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A good eye essential for shutterbugs

Florence Bretz1 / 2
Florence Bretz took this photo with her iPhone. It shows every eyelash on son Dominick. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

It all started with an adorable baby - her own.

Those first few photos of Dominick got rave reviews and Florence Bretz's photography career got off to a flying start. Photos of friends' babies, kids, families and seniors followed. Then it was a small wedding.

It's not that Bretz was unprepared. She remembers being able to draw at an early age, reproducing on paper what her eyes took in, in minute detail.

The commerce graduate had taken a year of arts courses. She is a musician, a painter, the proverbial right-brained person.

It is mostly her eye that gives her photographs a personality. She sees things other people don't.

"It's not about your camera," she said, "It's the photographer's eye."

It was when Dominick was in the womb and she was at her day job at NorthStar Orthodontics that she had her epiphany moment.

Listening to a podcast, Bretz heard a professional photographer talking about how to photograph babies.

Waiting for Dominick to make his presence known in the world gave her time to plan a second career.

She began saving money and bought her first Canon SLR camera.

She didn't even have a fee schedule when she got work.

"My first client paid me $40 and I was so happy," the bubbly woman said.

She signed up for e-mail tips at a creative website, learning how to light scenes, how to set up a photography business.

She began working with wedding photographer Dana Johnson and finally purchased her own Photoshop program. Previously she'd been using free web programs.

Her first wedding was grueling, she admits. "I was on my feet for eight hours," she recalled. "I said, 'I don't know how to do this.'"

But photography was a passion she just couldn't get out of her system. Thousands of photographs followed, many of a growing Dominick.

"There's lots of competition," she said of aspiring picture-takers with digital cameras.

But that competition has also spawned thievery.

"I've learned a lot since 2010," Bretz said. She places her signature watermark in the middle of all her photos. Otherwise, "People will steal it, crop it, print it," she said.

She sends her images to a photo lab in the Twin Cities. Although she still keeps her day job, she prioritizes her professional photos with motherhood and other interests.

"If I took a wedding photograph, they'll get it in a week," she said of the bride and groom.

She said she doesn't want to keep bridal parties waiting for months to see their proofs.

Her unusual angles and photos of parts of the whole person give her images a whimsical feel.

And they are full of the "awwwww" factor. What's not to love about a baby's round belly, a chubby fist, little round toes?

Her website displays many of them.

Like most inveterate shutterbugs, she carries her camera everywhere.

Her latest self-challenge is taking photos with her iPhone, each spectacular in their own right. She loads them onto her iPad, row after row of crystal clear images, each show-worthy.

Her website is

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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