Today I want to present to your attention a person who is not just a great photographer but also an amazing humanitarian who has an “eye” for that perfect detail and a helping hand to those in need. I am often drawn to people who I think have a soul; photographers who have set a greater mission in front of them than just clicking the shutter away. I think such quality helps people to be more grounded and in touch with the reality.
So I chose Kelli Lyn
Here is what you should know about Kelli before diving into her feature with Photography Life.
I believe in a genuine and honest approach to life and to art.
My style is described as natural, timeless, organic and modern. I achieve this look by using film as my medium to craft images that are covered in authentic light.
I am highly sensitive in almost every way. Coffee is my drink of choice in the morning. Without it, I feel incomplete. I rarely wear jewelry. Not because I don’t like it, but because I like the simplicity and feeling of being free. If it were up to me, the only food offered in grocery stores would be locally grown and organic. I dream of having a house on a lake with a hammock in the backyard someday so I can spend my afternoons doing nothing except to love life and love people well.
I believe in fiercely loving someone out of a foundation of faith, trust and the patience that love demands. I believe in adventure of all forms. Especially when it involves travel, the outdoors and being active. I believe in challenging status quo and to live an extraordinary life. One that inspires, challenges and encourages others to live in that same existence. Real beauty lives in a kind smile and a gentle heart. I believe that you should marry your best friend. The one you can be completely ridiculous with. The one that knows the depth of your heart more than anyone on the earth.
Kelli and I felt like putting this feature in more of a interview style would be easier. I hope you like her personality and her work as much as I do.
I think that our backgrounds shape us to who we become later in life. Can you tell me a little about yourself, your childhood, where you live and how you started doing photography?
I’ve always been an artist and entrepreneur since I can remember. I had no idea it would lead me to what I do today, but as a kid I remember feeling different than everyone else the majority of the time. When most kids were out playing, I would come up with creative things to make and then try to sell them. I played sports most of my life because that was the cool thing to do, but at the core of my heart I am artist – not only in photography, but in everything I do. I went to college in Colorado, and that’s where my heart has been ever since. I love the outdoors, the casual lifestyle, and the natural inspiration I find everywhere I go.
I didn’t get started in photography until after college. I was working as a marketing coordinator for a real estate company to pay the bills until I found what I was really passionate about and could do as my own business. I started taking photos of the houses we were marketing, and it was then that I realized the artistry found in light, composition, technique and so on, so I started photographing people and life instead of houses. Fast forward 5 years, and I have my own business doing things I love every day and meeting really amazing people along the way.
I also know that you are a great humanitarian. I anxiously awaited for your photos from your last trip to Haiti. What made you want to go there and what did you have in mind for this trip? Was it somehow related to your photographic work?
I spent time in Haiti about a year and a half ago, and the experience completely changed my life. Haiti was something that came into my life out of nowhere. A friend asked me to go a week before they were leaving, and I jumped at the opportunity. It was definitely more of a personal agenda mixed in with a little photo work.
I still light up when I think about my time there. I was asked to photograph real life in Haiti as well as all of the children in the Mission-Haiti sponsored schools. We hiked mountains every day to visit the kids, photograph them, love on them and be a source of healing and hope. What I realized was that though they have nothing, materially speaking (and I mean nothing), they have so much light and laughter in their hearts. They know what hard work is like, yet they know so much about real and genuine community. At a time when my own life looked nothing close to that, I learned from then on what I wanted it to be like… intentional, simple and full of love.
Can you tell me a little about what you do in photography business? What type of photography you do and where do you get the inspiration for your work?
The majority of my work is in photographing weddings and commercial work for a clothing store. I’ve been doing a lot more personal projects as well to get outside of my comfort zone. As far as inspiration, I find it everywhere… it’s in the little things I come across daily, conversations with people, design, fashion, handmade goods, nature, and light, just to name a few.
I often contemplate about people who are born with set of talents. It seems like at times certain things come very easy for some of us. Do you think talent for photography is something a person is born with?
I think we’re all born with specific talents and skills and come more natural to us than others. We’re all born with a purpose, and it’s our job to pursue that purpose. I think some people have a natural eye for good artistry and creativity, but I know the technique of photography can absolutely be learned.
As photographers – sooner or later we hit some obstacles in our work. What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing what you do?
The most challenging thing about what I do is educating people on the quality and value of really great photography, especially since I shoot with film. There are so many photographers out there, some just starting and some that have been doing it for years. All have a different price point and level of experience, so I have to find creative ways to tell people why they won’t regret paying a little more for really great photos.
How important is storytelling to you? Do you brainstorm on ideas before you shoot?
Storytelling IS what I do. When I’m directing and shooting, I take a casual and natural approach so that I can really see and feel the personality of my subjects. Of course I have inspiration in my head, but I think the best sessions are when I am fully present, I see light and composition as it is, not as I want it to be. In my opinion, photographing people shouldn’t feel forced, it should feel as though I just happened to be in a really sweet moment of someone’s life.
I know that our readers will be greatly interested to know if you do post processing on your photos. For example how big of a role Photoshop plays in your final products?
I hardly ever use Photoshop for my final images. Because I shoot with film and work with a really great lab for post production, my images are pretty much ready to go to the client when I receive the scans. Of course I can use Photoshop for simple touch ups, but I really love the timeless and raw beauty of an image that hasn’t been overly processed.
Can you tell me what you photograph with? And what is your favorite medium?
I shoot mostly with my Contax 645 as well as two different Nikon F5 35mm cameras. One for black and white and one for color when I’m shooting a wedding. Then I use a variety of fixed lenses. My favorite of all is the Contax. It’s so heavy and loud, but I kind of like that. I also love how it feels like I’m in a dream when I’m looking through the view finder. It’s beautiful.
What do you think about the notion of success and how would you personally define it?
I think success is within us. We live in a culture where success is defined by accomplishments, money or how many people like something or follow us on social media (sadly). But success to me is knowing and feeling like I’m living life well and with intention. I want to love people deeply and live in truth and simplicity. When I’m doing those things, all the other “stuff” doesn’t really matter.
If you were to be given an opportunity to warn our readers off of potential pitfalls of photography, what would they be?
Honestly, it’s constantly a learning experience. I know more now than I did 5 years ago, but I still feel like I’m learning today. But today I’m learning more about myself than photography technique. I would tell people to really spend time asking “why” they do what they do. It’s easy to look at great photographers and try to be exactly like them. However, everyone has their own journey, and I think it’s really important to be comfortable within that journey… to be comfortable with who we are. I spent the first two years thinking I had to be the type of photographer that, quite frankly, I was not. It wasn’t until I started shooting the things and clients I love and using my own technique that I really started enjoying what I do.
If you do not mind me asking, what is your plan for the next five years? Anything interesting in the horizon that we should expect from you?
The next five years I plan to do quite a bit. I’m still navigating the path, but I plan to do a lot more collaborations with my husband, who is a graphic designer and overall rockstar artist and creative strategist. I still plan on doing photography, it just might look different than always doing weddings. I have a passion for helping people and small businesses fulfill their dreams, and I’d like to explore that more. My husband and I also want to travel and experience life and culture outside of our small bubble. Eventually after all that, we hope to start a family if that’s God’s plan for us. Overall, I see the next 5 years to be hopeful, inspired, and filled with great people that teach me more and more about why I do what I do.