"We've been to people's houses where they have gorgeous wall portraits, but the pictures they talked about were snapshots," Marshall said. "We should attempt to make those pictures."
Explained Guerrant, "We don't want to take pictures of what people look like, we want to take pictures of who they are."
Spoonamore added, "We're trying to create personalized art for them."
Getting a feel for the clients
To achieve this requires a different way of working with clients. Gone is the traditional practice of a brief phone consultation and an appointment in the studio. Now, clients get what Guerrant calls "a full-on consultation" that involves an extended visit to homes to get a feel for a client's personal style, home decor, quirks, favorite things and other tidbits that can help a photographer capture something unique and individual.
"We try to make it a fun time, like when a friend comes to visit," said Guerrant, who specializes in kids and families. "We take as long as it takes to feel comfortable. They have to be comfortable with you before they can be themselves."
The photographers use that personal insight to help clients select clothes, locations in the home or off-site, and props that can create photos that match their styles. Rather than standard poses, they shoot people in action, interacting with each other to create pictures that are more natural, less stiff.
Spoonamore, a Danville native who started her business in her home in 2001, is bringing that approach to the weddings, high school senior portraits and commercial photography she focuses on. Marshall, Spoonamore's husband, does a lot of the photo restoration work, paintings from pictures, framing and he handles other facets of the business.
Prices range from $500 to $5,000, depending on the number and size of photos, matting and framing styles, and other variables.
La Belle Vie also is hosting birthday parties for young girls that includes a fashion shoot with guests playing dress-up with "fun and funky props" like hats, tutus and boas.
The boutique part of the business features photo-personalized items like invitations, thank you notes and other cards, purses, business cards and bookmarks.
The new name and change in direction is part of a trend in the photography business. The idea, Spoonamore said, is "still trying to create family heirlooms," just with a more personalized and animated flair. It's a move Spoonamore was ready to make.
"I wanted to start producing the stuff I like the best," she said.
La Belle Vie is located at 130 S. Fourth Street. For more information, call (859) 236-9774 or visit www.studiovie.net.