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Harrison Township, Mount Clemens

February 20, 2013

Full-time mothers enjoy their new professions at Mount Clemens photo studio

By Julie Snyder
C & G Staff Writer

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Full-time mothers enjoy their new professions at Mount Clemens photo studio
Harrison Township photographers Angela Bilen and Jen Dera own and operate Capture a Moment Photography out of the historic mineral bath spa and hotel on Cass Avenue in Mount Clemens.

MOUNT CLEMENS — Angela Bilen and Jen Dera have been friends for more than 20 years.

Bilen is an attorney specializing in estate planning, while Dera has a degree in microcomputer science.

Both are full-time mothers and both are photographers.

They’re also entrepreneurs.

The co-owners of Capture a Moment Photography in Mount Clemens, located inside a historic former mineral bath hotel at 117 Cass Ave., lead busy lifestyles, but that’s the way they like it, particularly because what they do for a living is something they both love.

“I’ve always enjoyed photography, even as a child,” said Bilen, whose three children range in age from 11 months to 7 years.

Bilen recalls photographing everything and anything at a young age with whatever kind of camera she could get a hold of — her sisters being her regular models.

“It’s my other passion,” she said, the first being her children.

As adults, Bilen and Dera had always carried a camera with them wherever they went, and both found they were taking pictures of their respective children, themselves, jokingly calling themselves the “mamarazzi.” Dera had even accumulated professional-style photography equipment, like a Canon T2i and studio lighting. Bilen followed suit and traded in her Nikon D3000 for the same Canon.

That move came in 2009, when Bilen ultimately decided to take the hobby she was so passionate about and turn it into a new profession. She approached Dera about the idea of starting their own photo studio, and Dera, whose three children range in age from 7 to 13, was glad to jump on board.

“We have a good balance of personalities,” said Bilen. “I’m a little more loosey-goosey and arty, and she’s more traditional. Jen is the computer brains. Without her, we wouldn’t have gotten this far.”

The duo launched Capture a Moment Photography with an indoor studio operating at either of their homes in Harrison Township.

Business flourished for the friends, mostly due to positive word-of-mouth and because a majority of the photo shoots are taken at locations around metro Detroit.

Bilen and Dera upgraded to the Canon 7d in 2011, and in July 2012, Capture a Moment moved into the three-story historic landmark that opened in 1910 as a hotel and mineral bath hotel, which is also occupied by Olympia Salon and Medical Day Spa.

The two painted the interior of the office area themselves, and soft lights and vintage props acquired over the years and from neighboring antique stores make up the studio.

The photographers have been happily busy capturing everything from engagement portraits and weddings to expectant mothers, newborn portraits and family photos. They’ve also done some local commercials work.

Bilen said social media outlets like Facebook and offering Groupon specials has benefitted their business tremendously, and will likely continue to do so.

“We do go to the customer’s home, as well, especially for newborn portraits,” said Bilen. “It’s much better for the moms who have just come home from the hospital from having a baby.”

Bilen and Dera know how that is, and with six children between them, they’ve had a lot of practice on the younger models. “We do use our children to test props,” laughs Dera.

In March, Capture a Moment will be finishing work expanding their office and studio to accommodate their growing customer base.

“It will be done just in time for what I think has been our busiest seasons: spring and summer,” said Bilen.

Dera said fall is also a busy time of year, and Christmas is always eventful.

Bilen and Dera still call themselves full-time moms, and neither has immediate plans to return full-time to their former professions. Instead, they’ll revel in the artistic pleasure they get from being professional photographers, and meeting and capturing new faces every day.

“That’s what I like best about it (being a professional photographer and owning a photo studio): the creative outlet that it gives me and meeting new people,” said Bilen. “I just love the interaction, and working with the children and the babies and getting them to smile for the camera.”

To schedule a photo session, call Capture a Moment at (586) 646-8189 or go to www.captureamomentphoto.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Julie Snyder at jsnyder@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1039.