stray hairs clinging to my clothes.

What are the names of 1 or 2 photographers that inspire you?

Annie Leibovitz. Francois Robert.

What is the hardest thing about being a photographer?

For me, photography is about introspection. A daily dialogue with myself and what's important to me. I need that time with myself, and too often it's at the expense of spending time with loved ones.

What has been surprisingly easy? (if anything)

Making grace-filled connections.

Would you be willing to briefly tell about a time that you were afraid in your business? And how you worked through that?

Hahaha! That's easy! I'm afraid each and every time I address a new subject. I know that I need to cut through the chase early to build a relationship of trust so grace can shine through.

If you could share one piece of advice with a photographer just starting out, what would you tell them?

Be authentic and true to your values.

Why did you decide to be part of Studio Share Photography?

Because photography is a very isolating profession, I loved the business model Jenni designed for bringing photographers together in a nurturing, supportive environment. I feel so blessed by the professional relationships and encouraging friendships I've developed as a member of Studio Share Photography.

If you've been a member for any length of time, how have you seen your business grow?

I've been a member of the share for 2 years, and yes I've seen my business grow. As a member I really appreciate the networking and educational opportunities Studio Share Photography provides.

5 years from now, where do you see yourself and your business?

I want to sit down and have coffee with Annie Leibovitz. :)

Would you rather get up early or stay up late to edit?

Stay up late

Would you rather eat something salty or sweet?



If you've been thinking about joining the studio share to take your business to the next level and to rub shoulders with quality people like Marna (*smile*), then contact us!  We'd love to show you around and hear more about how we could serve your business!


Tiffany Chiappetta - Studio Share Photography Member

There are currently over 25 members of Studio Share Photography between the Barrington and Libertyville, Illinois locations.  Tiffany Chiappetta of Tiffany Chiappetta Photography is one of those!  I want you to meet her!

 Photo Credit: &nbsp;Melody in Bloom

Photo Credit:  Melody in Bloom

Tiffany has been in business for 3 years and became a member of the studio share back in January of 2015.  She's a Canon camera girl.  She loves to shoot with a Sigma 35mm Art lens in natural light.

She is a stay-at-home mom and she and her husband have 3 beautiful children ages 13, 5 and 4.  Her husband is a firefighter/paramedic for the City of North Chicago.  They are celebrating their 7th wedding anniversary on June 29th!   They both feel really blessed being able to do what they love and still be home with their children. 

So I asked Tiffany what got her started in photography and how she built her skill set. She said that after her youngest daughter was born she really wanted a DSLR to capture her own images of her family.  In high school she worked at JcPenney Portrait Studio and Picture People, and always wanted to learn more.  Taking photos of her kids, turned into taking photos for friends kids, then it kinda snowballed into something more.  Her hobby soon turned into a business.  

Building her skill was a combination of practicing, learning from photographer friends, and youtube.  She continues to build her skill which she says is part of the fun.  She is always acquiring new techniques, new editing tricks, and pushing herself to learn more.

Tiffany specializes in Family, Children, and Weddings.  I asked her who inspires her and she said Tina from Melody in Bloom Photography.  She is very artistic not only with the camera, but she draws and paints.  She LOVES how much she loves chasing light and that her camera is with her 90% of the time.  She continues to inspire Tiffany as a photographer, mom, and wife. Tina is another member at Studio Share Photography and I also appreciate her unique and artsy eye from behind her lens!

Tiffany also mentioned previous member, Krissy from Bella Nicole Photography whom she met when she started at Studio Share Photography.  Tiffany has been following her work since.  Krissy has grown so much with her photography and Tiffany loves to see her passion for photography! (I agree! Krissy is another awesome photog who has worked hard to develop her business over the last few years)

I’m always curious to know what the hardest thing is for photographers.  So I thought it was beneficial to ask - and maybe help us all realize that we are not alone.  Tiffany said it’s balancing everything.   Even though she has the studio and works on location with clients, the business and editing side of photography is done at her home office. She tends to work late at night sometimes or in between dressing barbie and throwing in loads of laundry.  (sound familiar?)

What’s been surprisingly easy for Tiffany is meeting other photographers!  She says she’s met so many great and talented people who share the same passion as her.  

A time that made her afraid in her business was signing up for the Studio Share Illinois!  She questioned if she would have enough business, whether the 30 minute commute be worth it, and the cost of having a business.  But she didn't know the answers to those questions and she knew unless she tried she would never know (it’s been really cool to see Tiffany’s business blossom!) I appreciate Tiffany's use of color and the connection she makes with her clients through the lens.

She became part of Studio Share Photography because she really needed indoor studio space.  She was hosting sessions in her home and traveling with props and backdrops to clients homes.  It was not the "ideal" situation.  She came across Studio Share Illinois on Facebook and reached out to get more info.  She says it was such a great concept and was so impressed with what Studio Share Illinois had to offer but she wasn't too sure if she was ready.  I followed up with her months later when the Libertyville location opened, so at that time she decided to take the leap into the studio! She’s SO happy she did!  Its been very beneficial for her to have studio space in winter months, on raining days or to utilize for newborn sessions. 

