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Families at the end of a lens

Keepsakes: Valencia’s Yoti Telio captures family moments for heirloom portraits to last a lifetime

Posted: July 8, 2010 8:14 p.m.
Updated: July 9, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Yoti Telio amidst two of the hundreds of family portraits he’s taken for clients at his Santa Clarita Photographic Studio in Valencia.

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Yoti Telio was just 6 when he learned the value of a family portrait.

His father, a photographer in Bucharest, Romania, was hired to photograph a wedding and enlisted his young son’s help.

Up to a 100 or more guests, mostly relatives, young and old, gathered in front of the church as the elder Telio readied his camera from a ladder set 100 feet away.

Based on his father’s hand signals, Telio would straighten ties or calm children down.

It took hundreds of tries, but eventually, as the film developed in their makeshift dark room located in the family’s bathroom, the Telios would see the perfect shot emerge.

That one image would be made into hundreds of copies, which would be sold to the wedding party’s relatives and guests.

“I grew up with family portraits on the walls of my grandparents’ (home). I believe with all my heart that a portrait is the most valuable gift you can hand down to your children. Portraits are a bookmark in the book of life,” Telio said.

Portraits are also a very successful business for Telio, a professional photographer and owner of Santa Clarita Photographic Studio.

Since 2005, Telio’s passion for portraiture has created gorgeous time capsules for hundreds of Santa Clarita Valley families. Packages start at $500 and can range up to $5,000 or more.

“I offer custom-made heirloom portraits that last a lifetime. I consider myself a Lexus in the world of photography,” Telio said.

Caterina Giovine, of Saugus, who recently had a portrait taken at Telio’s studio with her children and grandchildren, agrees.

“I’d seen some of the photos Yoti’s done, and they’re just incredible,” Giovine said. “It was awesome. I’ve had family portraits taken before, but I haven’t seen anything like what Yoti does.”

Giovine and her family wore matching clothing, at Telio’s request, and then relied on the expert for guidance.

“I’ve never seen anyone get the tension out of the babies the way he did. I was the hardest one to shoot,” Giovine said. “Our portrait will definitely become a family heirloom. I know it’ll be something we have for a long time, all over the house.”

That kind of response is music to Telio’s ears.

“There’s nothing better than when my clients say, ‘You really captured my son or daughter. That’s the expression we know. Thank you,’” he said.

Whether shooting at the beach, in Telio’s studio, or in the comfort of a client’s home, the photographer’s ease with his subjects is evident.

That’s because Telio consults with his clients prior to a shoot, learning their likes, dislikes and lifestyle, and getting to know everyone involved before the first click of the shutter.

“It’s very important to develop a rapport with younger children prior to an assignment. They have to feel they know you in order to not look shy or scared in photos. It’s important to place children in proximity to the parent or person they gravitate to, as well,” Telio said. “The composition needs to speak for itself because 200 years from now, the people won’t be here to tell the story.”

Further composition hints from Telio, some of which are proprietary, include wearing clothing flattering to skin tones and sticking to one thematic color.

“It shows unity to dress alike. In a portrait, it’s important to see the people, not to notice who’s sticking out,” he said.

When Telio was a teenager, a moment stood out in his mind that has stuck with him to this day.

He was a high school yearbook editor and had just told his teacher he was going to be a doctor or lawyer at his parent’s urging, rather than a photographer.

The teacher told him, “Someday you are going to make a difference with a camera.”

That day came on Sept.11, 2001. Yoti, who had already ditched medical school to become a professional photographer, saw the images of firefighters and police officers fighting to save lives during the terrorist attack and became inspired.

“They were willing to give their life away, to possibly die, in the pursuit of helping others. It was the perfect time to give something back,” Telio said.

Telio started the “Ultimate Sacrifice Photography Project” model search, offering a complimentary session and discounted portraits for men and women in uniform, including active military, peace officers and firefighters.

Whether it’s a father clutching his baby cradled in a hardhat, or a newborn tucked away in the folds of a military dress uniform, the photos reflect especially touching subject matter.

“These people put their lives on the line for a paycheck, and also because they believe in it. Coming from a communist upbringing, where we didn’t have the freedoms found in America, I can really appreciate that,” Telio said.

Ultimately, Telio will compile the photos for an “Ultimate Sacrifice” coffee-table book, with profits benefiting charities that help families who have lost a loved one in the line of duty.

“The feeling these spouses get when a door doesn’t open on time is just the worst,” Telio said. “When a parent dies, it’s the ultimate sacrifice.”

While much of the country is experiencing an economic downturn, Telio has actually found the climate working to his business’ advantage.

“We’re going back to the America of the 1950s. People are starting to really value their families again,” Telio said. “You can’t put a price on memories. When all is said and done, that’s all we have.”

Santa Clarita Photographic Studio is located at 27616 Newhall Ranch Road, Suite 10, Valencia. For more information, call (661) 775-0898 or visit


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