The South 40 Creative Spotlight showcases creative talent we love to work with! Discover some of our favorite photographers, videographers and more!
Discovering photography in her journey to express herself and her innate creativity, capturing memories through the lens has offered Elizabeth an avenue to display the beauty found in all living things. Her ability to capture the human spirit while illuminating the gorgeous features of nature is uncanny and her shots highlight the best of both. The path Elizabeth has taken to become an independent woman and accomplished photographer has been one filled with trepidation, failures and successes, all while having a mentor at her side. Join us in discovering the magic behind the lens who is Elizabeth Ann.
Tell me the story about how you came to be a photographer.
I was a 28 year old wife and mother of four when I came to the realization that my career as a medical assistant left me with little family time and stifled my creativity. I have always been creative, whether taking on DIY projects around my house or doing arts and crafts with my kids. I decided to do a Cinderella-themed photo shoot for my daughter’s third birthday. I bought her a blue dress, a crown, and matching Cinderella slippers and we went to Nashville’s Centennial Park to let the creative ideas flow with only my cell phone camera.
I shared my photos with Jennifer, a close friend and photographer with 15 years’ experience; she loved them and said I should think about a career in photography. I had always been obsessed with taking photos of my four children–dressing them up, making cute set ups, and finding interesting places that caught my eye. I began to think that this could be a creative outlet; something I could enjoy and provide the freedom to focus on being a mom and giving my kids more one-on-one attention, which I had always wanted. However, I had doubts; I was in a controlling relationship, didn’t have the money to invest in a business, and truly did not know where to start building a clientele.
My husband immediately shot down the idea; he didn’t want me to meet strangers and was convinced I wouldn’t be successful. However, the more I thought about, the more I wanted to make it happen. I wrote down my goals, made a vision board and meditated about it. I have a fascination with crystals and bought a few believed to attract positivity, success, and happiness. From that point on, I was determined to make my photographer business happen!
Soon I found an old laptop my mom had given me, and Jennifer sent me my first professional camera, a 50mm lens, and some editing software. I now had the photographer “starter kit,” although lacking confidence and expertise. Jennifer began teaching me, and in a little over a year I finally decided to reach out to a few moms I knew on social media to offer my services—for free. This provided me with the opportunity to make some beautiful memories for them and led me to realize I needed experience with manual shooting and chasing kids around while taking photos that didn’t look like I was chasing them around. It took another year and lots of practice before I was sure this was my passion, and I was never letting it go.
I decided to launch this dream on my 30th birthday. Jennifer helped me again, creating a logo, a watermark, and a website that I fell in love with. I was so excited I could barely stand it! I remember thinking most people don’t usually look forward to turning thirty, but I was finally doing something for myself that made me happy, and I poured all my energy into it. It was a little slow for the first year, and I experienced both professional and personal challenges, but I kept the faith. I knew this was right because any time I was taking or editing photos, I got lost in my work. I was genuinely happy, something I hadn’t felt for a long time.
It’s been 4 years now and I wouldn’t change a thing. My husband and I separated 6 months ago, and although there are hard days, I have found healing in my passion for photography—it has been my therapy.
What brings you the most joy in being a photographer?
I love capturing memories of my clients and seeing their smiles; and it is truly rewarding to be part of the happy feelings when they see their photos for the first time, and even years later when they look back and smile at their little ones. I love the thought of grandparents’ and other family members’ faces when they see those photos.
Support and confidence in yourself means everything, and that support doesn’t have to come from family. I genuinely believe Jennifer—one of several friends who have never given up on me—was put in my life for a reason. I know I was meant for this. It took a lot of encouragement and an incredibly positive mindset to get me here. Some days it was difficult to maintain a positive attitude in such a dark place but like a good friend once told me: “If you can create such beauty in the dark, imagine what you can do in the light!!”
What is one thing you wish you knew when you started your photography business?
