LEWISTON — Kaitlin Gallagher went to college thinking she’d come out an FBI profiler, but ruled that out by graduation — the job didn’t have the same appeal.

That’s when she saw a “now hiring” sign at the Sears Portrait Studio at the Bangor Mall.

She got the job on the spot. Eight years later, she opened KaitLavin Photography on Court Street in Auburn.

Gallagher, 34, grew up in Belfast and describes herself as an awkward teen who liked to take pictures but didn’t like people in her shots.

“I focused more on macro shots and industrial and mechanical items, so you really had to look at a photo to figure out what it is you were looking at,” she said. “And I didn’t like to ask people to smile or do things — ‘pose this way, move this way’ — it felt very awkward for me.”

She spent six years with Sears and figured out early with her kid clients “I can play with them, and have fun with them and do things to make them laugh,” Gallagher said. “It kind of warmed me up to the idea of being a portrait photographer. The rest is history.”

She started KaitLavin Photography (a play on her first and middle names) in 2007, shooting outdoors and weddings, and opened on Court Street in 2014. The shop closed last year, but she’s hoping to reopen there in 2019.

Gallagher specializes in child and family portraits and said she’s one of two photographers who has a contract with Central Maine Medical Center for photos of its newborns.

“I strive for natural expression and natural styles,” she said. “I had a customer deem me the ‘smile acquisition expert.’ I use that as a tagline.”

Three years ago, she started a second business, GingerSnap Rentals, with a photo booth. She had 50 events last year and is on track for 50 this year.

Gallagher is a member of three golf leagues and one bowling league and coaches junior varsity golf for Gardiner Area High School.

In settling into the area, she said she’s been struck by how much the Twin Cities have to offer.

“Activities, for one, events that are going on for another,” Gallagher said. “Businesspeople that I’ve met, everyone is trying to root for you and encourage you, it’s really nice. It still has a small-town feel, but there’s so much more to it.”

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Kaitlin Gallagher (Photo courtesy Emmie Jones Photography)

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