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John Lee Photography to have open house

John Lee has owned and operated John Lee Photography for over a decade. He worked part-time for five years and eventually moved to a studio on North Second Avenue West. Now, he has become so successful that he needed more room.

To celebrate, he will be having an open house at his new studio at 101 N. Eighth Ave. E. from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday that will feature a ribbon cutting ceremony. He invites the public to participate and enjoy drinks.

“The camera area was just not large enough to accommodate larger groups,” Lee said. “Normally I do them outside in the summertime, but it is more difficult. Plus, I needed to get my office in the same place. I kind of transitioned from a home studio to having a location up there and having an office at home. I did it to be at home with the kids, so it got kind of clunky.”

His original plan was to open his studio by late December, but a client request forced him to open in November .

“The first session I shot in here was in mid-November,” Lee said. “A lot of finishing touches were not done, but I was here working. The fall are most photographers, and mine included, busiest time of year. I was going to wait until after the big rush of fall, but once I was shooting a few things here ... I did not like being in limbo. I just wanted to get the move done, and get into the space.”

He did not move to his new store without proper research. In the past, he used the location for shoots. He likes having a variety of possible sceneries. He even used the nearby park for photo shoots. Lee enjoys being close to the alleyways that can provide great backdrops for his clients.

“I feel blessed to have a larger space,” Lee said. “I have great clients. I have a good following and recognition in Newton. I try to keep my work fresh and fun.”

Informing customers of the location change has been a challenge. One of the first things he did was put up a big sign. Phonebooks only come out once a year, and if a location moves it can leave many residents uniformed of the change.
Lee has been able to stay in business because of repeat customers.

“I would say I have a pretty strong percentage of repeat/return clients, Lee said. “With my wedding clients, I offer a session fee free for life guarantee. If I photograph their wedding, I photograph maternity sessions for those brides. I ended up shooting family pictures. It’s kind of the neat thing about this job — you get to grow with the families.”

One time while he was shooting a clients senior pictures, he asked her why did she choose him. She informed him that he provided pictures of her while she attended dance class at the YMCA.

His studio is in a unique part of town. He is right next to the railroad tracks. Before he bought the location it used to part of the train depot.

“You know when they come by,” Lee said. “When they do come by I stop working, and I look up. I put my computer on foam because the building does shake a little bit. It gives the building some character.”

The train depot was in operation until the 1980s.

Lee services extend farther than the traditional photography studio. He sells items such as accordion books, capture memories books and stand-out mounts. He can provide unique looks that can make any picture stand out. He can make pictures have a 3D like look to them.

Having more studio space allowed Lee to express his creative talent.

“I am looking at getting some more - Hitting some salvage yards and trying to get some more creative, grungy kind of backdrops,” Lee said.

Staff writer Matthew Shepard may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at

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