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From correctional officer to photographer

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From correctional officer to photographer

Dolores Baluyut, owner of Dolores B Photography of Manteca, is the award-winning photographer who shot this wedding portrait.

/Photo courtesy Dolores B Photography


POSTED February 16, 2011 1:55 a.m.
The California Department of Correction’s loss is professional photography’s gain.

After graduating from Manteca High in 1993, and inspired by the many members of her family who were in law enforcement, Dolores Baluyut went into the correctional academy for the required six-week training program at that time. As soon as she got her assignment at the maximum-security Salinas State Valley Prison (a level 4 prison compared to DVI’s level 3), it didn’t take long for the newlywed to realize that was not her life’s calling. After only a month and a half working at the state prison in Salinas, she resigned.

But she did not make the jump from being a correctional officer to professional photographer overnight. She took a long detour – from being a new-home sales agent for Beck Properties in Lathrop, a tattoo make-up artist, to a certified massage therapist, among other jobs – before she finally found what she describes as “my niche in photography.’

That niche was wedding and portrait photography. The former Manteca High athlete – she was in tennis and basketball throughout her four years and was on the varsity team her freshman year – and now the mother of three children ages one to 10 is an award-winning wedding photographer. Her home-based Dolores B Photography was declared Photographer of the Year by popular vote in the 2010 3rd annual VOW Awards which recognizes the Best in the Wedding Industry among Central Valley businesses.

Baluyut bested several other more established photography studios that were nominated for the award. Launched in 2007, the photography business venture started out as a partnership between Baluyut and her friend Lil Coate called Blue Rascals Photography. They have worked together previously for Beck Properties in Lathrop. But after only six months, Coate decided this was not for her and bowed out of the partnership. Baluyut then renamed her business Dolores B Photography, a one-person venture.

“When my friend quit, that’s when my husband came on board with me,” said Baluyut who attended St. Anthony of Padua School in Manteca.

Her husband, Fernando, has a full-time job with Johnson & Johnson in Milpitas doing “a lot of marketing” and helps out his wife whenever he can.

“He’s my tech guy; he picks up my mess. He gets things working for me when I can’t figure it out. He’s basically the lighting person,” Baluyut said with a laugh, adding, her husband is a “very, very” tech-savvy person.

While she is the main photographer, her husband is “the second shooter” at weddings, Baluyut said.

Both of them, in fact, had photography experience from high school where they both took classes in photography. Baluyut took her two years of photography classes at Manteca High under “Coach Burgeson” who was also her coach in tennis and basketball; hence, the fond nickname. Her husband took his photography class at East Union under Mr. Johnson who was, and still is, in business as a professional photographer in Stockton.

“He photographed our wedding,” said Baluyut who was a June bride. She and husband exchanged vows in 1998 at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Manteca, the same church where her parents were married.

Baluyut said working with her husband has made them “closer as a married couple” because they get to do what they both like and enjoy doing. “It’s something that he enjoys,” she said of her husband’s role in the business.

Other than her photography classes at Manteca High, Baluyut said she is primarily a self-taught photographer “although we do attend all the conventions” put on by the industry organizations to which they belong – the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International, the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, and the Professional Photographers of America.

Baluyut was also “personally mentored by Ed Pingol this past summer…. Ed’s knowledge, creativity, and hands-on approach to teaching have enabled me to grow exponentially.”

Pingol is a San Francisco-based wedding photographer who has also covered a wide variety of assignments worldwide.

Baluyut’s photographic workhorse is a Canon 5D Mark II. She uses different lenses depending on the specific event she is covering, but is partial to her 85 mm 1.2 Canon lens. She also likes to “shoot a lot” using her 70-200 zoom lens. “I like it because it works great for the types of events that we do, like weddings. It’s also great for senior portraits,” she said.

She discovered her photographic niche about 10 years ago.

“Once I started having kids, I had to have my camera, and ever since I never put it down,” Baluyut said.

“My family became my subjects; everything, pretty much, that you see and what you get – a lot of it is self-taught,” she said of her photographic portfolio.

For a preview of Baluyut’s photography, visit her web site at www.doloresbphotography.com.
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