CHARLESTON -- For Gina Meister, the photo studio serves more as a place to play than a place to work.
“For me, it is not a job,” she said.
Meister, a fifth-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary School, opened the small studio at the start of the year at 698 Windsor Road and ever since has seen it as a home away from home.
She opened the studio to have a separate place outfitted entirely for photo studio work. She had been taking photos for several months professionally before that, but finally got the chance to take on a studio earlier this year.
“In one year, it had taken off,” Meister said. “That is how quick it happened. I was starting out the front room at my house, and then we found this spot.”
Meister took the plunge into the photography business last year when a friend of hers inspired her to exercise that creative itch that had formed. Her friend, Emily Lucarz, once a speech pathologist, left that career field behind to jump into photography as well and that kicked Meister into gear.
“Sometimes, you look at those people that you are close to and get that inspiration to finally take that step,” Meister said. “For someone who has known teaching, flipping that switch and putting yourself out there and knowing you are going to be critiqued by everyone who sees a picture, that is a step you have to be ready to take.”
And she took it.
“I was just doing it for fun,” Meister said. “I did baby pictures for a friend of mine and I was like, ‘Why am I not doing this?’”
Meister said she started off taking pictures of kids but soon after grew into other portraiture photography, which she focuses on. Meister now takes on family, newborn, children and senior photography.
Meister said starting out as an amateur photographer, she always found herself getting drawn to portraiture.
“Close-up portraits are my absolute favorite because I feel like it tells more of a story about that person,” she said. “Some of the other stuff is just fun.”
It has been important to her to mix things up, though, delving into other types of photography. With any photo, she said she always focuses on the subject's eyes.
“I pay attention to people’s eyes,” Meister said. “They truly are the window of the soul… It is more intimate and I think that is why I was drawn to it.”
Her studio, which is equipped with various props she has collected, is only open by appointment. To contact Meister for an appointment, those interested in getting their photos taken can call 217-202-6249, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or "like" her Facebook page.