You know how you feel mid-vacation, when you’re sun-warmed, relaxed at last, and happy to just be with your family?
For a remarkable reminder, spend just a few minutes on Leslie Kershaw’s gorgeous, highly navigable website. That feeling is powerfully conveyed by the site’s bountiful, intimate images of her personal family life, even the wonderfully hectic everyday depictions.
Now imagine being in the market for a family portrait photographer, unfamiliar with how it works and what to expect. After reading Leslie’s warm and thoughtful writing, and seeing her gorgeous imagery, you’ll come to know her personally and as an artist, and you’ll know one thing for sure: She gets you.
Tell us about your journey in photography. How did you first get into it?
I’ve been analyzing and dissecting photographs for half of my life. I was always envious of photographers because I didn’t think I was creative enough to pursue that passion. It burned inside me for quite some time, until I had children. When I purchased my camera, it just felt like home. I started my business about 2 years ago, after I’d been shooting for about a year. I know that sounds super-fast, but I’d been studying entrepreneurship and marketing for some time, so I had an idea of the time commitment I’d have to make to run a business.
What’s your best advice for other photographers just starting their business?
Oh, so many things! First, ask yourself if you really want to be in business and why. Repeat the question and answer it again a couple of times before you make the leap. When you’re sure, do your research and start growing your business on a budget. It’s not necessary to have a ton of equipment to be successful; it takes clients. A photography business is a lot of work, and it helps to know your goals at the start. Creating a workflow and a system for handling the client experience are about the best things I’ve done for my business. Write it down and keep tweaking it until you achieve a workflow that causes minimum stress, and a customer experience that draws them back and leads to referrals.
How would you describe your approach to photography?
I just want people to see that everyday life is art, too. It’s not always in perfect golden light, but it’s concrete, real and amazing. I want my images to feel like life itself because that’s what they are. I knew early on I wouldn’t have the time to do a lot of posed shoots, heavy editing, or scouting locations; I have three kids and a full-time job. But photography has always been in my heart, and I had to find a way to express my creativity in a way that fit into my lifestyle.How do you like to prepare before a session?
How do you like to prepare before a session? Do you like to get to know your clients?
[My pre-session questionnaire and personality worksheet] is my favorite part of the session process. I love reading the answers, and I usually have a huge smile on my face while I do. The ones I find the most helpful are: What are some key events in your family’s journey that have led to where you are today? Describe your perfect day. What role do you play in the home? [Before I first meet clients, I don’t feel shy], that’s not my personality, but I do feel nervous! I try to work with people who are down-to-earth like me. I have a workflow that’s designed to make our relationship comfortable. By the time I meet the clients, we’ve talked on the phone twice and read their worksheet, so at this point there’s a sense of familiarity.
Your personality that comes across in your website — joy in family life, in people, your open, loving heart — makes me wonder about your own childhood. Did you grow up in D.C.?
Oh wow, what an amazing compliment. I’ve been tweaking the wording on my website for several months and I finally feel like it sounds like me, so I’m so excited that you said that. I did grow up in D.C.; both my parents are Washingtonians. I’m the middle child of three sisters.
D.C. is an interesting city because it’s so small, yet there’s so much to do and so many people travel here to experience it. My childhood was the perfect balance of city and suburban life because I could walk or take public transportation to school, but we spent the weekend at malls and movie theaters in nearby Virginia or Maryland. My parents aren’t very outdoorsy, so we stuck to indoor activities, outside the occasional amusement park on vacation. We’re a close-knit family that on the outside may seem traditional, but I didn’t grow up, like, sitting around the dinner table every night; my dad worked nights and my mom didn’t really like to cook.
How come you almost always wear a hat?
Ha! Love this question. A few years ago, I cut off all of my hair! I was ecstatic that I could finally wear hats. Hats can be addictive. Once you start wearing them, you feel naked without one.
What have you learned in your journey as a photographer?
Not everyone is going to like what you have to offer, and that has nothing to do with your talent or ability as an artist. I can be a bit of a people-pleaser, so photography has helped me move past that. It’s my journey, not anyone else’s, and I’ve learned to stick to what drives me and use that as constant motivation to be better.
What’s your happiest place?
The beach. I’m at peace watching the waves and seeing nothing but water for miles. When I meditate, I often visualize myself at the beach and it immediately calms me down and gets me focused.
Any words of inspiration for someone looking to find a fresh take on their photography this summer?
Summer is so magical. Little pockets of light everywhere. I find a new light source everywhere I go. Sometimes, I just go on a scavenger hunt with light as my subject. I’m not looking to photograph an object or a person, I’m just shooting light.