Picture Yourself provides create-it-yourself studio space

Family-owned business also offers photography classes

Jim and Karen Pridemore have opened a new business at 627 The Parkway in Richland that aims to create lasting memories.

Picture Yourself is a create-it-yourself studio for photography and videography in which customers can rent studio time by the hour or pay for a monthly membership.

The company offers various price packages.

With studio time, a customer can hire their own photographer or videographer, using the studio’s many different sets or costumes.

The studio comes with 203 backdrops and an infinity wall.

In addition, Picture Yourself offers classes for students of all skill levels, including cellphones.

The Pridemores are relatively new to the Mid-Columbia.

They owned Ashton Photography in Oviedo, Florida, a suburb of Orlando.

“We’ve been in the photography business for 25 years,” Jim Pridemore said.

Their original business was in publishing, advertising and printing. But Pridemore saw an opportunity with the way the digital camera market was taking off.

The self-taught Pridemore changed direction and opened a one-hour photo studio in Florida, taking pictures of subjects and getting the results back to them in one hour. He made his first sale in 1998.

But a melanoma cancer scare changed his philosophy on life.

“I wanted to spend more time with our grandkids,” he said.

Many of those grandkids live in the Tri-Cities and Tacoma, so a move seemed inevitable.

“Karen came three years ago. I arrived one and a half years ago, and our son Tyler came last year after graduating from the University of Central Florida,” Jim said.

But retiring and living a leisurely life is not Jim’s style.

“I retired for four months,” said Jim, who has been an entrepreneur since he was 19 years old.

Jim and Karen have been taking students’ pictures at various Tri-City preschools. Jim introduces himself to pre-schoolers as Mr. Stinky Feet to get them to relax and smile for their pictures.

But he also started looking at the local photography market and realized there really wasn’t a place where people could come and have photos taken, whether they were to do it themselves or hire someone.

“The portrait market has struggled,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot of photographers say they can’t compete with mom with a camera. But I’m trying to lay a foundation. I think the way to handle a soccer mom is to befriend her and help her.”

He and his wife taught photography classes in Florida, and they always sold out.

So they’ve brought classes to their studio. The first one sold out last month. Jim said local photographers Allen Johnson and Sonja Yearsley have agreed to teach some classes too.

But the Pridemores also have another mission with this studio, and that’s where their son, Tyler, comes in.

Tyler is on the autism spectrum and because of that, the Pridemores were long involved with the University of Central Florida’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities program.

“We realized there is a problem,” Jim said. “What is there for kids once they get out of high school? What happens to a young person? They get stereotyped in jobs like dishwasher, working on typing on a computer in a cubby.”

Jim said those young people need jobs that offer good repetitive skills. 

Tyler was lucky. It took him two interview attempts, but he got a job working at Bush Car Wash.

“TJ Bush realized something was going on in the first interview and called him back again and hired him,” Jim said. “We are indebted to TJ Bush and his brothers. They stepped up. But we realize there is a void out there for people Tyler’s age.”

To that end, the Pridemores plan on having classes in photography, videography and graphic arts for young people on the autism spectrum.

Eventually, Jim said, they could work at the studio with customers.

“Our goal is to give them a big chunk of the sales. It creates income for them,” Jim said. “We’re going to apply for a grant. Grant writing is starting next week, and we hope to have classes in position in the next 60 days.”

That’s one goal the Pridemores have. The other is to help young professional photographers.

“We’re working hard to define the professional photography component still,” he said.

The use of the studio can help improve their skills, he said.

“So we’ve added a professional membership to our plan. The pro can come in and use everything we have; I can assist them or just stay out of their way, for $89 a month. That includes two hours of studio time a month that if they wanted to, they could break that up into four half-hour sessions.”

In a region of almost 300,000 people, there should be plenty of business to go around.

“The vision there is to help grow their business,” Jim said. “Giving them (studio) space helps their credibility. We’re trying to help them with their image. Now, we’re not saints. We’re not giving this away.”

The business — which took Jim two years to form, with a plan and trademarked name — has been open for two months.

But the family hopes to get plenty of customers — including the group of mothers he recently had in the studio with their toddlers, all playing dress-up and taking group pictures.

“Customer experience and service is No. 1,” he said. “Our policy is if you don’t like your photo, we’ll fix it or take them over again.”

But the long-term goal is bigger than business.

“I really want to focus spending time helping other people,” he said, referring to kids on the autism spectrum and young photographers. Picture Yourself: 627 The Parkway; 509-578-1610; Facebook.

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