Tell us a little about yourself/your business (how long have you been in business, where are you located, any special awards or features?)
I started taking photos, like many people, of my own children in 2009. I started charging people in 2010 once I was shooting consistently well in full manual mode. I left my career as a Speech Pathologist around 2011 and made photography a full time career at that time. I am located in the St. Louis area where I have an 1800 sq ft studio, which is pretty much all white, allowing me to get dreamy images in there year round. I do miss having some darker areas though for those amazing shadow shots. I will be working on a moveable wall soon to create some new "rooms". I shoot newborns both in the studio as well as in client homes. For the most part, most of my newborn sessions consist of a few poses as well as natural shots in the studio. We have a queen bed in there which allows for more natural types of images with the full family as well as pets! I have lifestyle add on sessions for those who want to have both. My studio was featured in Mozi Magazine, I was awarded best of the biz in Chesterfield (my town), featured in Beauty Revived as the top 50 most inspiring photographers as well as voted by Beyond the Wanderlust as the one of the top midwest newborn photographers. Recently, I taught in home life inspired family photography on Creative Live.
How long have you been mentoring?
I have been mentoring since 2013. I started smaller, just teaching other moms how to use their camera. I now teach small group workshops as well as 1:1 mentoring for lifestyle types of workshops here in St Louis and all around the country. I will be heading to Australia in 2017 for our first large retreat based around life inspired moments.
What all is including in your mentoring and what kind of experience do your students receive?
Small group workshops consist of no more than 8 students. We learn everything from preparing, planning, prepping clients, shooting the session, all about light, composition, marketing as well as editing. My small group workshops, as of right now, are life inspired indoor workshops. Some are newborn some are just family. We are together for 1.5 days. The first day, after learning how to prep the family, how to shoot etc, we go into a clients home and photograph their family. (All students get to use their work in their portfolio.) At the end of that day we go over more business fun stuff. On day 2, we photograph another family in their home. A small home that has difficult light. On the end of day 2 we will teach editing for both bright as well as more difficult darker shots.
At what point did you go from seeing yourself as someone who enjoys taking photos as a hobby to seeing yourself as a photographer?
Once I picked up my camera I could not put it down. I was obsessed with learning. Composition and difficult lighting situations were so fun for me. Then I moved on to capturing emotion in my family and with other families. It made me so happy. I've never been unhappy while shooting so it just made sense to make the transition. Once I was booking so far in advance it just happened.
What is your learning objective for your students?
I want my students to walk away feeling prepared for a shoot. Feeling prepared going in, feeling prepared while shooting and feeling prepared during editing. Confidant in showing a client a gallery that may not be totally filled with portraits. Helping my students help their clients be OK with moment shots, and not posed. Preparing clients is critical for a photographer to feel conformable with in home types sessions. I want my students to walk away feeling confident in this type of shooting and selling these types of sessions.
Do you offer in person or online mentoring or both? I offer both. Right now I just announced my 2017 in person workshops but will be offering basic photography classes online. For professional photographers, those are all in person as I help each person 1:1 while we shoot. To learn more about workshops and mentoring, I have a newsletter that I send out announcing them first, before opening to the public.
Tell us about your gear and your one must-have lens.
I primarily shoot with the Nikon D5 due to its ability to shoot in low light in homes. My go to lens is the 35mm 1.4 as well as the 50mm 1.4 lens. After that, they are all lenses for fun. I do love the new 24mm 1.8 lens by Nikon as well!
Who in the industry do you look up to and why?
There are so many for so many different reasons. I adore Heidi Hope for her uncanny ability to teach unselfishly to others. I Love Keri Meyers for really being one of the first newborn photographers to help this industry grow, but always seems keeps her family first. I love adore Barb Uli from Jinky Art for giving me inspiration to keep children as children. Capturing the fun. I could name 50 more!
What do you do when you feel unmotivated or uninspired?
I call an old client who loves to go with they flow and create something fun. Or I take my kids to a location I have been dying to shoot at and change it up. I have a huge white studio and while I love that look, as do my clients, it can get boring to me if I keep doing the same thing over and over. I’m constantly thinking of activities to do in there to change it up. I shoot sunset about every evening so luckily I’m only a 50% inside shooter :)
What do you think is the most challenging part about being a photographer in today's industry, and what do you do to overcome those challenges?
Keeping clients informed of the difference of high end boutique photography versus newer photographers type of photography. I get so many clients that save up for a boutique experience, that have only worked with photographers in the past that do the standard "stand by a barn" shot, or "stand on a bridge shot". I find myself constantly educating my clients about letting go during sessions so I can capture real. I love that part of if. Giving them a different experience. Allowing myself to be confidant on guiding my clients during all types of sessions, including newborns, to suggest ideas that I think will work well. If I hear a client love the posed AND the lifestyle, we can do both. Allowing myself to do what I want in a photography world that seems to have so many rules has been a game changer.
What is your personal measure of success as a photographer?
If my clients are happy and I get to spend time with my family. I used to overwork myself. I now work smarter.
What do you look for in your locations when seeking the "perfect" spot for your sessions?
Light! It's all about light. I really don't care TOO much about what's in the background as long as we have pretty light, and no people around us :)
What do you believe is the best marketing tool for photographers to attract their ideal client?
Showing the work that they want to shoot. Im at a point now where I do not get clients that want "posed" family shoots, as I don't show any posing family shots. (non newborn of course). Make sure somewhere on your website you have a print minimum or a typical amount people spend. I will help naturally weed out people who can't afford you. I do offer mini sessions and I have that price on my website, as this is a way people can book me at a cheaper price and get a handful of images to keep! :)
If you could go back and give yourself advice from when you first started, what would you say?
Learn more about external lighting. I adore the look of off camera flash used in certain situations. Im finding myself wanting to learn more about eternal lighting to give myself some new options to get creative!
What's your guilty pleasure? Hot pink lipstick
What do you like to listen to while you edit? I watch Netflix!
What always makes you laugh? My 4 yr old, Zachary. He's a mini Jimmy Fallon
What always makes you cry? Seeing stories of injured animals.
Least favorite food? Tofu...or maybe cilantro.