Sophia Ann snaps into photography world

Rachel Goerke officially opened Sophia Ann Photography in September 2011 after moving to Valley City from California, and is looking to make a name for herself in the portrait business. But whose name is it?

“Sophia was the first cat I ever owned, and I’ve always loved that name,” Goerke said. “And my middle name is Ann, so I thought we’d do something fun and cute.”

Originally from the East Bay area, an hour inland from San Francisco, Goerke was studying to be pre-med with dreams of becoming a pediatrician, but found a different path calling her.

“I’ve always loved working with kids, and I’ve always been interested in pictures,” she said, “so out of college I got a job at a studio and fell in love with photography.”

A nasty fall at her last job left Goerke with a fractured vertebra, a herniated disc and arthritis in her back, but she was determined not to let it hamper her passion.

“I didn’t want to give up photography, I like setting my own schedule and working at my own pace,” she said.

Goerke said she has family in Valley City and has always thought the area was beautiful, and opened up shop last fall offering portrait sittings for what she calls “quite a broad range” of subjects: children, maternity, newborns, families, engagements and high school seniors.

She said there is a lot of differences in the subjects she shoots. Families tend to be more structured, while school kids are high-energy and newborns require space heaters and patience.

“It’s really about tailoring the session to what they like,” Goerke said, adding that her photography philosophy is to be easygoing.

“A lot of it is being flexible, especially with kids,” she said. “I try to make them comfortable to break out of their shell and open up. You have to get down on their level and work with them.”

Goerke uses a Nikon D700 digital SLR camera, and is open to doing outdoor shoots or indoor sessions. “In a studio, you’ve got to have the right lighting and know how to use it,” she said. “It takes classes and practice, practice practice to learn indoor photography.”

Once she gets established, Goerke hopes to expand her business into other genres, like pet photography or weddings. While she has shot weddings before, they tend to have a lot more pressure attached.

“With portraits, if you have a crabby baby or bad weather, you can reschedule. A wedding, it is what it is, and there are no do-overs. It’s a very big responsibility.”

Goerke realizes that Valley City is a smaller town with several big competitors, but believes she can carve out a niche for her business.
“I’m still feeling out the market. I’m not sure what it can hold, but I’ll give it a shot.”

She is currently in the process of updating her website,, and also offers to post digital copies of clients’ favorite shots to her Facebook page for family and friends to see. Although she gives clients digital copies, Goerke says, “I really encourage prints, because so many people get their digital files, and they have them on a CD and stick them in their desk and they completely forget about them. I want people to put them up on their wall and be proud of them.”

Both on a personal and professional level, Goerke realizes the importance of capturing memories that can be kept forever. To have a beautiful family photograph or a shot of a family member who has since passed away can sometimes mean the world, or even personal portraits to display.

“It’s such a confidence booster to have photos of yourself looking your best,” she said.