Episode 24: Building Lasting Relationships with Kelly Lemon
Today, we talk to one of our dearest friends, Kelly Lemon of Kelly Lemon Photography! Based in Seattle, Kelly travels all over the world as a wedding and lifestyle photographer to document her client’s special life moments. Her passion for people defines her art and her life.
In her words: "I am the photographer for the adventurous couple that values real connection."
As a one-armed photographer, she has faced many challenges in her life. Her perseverance and her faith have helped her push through these hardships with dignity. She was recently on King 5 a local Seattle network sharing her story - and what an inspiring one it is.
We will let her share this with you in her own words:
1. Who is Kelly Lemon?
I’m a talkative extrovert, a hugger, inspirational speaker, wife, dog-mom, Jesus lover, chocolate chip cookie connoisseur, and a Seattle-based wedding + lifestyle photographer. I am also a mom to be! We have a baby girl on the way via surrogacy and we are due this January! I feel at home when I’m near mountains and I’m an enneagram 2w3. Simply put - I love people and am excited about the challenge of capturing someone’s story - either through a wedding/elopement or my women empowerment photography.
2. How did you get started in photography?
It’s actually a great story! I loved photography from a young age but was in a serious car accident when I was 12 that paralyzed my right arm. So after adjusting to life with one arm and learning to use my left arm - I approached a high school film photography teacher and asked if I could join their class and they told me that photography was a “two-armed” art and that I wouldn’t be able to do it, so I should try something else.
So I took that as a challenge and joined another class the following year and learned to roll film with my feet! Just after that experience I studied abroad in Ecuador at the age of 16 and learned that I was much more drawn to photographing the people I was meeting more than the landmarks of the cities I was visiting.
When I went to college I thought I would just do photography as a hobby or maybe a side job, but joined the college newspaper photography team. I was sent to a photojournalism conference at the age of 18 and was way out of my league. But in between sessions, this man came over and saw my photos on my laptop over my shoulder and started flipping through them.
I was so embarrassed because they weren’t edited or sorted but we started talking about photography and at the end of the conversation he said something that changed my life. He asked, “So let me get this straight…you spend all of your free time doing photography, you spend your money on equipment, you are only 18 and these are your photos…remind me why you don’t think this should be your career?” That really stuck with me.
I went to the next session at the conference and he walked out on stage and was introduced as the photo editor of the New York Times! I was inspired that he saw something in me, so I switched my degree to fine art photography, studied for 4 years, and started my company the year I graduated in 2010, and here we are almost 10 years later!
3. Tell us about your photography business, Kelly Lemon Photography.
I am primarily a wedding and elopement photographer and I have a heart for the community - like real, let's hang out and do life - kind of community and that is the heart behind my business.
The KLP couples are laid back, adventurous, they are people who value people more than things, they believe in marriage, don’t mind getting their dress dirty, and like to push the limits! I love being out in nature so when I can be in the beautiful outdoors and celebrate a couples’ love story - my heart is happy!
I also photograph women empowerment and I have recently started to branch out into lifestyle shoots and photography for business owners and that has been a fun project - to tell the story of someone’s business. For me, it comes down to storytelling and that's what excites me!
4. How would you define your style? How did you find your artistic style? How has your style evolved to what it is today?
I would say my style is warm, emotional, and natural. I strive to create photos that make you feel something.
When it comes to tones and editing - I think your artistic style is often a reflection of you. I think it’s important to not just look at the trends because they come and go but trust your gut and how you see the world and explore that. My style began to evolve as I really took the time and examined what I was drawn to artistically - not just with photography, but with other types of art.
If you are trying to figure out your brand style for your business and you aren’t sure where to start - look at your closet. What colors are you drawn to? What type of interior design inspires you? When I was in the process of rebranding my business 5 years ago - my designer encouraged me to really dig into the things that I love - across all art mediums.
I created a Pinterest board of photos that I was drawn to and started seeing a theme. My closet, brand colors, and photos all have a similar vibe of earth tones and natural textures and that is naturally what I began to create with my photo style once I learned to ignore the trends around me and focus on the art I want to create.
5. What are some of the challenges you've faced during your career as a photographer and as an entrepreneur?
Self-care. I think like an entrepreneur - for most businesses you are a one-person show - so everything falls on you - and that can be really exhausting. I have found it hard to create boundaries around work life and make time for your family and friends.
So blocking off weekends to be work-free, consider outsourcing the projects that don’t require you directly, and scheduling in time for you. It’s a continual struggle but so important for the long term.
6. How have you made yourself stand out in the crowd of other photographers?
I think the community I have built with my clients and the overall client experience is something really unique. I host events 3x a year - where past and present clients are loved and given a pretty special experience that goes beyond the wedding day. My Sailing Soiree event is something really special and you can see a peek at it in my recent promo video! See it here: https://legacy.mediazilla.com/cphk1s1R1
7. You are incredibly passionate about your Empowerment Photography project. Tell us about it.
I would love to! I am really passionate about empowering women to love the skin they are in! We live in a culture - where the beauty standard is so narrow and it causes women to think they aren’t skinny enough, or curvy enough, or fill in the blank and I have loved creating a space to break those beauty standards and celebrate women of all shape, size, and color!
I also love empowering women with physical differences - because when I was growing up I had a lot of surgery scars and people told me they were disgusting and I needed to cover them up and that really impacted how I saw my body. So I love encouraging women to see their scars or physical difference as symbols of what they have overcome.
It’s a part of them that we don’t have to cover or hide but it also doesn’t define them. We have had women who have battled cancer, organ transplants, amputations/limb loss, vitiligo, Cerebral Palsy and it’s been such an honor to share their stories. But all women are invited to our Women Empowerment Events - where we photograph 5-7 women and have their sessions back to back and it's a really special time of community!
8. Give us one tip that would improve our images/photos of our paper flowers.
Learning about natural light! If you can learn how to use natural light to show off the depth in your flowers - that will be the ticket!
9. Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
Just want to encourage you as Paper Florists - if you are starting your business - remember to serve and love people well. It sounds simple but it’s easy to forget when there are so many other things you are trying to learn. And have fun with it! Try crazy ideas! Meet other people in the industry and create just to create for fun!
Learn more about Kelly Lemon by following her on social media: