Meet Your Merchant: Husband-wife team at Grass Valley’s True Grit Photography Studio |

Meet Your Merchant: Husband-wife team at Grass Valley’s True Grit Photography Studio

Self-Portrait / Sugar Pine Studios.
John Hart | The Union

` Sugar Pine Studios & True Grit Photography Studio

140 Mill St.

Grass Valley, CA" target="_blank">class="NCPC-GVU-BodyText">


Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mon. through Sat.

True Grit accepts walk-ins on Saturdays, otherwise by appointment only,

Talk about teamwork: Husband-wife team Sharon and Jim Beckett have been a successful duo in business and life for more than 25 years.

After moving up from Southern California more than 18 years ago, the Becketts added a 1,000-square-foot photography studio onto their log home and named it “Sugar Pine Studios.”

“I wasn’t going to miss out on parenthood,” said Jim, who has been a commercial photographer for more than 34 years. “I wanted to work at home, and I needed a professional space to photograph large items like furniture, motorcycles and small cars.”

For years, working in a family setting benefitted everyone, as Sharon has consistently been the on-set stylist and art director for all of the more complex photographic and design assignments.

But when their daughter began to approach her teens, the Becketts began to consider expanding their operation and moving to a storefront location.

In November of 2011, they opened the doors of two businesses in one Mill Street location: Sugar Pine Studios and True Grit Photography.

Splitting the streamlined commercial space down the middle, on the left is Sugar Pine Studios, the longtime (but relocated) state-of-the-art commercial studio, which is essentially an advertising agency, said Jim.

At Sugar Pine, the Becketts are known for working with diverse industries from “concept to completion,” on everything from marketing campaigns, catalogues and brochures to product development, packaging and website “facelifts.”

With an impressive client list that includes GreenSmart, AJA Video Systems, Alpine Aire Foods and The Fountains in Roseville, they compose, design, shoot images and lay out assignments and see them through to publication. Some clients are as far away as New York, said Jim.

When it comes to his resume, Jim is no slouch. In addition to his thriving commercial photography business of more than three decades, he also enjoys teaching photography workshops and has been on the faculty at Sierra College.

He is an alumnus of Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, as well as an 11-year faculty member.

It was there that he met Sharon, who was working as an accountant. Early in his career, Jim established himself as one of the premier underwater photographers, and he’s got the photographs at Sugar Pine Studios to prove it.

On the other side of the commercial space is True Grit, an “old-time photo parlor,” which attracts the bulk of the foot traffic. Passersby are intrigued by the Gold Rush-era costumes and accessories in the window, most of which are meticulously hand-sewn by Sharon.

A few are historic reproductions made-to-order directly from Gettysburg. The atmosphere is familiar to Sharon, whose parents once owned an old-time photo parlor in Santa Barbara. While Jim shoots the photos, Sharon is in charge of costumes and staging.

“It’s funny how people sometimes begin speaking differently once they have a costume on,” said Sharon with a laugh. “The European tourists love this — all the men want to be John Wayne.”

Twenty-five years of teamwork have served the Becketts well, as their businesses continues to grow and thrive — as does their soon-to-be-grown daughter.

“We work well together. We’re together all the time,” said Jim. “If I walk into a store without Sharon along, people think something’s wrong. We’re very lucky.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at or call 530-477-4203.

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