Crystal Genes Photography – Charlotte, NC

Hi everyone!  Many people have asked why I do not have a profile on my own blog.  I didn’t really want one on here for myself, personally.  I made this for all you fabulous photogs out there!  You also may have noticed that we have a new contributor, Laura Meyer!  Laura was profiled on the blog back in January.  She’s helping out with posting events and starting our new random bits category, so please welcome her aboard!  Today is also her birthday, so send her some birthday love!  And help her out by letting her know of any events, seminars, or workshops you know about that need to be added.  Laura has insisted that my profile be posted as well, so here you go:)


Meet me:)  I am a Charlotte, NC wedding and portrait photographer who shoots with my right eye using a Nikon camera.  I shoot JPEG and I’m not ashamed to say that I shoot 95% of the time in Aperture or Shutter priority with the use of the exposure compensation control.  I don’t use many actions except for getting punchiness, but occasionally I’ll use some Kubota or TRA.  I also have a few that I made for myself.

crystal-and-ben-227Photo by Laura Manzare

Twitter – Crystal Genes – follow me!

Facebook – be my fan!


Describe the moment you decided it was time to pursue this as a career?
About 4 years ago, when my friend volunteered me to shoot her friend’s wedding, I had no interest. I considered it for a while, did a little research about it, and realized that wedding photography was a LOT different than I had assumed, and I started to get excited. I shot the wedding at-cost and really enjoyed it. I continued doing research, bought some equipment, worked on a website and other online marketing tools, and kept the idea of one day pursuing it as a career in the back of my mind. The next year, I booked 5 weddings really spontaneously through word of mouth, coworkers, old college acquaintances, etc. I enjoyed all of them, but still didn’t really think to start pushing it as a business… just something I could see for the future. The next year, I didn’t do nearly as many weddings, but many more lifestyle, children, and maternity sessions. Towards the end of the year(last year), I realized I really missed all the excitement of shooting weddings and as I was walking in to my day job one day, I thought to myself, “I do NOT want to be making this same walk into work five times a week, at this time next year”.  I used my meager savings, purchased a few advertisements, and really started pushing myself.  Literally every single moment that I am not at my day job, I am working on something related to growing my business, unless someone prys me away. I’m still in the process of getting to my goal, I probably chose a bad year to start pushing, but it’s going very well so far considering, and I’m excited for the future and the day that I can consider this my only full time endeavor.

the-bokeh-pot-faves-24-of-9118-70, 46mm, 1/80, f4.5, ISO 200

What is one thing you’ve learned so far that has proven most valuable?
Learn all that you can and listen to others ideas, but then use all the information you get to make your own way.  Not every great photographer’s “idea” of how things are, will be, or should be in the industry are correct for everyone.  Do what feels the most right to YOU.  Oh, and don’t stay up late trying to edit images when you are dead tired.  You’ll end up having to go back over all the work you did in the morning!

the-bokeh-pot-faves-65-of-9150mm, 1/30, f1.8, ISO 1000

What makes you different from everyone else?
The same thing that every single other person has said:)  I think it’s time to retire this question… though when I added it to the profile, I meant it more in a sense of “what makes your images different?  Your style.”  So, for me, back in film days, I was always a big fan of black and white images.  When I had to take color photography for college, I was so bummed.  I just KNEW I would hate it.  But I was wrong.  I LOVED it SOOOOO much.  I have always been really good with color in real life (clothes, decorating, etc…) so it made sense that I SHOULD like color photography. I haven’t really looked back since. I constantly strive to acheive more and better color in my images. I also enjoy it most when my images have some aspect of quirkiness to them.

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Who is your one favorite up-and-coming photographer?
Actually, I think my friend (from college days) who was featured last week and lives in Charleston now is AMAZING and for sure has a bright future ahead of her!  Tracy Turpen

the-bokeh-pot-faves-33-of-9150mm, 1/1250, f1.4, ISO 400

One item you can’t live without?
My toothbrush and moisturizer.  I have the driest skin.  Photography wise, most people will say their 50 1.4, but I am really not the biggest fan of that lens… I’d much rather have my Tokina 12-24mm wide-angle.  I LOVE that lens.

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Your best bokeh image and why?

the-bokeh-pot-faves-7-of-9118-70, 70mm, 1/60, f5.0, ISO 200

This image doesn’t have wide open bokeh circles, but more subtle.  This has always been one of my favorite images because of the larger reflection in the mirror… you can see her pulling in her dress as her mother ties the sash and the expression on her face is perfect.

Favorite book?
I love everything by Wally Lamb and Julia Alvarez.  I also love “I was Amelia Earhart” by Anne Mendelsohn and “The Diaries of Adam and Eve” by Mark Twain, and I am currently really enjoying “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffeneger.

