New studio set to openA neighbor handed Vana Korhonen a camera about five years ago and asked her to take a quick family photo.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
A neighbor handed Vana Korhonen a camera about five years ago and asked her to take a quick family photo.
“I was terrified,” she said. What if she dropped it? Today, that photo still holds a place of honor in Tina Prior’s home, and Korhonen has her own photography business. It grew gradually with borrowed cameras. Four quick grad shots of her camera-shy boyfriend and nature pictures captured as they walked to a good fishing spot led to posting pictures on Facebook. Then came Korhonen’s first paid photo shoot, once again grad photos. She got done, returned the camera and realized she just might need one of her own. Her mother got Korhonen a camera for an early Christmas present and the business, Vana LesLee Photography, has been growing ever since.
“She’s been doing our photos since 2010,” said Tracy Tollers of Maple. “She’s simply amazing. She’s got a really keen eye for a perfect picture.”
With a son in the military, Tollers doesn’t have a lot of time to set up a photo shoot in advance. Korhonen has always made time for them.
“I fell in love with her that first shoot,” Tollers said. “She’s happy, outgoing, a joy to be around.”
Korhonen loves finding unique spots for outdoor photos, she is enthusiastic and she really knows what she’s doing, the Maple woman said. Now, with a studio of her own, she can offer indoor pictures as well. The studio at 310 Belknap St. has brought former South Range neighbors back together; it is right next to Shirts Unlimited, owned by Prior.
“Our businesses are going to complement each other very well,” Korhonen said.
The photographer graduated from Northwestern High School in 2010. This spring, she walked across the stage at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College with a business management degree.
“Those three years of college were the longest years of my life,” Korhonen said, as she juggled classes, homework and her growing business. “I walked so slowly across that stage. This is my moment.”
And it left her at a crossroads.
“It was either try this or go work for somebody else,” Korhonen said. “I would rather do this first.”
Her love of photography didn’t surface until high school, although older photos showed an already keen eye for composition.
“I think I like it so much because I wasn’t into it sooner,” Korhonen said.
Her aim is to give customers a unique photo shoot tailored to them.
“I edit the pictures, but they will look like themselves after I’m done with them,” she said.
The photographer is willing to take photos at the traditional spots like the Rose Garden, Canal Park and Amnicon Park, but Korhonen loves to find new, unique locations for backdrops.
“Some days I just drive around looking for places to shoot,” she said.
Vana LesLee Photography offers a full range of photography services — wedding pictures, engagement pictures, graduation pictures, portraits of individuals, children and infants, family photos and more. She will also offer prints of her work for sale at the new studio at 310 Belknap St.
“The people who ask for indoor pictures are going to get indoor pictures now,” Korhonen said. The space is open and airy with great natural light. Her first shoot in the new space was a family portrait of her two best friends and their new baby.
“I couldn’t think of a better first shoot for me,” Korhonen said.
To see more of Korhonen’s work, which includes a front-page news shot of a water spout in the Twin Ports harbor, snapped during a graduation photo session at Enger Tower in 2012, check out her Facebook page Vana LesLeePhotography. To schedule a photo session, call 218-393-3078 or contact her on Facebook.