An exclusive behind-the-scenes look into Milwaukee’s hidden gem of a studio + event lounge.

Okay, so it’s confession time. About a year and a half ago, I was checking the mail when I noticed a sign just outside our main lobby that read, “Northern Lights Photography Studio + Events”. How cool!! A new photography studio–and in the exact building I live in–of all places!!

The studio is located right next to Screaming Tuna, so to get there from the outside, you just go in though the main lobby and up the stairs, and down the hall. (The hallway walls are reserved for photographers who would like to display their own work!)

I’ve heard and seen great things coming out of this studio on their Instagram, but decided to reach out to see what the space was all about for myself. David Bernacchi, the studio’s booking agent followed up with me the very same day (on a Saturday), and we had a tour set up that very next week.

As David put it, this place feels like a spaceship. With its wireless remote controlled lights, backdrops, and window shades, the state-of-the-art ceiling drop lights and cyclorama walls instantly make this studio a modern photographer’s dream. Even the bathroom is aesthetically gorgeous, encompassing dual-rainfall shower heads.

I was particularly in love with the amazing make up room!! The vanity sets have color temperature adjustable LED lighting. There’s even a clothing steamer and curling & straightening iron holders. They really thought of everything!

Not to mention, a fully furnished kitchen and lounge, surrounded by a gorgeous view of the Milwaukee River make Northern Lights Photo Studio perfect for wedding shoots and all kinds of events.

Robert Popp, the studio owner is an all around awesome guy and studio host. He really goes the extra mile to help photographers feel comfortable in the space and is happy to suggest light set ups for some fantastic results. I loved watching Bob work with Bryan in our test photo shoot last week. I couldn’t believe how many shots we got in such a short amount of time:

Click here for some fun behind-the-scenes out-takes from this shoot!

The part that I think photographers will love the most is how quickly everything can be set up. Simply push the drop lights from the ceiling to where you want them, pull them up or down, and press a button on the remote to select from an array of backdrops, (or use the always freshly painted white Cyclorama wall) and you’re ready to go!

Want to test it out for yourself? Come join us on Thursday, May 2nd any time from 6:00-9:00PM at the Northern Lights Photo Studio Open House & Networking Event. This free event will be an awesome night of test shoots, networking, and collaboration with complimentary refreshments and hors d’oeuvres. You can reserve your free tickets HERE, and check out the Facebook Event HERE.

Can’t wait till then? Book the studio and save 15% off your total booking session when you use promo code: CYNFLUENCE

These things were definitely NOT in the job description…

1. Amazing photos happen when the energy in the room facilitates it

The most successful photo shoots occur when the right energy comes together. Everyone in the room, be it the makeup artist, lighting assistant, photographer, and model all play their fundamental role in creating an environment for creativity to flourish abundantly. Do not work with a photographer, model, or set assistant who is negative, egotistical, or kills positive energy. The entire experience will be less than desirable, and the tension may even show up in the photos. Not to mention: you deserve to work and create with individuals who are about serving a purpose greater than themselves.

2. You must learn to develop the ability to confidently think on your feet.

This shoot was in preparation for next month’s Artist in Residency Final Fashion Showcase at The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. Get the event details to this free event HERE.

Is it starting to rain? Did an outfit get an irreversible stain on it? Did the floor get ripped out without your knowledge on set in a shared studio right before a scheduled photo shoot?

With so many moving parts of a photo shoot, things can happen unexpectedly, but instead of throwing in the towel and giving up right away, often times you can find a way to get creative and make something else work. These kinds of things happen to creatives at every level of the game!! Don’t believe me:

My favorite famous story is about the Beyonce photo shoot with Markus Klinko, who were doing a photo shoot to get the cover of her album, Dangerously In Love. She originally didn’t want to wear that iconic diamond top because there were only skirt options for bottoms… So, what did Markus do?

Took off his pants, and had the superstar model his Levi’s for the studio album cover:

(Thanks Petapixel for the photos!)

