Glamour and Glitz: Perks of the Senior Model Program with Allison Ragsdale Photography

Senora Robinson has seen her friends enter the Senior Model Program with Allison Ragsdale Photography for the past five years. “I always thought her photos were amazing,” Senora shared. “I was pretty well integrated in the modeling arena, so I wanted to make sure I had a great photographer for my senior photos. I was recommended my junior year by one of my senior friends. She has great photos.”

As a child, Senora started modeling when she received encouragement and guidance from a photographer after a family shoot. Since then, she has moved more towards the business side of the fashion industry, but modeling has remained a personal goal.

Senora is headed to fashion school next fall, after graduating this spring. “I would love to keep modeling,” revealed Senora. “I would love to be a Victoria’s Secret Pink Model. That’s my life goal.”

Senora, now an intern with Allison, works with Allison and her husband, Matt, every week, assisting Matt with marketing, sending out marketing materials or helping organize contests, and going on location with Allison to shoots. She completes projects such as Snapchat stories, which Allison posts on Instagram, and helps with flash adjustments, poses and wardrobe. “I help bring revenue, excitement and a different perspective,” Senora explained. “We’re trying now to look at the point of view of the senior and the person who’s already gone through the Senior Program so we can make it better for the up and coming seniors.”

She’s also seen how clients transform from feeling uncomfortable and vulnerable to confident and relaxed. “Allison just makes everything so easy and doesn’t have you do anything you’re uncomfortable with,” Senora said. “She lets you take charge of your shoot which is really awesome. She makes it really fun and comfortable.”

Allison allows the session to be customized, which includes listening to music, or incorporating outfit changes. “It’s super personalized to you,” Senora explained. “She’s lighthearted, really fun and really easy to talk to and be around and it makes it really fun for people doing family, wedding, and senior photos. Everyone loves Allison. It’s really great.”

Senora had been asked by several other photographers in town to join their senior program, but she wanted to work with Allison. “I chose Allison, hands-down, no question, because I knew the program and the way she runs it,” said Senora. “It will be even better with the 2017 Program, especially with the adjustments we’re making.”

Valuing her input as a senior who has completed the program, Allison and Matt asked for suggestions on how enhance the experience. While Senora has noticed that potential clients are nervous about the cost, she has experienced herself that participation in the program is worth much more than the money value. Included are multiple shoots, which can include headshots, couture session, family session, senior session, and custom sessions, depending on the model level a senior chooses. Hair and make-up are also included. “It’s really worth all of it,” Senora said, “and it’s documented the end of junior year to the end of senior year and you change a lot, so it’s cool to document the entire time instead of just senior photos.”

Then there are the relationships with Allison and Matt. “You get to know her and Matt very well, which is cool because they’re such great people,” shared Senora. “It’s an overall really fun experience. I would absolutely go back and do it again.”

Originally published in the February 2016 issue of Durango Neighbors Magazine.

Making a House a Home: Family Portraits with Allison Ragsdale

The last time Pauline Ellis participated in a family photo, she was two years old. After getting married, having a daughter of her own and moving to Durango, Ellis first saw Allison Ragsdale’s work at the Durango Recreational Center. “I thought, if I ever wanted a family portrait, I would look Allison up,” Ellis shared.

Ellis’s work for the United States Forest Service brought her to Durango. With a degree in civil engineering, Ellis is now the partnership coordinator for the San Juan National Forest, which relies on many partners to help care for the forest.

Ellis married her husband, Fred, in 1996, who also works for the Forest Service as a wildland firefighter and fuels technician. They met through mutual friends while Fred was living in Georgia and Ellis was in Arizona. The night before they were going on a backpacking trip with friends through the Smoky Mountains, a hurricane ripped through the area. “We weren’t sure we’d be able to make the trip, but we were able to hike through downed trees,” remembered Ellis, who has been with the Forest Service for 35 years. “It was fun.”

Ellis and Fred’s daughter, Brooke, graduated from high school earlier this year. She wanted her senior portraits taken by Allison, which came with a complimentary family session. “We were so pleased with those pictures,” Ellis said of the senior portraits. “It was wonderful. My daughter tends to be pretty shy, and Allison, in a nice, unassuming way, was able to get these fabulous pictures of her. I was afraid she’d look the same in every picture and not smile, but she was able to get these wonderful poses of her.”

They took advantage of the family portrait opportunity when her father, who lives in southern California, visited during Christmas last year. Ellis’ mother had passed away, and with her father getting older, Ellis wanted to capture their family memories. “Like many other families for years, we’ve talked about doing a family portrait,” Ellis admitted. “Other than a free portrait for our church directory, we haven’t done pictures.”

Ellis found that Allison was able to work magic with her stoic father and two small dogs. “She was able to get my dad to smile,” marveled Ellis. “She’s amazing with animals, she was amazing with my senior father, she was great with my daughter and with my camera-shy husband. We couldn’t be more pleased.”

