My photography role models + why I love them

Welcome, 2016! With it being the new year, I've been thinking a lot about why I love photographing couples in love.  So many people can take pretty pictures, but as my photography practice grows, I want my couples to get more than that from me!  

I've also been thinking a lot about the photographers I consider role models, and what I love about them. Here are 5 amazing female photographers I admire + what I love about them!

Melissa Jill, Jasmine Star, and Katelyn James. Images used with permission

The first three photographers on my list are not only phenomenal wedding photographers, but also role models as amazing female entrepreneurs.

The very first photographer I started following when I began reading online resources about photography was Jasmine Star. Jasmine is an international wedding photographer based in southern California. I love her photos and her style, but that's the lesser half of why I love her, believe it or not!

Jasmine Star. Photo used with permission from

Jasmine Star. Photo used with permission from

Jasmine is an incredibly savvy marketer and blogger. She's gifted at attracting her ideal clients and repelling couples that aren't a good fit. That boosts her brand -- which is built around who she is as a person -- and helps her serve only the clients she can serve very best.

What else do I love about Jasmine?

  • I adore Jasmine's blogging. She is living proof that frequency and personal blog posts do more to connect to clients than long, epic-length blog posts just about your photography work ever could. I love knowing that Jasmine is at the beach and what she's reading, seeing her personal style as she + her husband JD (who's her second shooter) renovate their home, and so much more!
  • Jasmine is human, and foible. A few years ago, Jasmine, who is known for the incredible amount of knowledge and education she freely shares about photography and her business, was caught recycling language from other photography educators without proper credit. She worked through it, dealt with the fallout, apologized, and promised to do better. Lesson: we all make mistakes. Own them. Learn from them. Keep swimming. 
Katelyn James. Used with permission.

Katelyn James. Used with permission.

Who's next on my awesome-role-model list? Katelyn James. I definitely have a "type" here, because Jasmine + JD photographed Katelyn's wedding to her husband Michael. Feels almost like a photography lineage, you know?

Katelyn is a wedding photographer + educator based in Richmond, Virginia, which means that she shoots at a lot of places, whether weddings or engagements, that I shoot at too! I adore Katelyn's use of light, but even more, I adore the genuine feelings that she unabashedly captures on camera. It's the #1 thing I seek in my own photography, and it's wonderful to constantly see in Katelyn's.

Katelyn is a strong writer and a prolific blogger, and like Jasmine, she's really great at conveying herself and her personality through her online presence.

What else is so great about Katelyn?

  • Katelyn is incredibly open about her marriage and family. Even though it's Katelyn James Photography, Michael (her husband + business partner) and now Emily (her sister) play a huge role in things, and that's very clear in Katelyn's message. Even their dog, Bokeh, is omnipresent. I spent a day at a conference where she was speaking earlier this month, and it was incredible to watch Katelyn and Michael interact and support each other all day. Truly an inspiration to me in my work with Kian.
  • Katelyn has technical savvy. So many photographers seem afraid to open the black box and talk about how they produce their visual products, or they struggle with things like design, but just like me, Katelyn is a big user of InDesign, and while she's definitely had professional assistance on her branding, can do a lot of the day-to-day production on her own. Me too! 
I met Katelyn last week at a day-long workshop hosted by Justin + Mary last week. This blurry iPhone photo was the best snap I got, and even though it's not perfect, I love it! 

I met Katelyn last week at a day-long workshop hosted by Justin + Mary last week. This blurry iPhone photo was the best snap I got, and even though it's not perfect, I love it! 

Only within the past year or so have I discovered and begun following Melissa Jill, an Arizona wedding photographer. Melissa shares so much in common with Jasmine and Katelyn: her photos are gorgeous, she's been published in dozens of wedding publications, her branding is out-of-this-world. So why add her to my list? Because of her entrepreneurial spirit, and her amazing customer service.

Melissa is not only a wedding photographer in her own right, but she also has a team of 5 associate photographers. Talk about a successful small business woman!

But Melissa does even more than that: she's ALSO the founder of Align Album Design. Melissa found that album design was a major choke point for many wedding photographers, and set out to do something about it! So in addition to her photography, she is also the founder of this second successful photography industry business, which has a whole team of designers and is making life better for other professionals across the industry!

Finally, Melissa is a jewel when it comes to customer service and being personable. As a client of Align, I've gotten personal emails from Melissa on Align, and she and her entire team (including her fabulous studio manager, Denise) are just really responsive, helpful people.  Genuinely, when I have an excuse to talk to Denise or Melissa, I know they'll brighten my day. And that's a tiny thing that makes a huge difference in business. And that's something I definitely want to emulate in my own business!

Melissa Jill by  Michelle Boyd

Melissa Jill by Michelle Boyd

Two other fabulous women also deserve a place on my role models list: Sue Bryce and Nessa K.

Sue Bryce is an internationally-renowned portrait photographer who gained fame for her women's glamour photography.  So much of what I know about posing the body, what looks good, what doesn't, the anatomy of posing, and really connecting with the person in front of your camera to make them feel beautiful, I learned from Sue. I harbor a secret dream of being photographed by her some day.

I also love Sue because of her willingness to keep learning. She built her reputation on being a natural light photographer, but within the last few years, when she had plenty of success to rest on, she moved across the world to build a practice in Los Angeles, and has worked hard to learn working with studio light. Talk about an inspiration.

Last but certainly not least on my list, Nessa K has something I'm working every day to build: an instantly-recognizable style. You can look a photo of Nessa's in a long slideshow of photos, and instant know it's Nessa's -- no watermark, no image credit. You can just look at the image, and there's a je ne sais quoi that tells you that's Nessa's photo. So amazing. Nessa's style is different than mine, but I hope to have as strong of an iconic "look" as she does someday soon.

So there you have it - 5 of the most amazing women I admire, and what I admire about them. Altogether, I think they point out a pretty strong path forward for me + my business this year: honing my branding and my customer service, making my clients feel comfortable and fabulous in front of my lens, and producing consistent images. So here's to my 2016 photography goals!

personalAimee Custis