Hi Ellie! Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, I’m Ellie! I was born and raised in Fresno, CA where I still live today. I am married to my sweet husband of 3 years, Spenser, and we have two rescue pups, Scout and Sawyer, and a cat, Rimsky. Photography is my full-time career and passion and I am so thankful to be doing something I love every day! When I’m not behind the camera, you can find me listening to and playing music, decorating our home, on a bike ride, restoring and camping in our vintage trailer, drinking coffee at all times during the day and traveling as much as possible!
At what age did you discover photography? What about it drew you in?
My dad is an amazing fine art landscape and commercial photographer, so I grew up being continuously inspired by his work and his passion for his craft. I remember him showing me how to use a DSLR on a camping trip when I was in junior high and being instantly intrigued by it. I then joined the journalism team at my high school and did photography for the online newspaper. After I graduated high school in 2009, I started working for my Dad. He taught me everything I needed to know and equipped me to start my own wedding and portrait photography business in 2013.
How has photography helped you to become the woman you are today?
Besides my identity being a child of God, and a wife to my amazing husband, a huge part of me is my identity as a photographer and small business owner. I am able to express my creativity through the art of photography and so much of my heart and soul goes into my work! Although running a business isn’t always easy, I've learned so much through all the responsibilities that come with being a girl boss and I truly take pride in my little business and all that I've learned and accomplished throughout the years. I am always striving to learn more and better myself and my biz!
What do you think makes your photography and you as a photographer different? What do people come to you for?
One thing I hear from a lot of clients is that they love my style and the natural feeling of my work. I try to let my client’s unique personalities shine and capture that through my artistic vision. I never want my work to feel forced or contrived and I think that is what a lot of people admire. The best photos I make are when my subject forgets i’m there and can be themselves in front of the camera. So much of photography goes way beyond just taking a picture, but making your subject feel at ease and capturing them in a way that is reflective of who they truly are. I keep a consistent and current look to my work all the while keeping it timeless and not too trendy.
The world can be a noisy place sometimes. What does “being authentic” mean to you?
Being authentic is being vulnerable. Sometimes the most authentic things aren’t the most popular. Be yourself, not a lesser copy of someone else.
As creatives, we often have a lot of old stories and beliefs that we carry with us. What are some fears and limiting beliefs you had to overcome?
Being a young business owner at 22 I had a lot of fears of failure. I didn’t even know the first thing about taxes or running a business or if people would even want to hire me! Thankfully my dad along with others were there to encourage me and help me get started and now I can’t imagine not having my own business! The hardest things in life are usually the best things.
What are some of the common and not-so-common struggles that photographers face that non-photographers might not know about?
Being a photographer is so challenging because whether we want to or not we are constantly measuring our success through social media. It is so important to remain level-headed in a world of “likes” and followers. Every time we put our work out onto the internet to be seen by the masses, it’s hard to not let the response we get from others measure our success. Photographers and artists have to deal with this more than other professionals whose work isn’t constantly on display.
What is your favorite part of the creative process?
I love figuring out what it is about my client that makes them unique and figuring out how to portray that through the shot! Whether it’s location, the lighting, or the mood of the shoot, every client is so different and that’s what makes them unique and beautiful!
What has been your favorite location to shoot at, and why?
My favorite location I’ve ever shot at was an elopement I photographed in Kerry, Ireland. We had time to explore and scout out some amazing spots the day before. Even though it was raining off and on all day and it was 30 degrees, I created some of my favorite images ever. The couple was so down for an adventure and didn’t care if the brides dress got a little muddy.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received from someone else?
Comparison is the thief of joy. And someone else’s success doesn’t mean your failure.
Do you have any advice or nuggets of wisdom to give to those who are interested in turning their photography into a career?
You can do it! Shoot every single day until you find your passion and personal style. Gather inspiration from other things other than photography, like music, movies, or nature. Find your voice and let your work come from the heart!
What’s next for you in your journey? How can we support you, and where can we find you online?
Although I’m based in Fresno, CA I’d love to keep working for clients all over California and beyond, discovering new places and meeting awesome people. You can find me at Ellie Koleen Photography and on Instagram @elliekoleen.
Thank you so much for letting me interview you, Ellie. One last question before we leave, what does being a woman mean to you?
Being a woman means being confident in yourself, humble and most of all kind and loving towards everyone!
Rapid fire Q’s:
- A woman who inspires me: My Mom
- Favorite place to hang out online: Instagram, guilty pleasure! Haha
- Best book I ever read: Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
- My core values: Love God, love others, and love yourself.
Did you enjoy this interview?
** All photos belong to Ellie Koleen.