Welcome to our Creative Spotlight, where we’re highlighting the talented creatives who make up the community here at South 40.
This month’s Creative Spotlight shines a light on Bethe Smith. With a passion for photography as an extension of her photojournalism education, Bethe knows very well how to tell a story with photos. She has spent much of the last 10 years helping couples capture the love and journey to marriage, which has enabled her to develop a zeal for bringing out love and joy in those she photographs. In addition, she has broadened her scope to other media, including food shoots for The Chef & I and songwriter Ed Hill’s 2019 book “It Matters to Me”. From her exquisite engagement photos to multi-generational family photos which shine with individuality, Bethe knows how to bring to life the true nature of her subjects. We sat down with Bethe to discover how the path to mastering what you love never truly ends.
Tell us a little about your journey to becoming a photographer–what led you here, an interesting path to becoming a photographer, or possibly people who helped you along the way?
My love for photography started my senior year in High School and continued into college where I studied photojournalism. In 2002, I opened a boutique in downtown Franklin, and after operating it for 6 years, closed it to search for what God had in store for me next. I worked as an Event Coordinator at The Red House in downtown Franklin, acting as the wedding and event coordinator. Although I enjoyed helping couples plan their special day, I longed to be back behind the camera capturing their special memories. After much thought and prayer, I decided to take a chance and pursue the love for photography that God placed in my heart. I was honored to get to second shoot with the incredibly talented Amber Smith, an opportunity I am forever grateful for. COVID has added a new challenge to my journey, but It is so rewarding to be able to follow my passion. I am still learning and growing as a photographer, and I look forward to a new year and new opportunities.
Families can be challenging to photograph–each with their own personality, yet part of a cohesive group. How do you find the inspiration to bring out individuals in large groups?
There is something special about photographing family events. So often parents and family members are busy taking photos that they do not fully experience the event. When I have the pleasure of photographing parties, weddings, or extended family sessions, each one of them can be “in the moment”, and I can record the experience for them. Children are probably my very favorite subjects–they are unpredictable but often lend amusement to any family photo shoot. Wrangling them is an ongoing learning process—I have tried a variety of tools to bring out their best, including whistles, clickers, squeaky toys, and once even used a plastic chicken which Ann had at South 40. I also love the animals at South 40, which really help put children to ease. To be honest, some of my favorite photographs are ones in which the children are just being themselves!
How did you find South 40 and what was your first impression?
I found South 40 on Instagram and was immediately intrigued. It was obvious that they offered so many great spots for amazing photos. Ann greeted me and gave me a brief tour of the facilities. I was so overwhelmed by the beauty and options, I immediately wished I had booked it for longer than an hour. South 40 has it all and the team is available for whatever a photographer may need. Ann is an amazing host—so helpful and kind. I am grateful that she has designed such an amazing space to help inspire other creatives.
What makes South 40 such a special place to keep returning to?
Everything. When I arrived for one particular shoot, they had planted three fields of sunflowers set to bloom at different times. This spectacular view alone made me want to return again! To be honest, I have yet to explore everything that South 40 offers. I am anxious to get to the creek—each time I think I will get there, I am distracted by beauty somewhere else. During one of my indoor shoots, I was mesmerized by the lighting outside the building and immediately moved the shoot outdoors. With the combination of indoor and outdoor spaces, weather is never a concern.
Tell us the story of your most interesting photo shoot–whether it be funny, something strange happened, or has been pivotal to your work as a photographer.
I did an engagement shoot this summer. They included the family dog in the shoot and he certainly came with his own personality. Each time I shot a photo, I noticed “Snoop” sticking his tongue out at me. It really added something to the ambience! When I later photographed their wedding, Snoop was at it again!
Where do you find inspiration for photo shoots–locations, props, lighting, themes?
I love shooting with a lot of natural light and a beautiful field always inspires me. I am also moved by seeing a couple in love and laughing children. I just love capturing those sweet moments in time to be enjoyed for years to come.
Any advice for fellow (or new) creatives?
Do not ever give up on your passion, even when that inner voice pops up saying “you’re never going to make it”. Follow the call God has placed in your heart, and know that with His help, all things are possible.
Connect with Bethe: