A Stanley native has taken her love of photography to the next level by starting a new business in Minot.
Heather Franca opened Lovely Photography, 24 N. Main St., in the former Schock's Safe & Lock building, in January to realize a lifelong dream. Franca said she has been doing photography for years on a part-time basis, but didn't have an actual studio space until moving to Minot about three months ago with her husband, Michael, a Magic City native.
"I guess it's just kind of been a slow process, so now that I've actually got this studio it's more of a full-time job now," Franca said.
At the moment Franca does photography sessions by appointment only, but she is usually at the studio most of the day editing pictures and invites anyone to stop by or call. The phone number is 313-0227. She has a Web site at (www.heatherfrancaphotography.com) that has more information about the business, including pricing and available openings. And Lovely Photography can also be found on Facebook. She specializes in senior graduation pictures, children, engagements and weddings, along with pretty much any kind of portraiture.
Although the business is new, Franca's passion for pictures is not. She remembers living on a farm when she was little and asking her grandmother to bring disposable cameras whenever she would visit.
"And I would just waste rolls of film on, like the horses on the farm, and just anything I could take a picture of. So it's always been kind of a pastime that I've enjoyed doing," Franca said. "Then I just got more into it in high school, and with friends we'd kind of goof around and take some pictures and put them on computer and edit them. It's just something that I really enjoyed and it was always my dream to have a studio."
After graduating high school she studied photography at Minnesota State University in Moorhead for three years before moving back to Minot. During her three years studying photography in Minnesota, Franca said she wasn't getting what she wanted out of the program and learned more about photography by doing it on her own than she did by studying in a classroom.
"I pretty much self-taught myself what I know, so it's kind of just a learning process," Franca said. "You learn most of it by experimenting and doing it yourself."
Franca said much of her time in college was spent photographing still life in set-up environments, which she didn't like at all. She contemplated finishing her degree at Minot State University, but ultimately realized the better course of action was to take the plunge and start her own studio, even though it was a frightening thought at first.
"Moving back here a few months ago, it was either finish my degree here or just jump into it and get your feet wet and do it," Franca said. "I guess that was more appealing to me, to just jump into it and get started because this is what I wanted to do from the beginning. So you might as well just get into it."
"I decided I might as well start now or I'll never do it," she added. "So it was kind of scary to get into it full-time."
Finding any kind of space in Minot, whether it be to live or work in, can be challenging to say the least. Franca said she was lucky enough to find space for her studio on the Internet, and it was only a block away from where she lives, allowing her to walk to work every day.
"It's nice to have an indoor studio now because I never had the indoor stuff," she said. "I never had anywhere to put it. So (that's) something new."
Although this time of year is a little slower for Franca, she's looking forward to the upcoming summer season, which should prove to be quite busy for her. She already has some dates booked in the studio as well as out of town and is willing to travel pretty much anywhere around the state for weddings.
She is also making good use of social media like Facebook and a blog to get the word out and offer special incentives for people to stop by - everything from discounted baby pictures to free homemade cupcakes.
While it might have been a little nerve-racking at first, Franca couldn't be happier with how things are turning out for Lovely Photography, and is looking forward to her first summer as a professional photographer.
"It's been good. I've had a lot of calls and a lot of new appointments. Most of my clients have been out of Stanley because that's where I'm from and that's where people know me," Franca said. "But now that I've gotten into this space and I've done a little advertising online I've had new clients from Minot, and I have a wedding in Fargo set up in a few months so it's exciting to get new clients and new faces."