Mary Breuer, of Green Bay, was having trouble capturing her fast-moving daughters on film when she asked her husband for a camera that would be fast enough to catch them in action. That camera proved to be life-changing for the trained respiratory therapist.
“That camera started my career,” Breuer said. “It isn’t the camera that makes the photos better, it is learning how to use it that makes them better. I literally dived in and researched how to use the camera. On my breaks at work, I’d watch videos.”
The hours of study paid off, and it wasn’t long before she was receiving compliments on her photos.
“I heard comments like, ‘Mary, I think you are onto something here,'" she said. "You should do this as a job; you’re really good at it.’”
With those encouragements, Breuer began to think more and more about the possibility. Initially, she thought it could be a hobby and she would do it on the side for fun. However, she realized that she was barely covering her cost of materials and marketing. At the end of the year, she was still working at her regular job and had spent hours on photography without any contribution to the family income.
After coming off of maternity leave with her third child, she was at a crossroads. The hours at her regular job included 12-hour overnight shifts and weekends and it felt like too much to handle.
She said, “I was sitting in my closet crying because I had invested so much money into what I considered a ‘glorified hobby’ and decided I either needed to sell my equipment or figure out how to make it work.”
The decision was made to try to make it work. Her Aunt Chari, the owner of several businesses, advised her to find a mentor in the field of photography and consider the cost similar to that of going to school. Breuer heeded the advice and signed up for an online course by a well-known photographer.
In the hours of study, she learned that she needed to choose a specialty and figure out how to make money. It was also recommended that she have studio space, something she had not wanted to do.
“When I first started my career in photography, I always told myself I would never have a studio. I always hated how cheesy and unnatural people looked,” Breuer said.
But she learned that a combination of natural and artificial light created natural-looking photos. She leased a space that met her criteria and Mary Breuer Photos (www. marybreuerphotos.com) had a home.
In addition, she added services such as the availability of a makeover professional so clients can look and feel their best. It has been one of her goals because she wants people, especially women who might be more self-conscious, to have photos that show their beauty. For that reason, she also added boudoir photography.
“I know some people think of boudoir photography as taboo, but I don’t,” Breuer said. “A lot of women come to me and want to give a gift for their husband. I ask myself how I can take these women who look in the mirror and don’t feel beautiful and capture them the way their husbands see them.”
Most of the photos don’t make it to her Facebook page or website, and she obtains written authorization before using any photos. She has developed a number of packages and many come with a video of the shoot. Unlike many photographers, Breuer said she spends an average of 24 hours with each client.
“Sometimes I feel like I am about 25 percent photographer and 75 percent therapist,” she said. “I want to know people so I can capture their personality. One of my strengths is that I am very good at connecting with people and can find some point of relatability with anyone.”
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.