If you have a family and you live in Milton, chances are you’ve heard of Julie Rock Photography. In the last couple of years, Julie has become one to watch! Her recent success as a newborn, portrait, and family photographer finds her and her family ecstatic but equally humble. Although Julie has recently become one of Milton’s most sought-after photographers, like most hard-working entrepreneurs, her story didn’t start this way. Julie recalls the day that her love affair with her camera began. Her stepfather was a hobby photographer, and gave her her very first camera. She remembers loving photography from that day forward. But at the time, it was a hobby that she enjoyed, and had no aspirations of one day making a career out of it.

As an adult, and a single mom before meeting her husband Ty, making a living was difficult, and her first priority was her son Brayden. She contemplated going back to school to become a teacher, but at the time it was not economically feasible. Being around children brought her joy, and she knew she wanted to spend as much time with Brayden as possible, so starting a business as a home daycare provider made sense. Julie continued her daycare business well after giving birth to her second child, Maddie. In March 2007, when Brayden was 9 and Maddie 4, Julie was introduced to Ty by a mutual friend. It was a whirlwind romance, and the couple married only 18 months later; at their wedding, Ty’s brother, Christian delivered a speech that described their romance as “quick, but not rushed.” In our interview, Julie doubles over laughing when Ty informed us that it was probably because he was super fit and muscular at the time!

The couple lived in Oshawa for the first few years of their marriage. However, when the plant Ty was working at became decommissioned, Ty’s new job search resulted in them making a home for themselves in Milton. Ty and Julie didn’t waste any time growing their family – we all think it’s because Ty was super fit and muscular at the time! The couple now share five kids and total; today, Brayden is 21, Maddie is 17, Ashton is 9, Cohen is 7, and Leah is 4.

Although Julie grew up with a camera in her hand, it wasn’t until a newborn photo session with Cohen when she became truly inspired to take up photography as a career. She says, “I remember coming home and telling Ty, that I could totally see myself doing this for a living.” After this realization, Julie became more and more focused on building her dream as a photographer. But the journey hasn’t always been an easy one. Trying to juggle a family of five, with three children under nine, a home daycare business, and being a present wife has always been the top priority for Julie, and her photography business is something that she has built around her family. Julie admits that there were times when she considered throwing in the towel, and changing careers for a more consistent income. She says that it was the unconditional support from her family and the community that kept her hanging on to her dream.

As a family, the Rocks/ Claeners are a strong family unit. During our interview, I made the mistake of referring to them as a blended family because Brayden and Maddie are Julie’s biological children from her first marriage. Ty was very quick to correct me: “we are not a blended family. We are a family.” While listening to him talk about his pride of all five children, I noticed Maddie in my peripheral vision, nodding and smiling. Their mutual support has served the family well during the struggles of building Julie’s success. Her photography has inevitably taken her away from the family in the evenings and on weekends, but Ty has no problem taking over all responsibilities while Julie is working. He shrugs and says, “even when she is here, I would still be helping put kids to bed, and helping with dinner. I’m not only doing it because she isn’t here.” Ty laughs, saying there was a time when Julie was so busy that Maddie would refer to Ty as Mom and Dad.

The Rock/Claener kids are undeniably proud of their mother’s achievements. Maddie shares with us how grateful she is that no matter what is going on in her mom’s life, she always arranges everything around her children’s needs and schedules. “We never feel like we are forgotten.” Julie and Ty both agree that Maddie has always been very dependable, and can always be counted on to help with the younger ones when she is needed. They agree, “she is such a great role model for them.” Although Brayden lives out in the east end with his biological father, the bond is just as tight. Brayden was not able to be present for the interview, but was sure to send Family Matters an email describing his feelings about his mother’s journey. In his beautifully written email, he tells us how proud he is of his mother for always giving her all to everything she does. He shares how grateful he is to have a mother who will always go out of her way for anyone. And most of all, he is proud of how, despite moving to a new city, and having financial struggles and general life challenges, she never gave up. He adds: “I am glad I have a mother like that.” I had a blast interviewing the three younger Rock/Claener kids. All in their pajamas and ready for bed, they were borderline loopy, proudly boasting about their mom. When I asked Cohen if he was proud of his mom, he said, with his hands in the air: “heck, yeah! Her pictures are always in such detail!” Ashton quickly interjects, and ensures that not only are her pictures in detail, they are “in shape.” “In shape?” I ask. “Yes, in shape. I don’t know how she gets all those people inside that small circle shape on her camera!” (We don’t know either, Ashton!) It may have been way past Leah’s bedtime, and maybe she was just tired, but when the four-year-old was asked if she was proud of her mother, she didn’t hesitate, and answered, “NO, go to work, she’s not enough!” Well, looks like Julie needs to work harder!

Julie’s had her first paid photoshoot in 2012. She recalls shooting out of her bedroom studio at home, and out of her clients’ homes – in their kitchens, living rooms, wherever she could make it work. She quickly outgrew her space at home and started to shoot out of a shared studio here in Milton. Three years ago was when shift finally happened. Julie started to get out of her comfort zone, and began expanding her network. She changed her business model in order to become more in-line with what she had envisioned for her clients.

Julie Rock Photography is now located at The Studio on Martin and Main in downtown Milton. It’s a beautiful, quaint, and intimate space. Clients can expect a very unique experience when having their sessions with Julie. The process from beginning to end is very personal, and will tug at heartstrings; clients can even expect to shed some joyful tears. She says, “I never wanted to be shoot and burn photographer. I want my clients to remember their consult and reveal session, and I want to build a relationship with them.”
Julie’s humble character will not allow her to take credit for her success. She genuinely believes that it all wouldn’t have been possible without the undying support of her family and the community. One person she will always be grateful for is Maria Locker, CEO and Founder of Mompreneurs Canada. “Her genuine support and encouragement pushes me out of my comfort zone. I am blessed that she has come into my life.”

Although Julie’s passion has shifted to focusing on her photography business, she still does run a home daycare on a very part-time basis. Throughout the last three years, she has somehow managed to grow her photography business into one of the most successful businesses in town. Her services include maternity sessions, family photography, headshots, newborn sessions, Fresh 48 sessions, children’s photography, as well as product and event photography. Family Matters Magazine is also proud to have had her as our exclusive photographer for over three years. Our cover families always have a blast being shot by her. This time, as her family was being featured, the challenge was who was going to shoot her family? Julie reassured us that she had taken professional shots of her own family that included her in them. During their last family vacation, she had used her sister-in-law as a human tripod, and set up the shot herself. All shots, editing, and formatting were done by Julie Rock Photography. I guess Ashton is right, her pictures really are in shape!