Matt and Allison’s assistance didn’t end after the photo sessions. “We have so little experience with professional photography,” Ellis explained, “This is where we appreciated both Matt and Allison. Matt spent so much time with us in the studio, selecting the photos and the displays. They came out to our house and helped us find the right place in our home, and hung the photos for us. There was never any hard sell whatsoever. They just followed up the photo shoot with a session to show us the pictures, the different products available and let us select what suited our family the most.”

Ellis saw not only Matt’s expertise in selecting the perfect portraits, but how those portraits personalized their recently remodeled home. “I’m not good at designing or decorating,” Ellis demurred. “Most things that hang on the wall are pieces of my life. Having those photos there just captures everything we wanted about making our house a home.”

Now, Brooke has moved to Washington State for college, and her parents are facing an empty nest, albeit a wonderfully decorated one. “I think my husband is going to spend a lot of time staring at her pictures and pining for her,” Ellis explained, “It will help ease the transition of empty nesting.”

Originally published in the November 2015 issue of Durango Neighbors Magazine.

Senior Model Program Offers Life-Long Friendships and Cherished Moments

Lisa and Peter Marshall first met Matt, the husband half of Allison Ragsdale Photography, when he was teaching math at the Durango High School. As a freshman, their oldest daughter, Colin, was shy. Lisa knew she was a good student, but had concerns about her socially. “I remember going to my first conference and sitting down with Matt,” Lisa shared. “I asked how she was doing, socially, and he just looked at me like I was crazy.”

She found out that Colin talked nonstop in class. “It made me feel good that she felt that comfort level with him to have those interactions and come out of her shell,” shared Lisa, who has three daughters and one son. “Matt had great relationships with the kids, even if he didn’t have them all in class.”

Two years later, Colin applied for the Allison Ragsdale Photography Senior Model Program. Through the program, during their senior year, students are the face of Allison Ragsdale Photography online and in their community while they model for new location shoots, portfolio building and collaborative projects and are featured on prints and canvases locally and nationally. In addition to the business cards they can hand out with their images printed on them, they receive various other perks, such as points that can be applied to prints or other products.

Colin’s participation in the Senior Model Program began a life-long friendship. “I don’t consider them photographers who work for me. I really consider them our friends,” shared Lisa. “The photos are so beautiful, but what’s more important to me is that they bring out a very natural beauty in my children. The pictures I love aren’t standard pictures of them for their senior photos. They’re looking down. They’re looking away. That’s what I love. They’re the moments we’re going to cherish forever.”

Originally published in the August 2015 edition of Durango Neighbors Magazine.

Karen Skelly Photography Captures the Special Moments

Karen Skelly, of Karen Skelly Photography, was four years old when she held her first camera. Her father was a wedding photographer and took portraits of his family. Skelly still has the pictures that he took of her throughout the years as a baby, toddler and teenager.

She also has the memories. In today’s world dominated by digital photographs and amateur photographers, Skelly uses her professionalism to capture moments in tangible ways. “That’s the sort of thing people need to treasure,” Skelly said of printed and professional photographs. “It’s always nice to have something more permanent.”

Even though Skelly has years of experience with photography, she did not develop her hobby into a career until 2007, when she moved from Denver to Rifle, CO with her husband and son. “It was a good place to start,” Skelly said. “I was able to learn, education myself, and practice.”

Having always wanted to do photography as a business, Skelly began focusing on honing the craft, which included successfully completing a certification course. The certification process consisted of a 100-question test and the submission of 20 images from 20 different photo shoots, all of which were judged on lighting, posing and exposure. Even after moving to the Durango area in 2012, Skelly continues what she started then by constantly learning, studying, and shooting. “It’s a personal journey to make sure I’m doing things properly for my clients, that I know what I’m doing,” said Skelly.

Skelly focuses mainly on weddings, but she also enjoys shooting family portraits and high school seniors. “I love creating fun memories for my clients, whether it’s a wedding or a family portrait,” said Skelly.

Skelly helps create those memories by offering two or three locations for family portraits, often suggesting outdoor locations and a fun activity based on the weather. Fall might have the family throwing leaves in the air, winter encouraging snowmen construction, or summer offering a game of tag. For weddings, Skelly prefers to select weddings that have an unusual aspect or are otherwise creative in some way. “I enjoy the emotion, the love, the families,” said Skelly of her wedding sessions. “It’s just such a special occasion and I love being involved in it.”

When she’s not behind the camera, Skelly and her husband, who are now empty nesters with their son in college, can be found camping, hiking or running. “I’ve met a lot of great people here,” said Skelly. “I love Durango.”

Skelly can be reached at More information is available on her website at

Originally published in the September 2013 edition of the Durango Chamber of Commerce’s Chamber Connection.