I learn of new talent every single week through networking, reading blogs and connecting with other photographers. It’s quite easy to get overwhelmed by all the insane talent out there, but even in the midst of all of the eye candy only a few times has a photographer’s work stopped me in my tracks. Kristie Serra’s work is no exception. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but my best guess is that it’s the untainted way she captures pure emotion and relational connections. It’s that “X” factor that you only see in a small percentage of artists. Her work is not only spot-on technically, but her anticipation for those “in-between” moments is brilliant. Since I first stumbled upon Kristie’s site months ago I have been an avid reader. If you do not already know her I think you will be awed by the influential simplicity of her photography.
From your blog I know you have a husband who is a real-life “Biggest Loser” and two adorable sons. I also know that you just recently moved from Florida to Washington State. That’s about it. I’m eager to get to know you better.
Thank you, Jessica! You are so wonderful! I am honored that you’ve asked me. This is my very first interview, so I’m truly excited!
How did you venture into the world of photography?
My mom was taking a photography class as an elective in nursing school and I was the worst photography subject. She eventually gave up and got me my own camera when I was in kindergarten. I was an only child, so I turned to my stuffed animals and my fury four-legged family members and clicked away. The cats were dressed in baby hats and onesies, the dogs were dressed in my t-shirts and socks and my cabbage patch kids were probably some of the most photographed dolls on earth. I moved on from there and became that friend that you could ALWAYS count on to have a camera. And, then down the road I became a mommy. We almost lost our twins when I was 22 weeks pregnant, I underwent surgery and then spent three months in the hospital on bed rest. We had so many close calls, but by the grace of God, I made it 34 weeks. Their three weeks in the NICU were probably some of the longest weeks of my life. They came home together on Christmas Eve. I wanted to capture every moment and not forget a single detail so that’s what I set out to do with my camera. My passion for photography was ignited!
When did you take the leap into photography as a profession?
In late ’07 I had a few friends of friends pay me to do photography sessions for them. I started my business as Green Croc Studios. I thought I was on my way, but the true leap came after attending Cheryl Muhr’s, the Secret Workshop, in January of ’08. It was AMAZING! I felt so inspired and encouraged and by February my blog was up and running and I focused on portfolio building.
When you first got started what were some of your biggest fears?
Passing out at sessions because I forgot to breath (hahahaha) and clients second-guessing their decision to hire me because I didn’t have any formal training.
How did you overcome them?
With every session came more confidence; I couldn’t let the fear stop me, I just had to shoot through it. Oh, yeah, and remind myself to breath (it’s so important)!
Knowing what you know now, what do you wish you knew when you first got started?
I wish I would have known how important it is to get a handle on the business side of things. Setting your pricing, your policies, procedures and getting organized is crucial to a successful business. And, that the only way to see how far you’ve come is to compare your work to your earlier work, not to other photographers’ images. Photography is a personal journey and it’s different for everyone.
What is something (or some things) that has surprised you (good or bad) running your own photography business?
The power of word of mouth. It’s an amazing thing!
If you were sitting over coffee with …
• Someone currently studying photography with hopes to one day get into it professionally …
• Someone who is a veteran, looking for some inspiration …
• Someone who is looking for a photographer to photograph their family …
What would you say to them?
To the person with hopes of getting into photography professionally I would encourage them to take their time in choosing their path in photography, do the research, shoot as often as they can and from the heart, experiment with light, do a little more research, join a forum to learn and connect with other photographers and a attend a workshop if possible.
To the veteran looking for some inspiration I would ask them to remember what drew them to photography and encourage them to reach in their heart and shoot from that place.
To the person looking to hire a photographer I would encourage them to visit websites and blogs, view galleries and choose a photographer that they connect with and who truly reflects their style.
How have you adjusted moving to a new city and market?
It took a little time, but the break allowed me to step back, do some soul searching and get inspired. I’m grateful for it!
How would you encourage someone who is anticipating a move such as the one you just recently made?
From a business perspective, I would encourage them to update their website, blog, SEO prior to the move (this was great advice I got from a friend). I would suggest that once they’ve made the move, to get out, have FUN and explore their new city or town and blog about their adventures. Talk with people, visit stores/places that your target market visits, make connections. From a personal perspective, moves can tend to be emotional experiences (especially 3,000 mile moves), I would suggest increasing your cell phone minutes (hahahaha) and set up a Skype account so you can stay connected with the ones you love!
How do you plan to market yourself in your new city (i.e. word of mouth, promotional sessions, advertising)?
I’ve always relied on the word of mouth. So, the plan is a few promotional sessions to kick start it here in Seattle.
Nikon or Canon?
I love my 50mm f/1.4. I’ve recently rented the 24-70mm f/2.8 and the 35 f/1.8–both are fabulous!
Do you ever shoot with artificial lighting? If not, how do you deal with situations when the lighting stinks?
I don’t use artificial lighting, but not because I’m against it, I just haven’t had much success making it look natural. I’ve been known to move furniture around in my clients’ homes and open doors, blinds and curtains to maximize the light.
What software do you use to edit with?
I use Adobe Photoshop and Bridge. I’ve heard great things about Lightroom and would love to learn it. I would also love to add an additional day to the week to be used to learn new things!
When I started using actions, I found my favorites and stuck with them… I use Cheryl Muhr’s personal action set that I got from attending the workshop (her color proofing and aging gracefully actions are my favorites). I also use Itty Bitty Actions’, sweet action set (lovely is my favorite).
Any favorite artists, blogs, teaching sites or forums you gain inspiration from?
They are SO many that inspire me, but just to name a few… Tara Whitney, Cheryl Muhr, Amy Smith, Jose Villa, Erin Vey, Amy Wenzel, Michele Anderson, Joyce Smith and Sean Flanigan (okay, that was more than a few). Blogs I love: Lifeography (Stephanie Beaty), 503 Photography, the Creative Mama, Ashley McNamara’s, Michelle Moore’s, Tara Whitney’s, the Savvy Photographer, Two Photogs and Erin Vey’s.
And, just for fun …
What’s something you want to do before you die?
Meet my great grandchildren! A million other things too, but that’s what comes to mind first.
Your bags are packed, your tickets bought, your boys taken care of – where’s one place you’d love to spend a week with just your husband?
I’d love to explore Northern California together. My other top choice would be New England with a stop in our favorite city, Boston!
A favorite song or musician you’ve recently discovered and love:
Petracovich! You Waited for Me turns my heart into mush.
If you could eat lunch with a group of photographers who are some people you’d be thrilled to see sitting around your table?
How big of a table are we talking here? There are so many photographers that I would love to meet and so many that I am blessed to call my friends. Sitting with those who helped me get my start and who continue to encourage and support me along the way would mean the most to me, but with one surprise guest, Tara Whitney (I would love to meet her)!
Kristie, thank you so very much for your kindness, enthusiasm and willingness to share yourself. I think you are wonderful!
For Kristie’s Photoshop post click here.