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Sarah Zock photographs a newborn baby for her photography business, Sarah Russell Photography.

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PE ELL — Sarah Zock took some photography classes in high school where she learned how to develop film, learning the mechanical side of photography, when it was less about the subject and more about composition.

It fueled an interest in Zock, who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, that wouldn’t come to fruition until two years ago, when she began shooting sessions as a side job. It was about three years into being a stay-at-home mom, after working as a chemical dependency counselor, that one of Zock’s family members was selling some old photography equipment. She wanted to spend more time at home with her son and figured photography would be something she could do from home.

“I wanted to be home with my kid,” Zock said. “And needing to contribute to the family somehow, I found a way to do that. It’s really passionate for me and really cool to share that with everybody.”

She began teaching herself the ins and outs of a camera, spending about two weeks straight poring over YouTube videos to learn what the aperture was and what the F-stop did. To make matters even more difficult, the words and pictures on the buttons were all worn off, so she had to guess what each one did.

“It took me a lot of trial and error,” Zock said. 

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Sarah Zock got into photography after a family member sold her some of their old camera equipment.

She converted one of her kid’s penny jars into a camera-fund jar so she could upgrade her camera. It took only six months before she was able to buy a Nikon D3500 DSLR. She took off from there.

The photography turned into a full-time business in May of this year — and she shoots just about everything. The most surprising boom with her clients is boudoir photography, in which clients are featured in intimate or romantic images and pose wearing lingerie. It started with a few friends requesting shoots and has since grown into one of her top requests. She averages five to 10 sessions a month.

“A lot of brides will do it for their soon-to-be husbands as a wedding gift,” Zock said. “It has been my biggest and most consistent session type since I started. I had no idea that was going to happen.”

Zock also does weddings, maternity photos, seniors photos, engagements, events and commercial photography for local businesses and real estate companies. She plans to do model calls soon for newborn sessions. It’s her least comfortable session, and she wants to focus on those to get her skill level up.

Her favorite shoots are those that show a progression of a family. She does a lot of engagement sessions that result in her shooting their wedding later on. She just booked a maternity shoot for a couple who previously had their engagement and wedding photos done by her.

“It’s really cool to start with a family and watch it grow, and get to capture all those moments in the future for them, too,” Zock said. “It always leads to more later.”

She doesn’t have a studio quite yet but it’s in her three-year plan. She’s looking forward to having an indoor option available, which would make it easier to host sessions in the winter and during inclement weather, rather than hauling gear to each client’s house.

The pandemic has created its own challenges with her business. People are a lot more cautious, for good reason, and some have canceled sessions because of sickness. Luckily, with photography, Zock can easily maintain 6 feet of distance between her clients to keep them and her safe. And most of her shoots are singles, couples or families, so they all live in the same household. The one thing she hasn’t shot since the pandemic are newborn sessions, since they are obviously at higher risk.

“You want to be very cautious,” Zock said. “That’s definitely one more people are being careful about, which is good.”

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Sarah Zock started her photography business full time two years ago.

The most rewarding aspect of taking photos of people, for Zock, is sharing her passion with others and giving them something they’re excited about and can keep forever. 

“I’ve had a lot of people come through who’ve said they’ve never had pictures taken of their family,” Zock said. “Just hearing their excitement when they get them back is awesome. Stuff like that really keeps it alive for me.”

More Information on Sarah Russell Photography

Owner: Sarah Zock

Location: 913 Muller Road, Pe Ell

Phone: 360-880-1377

Email: sarahrussellphotography@gmail.com

Website: sarahrussellphotography.com

Social media: facebook.com/srussphotography

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Reporter Eric Trent can be reached at etrent@chronline.com. Visit chronline.com/business for more coverage of local businesses.