Allison Rodgers will tell you that the most natural smile occurs going into, and coming out of, a laugh.
Rodgers has a lot to be smiling about these days. She and her husband, Jeff, are the owners of Allison Rodgers Photography on Collierville’s Historic Town Square.
It’s a business born of love. The two met while working at Good Advertising Agency and each made the rounds of agencies in town – including Sossaman & Associates (now Sullivan Branding), Red Deluxe and Walker Associates – as art directors before opening the photography studio in 2004.
At the time they opened the business in Olive Branch, Allison was working part time with Red Deluxe and Jeff was doing freelance design.
Allison Rodgers Photography includes Jeff Rodgers, from left, Allison Rodgers, Kendyl Mounce, Katie Sauer and Margie Phillips (not pictured).
(Daily News/Lance Murphey)
“It started quickly, faster than we wanted,” Allison Rodgers said. “This was supposed to be a part-time thing for me.”
The studio was founded at a time when “everybody was ready for a change in what they were seeing as far as traditional portraiture,” Rodgers said. “We were one of the first ones out of the gate with that. They were ready for images that had more life to them. They were ready to be able to have, personally, for themselves, what they were seeing in magazines. Up until this point, nobody was really doing that, nobody was doing that lifestyle, documentary, personality-driven, very custom work.”
The husband-and-wife team had found their niche and success followed, due in part to connections through the national network of the Professional Photographers of America that helped land them a gig doing the still photography for ABC’s “Extreme Home Makeover.”
The duo traveled to Montgomery, Ala., and Hattiesburg, Miss., where they worked closely with the show’s producers, a host of designers and the star, Ty Pennington.
In 2012, they looked to move their business from Olive Branch, where they lived and were raising their two daughters, Ever and Fable. After briefly considering Hernando, they finally decided on the Collierville Town Square. Their client base pulls from North Mississippi, Arkansas and Shelby County.
“Whether they were driving 20 minutes to Olive Branch or 20 minutes to Collierville, we wanted a place that felt more like a destination,” Rodgers said.
Clients have come for their photo shoot and stayed in the area to make a day of shopping and having lunch or coffee.
“It’s much more of an experience,” Rodgers added.
Visiting the 4,700-square-foot studio is an experience as well. There are comfortable rooms for meeting with clients, furnished thoughtfully and with large screens to view proofs and layout.
A session with the photographer is more than just saying “cheese,” but involves discussions of the entire process, from wardrobes to framing to where and how the photos will be displayed in the clients’ home. The Rodgers don’t sell image files; they sell finished prints.
They’re also selling the full experience of a family’s time together, something Rodgers, as a mother, understands.
“As far as marketing goes, it’s the moms who are going to decide,” Jeff Rodgers said. “The website was written in first person from Allison. We wanted to have her personality on the site so that when the client comes in, they feel like they know her and are friends with her before they ever meet her.”
While Allison shoots and makes her subjects comfortable and at home, it’s Jeff who uses skills honed through years of art direction to manage the back end of the files and oversee the post-production and quality of images.
“Developing the film,” as he described it, though obviously it’s all digital these days. “I’ll process in Photoshop how I want things done.”
He is also the voice of their social media networking, a major component in marketing for the company and its staff of studio coordinator, designer and sales personnel.
In a day and age when everyone with a smartphone and Instagram app, or a digital SLR camera and laptop, is pulled into service to photograph a friend’s wedding or niece’s senior portrait, Allison Rodgers Photography is taking portraiture to new heights and offering more than memories to their ongoing clients.
“I have tools, but that doesn’t make me a mechanic,” Jeff Rodgers said. “I have a hammer and nails, that doesn’t mean I can build a box that’s square.”
“It’s still all about the relationship and I think that we knew that from being in the advertising world,” Allison Rodgers said. “If you’re going into an advertising agency, it’s not about the logo they’re going to design for you, it’s about the all-encompassing full service that they’re going to offer you.”