Kelsey Foster is well known as the photographer behind the fun and heartwarming lifestyle photography on PinholePress.com. But, she does a lot more! In addition to kids, Kelsey rounds out her portfolio shooting engagements, weddings, portraits and commercial work. Not to mention, we know from personal experience that she is always up for a midnight roller coaster ride in Las Vegas!
So, how did Kelsey Foster Photography begin? What’ s the story?
I always loved art growing up, and after taking a basic black and white photo course I knew that I wanted to pursue photography as a career. After I got my BFA in Photography from the University of North Texas (caw caw!), I moved to Brooklyn and continued building a client base, adding to clients I already had in the DFW area. When I decided to move back to the south, I was conveniently semi-established in both places. Dallas is a wonderful city, and Texas is a great state, but I travel back and forth a lot, and sometimes I miss the Brooklyn life.
How did you get your first commercial or fashion work?
It is all word of mouth. I could say that I made meetings with photo editors and ad agencies, and I did, but really most, if not all, of my work has been because I know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone. Dig deep into your arsenal of personal and professional contacts, because I am sure you have more connections than you realize. And don’t get discouraged if you don’t get really cool jobs right away. My first published photo was of a bar in NYC, printed at about an inch by two inches, and the magazine forgot to credit me.
As the lead photographer for the Pinhole Press brand, we know that you shoot a lot of kids and portraits. What is your approach to a fashion or portrait shoot with kids?
You have to roll with the punches. I always go into a shoot with a basic outline in my head of how I want the lighting and styling to look, but it winds up changing sometimes, and you have to be flexible. Kids get hungry, tired, and sometimes don’t think you are funny, so you just have to be patient and maybe take 5 minutes to set the camera down and connect with a kid on their level.
How do you get such natural looking shots of kids? Do you have any lighting techniques or tips that you can share?
You should connect with the kids before you just point a camera in their face. Let them know that you are interested in what they are saying and who they are by physically squatting down to their level. Asking kids questions is a huge barrier breaker as well.
As far as lighting goes, manipulate the natural light that is already available to you by way of positioning and reflectors. I would advise not to set anything up (unless you really have to), because if the kid isn’t interested in that particular part of the room, you’ve got nothing. Plus, if you want to capture the kid in their element, you have to work with the ever-changing flow of both the light and the kids. You just have to be super patient and go with what works.
How did you get into shooting weddings?
Word of mouth has played a great deal into wedding business as well. I just started off shooting weddings for people I knew, and then their friends see the photos, love them, contact you, and so on.
We know that you traveled to WPPI for the first time this year, what did you think?
I thought it was so fun! I got to meet so many people, and I loved listening to all the workshops set up in the vendor’s booths. The scheduled lectures were great too, but I liked being able to pop in and out of the lectures in the exhibition halls. It was also wonderful to see and touch so many products from different companies, and I am always a fan of free samples. The 8 rolls of portra 400 medium format film were a free sample favorite of mine!
With all the hours, how do you make sure that you keep it fun?
You can’t take yourself too seriously all the time, and scheduling breaks is a must. I try not to work at all on Sundays. When you work at home, especially for yourself, it is hard to take a whole day off sometimes. I think not working on Sundays makes me more motivated for the rest of the week, and allows me to do whatever I want without feeling guilty.
What is the one tip/words of wisdom that you could share with an aspiring photographer?
Someone once told me that if you are good at what you do, then there will be enough work for you. I find if you are fairly competitive, remembering that advice helps you relax.
A photographer once told me that it takes around 3 years to start getting consistent income from doing photography, and I really think that is true. So, stick it out! Also, surround yourself with other encouraging artists. Freelance often gets lonely, so make sure you have some other freelance friends!
Before a shoot, what is one product that you don’t leave home without?
Gaffers tape and a good assistant!
What is the best perk of being a photographer?
I think my favorite perk is being able to see light differently than most people. Even when I don’t have my camera, I am constantly observing and admiring different lighting situations.
If you weren’t a professional photographer, what would you be doing right now?
I would probably be playing music and traveling.