RIDGEFIELD PARK, N.J.– Going from a teacher to a photographer in demand wasn't something Ridgefield Park's Carolyne Rao ever dreamed would happen to her.
When Rao was a teen, she always was involved in the yearbook committee and the arts program, but she couldn't figure out a way to turn her love of the arts into a career. She even attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked for Tiffany and Company for a couple of years before going back to school and getting her teaching degree.
Then came life and marriage and her first child.
That's when her life changed dramatically. Her son was born two months early and "fought with every bone to survive," she said. That's when the new mother picked up a camera and began documenting every minute of his life.
Once at home, she continued and found she loved photography. Especially the new photography with PhotoShop and digital cameras instead of dark rooms and film. And she had the perfect subject to practice on -- her family.
That was six years ago. Today, you might find her atop a ladder looking down on a family to get the best shot. Or in a forest full of trees searching for perfect lighting to make a new baby look like the most beautiful child in the world. You might even find her in a bedroom doing a tasteful pin-up shot or taking photos of a client's beloved pet.
"I really love my job, it fills the creative side of me that teaching never could," said the owner of Carolyne Rao Photography. "I like to keep my work exciting and fresh by taking on projects that challenge me artistically and emotionally."
She especially loves taking photos of families and children.
"You will never hear me say 'cheese,'" she laughs. "I let them be their authentic, fun, beautiful selves and hopefully I capture that in the shot."
The best part of the job, besides getting to dream up fun scenarios for photo shoots, is getting to know and even sometimes becoming friends with the subjects of her photos.
"I've made some wonderful friends and met some amazing people through my work," she said. "That's something that wouldn't have happened as a teacher. Although I always loved teaching."
Now, with both of her children heading to school in the fall, Rao is looking forward to expanding her business and spending more time looking for that "perfect" shot.
"If you are looking for photo with a phony smile, you came to the wrong place," she said. "I love every smile, but also treasure the drool and tears."
Samples of Rao's work can be found here .