Today’s interview is with Leah Cook!

If you could take only three pieces of gear on a shoot, what would they be?

Without a doubt my 5D mkii, 85 1.2L, and 24-70 2.8L (oh I’d love to have the 50mm in the car…pretty please??)

What was your first experience in photography?

I can always remember having some type of camera from when I was very young – Polaroid, throw away film, etc.  I experienced my dad taking lots of pictures, he’s the one I credit for my love of photography.  He likes to shoot landscapes now (I prefer people!).  I’ve always loved to sit and look through photographs of our family and my friends – I could do that for hours.  I was still teaching when I figured out that taking pictures was really fun and that maybe I had an eye for it (I had no idea how to shoot on manual back then!).  My love and education for photography really grew when I had a baby – just like so many other moms out there.

If you could shoot alongside any other photographer, who would it be (and why)?

Honestly, I would be super nervous to shoot with a crazy famous photographer.  There is no way I could relax and enjoy the moment.  I did have the opportunity to meet Michele Anderson of Pinkle Toes Photography last summer and that was pretty darn amazing as I’ve always admired her work.  I have and will continue to shoot with my dear friend Sara Seeton – we have a similar style and it’s always a blast to hang out, bounce ideas around, and take pictures with her!

Other than photography, do you have any other creative outlets?

I love to draw, paint, color etc. but I just don’t get to do it enough.  Usually it’s creating a silly project with my son or nieces + nephews.  That’s something I really miss about teaching!

Tell us one thing you wish you’d known when you started your business.

It’s so important to pace yourself when you’re starting out.  It’s really easy to get overworked, take on too much, and even be taken advantage of.  New photographers must learn quickly that their time is valuable!  I wish I would have gotten better organized before jumping in.  That and to not be too hard on yourself.  There was so much I had to learn technically.  I could ‘see’ what my photos should and could look like, just couldn’t get there fast enough.  Oh, and I really wish I had joined and learned as much as possible from CM members early on.  BIG mistake.  Oops, that was more than one thing!

What’s on the horizon for your business?

Oh I’m so excited about this!!  I have a special project in the works with CM next year.  Word on the street is that I’ll get to share my approach to working with newborns complete with video footage!  Can’t wait!  I will keep doing my regular sessions – newborns, families, babies and kids are my favorites.  I’m also looking forward to Imaging USA in January!

Describe the perfect session.

Depending on what mood I’m in this could change.  I will describe the perfect newborn session.  I shoot in my clients’ homes so floor to ceiling windows on a warm, sunny mid-morning would be amazing, along with a unique nursery, well lit bedroom, sleepy baby, and parents that are excited for pictures. Let’s throw a fun puppy into the mix and lots of cool finds around the home – quilts, buckets, you name it!  Oh and I can’t forget some outside space to work with – trees, lush greenery, yum.

What is your current favorite photo that you’ve taken (and why)?

That’s tough.  I am extremely critical of my own work.  One second I’ll be over the moon with an image and then the next I’m ripping it to shreds – it’s so easy to see the flaws.  That being said, I’m proud that I’ve contributed to the CMpro Daily Project everyday for the past few months.  Shooting daily has pushed me creatively and has even forced me to show pictures that I might not have in the past.  I love this one of my mom and my baby, two people that fill my heart with love.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a ballerina or an astronaut…ha!!  I was in ballet from when I was very little until my senior year of high school when I was so excited to dance as the Sugar Plum Fairy.  Oh those were the days!  I still dream of taking dance.

What is the best and worst part of your job?

The best part of my job is capturing family connections and memories.  I get so excited to watch client slideshows and sometimes they even make ME cry.  I’m such a sap, but I can’t think of anything else I cherish more than photographs of my babies, so I’m thrilled to share this with others.  I also love pushing myself to be creative and original in my work – I love a challenge!  The worst part of having a business is time away from my family.  It’s such a juggling act and just when I think things are under control, life happens.  I’ve had to pace myself and say “no” more than I’d like now that I have two little ones.

How would you describe your artistic style?

My personal style is all over the place.  All types of photography appeal to me, and I think that’s reflective in my work.  I would describe my style as emotive, modern, with touches of lifestyle, humor, and traditional elements.  See?  Everything!!  I strive for a strong ‘feeling’ in my pictures that you immediately get when you look at the image.  My processing has also become part of my style – currently, I’m drawn to soft and hazy with the occasional pop of color.

If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go and what would you do there?

I’ve ALWAYS dreamed of traveling to Australia and diving on the Great Barrier Reef…oh it would be amazing.  BUT, now that I have kids?  I’d go somewhere fun and close with my hubby, Max, and our boys!  WAIT.  Scratch that, I would like to go to the Four Seasons or some other fancy hotel and sleep for two days straight.  Yes, that.

Funniest or most awkward moment on a shoot?

It’s really awkward when husbands and wives bicker at a session.  It’s totally understandable – especially with newborns, I mean there is very little sleep involved and I get it.  Even family sessions can be stressful – there are so many expectations and wardrobe choices plus dealing with little ones that have their own plans (toddlers. sigh) but one time at the very end of a summer session – it was SO hot out (August in Texas) and my two year old twin clients wanted to play in a big water fountain.  Sounded fun and reasonable to me!  Mom (surprisingly) was totally cool with it and Dad was not. I wanted to stick around and capture a few sweet shots with the water, but the yelling between their parents was too much.  We were not the only ones there either.  I politely said my goodbyes and left!

Quickie Questions – One Word Answers!

Canon or Nikon?


Prime or zoom?


Studio or on location?


Natural light or flash?


Neck strap or wrist strap?


Color or black and white?


Mac or PC?


Photoshop or Lightroom?


Sunrise or sunset?


Heels or flip flops?


Beer or wine?


Thank you so much for sharing with us, Leah!  You can find more of Leah’s work on her site!