Meet Kristen Leigh, a MD, DC, VA wedding photographer who uses her left eye, shoots JPEG in manual mode and when asked if she uses actions, responded, “”She used an Itty Bitty Totally Rad Kubuta aaaaction set, for the first time today” sing with me!” She shoots “Wide open, emotional and just plain pretty :D”.
Describe the moment you decided it was time to pursue this as a career?
Oh I remember it like yesterday – and it was definitely an exact moment! I was interested in working in the wedding industry and had even second shot a wedding when I was 14, but for some reason that “theres-no-way-I-can-really-do-this-fear” crept in and I looked at other career options. It was junior year of highschool, and my dad was driving me home and was like “Kristen, just do it. Just do photography – you love it, you’re good at it and it’s the perfect job for you.” So in 2007, when I graduated highschool, I didn’t bop off to college, but instead dove into my little business 😀
What is one thing you’ve learned so far that has proven most valuable?
To ask for help! There are people out there who are reaaaaally good at things that I am reaaaally not. And almost everyone has some little tip or advice that I can learn from. I haven’t had any formal training in photography or business, but I could list person after person who has taken me under their wing and taught me how to actually do this.
And to laaaaugh a lot 😀
What makes you different from everyone else?
I mean, there’s the typical “I’m different because I am me!” answer – which is true, I guess. But thats like saying “Everyone is special (which means no is)!” haha Duh I am the only “me” there is! So lets be more specific: What makes me different from everyone else? Well, I started my business when I was 17, I am the oldest of 7 kids, I was home-schooled for most of my life, Jim Halpert makes me weak, my mom had breast cancer when I was 14, I love to burst into song and have mini-dancing parties (who cares if you are in Safeway when “Single Ladies” comes on, you gotta daaance!), I played competitive soccer and basketball in highschool, my hair is kind of thin and I am a really bad journaler.
There. I’m crazy, loud, sappy, laugh-y, people-person-y and my clients “get” that. I might not be able to list the ABC’s of marketing yourself, but I can certainly have some fun times at my shoots that make some sweeeeet pictures!
Who is your one favorite up-and-coming photographer?
Hands down Lydia Jane. She’s better then me and also my best friend 😀
One item you can’t live without?
Photography-wise? My good ol’ 50 1.2. Life-wise? My GPS.
Your best bokeh image and why?
50mm f/1.2, 1/100 at 1.2, ISO 800
This captures everything I love about “me” as a photographer: a real moment (I love her best friend grabbing her hand on the left), I love their humongo smiles, i love the rose petals swirling around, I love the crisp light – even though it was a dark building, I love the soft, buttery christmas tree lights in the background. And I dearly love this couple – the groom told me that “Mountain streams lament for her beauty.” Whoa. Hello. That’s adorable.
I don’t mean this to sound stuck-up, but the Bible really is my favorite book. I’m not very good at reading, but the Bible – well, I love it. God is my life and His words are the sweetest things to me!
Disney’s Cinderella, no question. It was my favorite movie growing up and I can recite almost the whole thing. And even at 3 years old the romance and dreamy-ness of the story captured me. “So this is loooove. MmmHHmmmMMm.”
Where do you find inspiration?
I think the mystery of love (whoa now, I should right a song or a novel with that title! I didn’t even mean to be deep! haha I’m a natural I guess ;D). Sorry, anyways, the mystery of love. I’m a typical, young girl who looks at people in love with wide-eyed wonder and can only imagine what it will be like when it’s my turn. The smitten little smiles, the sweet gestures, the tears of genuine and simple joy. The dedication, adoration and faithfulness – well, its all seems to good to be true! I’m intrigued and every single couple leaves me in awe. And inspired 😀
What do you think is the most valuable aspect of your business?
My brides! Is that a stupid answer? Because seriously my brides are the core and foundation of my business! They have hired me, recommended me, encouraged me and made me love my job. Forget workflow, equipment, branding – if I had no brides
it’d be pointless – and really a terrible business haha
Do you use a second shooter?
Psh, yeah man!
How would you recommend that someone wanting to second shoot with you go about getting the gig?
Send me a package filled with money, pretzels, vintage postcards from the fair and a country music CD. I promise you’d get the gig ;D No, but really, just ask! I love to second shoot with people and am always looking for new friends. Beware, I’m a talker. So, yeah, just beware.
If you could second shoot with anyone, who would it be?
My future husband 😀 I love all those husbands who aren’t into photography, but learn so they can spend the weekend with their wives – or vice versa. I hope my future man will do the same with me.
Are you a member of any organizations and have you won any awards?
I’m on OSP, [b]school, WeddingChicks and WeddingWire – and this year I won Brides Choice on WeddingWire! I thought it was a prank haha
What did you have to do to actually take the leap? Did you have any hoops to jump through?
I had to just do it. I had to be willing to skip college, to take the confused/disapproving remarks, to lay my fears before God and to get my butt up and go for it! Ruuun like the wind, baby! I was also blessed with parents who are more supportive then beams on a bridge, and they basically took the money they had saved for my college and got me my Mac and photoshop. It was so sweet and generous of them, and motivates me to want to save well so I can bless my kids someday.
Do you have suggestions for others trying to make the transition?
I played lots of sports in highschool and one of my favorite phrases was “You’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” (kind of funny – I missed almost 100% of the shots I did take, but thats not really motivating) and the same thought process applies. It’s just better to try and fail then to know for the rest of your life you never even gave it a shot. (Get it? hahah like a photography shot? haha). I think people over-think things and make it more complicated then it needs to be. Yes, its hard work. Yes, its a big risk. Yes, its a serious matter. But, oh goodness, its amazing fun!
What is the biggest or most creative thing you do/have done to draw new clients?
My YouTube singing videos hahah kidding kidding
Gosh, I don’t know. The slideshows at the wedding have been awesome, as well as blogging. A huge thing really has been finding out someone at church is engaged, or seeing someone on facebook with a status change and just being like “Hey, congratulations! Let me know if you’re looking for a photographer!” Really creative. Innovative, actually. I’m sure no one’s ever thought of that! haha
What’s your idea of the perfect photographer networking “date”?
Oh goodie. Let’s see, I would think the perfect photographer network date would be one where I didn’t have to drive (because I always get lost) and when me and my driving-buddy arrived all the photographers there would have great personalities. And we’d eat amazing food (none of this “oooh, I ate three olives and a ravioli. I’m stuffed!” I like people who really eat!). Then we’d laugh and laugh and laugh – we’d laugh so hard that someone would fall off their chair, and then everyone one would twitter it, and then we’d photograph it, theeeen help the chair-faller-over-er up. When I got home, I would get lots of recommendations from these fine photographers. And have lost 10 pounds. That’s my idea of a perfect networking date!
Anything else you would like to share?
Yes. The only redeemable thing about snow is sledding. Just had to get that out there.
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