Favorite movie?
When Harry Met Sally, Me You and Everyone We Know, Best in Show,  and Wild Strawberries

the-bokeh-pot-faves-74-of-9150mm, 1/90, f1.4, ISO 640

Where do you find inspiration?
Things from the past tend to inspire me a lot on a personal level, even new things that remind me of the past (mine or others). When I feel homesick for the old days… memories.  Old photographs (mine or ones I pick up at the flea market).  New photographs that look old.  My notion of what the deep south is or was like, would/have be/been like to live there.  Trees, especially evergreens… old weepy ones.  I’m not saying that any of this is reflected in my work, rather these random things tend to spring me to action.  They get my passion sparking.  And I love looking thru photographers work that is not wedding related, Diane Arbus, Sally Mann, Laurie Simmons, and Seydou Keita are my favorites.

the-bokeh-pot-faves-21-of-9118-70, 18mm, 1/8, f3.5, ISO 320

What do you think is the most valuable aspect of your business?
My eyeballs and eyesight. Seriously, not a day goes by that I don’t worry about damaging my eyes. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do this at all. I would wear safety glasses all the time if people wouldn’t think I was crazy. Also, if I lost an arm, how would I hold the camera? If I lost a leg, or both legs, how would I manage? Of course, my clients are very valuable as well, because without them, I wouldn’t be anything either, but I wouldn’t even be able to get clients if I didn’t have eyesight.

the-bokeh-pot-faves-87-of-9150mm, 1/500, f1.4, ISO 200

Do you use a second shooter?
Yes, my fabulous boyfriend, Ben, when he is available (since he’s back in school it’s a little more difficult). Hopefully when he’s done, he’ll join me full time as well:)  But, I am constantly on the lookout for backup second shooters!

How would you recommend that someone wanting to second shoot with you go about getting the gig?
They need to be dedicated and responsible and thorough to begin with… they need to have work to show that they can produce nice images, and they need to really explain why they want to work with ME specifically:)  And gifts are always nice too:)

dsc_305412-24, 18mm, 1/90, f3.5, ISO 100

If you could second shoot with anyone, who would it be?
Tracy, Cliff Mautner, Image is Found

Are you a member of any organizations and have you won any awards?
PPA.  I did have a solo show in college in the student gallery, and had work displayed in Hayes McMillan Art Gallery, and Wilkesboro Art Gallery.  One of my goals for this year is to win at least one award of sorts.

the-bokeh-pot-faves-37-of-9118-70, 70mm, 1/250, f8.0, ISO 100

What did you have to do to actually take the leap?  Did you have any hoops to jump through?
I have not yet officially taken the full leap.  I do dream about it every second of the day though.  I know what I have to do before I can take that next step, it’s just a matter of acheiving the first part first.  I calculated every little bill I have in a year (rent, utilities, car, insurance, netflix, etc…), added in a few estimations like gas for my car, food, and came up with a number that is the bare minimum I can survive on.  Then I tacked on to that about 25 percent more to account for federal/state taxes and 8 percent more to account for sales tax.  Once I’ve booked enough jobs to make that number, I can make the leap and jump thru the hoop.

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Do you have suggestions for others trying to make the transition?
Dedication.  You have to have it.  At least during the transitioning stage.  It’s not going to be easy at first and you’ll have a lot of dirty work to do before it gets easy, so you have to have enough passion and long term dedication to your goal to get there.

the-bokeh-pot-faves-29-of-9150mm, 1/320, f1.4, ISO 100

What is the biggest or most creative thing you do/have done to draw new clients?
I try to do little things to get my friends talking about me. At my job, we help a lot of brides, so if I hear a coworker talking to a bride about whether or not she’s already booked a photographer and they end up leaving with my card, I will buy my coworker any kind of coffee drink they want.  It’s a fun exchange and I love to hear it when it happens.  I also send out $5 coffee cards and Crystal Genes Photography referral cards to past clients.  The client gives the referral card to someone interested in photograhpy services and if it makes it back to me with a booking, the new client gets 10% off, and the old client gets either $20 cash for a portrait session booked or $100 cash for a wedding booked.  At the end of the year, the person who gave out the most cards that came back to me will get something super special.

the-bokeh-pot-faves-76-of-9112-24, 19mm, 1/60, f4.0, ISO 250

Are you for or against advertising (paid or free)?  If for, who have you had the most success with?
I’m not really sure about this one right now.  I dished out a lot of my savings when I took that first step to purchase an online ad on a company’s site that had been recommended highly to me.  I have booked zero clients from that expensive ad.  I have however had luck with facebook advertising.  2 weeks after I signed up for it (I get charged an average of 5-8 dollars per week based on pay per clicks) I booked one of my highest wedding collections.  I think it’s a matter of what site it is and what area that site is most popular in.  Maybe if I was in another city, the expensive ad would be fruitful, maybe not.  I think though, at any rate, it’s a matter of figuring out what works for you.  Don’t do something or don’t do something just because it’s what works for someone else.  It’s all about trial and error and trial and error is all about what makes you more successful.

the-bokeh-pot-faves-15-of-9118-70, 34mm, 1/160, f4.0, ISO 400

What’s your idea of the perfect photographer networking “date”?
I enjoy early mornings out to get the day started.  Coffee and desert would be nice, maybe followed by a little photo shoot, or not.  On the other hand, I enjoy going out with other photographers and not talking much about photography at all.  Driving around location scouting is fun too, and always better with someone else.

the-bokeh-pot-faves-53-of-9112-24, 19mm, 1/250, f4.0, ISO 200

Anything else you would like to share?
I’m a vegetarian, I love decorating magazines and books, I love food, especially authentic ethnic foods usually found in the more sketchy neighborhoods, I love to cook, I love contra dancing, and I love the banjo:)

the-bokeh-pot-faves-48-of-9112-24, 18mm, 1/40, f3.5, ISO 500


One Response to Crystal Genes Photography – Charlotte, NC

  1. Laura Meyer says:

    I loved reading your post!! The first and last images are my favorites…thanks for the bday love:)

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