Instagram Live Recap // Photography Q&A

Wow, I just finished my very first Instagram Live Q&A session and it was SO cool! Even though I said "um" about 800 times, I really enjoyed answering everyone's questions, engaging in dialogue, and sharing some of the heart of why I do what I do. I recapped a few of the questions here!

How did you develop your style? And does it come from shooting or editing?

I developed my style mainly through practice and inspiration, and it comes from both shooting and editing. I've been taking pictures for many years (since middle school.. so 2003-ish), so with all of that practice, I've learned what I do and don't like when it comes to what I shoot and how I shoot. For as long as I've been taking pictures I've also been inspired by a lot of my favorite photographers' work throughout the years. Two in particular (Cindy Loughridge and Nate Kaiser) have been my biggest inspirations for over 10 years, and I find a lot of inspiration in their work, their editing, and the emotion they portray in their images. So, I think it's extremely important to keep practicing to learn your style and to stay inspired by (but don't copy) other photographers through blogs, magazines, etc.

How do you know when you're done editing an image?

Such a good question. I know when I'm done mainly when 1) I feel that all the distracting elements of the photograph are removed..whether that's random leaves on the ground, light poles in the background, or skin blemishes; 2) the mood or emotion I'm hoping to evoke from the photograph are properly shown. So, if an image is really emotional and I know putting it in black and white is going to further that emotion, then that final edit will make it feel "done" to me.

Lightroom vs. Photoshop: which is better for editing/retouching?

Overall, I say Lightroom. I use LR way more than PS because it's more efficient and simpler than PS. It houses all of my photographs, I can edit a ton of photos with one click if I want to, and it lets me easily go back and review any changes that I've made without worrying about doing "File>Save" constantly. PS is definitely much better for more in-depth retouching or removing large objects from a picture or photo manipulation, but I'm Team Lightroom over here :)

Lighting hacks for natural light vs. artificial light?

To be honest, I'm not too comfortable or familiar with artificial light. It's something I struggle with and am working to get much better at this year. So, don't have many hacks for that. For natural light:

  • Try to shoot during golden hour or blue hour aka sunrise or sunset
  • Keep the sun behind your subject so they aren't squinting or have harsh shadows on their face
  • Look for open shade or cave lighting

What are the best things to look for when scouting locations?

When it comes to locations, I like to find a place that speaks to the mood of whatever I'm shooting. If I know my shoot is going to be serene, I make sure to find a location that's peaceful. If I know the couple I'm shooting is in love with the city, I'm not going to shoot them in an open cornfield. I also make sure to look for somewhere visually interesting, with lots of colors, and with light I can play with. Get lost, find new alleyways, be adventurous!

Any tips on how to get the most out of our shots with the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens?

Bring that aperture down! The 50 1.8 can get such nice bokeh with that aperture going to 2.2 or less. I think you'll see amazing improvements in your photos if you put your camera on Av mode and keep the aperture at 1.8 :) Also, do whatever you can to make your subject stand out from its background, meaning if you're shooting a person with a wall behind them, bring them 3-t feet away from that wall. That will make your photos really improve.

How do you connect with clients for individual creative sessions to get them to relax in front of the camera?

A few ways: 

  • Ask your clients deep questions in a pre-session questionnaire. Things like.. What 3 things could you not live without? What is one thing that has happened in your life that has defined who you are today? By asking these questions, you'll get some great insight into their personality, which helps you bring that personality out as you're taking their picture.
  • Bring music to your session. Ask them what kinds of music and artists they love and then play that music during your session on your phone or on a speaker. It instantly lightens the mood and relaxes them.
  • One of my go-to's: I tell my subject, "Close your eyes. Take a deep breath." This gets a really calm expression on their face and eases any nerves. I seriously do this at least 3 times during a session!
  • Slow down, take your time, don't feel like you have to always be clicking your shutter. 
  • Be confident in who you are and what you're doing!

How do you market yourself outside of Instagram?

Instagram & social media, in general, are SO huge for marketing and clients, but imagine if Instagram got completely deleted tomorrow or Facebook just disappeared. How would you go about it then? You'd have to meet people, interact face to face, and rely on word of mouth. So, I recommend that. Build real life, personal relationships that lead to clients and friendships. Get to know your baristas or waiters, make friends everywhere you go, be genuine with people and eventually, it will lead to more business!

What are your future goals?

Huge question! Ultimately, I want to travel the world and take pictures. I'm so thankful that I've already been able to do that in such a short time in my business! I'd love to do more birth photography. I'd also love to photograph someone somewhere that has never seen a picture of themselves before!

Do you use presets to get your moody editing style?

Yes, I use VSCO 1 presets that are tweaked. I like my shadows fairly dark and my colors not too desaturated :)


How did you build a clientele to go into photography full time?

Word of mouth has been my biggest way to build clientele. My first paying client was in 2013 and I'd say 80% of my clients since then have been through straight referrals from past clients or friends & family. I've made it a point to put myself out there as a photographer and grab any and all opportunities I can!

How do you balance the business side of things, like accounting, taxes, sales, etc?

I have to constantly tell myself, "Kiyah, you're running a business, so you better get this stuff done." It's so hard because the business side is not really fun and is not second nature to me at all, so I truly wish I could avoid it! But, from being in the corporate world and watching how bosses and CEOs and large corporations run things, I remind myself that I have to do all that work in order to make my business succeed. 

What wedding are photography trends you're tired of?

Calligraphy on wedding invitations, editing styles where skin tones are orange and greens are gray, and the insane obsession with the Pacific Northwest and Iceland haha.

Do you think you'll follow any editing trends?

I try not to. I hope that my images are distinct enough to not look like anyone else's but also are timeless enough to not feel trendy 5, 10, 20 years from now.

What photography magazines can you recommend?

I really like Click Magazine! Great info and bios on photographers. Coastal Living is one I just started subscribing to because of the gorgeous travel photos.

Best camera to start with? And for video?

I always recommend the Canon SL1 for beginners in photography. For videography, the Canon T5i and the Canon 70D take great quality videos!

What did you first start editing with?

I first started editing with Picasa wayyy long ago. Apparently, it still exists, but I haven't used it in like 7 years!


Thank you SO much to everyone who joined my live stream! It wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be and I actually really enjoyed it! I'd love to do this more often and if you want an even deeper dive into your burning questions, sign up for a photography lesson or mentor session with me here