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Stump photography studio proves successful
Posted Sept. 24, 2007

Toward the edge of the Village in Claremont, away from the hustle and bustle, sits Sonja Stump Photography. The photography studio, located near the corner of Harvard and First streets since 1999, survives competition from similar studios and the cheaper department store studios like Sears and JC Penny by providing quality photographs and personalized customer service.         

Larger-than-life-sized family portraits are displayed near the large windows while other photographs are displayed along the walls of the front area, creating a gallery type atmosphere for the pedestrians as they walk along the sidewalk.

When customers enter, the gallery-like feel merges with a pleasant and comfortable home atmosphere. There is a simple dining room table in the middle of the room with smaller tables near the windows, displaying sculptures and a large wooden desk off to the side. In the room to the left, light stands and backdrops are positioned for the next session.

Sonja Stump and her husband, Bob, run the studio, which is geared towards family and children portraits and business photography.

“She is the photographer, I’m the kind of guy that does a little of everything,” Bob Stump, Sonja’s husband and business partner said.

A photographer for more than 35 years, Sonja Stump does most of the photography work, although she does admit to needing a little help sometimes.

“I do hire people who are needed for big jobs – photographer friends, sometimes my daughter,” Stump said.

This usually occurs when Sonja Stump is working on events like weddings and bar or bat mitzvahs. The different types of camera shots and the size of the events play a part in Stump’s decision in hiring outside help.

She has photographed many weddings throughout her career and enjoys photographing them, but feels it is time to start phasing out her event coverage and focus more on portraits.

The combination of Stump’s experience and her willingness to work with clients on a personal level that other studios lack has proven to be a successful combination. The photography studio grossed about $160,000 last year.

Business is busiest during the October to December quarter. Sometimes Stump works 17-hour days during this season. Many clients come for their family portraits or to print portraits that were taken earlier in the year, while others come for holiday cards and to give portraits as gifts. January to March is the slowest quarter.

Stump Photography does not advertise heavily and mostly receives business through referrals and gift certificates. Because of the studio’s low ranking on the necessity scale, Stump says the studio accurately reflects the state of the local economy.

“I expect that what I do for my clients is a luxury item,” Stump said. “When my business is doing well, the economy is doing well.”

Stump attributes her success as a photographer for so many years to her willingness to achieve customer satisfaction.

“Making sure that my customers are happy, whether that means doing something over or going the extra mile,” she said. “It’s about proving a great product.”

Her prices are a little higher than those that would be found at larger photography studios like JC Penny and Sears. The higher but affordable price is compensated by Stump’s attention to detail and caring attitude to each client.

“I provide a high end product with retouching and print enhancement opportunities. My clients are paying more so I’m giving them more.”

The added enhancements and optional framing opportunities are not theonly other services Stump Photography has to offer.

“I’ve gone to people’s homes before to see where it’s going to hang and give my honest input.”

The photographer-client relationship keeps clients coming back and paying the higher cost.  When Stump’s sister wanted portraits taken of her newborn, she went to her local department store photographer so she could save money.

The waiting in lines and apathetic customer service caused the sister to pay more for Stump’s services.

 “She is the best. I’ve known her since I was a junior in high school [1977],” Kim Greenberg, a Reseda resident and long-time client, said. “She did my wedding and every birthday, I come to her for my kids’pictures and family portraits.”

“She is down-to-earth, not overly fancy and expensive,” Greenberg added.

Aside from major department store photography studios and other professionals in the area, Stump Photography also must compete with the amateur photographers and relatives that believe they can provide the same service for a lesser price. This is especially true with special events.

Stump says that years of experience make her more qualified.

Over the years she has dealt with couples coming to her to redo wedding photos because they did not get what they wanted from their relatives and friends.

She notes that having competition is healthy and keeps her working hard.
“Having other photographers around is a good thing,” Stump said. “I’m not going to be for everybody.”

If she feels someone else will better serve a particular project, she refers the client to other photographers. Although she does provide some services for businesses, it is not her favorite type of photography, so she sometimes refers catalog photography to her friend who specializes in that type.

Since the photography studio has flexible hours, it enables Stump to give back to the community. The studio is a site for the “Shoes That Fit” program, a program geared at providing children with back-to-school supplies in the summer and Easter baskets in the spring. The studio’s location at the edge of the village does not take parking spaces away from other merchants.

“They totally renovated the building; they change the flowers with the seasons,” said Maureen Aldridge, executive director of the Claremont Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a well kept studio.”

Andres Rivera can be reached at