Hey, whatever works…and that certainly did! Now, this case is probably a single exception…

If a photographer takes his pants off in a photo shoot, there is ample reason to be concerned. 😅

3. Teaching people how to walk is hard work.

Work with aspiring models on a runway and you will quickly realize how much psychology goes into knocking down their walls of self doubt, insecurity, and fear. This is no easy task, especially in the allotted time of a two hour session. Creating a fun, relaxed environment is paramount to lasting, meaningful impact. Lucky for them, I’m not afraid to let my weird light shine bright when I teach. I am the fearless scapegoat of any perceived judgement, and I am perfectly okay with this. If I can get them to laugh at me, chances are I can get them to laugh at themselves, and stop taking this whole walking thing too damn seriously…

4. Everyone’s goals are different

Yes–you can be a corporate professional AND sing in a rock band. Be who YOU want to be!
Learn more about my band, Down 2 Dance HERE. And follow us on Instagram to keep up with the latest shows, basement jams, and 3 A.M, #Down2Dennys happenings.

Yes, I may be an agent, and my role to my talent is to train them to develop marketable traits and to obtain materials to be competitive in the field, and then to book them into jobs. But, I’m not just an agent. I’m a coach, mentor, rock band singer, semi retired opera singer, Gaga fan, oldest sister… I am a dynamic human. Knowing this helps me to remember that the agency talent are also multidimensional humans who have their own personal and professional goals. And, those goals are priority and secondary to the agency’s goals.

I want the people I represent to become good humans and people before they become good talent…because I know that when they put the time in to do the work and develop their character, they will show up as the best, most confident version of themselves. And THAT is what I know will bring them success–not just in the agency, but in LIFE.

5. Embrace Change, and develop your OWN strategy.

Upon taking the reins of the agency, I was continuously reminded by other people of the way “things have been done”. And, while I knew they had their best intentions at heart, I had to learn to let go of what other people THOUGHT I should be doing in favor of what I knew would be far more effective, efficient, and competitive in a fast paced, and ever changing industry. Now, this wasn’t to say I haven’t made my share of mistakes–I certainly have. BUT I’ve learned that self reflection is a much more effective metric of figuring out how to adjust and move forward. Otherwise, you’re just throwing other people’s darts at a board hoping something will work…And even if one of them does stick by chance, there is no intentional strategy behind it, so there is no way to be consistent.

And consistency is key…

By teaming up with someone who understands that change is necessary for success, I’ve learned I can move toward goals more fearlessly. Krystle, the fabulous agency assistant, is so fantastic and we work so well together because we favor strategy over perceived perfection. We can openly bounce new ideas off each other, leading to trying out new procedures and ideas, while honing our strategy to become even sharper.

It really all comes back to that positive energy concept I mentioned in #1: Work with people who want to move forward in the same direction, and you will save yourself time by not having to work alongside people who believe they are “already there”. Otherwise, you will waste time submerged in their trivial energy competitions–pitted in vanity and ego, clearly rooted in insecurity.

That said, it’s important to realize that we are all humans and all susceptible to the human ego. Check yourself. Keep a beginner’s mindset with childlike wonder. Understand there is ALWAYS more to learn as technology and society–and therefore the industry–changes. Work hard, stay humble, and remember why you started in the first place.

Remember that story of Markus Klinko? Before he was a famous photographer shooting album covers with Beyonce, he was an internationally renowned classical harp player, who traveled to play in symphonies all over the world. After a hand injury that left him unable to play the very instrument that gave his life meaning, he decided that he would find a new instrument:

A Fujifilm GX680111 camera.

(That’s right, all of his shots of David Bowie in the early 2000’s were not shot by a Cannon or Nikon.)

Photography became his passion, and by staying humble, determined, and always kind, not only did he find genuine fulfillment, he eventually opened a full exhibit in the Lincoln Center in New York City, displaying many photo captures from Lady Gaga to Kate Winslet, Vogue covers and all kinds of mega brand collaborations.

The takeaway? Be a Markus Klementi. Be brave enough to try new things, value people as the multifaceted creatures they are, self reflect, and always be open to learning…you just might learn some pretty renowned, unconventional lessons. ❤️

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Read Next: Defining Where Fear Comes From HEY YOU!! Want to move forward in your passions but not quite sure what’s holding you back? Here’s my opinion: it’s probably something deeper than sheer laziness. It just might be FEAR…even if you don’t realize it. By defining where our fears are coming from, we can put them into perspective so that they no longer subconsciously control us. In this blog, I’ll use personal examples from my own previous fears, and how I’ve learned to punch fear in the face and level up to the person 12 year old me would be proud of. 🙌

Never underestimate what you can do in just ONE YEAR…

It was New Year’s Eve of 2017 when Bryan and I went to Turner Hall to celebrate the welcoming of 2018. I was so excited to be there, and the band that was playing (GGOOLLDD) was tearing up the stage. Margaret Butler, the band’s lead singer, was confidently commanding the attention of the packed venue, dressed in the most glamorous black and gold cascading romper.

