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Memories made indelible 

Innovative Morro Bay studio takes casual family photographs at the beach

click to enlarge POSTERITY :  Judy Mahan captures moments to cherish in black and white. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER 
  • POSTERITY : Judy Mahan captures moments to cherish in black and white.

It’s hard to put a price tag on a professional photograph, which can preserve a precious moment for lifetimes. Hiring the right photographer for an event can be stressful and expensive; gathering a family for a studio portrait can be difficult to coordinate.

Judy Mahan, owner of SandPrints Photo Gallery in Morro Bay, has a solution. Her inventive business, which opened in May of 2009, sends a team of professional photographers to take candid, black-and-white shots of people at beaches, parks, and local events. The photographs can be viewed and purchased the next day at the gallery, with no additional fee for time spent with the photographers.

“Once you see the pictures, they’re so amazing,” Mahan said. “I mean, they’re shots you’d never get personally and to me the investment is a lifelong memory versus a sweatshirt that says ‘Morro Bay.’ It’s much more meaningful.”

A major incentive for getting photos taken SandPrints style is that customers pay for only the prints they want. Selected photos are touched up, contrasted, and cropped via Photoshop and then printed at the gallery. Prints are available in five sizes, ranging from 5 by 7 inches to 24 by 30 inches.

The premise for Mahan’s business originated overseas. Every summer, she visits her native country, France, with her two daughters. Photographers at the beach take candid shots, and the photos can be purchased later at a gallery.

As a woman who does not “buy into stuff” very easily, Mahan was initially skeptical about the process. When she actually saw the beautiful black-and-white photos, however, her outlook immediately changed. She ordered photographs every summer for five years and eventually decided to start her own business based on the experience.

“It’s a concept people like because sometimes people are a little apprehensive about hiring a photographer, knowing it will be really expensive. With us, it’s no risk. We come out, we shoot, you come look at the photos, and get what you want,” Mahan said.

Mahan hired three experienced photographers to capture exceptional shots. Charlotte Rushton has been featured on ABC News and the BBC. Rushton teaches photography at Cuesta College. Vanessa McCarthy is a graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography, and Andrea Maritzer Fine is a self-taught photographer with 30 years of experience.

SandPrints is  flexible. Apart from their beach strolling duties, photographers can be hired to shoot at special events and will meet clients at select locations for sessions. Sean Nuanez, a customer, wanted some portraits taken of himself and his wife for her birthday. Within two hours, the couple was able to meet with a photographer at a satellite location.

“The experience was wonderful, very friendly,” Nuanez said. “It’s something that we [my wife and I] had never done before but always wanted to do and the experience was inviting. The times and appointments were never a problem. They were willing to do whatever it took to get the job done.”

The gallery is located at 870 Main St. in Morro Bay. For further information, go online to or call Judy at 

Fast Facts
Ladies, treat yourself to a night of free food, wine and shopping in support of local survivors of breast cancer. Enhancement, a  nonprofit organization working to improve survivors’ quality of life, will present Beads & Bling: A Jewelry Sale to Benefit Breast Cancer Survivors from 5-8 p.m. on Thursday, July 9, at Edna Valley Vineyard, 2585 Biddle Ranch Road, San Luis Obispo. The sale will offer a variety of handcrafted bead items, wearable art, and high-end gems, donated and priced to sell at 40 percent off retail. Free gourmet cuisine and a no-host bar will also be offered. For more info, visit or call 771-8640. …

The Morro Bay National Estuary Program
asks local kayakers to help with the  annual eelgrass mapping by recording the locations of eelgrass and algae during their paddles on the bay. Periodic mapping of the submerged flowering plant, which grows in shallow sub-tidal areas and plays a vital role  in protecting food and shelter for local fauna. For ways you can help, contact Projects Manager Annie Gillespie at 772-3834. …

Travis Holmes will have his first local showing and present Still, a collection which captures the surreal nature of our coastal landscapes and the beauty of the untamed sea. The showing will be held as part of the Art After Dark series at 5 p.m. on July 3, in the Monterey St. Wine Co., 1255 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo. Also enjoy complimentary wine and cheese as well as music by local guitarist Toan Chau. Admission is free. For more information, visit or call  674-7005.

Intern Chris Jagger can be reached through his editor

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