About ten days ago I received an email from Madeline Puckette, founder of the popular blog Wine Folly, to create a portrait of her to accompany an article in Wine Enthusiast Magazine featuring her as one of the top forty most influential people in the wine industry under the age of forty. The were three requirements; the portrait had to include a white background, I could only use a single light, and the images had to be fun!

Not all business owners are “fun” so I wasn’t sure how much of a challenge this was going to be.  But after a short meeting a few days before our scheduled session I discovered that Madeline’s personality is a perfect reflection of her blog; humorous, adventurous, and not afraid to push some boundaries. After bouncing around some ideas there was no question that having fun was going to be the easiest part of the gig.

Because this session was going to involve a lot of flying wine I had to move my studio setup into my garage, which had been draped in plastic drop cloths. Madeline arrived and we spent about ten minutes just taking some casual shots, making some technical adjustments, and just getting used to the environment. Then it was time to start opening some wine.


After settling in front of the camera, we decided to capture some of her pouring skills.


This next shot is one of my favorites. It’s not technically perfect as there’s a bit of motion blur. But that is easily overcome by Madeline’s infectious joy!

With those shots behind us it was time to create the image we were most looking forward to. Since we had only one shot at this we spent about five minutes making sure everyone was in position. My long time friend and assistant, Fa’auma, held a full bottle of wine above Madeline’s head and emptied it. This image is priceless!

The next few minutes were a combination of laughter and slight panic as Madeline tried to get cleaned up while Fa’auma and I tried to stem the flow of wine. Before changing into dry clothing Madeline used a garden hose to rinse off. Once rinsed, we had to get another image of her new look.


Being able to collaborate with people who have just as much passion for what they do as you can really push your creativity to new heights and bring renewed enthusiasm into your business. So many of us spend most of our time in a vacuum as we pound away at marketing and some of the less fun aspects of our jobs. Working with someone new and trying something crazy is a great way to rediscover your capabilities and potential, and that can’t be bad for business.

Charlie Cotugno is the owner of Charles Cotugno Photography in Woodinville, WA specializing in fine art portraiture and commercial photography. He is also the founder and board president of the non-profit organization Stories of Autism, a network of over 150 photographers from around the U.S. whose mission is to increase awareness, acceptance, and inclusion of people with autism spectrum disorders. For more information about Charlie and Stories of Autism please visit www.cotugnophoto.com.