I turned and looked at Bryan.

“I wanna do THAT.”

It had been two years since I graduated with my B.A. in classical voice, and almost two years that I had been singing as a professional operatic chorus soprano in Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera Company. Don’t get me wrong–I had so many fantastic experiences as a chorister thus far. But the more difficult thing to admit to myself was that it all seemed to pale in comparison to the energy and wonder of what was pouring out from the stage that was covered in glitter.

Exactly one year later…NYE 2018🤘

2018 was a year of letting go of old expectations and allowing myself to freely gravitate towards whatever the hell it was that made my heart happy. I had just completed my first full year of being a talent agency director of an international modeling agency along with my co-agent-in-crime, Krystle Burgos. We were already set up to make headway after implementing many changes throughout the past year, and we took hold of every golden opportunity that came our way. We had the honor of teaming up with Sara Axness and the Miss Wisconsin United States Pageant to be included as panel judges, and crowned the past year’s state title holders. Agency life is no easy task, but the hustle of managing so many different things makes every day fresh, and watching our talent succeed and chase their dreams is beyond rewarding!!

Despite all the craziness, I managed to find time to release my first original single on Apple Music & all major streaming platforms. I performed in multiple shows with my Down 2 Dance family and even sang opera behind hip hop beats at a fashion show wearing blue lipstick.


Through all of this, Bryan has been my absolute rock.  I never thought I would find someone who is not only able to keep up with me, but someone who shares my passion for self development and love of new experiences. He instills a confidence in me that inspires me to take on each new challenge fearlessly, and gives me the room to figure out how the hell I’m going to go about figuring them out. We dance together, we do photo shoots together (Yup, he’s my #1 photographer and he knows it) we live and laugh together, and when we’re watching animal documentaries on Netflix, we narrate all commentary of the animals together.

With all of the changes that have occurred in my life over the last 3 years, not once has Bryan ever doubted me or questioned my ability. I’ve learned that real, authentic love is the act of continuous mutual building. It thrives in honesty and the pursuit of growth and acceptance. It is the transparent friendship of two souls who constantly seek to understand one another without judgement.

What are my goals for 2019? Ah, to be honest I only have a few concrete ones. My real objective is to continue to creatively Defy Convention, and be open to new challenges and experiences. In a world constantly pushing me to squeeze into a box, I want to continue to challenge myself to pave my own way of thinking and thriving, even if nobody else understands it. We all may have our own definitions of “success” but quite frankly, I’m only concerned with my own definition of the word.

To peace, health, and authentically meaningful fulfillment,


How do YOU plan to #defyconvention this year?

Life is short but your nails don’t have to be. (Unless you’re a musician…then you get a pass.) Anyway, my point is that while you are alive, you should do your part to help make the world suck slightly less.🤓

Here are some fresh ways you can creatively increase your vibe and the vibes around you:


Let me introduce you to the concept of LIT TALKING. You may have guessed that it is precisely the opposite of sh*t talking.

LIT Talking  refers to the concept of talking mad GOOD about someone behind their back. For example:


Feel free to choose from a list of other encouraging power adjectives:

  • Original
  • Vibrant
  • Confident
  • Empowering
  • Innovative
  • Creative
  • Stylish
  • Neo-Vintage
  • Inspiring
  • Refreshing
  • Powerful
  • Unapologetic

Instead of choosing to be shallow and judgmental, you can always choose to be compassionate and kind. I promise that you will feel proud of your newfound ability to outwardly express higher levels of empathy and emotional intelligence.

2. Complimenting the skills of your barista’s latte art

I have a beautiful leaf design in my Stone Creek Boston Latte, and my day is slightly better now after discovering my car got towed.


It’s funny how often we take the little things for granted without even realizing it. Pay attention to the small details, appreciate them, and acknowledge them.