I wish I had the confidence that I do now. I would take it to heart whenever people thought my prices were too high, so I would lower them; but now I know my worth. I know all the arduous work I put into my business, and I have come to realize that there are many people who view photography as just “taking pictures.” Capturing my clients’ memories is so much more than just “taking pictures.” I wish I knew back then to never undervalue myself or my work…but I know now. Be confident!
What tools helped you the most in developing your style as a photographer?
I started out with Adobe photoshop and now use Paint the Moon actions on it. That is when I started playing with editing styles. I later decided to get Lightroom and play with the different presets, and now do a mixture of both, depending on the mood I’m going for. As far as my style, I really love to switch it up because I absolutely love all styles of photography!
You have a knack for setting up the perfect props for photo shoots. Where do you find your inspiration, and do you promote specific shoots based on those props?
I have in the past set up sessions based on the props for certain special events, but I really enjoy when clients message me with a new theme for a smash cake or even just a birthday shoot, so I can collect different creative ideas. I love watching both of our visions come to life and capturing beautiful memories for them to treasure.
What are your favorite lenses and why?
I would have to say my favorite lens is my 50mm. Even though I only use it for my indoor shoots now, it was my first real lens and a game changer. It was the one that really showed me the difference in just “pictures” and “professional pictures.” I remember looking at the very first photo I took with it and thinking “Yes! I’m going to go far now!”
What would you consider your style? How can you use that style in a variety of client needs–maternity, children, senior portraits, etc.
Honestly, I take all types of photos with a variety of unique styles. Some photographers specialize in something specific, but I enjoy all photography. I don’t stick to a certain editing style; I can’t be confined to a style “box.” I enjoy getting to know my clients and discovering the mood they would like for their photos, and we go with it. I let their clothing, personality and surroundings set the tone and that’s what inspires me to choose a style. I am known for capturing all aspects of a photo shoot; all those cute unplanned details and getting the best angles of my clients, all while making them feel good about themselves.
How do you scout a location? What are the most crucial factors to you in choosing the right location?
The key factor for me in choosing the right location is finding a variety of natural outdoor beauty. I love to capture beautiful tall grass and flowers or an old barn or fence. Although I like to keep it simple so my clients stand out, I like having that breathtaking background to help paint the beautiful memories they can use as art in their homes and pass down to family as the years go by.
What sage pieces of advice would you give up-and-coming photographers, whether it be in developing their style or in establishing their businesses?
Always take risks. Instead of giving reasons why you can’t start, think of all the reasons why you should! The biggest risk I took when starting photography was simply being open to failing. As much as I didn’t want to prove those around me right by failing, I didn’t want to let myself down even more. I consider myself to be a risk taker—if you don’t take risks in life, you’ll never find your full potential. At the start of my photography journey, I read a quote that will stick with me for life: “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever did.” I would much rather try and fail than to live life safely, never taking a leap of faith or finding out what I’m capable of. Also, know your worth and be confident in yourself. You will meet people who won’t understand or appreciate your work and that’s okay. It doesn’t take away from who you are, or the fact that you’re still a talented photographer.
Even among talented photographers who have shot some gorgeous pictures at South 40, you have captured the texture and variation of the natural elements found there in such a way that viewers can almost feel and smell the surroundings. What makes South 40 such a wonderful place to shoot; and since you have captured such beauty there, what are your favorite South 40 spots?
I love this question! I have searched for a natural and beautiful area since I started taking pictures, something that has all the natural beauty of the outdoors without looking like it’s been “manmade.” I used to be forced to stop on the side of a busy road to find what I was looking for. South 40 is the first location I have visited where they don’t have an overload of prop set ups. It is simply quite natural; you can see that you are in the country in a beautiful field with lots of wildflowers and tall grass. In addition, you can discover an old barn or even venture into a creek. I love to capture that natural outdoor beauty in my photos. It’s easy to set up a cool backdrop and have someone pose, but it is so much more special to have this gorgeous painting with family memories tied to it; something clients can put on their walls, with memories to cherish life! I thank South 40 for sharing their beautiful property and making that possible for my clients and me.
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