I am about to sit down and draw. What? I haven’t used a sketchpad since probably elementary school, and I am about as good at drawing now as I was back then. During my upcoming trips to LA and NY I am planning some pretty gorgeous bridal shoots with 4 handmade dresses. This is something I always make time for when I am traveling to different places – shooting. Especially when you know you will be seeing stunning actresses you went to college with who make pretty much the most amazing models ever. What’s making these shoots different than other ones is that I will be making the gowns. Scary. I have dabbled in it a little recently with some other shoots like Effie, Elizabeth I, the pastel bridal in England, Catching Fire, and the huntsman shoot, but this time it is all me. And we will see what a little mess or miracle this turns out to be. When I first decided I wanted to be a wedding photographer, I started doing styled shoots. Nothing close to the level I do now, but they pretty much consisted of an acting major wearing a cool dress I could rummage up from somewhere. Ta-da. Styled shoot.
My advisor at school was very blunt and honest with me, which I needed. He would critique my work, tell me where the weak spots were and what I could improve upon. I also sought advice from another photojournalism professor who lent me books on business and other not so exciting aspects of the industry I am a part of. I gathered advice I knew I needed to catapult myself through to a life after graduation. I started out developing things like a blog, a website, logos, etc. I legitimately spent all my free time when I was not in class building my website and researching different photographers’ sites and looks, the feel of their brands and work. There was so much to learn, it was overwhelming.
My first website was a horrific example of what happens when a person with no knack for design or understanding of website construction attempts to do everything on their own. I must have changed it dozens of times. At one point, the background was even green. Like, pea soup green. What the heck, Kait. Seriously. I am actually astonished I would even do that to myself. The worst part is, it didn’t even get better. The photos were the only redeeming part of my website. I knew it was horrible, but I didn’t do anything about it because I thought it was hopeless.
One of the reasons it was so hard was that I just couldn’t decide on what I wanted my image to be, my brand to look like, how to elicit the appropriate response from my target clients. How did Three Nails Photography (my absolute idol) manage to become so recognizable in the photography world? He dreamed big and made things happen. He stepped outside the box, and continues to do so with every shoot emanating gorgeous creativity. He doesn’t settle for mediocre, he constantly sets the bar higher for himself and sets goals he thinks may be unattainable until he achieves them. I wanted to be like that, not even from just a stylistic standpoint, but to be so gosh darn devoted that every second of my day is consumed with ideas of gowns and styling and locations and themes to create and photograph. I didn’t want to be told I couldn’t do this for a living if I did it the way I wanted to, if I edited a certain way, or posed models another way that was maybe different.My advisor told me that my work tended to have a sensual undertone to it, not in the racy way, but I managed to make models (that he knew from the acting department) embrace a powerful emotion within themselves. I know when to pose and then let in unfold into something naturally beautiful.
When I was finally able to save enough to invest in an amazing site designer, I did. Without hesitation. I scoured the web forever looking for the perfect person whose design work really resonated with me. It wasn’t just my work I was handing over to someone, it was me. My personality, my hopes, my dreams, what I envision for myself. I wasn’t about to do that lightly. When I found Meg I almost fainted from relief. She’s an absolute goddess when it comes to creating a digital platform to express yourself and when she created my mood board after I spent forever finally deciding where I wanted my brand to go, I knew this was the big step and push that would finally get me there.
I aim high with every shoot, through every step in the process. I make my own dresses now because I don’t want to settle for buying ones I don’t even like. I work with models who I actually get along with and have become my good friends. It is so important for me to get along with everyone on my creative team because it truly makes the experience that much more enjoyable and rewarding for everyone. I can confidently say that I always place complete trust in the hands of the hairstylists and makeup artists I work with. All I have to do is give a general idea of what I want and they just transform it into something otherworldly. I don’t like settling. If the sun isn’t perfect in the exact area I want to shoot at, I will wait until it is, and meanwhile shoot elsewhere. Generally if the sun stays behind my subject, no matter what time of day, I always get the dreamy haze I love so much. If I go to England, I take a wedding dress with me so I can have a shoot in England. I take advantage of those opportunities.
I am confident in what my brand has become and even more confident in who I am as an artist. I know there are certain things I am not good at photographing, and that’s ok. I love fashion and photographing women and girls. Cream colored and majestic architecture inspires me, but so do fields of wildflowers. I love bold color and crazy makeup, but I also love the soft side of femininity when working with a flowy wedding gown. I know now that I don’t need to limit myself to one way of doing things. My artistic style has changed since I first started, but there are still techniques and other things I still do to this day. My fashion work has a darker, edgier feel, and my weddings have the soft and romantic glow around the edges. I love intermingling the two and truly believe I don’t have to separate them in order to still represent what my brand stands for.