Grab this gray cashmere blanket scarf for $30💋(Click photo for details)

3. Being well tempered around government employees

Even after 10+ years in customer service (started working at McDonald’s at age 14, then Costco cashiering, then eyewear sales) my hat still goes off to our friends at the DMV, or more recently for me, the Milwaukee tow lot. Nobody likes going to these places, so the employees are so used to dealing with disgruntled people who are angry before they walk in the door. You will brighten up their whole day by simply being the happy person in a sea of impatient, borderline delinquents.😅

4. Letting people merge on the interstate

Or just all around not driving like an a**hole. You’re already late. You might as well call the person, tell them you’re going to be 20 minutes late, and proceed to turn up the music and car jam as you sit idly in traffic. Ya can’t change it, so find the best way to embrace it.  Plus, the surrounding vehicles may be entertained by your car dance moves.

Additional tip: I don’t block intersections, and I share the road with other drivers because I don’t suck. 

5. Smiling at people as you walk passed them

Especially if you are walking past another stylish lady. Even if it’s just a small, friendly closed lip smile, it is so refreshing to exchange positive energy and basic human acknowledgment with other people of the world. Extra points for giving a compliment! One of my favorite Jim Carey quotes is, “The effect you have on other people is the most valuable currency you have to offer.” This couldn’t be more true. 🙌 Here’s a reminder to choose compassion and empathy over judgment and jealousy.

Do you have another tip for being unconventionally kind? Drop it in the comments section below! Read next, 5 Secrets to Staying Positive.

ALSO: Use #littalking on Instagram (and tag me in the photo!!) for a shoutout on my story! Feel free to describe in the caption a way you have recently embraced #unconventionalkindness.❤️


Confidence is often times the unsaid prerequisite to achieving practically ANYTHING. While putting in the time and hard work necessary to develop your skills is a MUST, you need to also realize that confidence will play a large role in determining your success. How? People who are genuinely confident believe in themselves. Specifically:

They believe in their vision and their ability to learn & work towards the things they are most passionate about. Because they believe in themselves, they are able to visualize their dreams, enabling them to chase them relentlessly, and without letting fear stopping them. Less confident, or unconfident people allow fear to get in the way of taking the initial steps towards their quiet, yet nagging dreams…Unfortunately, many people silence their dreams out of subliminal fear in favor of comfort.


Here are 4 ways you can become more confident…OVERNIGHT.

Make Mistakes

Yeappp. That’s right! It’s natural for people to be somewhat afraid of making mistakes. However, if your fear of making mistakes prevents you from putting yourself out there, then you are not making enough mistakes. You see, I look at “mistakes” like data. The more “data” I collect, the more awareness I have to make more informed, long term decisions. The more mistakes I make, the more I learn from them. The more I learn…the more confident I am in my new found knowledge! When you learn to find value your mistakes, you understand that they were necessary in order for you to grow. Which brings me to my next point:

Get a similar Kate Spade bag for only $79. Originally $199!!  #totalsteal Click photo to check it out<3

Embrace Kindness…To Yourself!!

Before we can even be kind to others, we must be KIND to ourselves. Sure, it’s easy to be hard on ourselves after making mistakes, but we must extract the value out of these mistakes and move forward more intelligently. BE PATIENT. Nothing happens overnight, no matter how much we will it to. Trust the process, enjoy the journey, and be kind to yourself while doing it. When you wake up, make your first thought of the day KIND to yourself: “I am awesome, I am capable, I am focused.” When you start your day with kind thoughts towards yourself, you set yourself up for kind words and actions towards others. 

Put Yourself Out There

Step out of that comfort zone any chance you get, and encourage others to do the same! We live in a word where people are always going to “judge” each other. Even though that is out of our control, we can simply decide that we value our own opinions of ourselves more than we value other people’s opinions of us.  Embody a style of confidence and kindness, which will empower yourself and others around you.

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Give Back

My favorite part about being a talent coach and agent is my platform to coach other people to become the most vivid version of themselves. Having the opportunity to watch people grow in positivity, while manifesting a better version of themselves is SO REWARDING. I am most confident when I am able to help others reach their potential.

Is there someone in your life who looks up to you? Think of ways you could do something meaningful to make a difference in their lives, and drop your ideas in the comments section below!