WAYNE, N.J. -- Being taken seriously as a female business owner is sometimes still challenging, but Renee Antonelli Valente of Wayne feels beautiful -- and so do the women she photographs at her newborn family portrait studio.
Families have traveled from as far as Minnesota to Captured By Renee in Morristown.
“It speaks to people," said Valente, a mother of two. "That's why I picked that special subset of family photography."
Valente's passion for photos began in high school. It simmered during her 10-year career at a Wall Street brokerage house and as a software developer.
Once her children were old enough, she registered her business five years ago and began offering deals through Groupon, Living Social and Amazon, among others.
It's a type of photography that's physically demanding. Shoots can run from two to four hours. The heat can reach 80 degrees to keep the newborns warm.
“The most critical piece to doing this successfully is a sleeping baby,” Valente said.
The “sweetspot" baby age is seven days, she said. The cutoff is two months.
Although Valente has an affinity for beginnings, she also volunteers at North Jersey hospitals doing bereavement photography for couples who lose their babies at birth.
"There is nothing worse than handing a mother her dead child," she said. "A lot of them have no idea the baby has an issue. Sometimes this is all they have to remember them by.
"I find a way to set my emotions aside. How can I put my feelings above theirs and deny them their healing?" Valente said. "It's beautiful and painful and serene."
One couple eventually hired Valente for a portrait shoot with their healthy newborn.
"They felt that if I could do what I did for them after such a tragedy, then I'm the person they wanted handling their new baby," she said.
As a mom who saw her own body change during and after pregnancy, Valente wants her subjects to feel empowered.
She believes she's succeeding: “Every single woman who leaves my studio says ‘I’ve never felt so beautiful in my life'.”
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