We had the good fortune of connecting with Peggy Lee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Peggy, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I had actually started my photography journey in 1985. I was married to my first husband at the time and had a 5 year old, and a full-time job in accounting for an oil and gas company. I had always wanted to be a professional photographer, so I decided to enroll at the Colorado Art Institute for night classes. For one grueling year, while continuing my full-time job, I went to night school every single night of the work week and doing homework assignments and studying all weekends. I graduated in 1986 with a large student debt, but a wealth of knowledge that I knew, would someday, be of great use. Just not then. I was out of money and it would have taken a whole lot to actually open a business at that time and that wasn’t in the cards. I shot quite a few weddings between then and 2007, though, and all with film. Digital hadn’t quite come to the forefront yet at that time. I knew that weddings weren’t going to be what I wanted to stick with and the “Zillas” were too much to deal with. What are “Zillas?” Those are the occasional “MomZillas” and the “BrideZillas” that a photographer encounters and makes our job about as difficult as one can make it, no matter the amount of psychology we dig deep to use to get us through the day with a “Zilla.” So, there it sat in my heart and brain for all those years. The desire and passion just waiting to be unleashed. Fast forward to 2007, I’m divorced, my kid is grown, (now I’m a grandmother) and it’s now a predominantly digital world in photography. I wanted to open up my studio but I needed to get a digital camera and teach myself how to use Photoshop and learn the business side of photography. The business end of photography wasn’t something they taught at the Art Institute at that time. Through a ton of online classes, trial and error, shooting constantly, going to conferences all over the country, a second husband that has been the best support of this journey, and a whole lot of grit and determination, I’m finally settled in on this journey. The question of my “thought process behind starting my own business was more a matter of YEARS of thoughts and what-ifs and gaining the courage and confidence to just do it. I kept lecturing myself, internally, that I went to school for photography because that was what I wanted to do and so, what am I waiting for? That was the thought process.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As a photographer, I’ve shot just about everything when it comes to people, and a few animals too. Through much evolvement, I’ve dialed down my specialties to Vanity Fair style Glamour (not 80’s and boas…no, no, no…), Boudoir, Maternity, Head Shots, and personal branding photography. As a seasoned professional and as a woman, I know that it’s not uncommon for women in general to feel self conscious about their bodies and looks. Therefore, I like to stand apart from others by, first of all, letting them know that my studio is a body positive studio and that I know how to photograph all sizes, ages and shapes. I also have a plethora of beautiful gowns that I source from all over the world, for my glamour and maternity clients to wear for their sessions so they can feel as beautiful and special as they can be for the time they are in my studio without having to shop for a thing. For my glamour/beauty clients, I make it a five-star pampering day for them, by having a hair and makeup artist for a makeover, a spread of yummy snacks to graze on and champagne cocktails during their session which takes about four-ish hours. The glamour session isn’t just for one person either. I’ve shot 4-5 generations of great grandmother, grandma, mom, daughter and grandaughter(s), and great grandaughter(s) altogether, Sisters, Mother/daughter, and Mommy and Me sessions. I still create the five-star day for all of them if they are all in my studio at once. For boudoir, I create unique artwork that isn’t just standard cookie-cutter boudoir. My philosophy is that I help women build confidence in front of the camera, one woman at a time. For the head shots, I also photograph men. Just not as much. Don’t get me wrong, I do photograph families and newborns too, as well as stylized shoots if a woman or couple wants to. Those are super fun and some of my favorites. I’ve won 7 bronze awards in international image competitions, I’ve been published 4 times, and in 2020 I was awarded Centennial’s Best of the Best Photographer.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I am a Colorado Native, so I have some hot spots I do love to go to, and this list could be quite long. Vail, Steamboat Springs, Ouray, Downtown Denver, Garden of the Gods, the Broadmoor, RiNo Art district, Art museum of course, and all my favorite restaurants and bars.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My husband deserves a ton of credit, because if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have been able to make this business happen. Everyday. Without complaint. He’s my hero in this. Professionally, I do have my mentors and they are Ana Brandt, Sue Bryce and Sal Cincotta. They are the ones that got me headed in the right directions with their teachings both in the business end, but also in the creative end as well.
Head Shot – Kate Schwindt Photography All other images – PeggySuz Studio Photography