NORTH LIBERTY– Dana Cordero likes to keep things light.
“If people are having fun, it shows in their portraits,” said Cordero.
It’s one of the reasons she has become known for her senior portrait sessions.
“I guess word got out that it doesn’t have to be a painful experience,” she laughed.
Cordero’s new LiteRite Photography studio at 595 Ashley Ct. in North Liberty was born of a painful experience, but Cordero has the good nature to see the silver lining behind the rain-soaked clouds of 2008.
At that time, she had a studio on 10th Avenue SE in Cedar Rapids’ Cherry Building, and a home in the city’s flood zone.
“Both were complete losses,” she said. But when people express condolences, Cordero shares her bright outlook. “It was a whole new beginning for us.”
Her husband already had a job in the North Liberty area, so their kids started school in North Liberty and liked it. The family bought a home here last spring. She recently came across the Ashley Court space as a good place to relocate her photography studio, and hosted a grand opening Nov. 3.
“It’s been one blessing after another, really,” she said. “We don’t see it as a negative. We couldn’t be happier.”
It’s easier when your work is something you love, like Cordero loves photography. She started taking photos while in 4-H, and was smitten from the start. She received a nice camera as a high school graduation gift, and that sparked new creativity in her work. She took some courses with the New York Institute of Photography, and learned to edit photos when working as a photography lab technician.
“That helped shaped my photographer’s eye by making me think about the pre-photograph set up. I learned to do the things that make a great photograph on the front end, instead of after.”
Having her own photography studio was a nice marriage of her love for photographic art and her love for family. Wanting a career that would balance the two, she opened LiteRite Photography studio in Cedar Rapids in 2003.
Cordero specializes in engagement and wedding photography, but does all types of shoots, including commercial photography, portraits, stock photos, babies and events.
“I enjoy people and learning new things and having new experiences, I just really love what I do. That makes a big difference in the quality of your work; it really shows,” she said.
This is the time of year for on-location shoots, especially during senior portrait season, but having a studio allows Cordero the chance to do more things she calls fun; like having a one-year-old demolish a first birthday cake, on camera.
“We can bring in all kinds of prop sets, and have kids in for their first birthday photos, and really get creative. We’re excited to see what opportunities the space will bring us,” she said. Eventually, she hopes to create a niche in her studio for other businesses to showcase their work that interests her own clients; a cold case for custom birthday cakes, or a place to market to brides looking for a dessert maker, for example.
“I think networking is so important,” she said.
It’s the interactive opportunities that make Cordero’s work stand out, she believes.
“A lot of it has to do with your personality. A lot of my regular customers call our photo sessions play dates; that’s how their kids know it. With a lot of the families, I’ve worked with their kids since they were in the womb, and they’re now six or seven years old.” If someone in the family gets married or has another big event, Cordero is there.
“You just create this relationship with people. A lot of my business comes from referral. When people have a great experience and a great time, they tell others about it.”
In her last studio, Cordero had one family who didn’t want to leave their session.
“They wanted to stay and hang out because it was so much fun. That’s what we hope to slowly build this place into, so it feels like you are going to hang out at somebody’s house. Just making it fun really shows in the pictures.”
Cordero’s website has a portfolio, so clients can check out the fun she’s been having. Once a client finishes a session, Cordero loads a gallery of all the photos taken, unedited, so customers can leisurely view all their choices in the luxury of their own homes, within their own timeframe. Once they organize various lists of favorites, Cordero can then edit the chosen photos for picture-perfect portraits.
“It suits people’s lifestyles,” said Cordero. “It’s very convenient. You can sit around in your pajamas at 10 o’clock at night and view your galleries.” Clients, friends and family members can even order and re-order prints– with customized color requests and finishes touches– without having to contact the studio in person.
Of course, for those who do want to come in and view portraits in the studio, Cordero will have the espresso machine at the ready.
“I am an extremely busy person, and I think a lot of people are similar to me. You want to have options. I try to make it very efficient,” Cordero said.
Also efficient is the location, Cordero said, between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.
“It’s cliché to say it, but North Liberty is just booming. In the four short years we have been here, we have seen so much change and development. We really like where this area is going. It’s a perfect fit for us.”
It’s enough to keep a smile on her face, even if she is behind the camera instead of in front of it.