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Thea DuBose brings out best of newborns in photos
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Thea DuBose, owner and photographer at Naturally Posh Photography, poses for a photo at her studio in downtown Gainesville. DuBose and her husband David run the business together. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Thea DuBose trunk show
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday April 29
Where: Naturally Posh Photography, 224 Main St. SW, Gainesville
More info: naturallyposhphotography.com

Thea DuBose is the type of person who makes it seem like you’ve known her for years.

You could trust her with the most important thing in your life. That is a handy personality trait to have when it’s your job to take portraits of newborns and children.

For seven years, DuBose has perfected her techniques and tricks, both as a photographer and small business owner.

“I’m really just doing what I love,” the Hoschton woman said.

Her business-minded side first popped up when she was in sixth grade at North Hall Middle School in Gainesville. She sold candy out of an old Keds shoebox, charging 25 cents per piece or five for $1.

“I’ve always been a salesperson,” 34-year-old DuBose said.

She used the money to buy herself a 35-millimeter camera at the local Eckerd, not realizing at the time her future career would be in photography. Her father brought her to the drugstore to purchase the camera. He knew she liked photography and always saved the last few photos on his rolls for her to snap a picture.

“I would set up my baby dolls and take photos of them,” DuBose said.

Now she takes photos of real babies, and it’s not as easy as it may sound.

THE BUSINESS BEGINNING

DuBose’s love of photography grew as she did.

Back in the day, DuBose tried out for the yearbook staff. Even though she was known for always having a camera in hand, she wasn’t chosen.

“Look at me now,” DuBose said, sitting in her black leather swivel chair in her 1,600-square-foot studio in the downtown Gainesville square.

Behind her, four block letters made out of tin spell out POSH on a wooden panel backdrop. It’s part of her business’ name.

Naturally Posh Photography was born after DuBose racked her brain to come up with a name that had a good ring to it. She Googled how to name a business and found a website that suggested picking words that described her company and putting them together.

“We picked about 10 words,” she said, indicating her husband, David, helped.

The couple sat down on a sofa in their living room to formulate the words. But it was David who ultimately put the two words together.

The birth of business started in her home and migrated to the garage. But DuBose knew that wouldn’t fly.

“It just wasn’t professional,” she said. “It wasn’t an appropriate place for a newborn to be.”

So she moved to a 600-square-foot commercial lot on Limestone Parkway. The company soon outgrew the small space, requiring a relocation to a house on a hill on Thompson Bridge Road.

While the space was larger with 1,100 square feet, it felt too cramped.

On April 1, 2014, she moved the business to 224 Main St. SW, Gainesville.

There it is a two-person operation with her snapping photos and her husband assisting in sales and logistics. David’s background stems from that industry with more than 16 years of experience with companies such as CBT Inc. in Oakwood. But now he works for his wife.

“As busy as she is ... it’s hard for her to run it by herself,” he said.

He’s not the only one impressed by his wife.

“What she does blows my mind,” DuBose’s 13-year-old daughter Pairlon said.

She also has a 9-year-old son, Walker.

Her children are not the only ones DuBose leaves in awe. Some of her clients call her the baby whisperer. Others have even asked if they can call her at 3 a.m. when their babies won’t sleep.

“People always say how calm and patient she is (with them),” David said.

THE SET-UP AND SHOOT

DuBose attributes her expertise with sleeping babies to her combined use of temperature control and expert swaddling techniques. She said two space heaters turned up to 80 degrees creates a warm environment and makes it easier for the babies to fall asleep. She explained she turns on the heaters before her models arrive for their close-ups.

She also devises a plan before the babies and their parents arrive. It includes choosing the appropriate backdrop, props and matching outfit, which has proven to be the most taxing job.

“I want it to be something that can hang up in their homes for 30 years, not something that’s going to go out of style,” DuBose said.

She then focuses setting the scene, which include props. She has two rooms in the back of her studio filled to the brim with props. From giraffes to sailor hats, DuBose has a prop for each look. One room is exclusively reserved for Christmas items.

“Each item has a purpose,” she said jokingly. “I’m also a hoarder.”

A current trend in the newborn photography circles (it’s a real thing) are fur blankets.

“I got some of them from Wales,” she said, mentioning one small piece of sheep fuzz, barely large enough for a baby to lay on, costs as much as $50.

Bigger blankets cost $200 to $300 a piece. And that’s just for the fur.

One recent photograph cost at least $100 in props alone. The nautical-themed photo featured a baby in a makeshift sailboat with netting and stuffed cotton fish.

“It’s the most expensive job I’ve ever had,” she said.

Finally, she determines the poses of the babies. Each has a different name, including the froggy, the potato sack, the taco and the bum-up.

The average time for a photo session ranges between 2 « “on a good day” and four hours on others. A typical newborn shoot can last up to three hours, depending on the cooperativeness of the baby and any other difficulties that may arise while shooting.

“I found that it usually takes a lot longer if I don’t plan ahead,” she said.

Once the shoot is over, she edits the pictures and sends the photos to a lab in Cleveland, Tenn., to be printed on canvas boards and other types of material for her customers.

ATTITUDE AND EXCELLENCE

DuBose’s attention to detail and personal connection with customers — all appointments are in person — accounts for her success in the infant photography business. She has booked almost 200 portraits this year just for the Christmas photoshoot and earned accolades.

The mom of two not only won Northeast Georgia’s Best Photography Studio, but she has won many awards. She won Photography Magazine’s 2015 Editor’s Choice Award, their 2015 Creativity Award and Newborn Magazine’s 2015 Excellence Award.

All of these awards are not bad for a woman with a degree in criminal justice.

“I was always around it growing up,” she said.

After graduating from Lanier Technical College in 2002, DuBose tried to get a job as a probation officer. Her salary would have been the same as it would have cost to put her daughter in daycare.

Therefore, she stayed at home and found a job working for a construction company. When the economy crashed, she began working toward opening her own photography studio. And her training included three photography classes at the former Gainesville State College.

Now she is a successful businesswoman in an industry that she loves.

“Starting this business in a bad economy and watching it grow into what it is now is a huge honor,” she said. “My clients are the reason I’m so successful and I’m so thankful for that. Winning awards is icing on the cake. Watching these babies grow up and capturing priceless memories for my clients is better than any award.”

Northeast Georgia residents wanting to see her work in person will have the opportunity at a trunk show from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday April 29. The show will bring together vendors from across the nation to sell their items to local photographers and provides a place for them to mingle.

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