If Tiffany could share one piece of advice with a photographer just starting out, she would tell them not to give up, keep pushing yourself and practice, practice, practice….she still tell herself this all the time!  (I think a lot of us do)

Where does she see herself in 5 years? She doesn’t have a 5 year plan yet but her children will be in school full time and she still sees herself pursuing a photography career. 

And 2 last little tidbits on Tiffany (that sounds like a good title, doesn’t it?) She would rather stay up late to edit then to get up early.  And sweet or salty?  Sweet it is.  

Are you in need of studio space?  Contact us today.  Studio Share Photography is a great place for those ready to take the next step in their business.  We’d love to hear from you!


Meet Our Studio Share Managers!

Our Barrington and Libertyville locations of Studio Share Photography have GREAT gals on board to help things run smoothly! 

  Emily Hernandez   Studio Share Photography Site Manager for Barrington

Emily Hernandez

Studio Share Photography Site Manager for Barrington

Meet Emily Hernandez!

Emily is my Site Manager for our Barrington location. Her 'day job' is a full time momma and a family portrait photographer.  She and her husband have lived in Lake County, Illinois for 14 years and have 5 beautiful daughters ages 13, 11, 4, 2 and 1!  If there is anybody that is a role model to me on how to have a thriving business AND raise a family, it's her!

She's been interested in photography her whole life - when she was young, even forced her sister model for her 'photo shoots' using disposable film cameras.  (I'd love to see those shots!) Her professional photography journey started about 8 years ago.

I asked her what was one fact that would be fun for others to know about her,  and she said:  "If I could photograph any type of session every single day, it would be birth sessions.  I love being in the hospital and I loved giving birth (yes I totally loved labor and delivery!) so I'm honored when I get to watch someone else experience that as well!"  Check out Emily's website or facebook page - if you're looking for a birth session or family portraits.

Emily also has a passion for seeing other photographers succeed at what they do.  I appreciate her friendship, respect her as an artist and I'm so glad she's a part of our team!  

Meet Ginni Glass!

Ginni is my Site manager for our Libertyville location. Her day job is the Technology Director at Bannockburn School.  (it's great to have a tech savvy person as a part of the share) She and her husband have lived in Lake County, Illinois for 15 years and has 3 grown children (35, 33 and 29) and 5 beautiful grandchildren under the age of 7!   

She has ventured into photography as a hobbyist over the last 5 years and is always on the lookout to push herself and learn something new.  The Chicago Botanic Gardens is one of her favorite places to escape and take pictures!  What inspires me most about Ginni is her pursuit of excellence - not only in her photography but in many other areas of her life.

Do you want to know one fun fact about Ginni?  She is a twin AND her husband is a twin.  Isn't that cool?  

If you are in need of a studio, but don't want the overhead of your own space, Studio Share Photography is a great option!  Contact us and check us out on facebook and instagram! Emily or Ginni can show you around!  

  Ginni Glass  &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;  Studio Share Photography Site Manager for Libertyville

Ginni Glass                                          

Studio Share Photography Site Manager for Libertyville

Are You Ready To Focus in 2016?

There are two things that I love hunting for when I vacation at the beach: sharks teeth and scallop shells.  But you know what I realized?  I can't search for both at the same time. 

I need to focus my attention on one or the other or I'm not as effective.  When I look for the sharks teeth I need to look in the piles of smaller shell pieces that have a smattering of back flecks...and search for the shiniest, triangular, black or brown pieces.  The scallops are totally different - in this case I'm on the hunt for color and perfect form and piles of larger shells.   When I focus my attention on one or the other, I can hone in my search skills and fill my bag - if I try to look for both, I end up inefficient and disappointed.  

I can't help but think about my photography business (or any business for that matter). Am I laser focused on the task at hand?  Do I know exactly what I want to go after?  Yeah, yeah, I know we all have other things that take up time in our day.  Many of you reading this, are moms and dads of young children - and trying to accomplish anything without interruption is nearly impossible.  I'm not saying to ignore all those responsibilities (although sometimes I'd rather block out the crying 2 year old.)  But with the time that you DO have to dedicate to your business, however you carve that out, the real question is:  ARE YOU FOCUSED?  Do you KNOW your target market?  Do you have a recognizable brand/style that speaks to that market?  Do you know WHERE your potential clients hang out?  Are you networking/marketing in more places that just facebook?  Do you have other businesses to shake hands with, who share the same target market?  How could you work together and cross promote?  

So...try not to go after the scallops, teeth, coral, sand dollars, or conchs all at the same time or worse, settle for the boring, white shell pieces in the parking lot.  Learn to go after only the things you love....don't forget: YOU are the business owner.  YOU have control over how you spend your time and what kinds of clients you want to take on.  Study them.  Know what they love.  Figure out why they would choose to do business with you.  Don't be afraid to narrow your focus.  It takes discipline.

Need some help taking your photography business to the next level?  Join us at the studio share in Libertyville or in Barrington.   It's not only a place to rent studio space, but it's a place to grow your business and be encouraged.