Joanne Lee has been called many things in her life – teacher, wife, mother and now she can add photographer to that list. After recently opening a studio on Route 1 in Scarborough, she saw a much loved hobby turn into a thriving business.

“I love Scarborough,” said Lee, who was looking for an expanding town to move her home-based business to. “Scarborough is flourishing. It’s a wonderful town.”

When some of her pictures were used for ads and in magazines, Lee decided to make photography a living. She started her studio in March out of her home in Cape Elizabeth, and by June was opening in Scarborough.

“It’s so busy already,” she said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Originally a music teacher and then stay-at-home mom, Lee knows her way around kids. As a result, they are a large part of her work. She makes her studio a relaxed place, trying to take pressure off of parents and kids to get that “perfect” smile.

She takes that one step further by offering picture parties, where she packs up her equipment and snaps photos in a client’s home. Kids can have their friends over and she’ll take pictures of everyone. That way, said Lee, the kids can feel more natural and end up looking less posed.

“No cheesy smiles,” said Lee.

Picture parties are for everyone, said Lee, and adults also end up feeling more relaxed and that makes for better pictures. Afterwards, she posts all the pictures online so the whole party can see the results.

“It’s the studio experience without being in the studio,” said Lee.

A part of her work that she loves and feels sets her apart is her photography of special needs children. As a teacher, she often worked with autistic children, children with Down syndrome and children with developmental delays.

“Photographing special needs kids is awesome,” said Lee. “I let the child be the child.”

Unlike a mall setting, where parents may worry about behavioral problems, Lee said she tries to make her studio as welcoming as possible.

“When I have moms come up with tears in their eyes and say, ‘this is how I see my child and you captured that’ is really the best compliment I can get,” said Lee.

Lee also enjoys photographing expectant moms and their families. Unlike childhood, that has many moments to remember, pregnancy is a definite amount of time, Lee said.

“It’s such a fleeting time,” said Lee. “A perfect time to capture.”

Though working with kids and having some of her own has taught her to value kids’ creativity and enjoy photographing them, she hopes to someday expand her business into traditional areas such as high school senior portraits.

No matter what she’s photographing, Lee said she always enjoys her work. “Every time I open up files after a shoot it’s such a surprise,” said Lee. “It’s like Christmas.”

Photographer Joanne Lee began started her business in her home in Cape Elizabeth and recently opned her new studio on Route 1 in Scarborough. Though Lee uses all the latest technology and works in color as well, she thinks that black and white is “classic.” Lee also adds touches of color to some photographs, which she said is becoming more and more popular. Lee likes to let kids be kids, and often has fun props for them to try on.

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