Featured Photog: Kara May

Kara May

Kara May Photography

Site : Facebook

It’s been a year or two since I stumbled onto Kara’s blog and just fell in love with her work.  She has been one of my personal favorite photographers ever since and I am over the moon to feature her here for all of you to meet!

Now on to the Q&As …


Q. Tell us a little about yourself in just two sentences and include a picture of yourself.

Oh gosh…that’s always a hard question. Lol.  I’m a methodical thinker, glass half-full but still a worrywart, extrovert but really feels like and introvert much of the time.  And I have two young children and wonderful husband who inspire me to take on this crazy- fun career.

Q. What do you shoot with and what is your favorite lens and why?

I’m a Canon girl!  I shoot with the 5D MarkII and I love my zoom lenses.  I know many prefer fixed focal lengths but I love the variety and efficiency of my zoom lenses.  My primary shooting lenses are 24-70 L 2.8 and the 70-200 2.8 L

Q. When did you start shooting for fun and then move to shooting professionally?

I’ve loved photography since High School when I got my first Nikon SLR 35mm film camera.  I practiced by taking pictures of the oranges on my parents orange tree, trying to remember the settings for each image and writing it down on paper.  Then in college my studies took over and pushed my creative side away.  And after college my job in downtown Seattle left me little time to pick up my camera, so I would only photograph occasionally. Finally, when I left my Financial Analyst job at Microsoft to be a stay at home mom, my passion was reborn.  And a year or two after that, I began shooting professionally.

Q.  Are you formally taught or self taught?

Once I left the corporate world I needed something to focus on and that was going back to school and getting better knowledge of how my camera worked.   So I took photography courses and learned everything about my camera.  That was when my photography instructor pulled me aside and said I should delve into this art professionally.  After understanding how to fully use my camera I began researching and trying new things.   I think in this profession, you are always learning something new.  Especially as technology increases, tools change, etc. you are always learning.

Q. What is your specialty and how did you decide to specialize in that area of photography?

I specialize in children & family photography as well as children’s commercial fashion.  Kids are so fun to photograph.  They are genuine and don’t hide their excitement, shyness and personalities.  I can get the best of who they really are because they where their emotions on their sleeves.  I love working with kids, being goofy, styling sessions, and interacting with them one-on-one, siblings together or the whole family.

Q. How many sessions are you shooting a month?

I really limit my sessions.  Since I balance work with being home with the kids, I have to make sure I don’t over-extend my schedule.  So I do a session a week sometimes 2 but ideally one. So typically 4 to 6 sessions a month.  And I do commercial work so that also takes up my time but I love it and that’s on my own schedule since most of the shoots require my children so I don’t have to coordinate my shooting schedule with a hired model.  My motto — quality over quantity, and I think I live by that in my business.:)

Q.  On average how long to do you spend editing each session and do you listen to music while editing or just enjoy the quiet?

Each session varies as to my edit time.  Most of the time I spend about 1 to 5 minutes per image depending on my incorporation of textures, how many subjects are in the photo and  adding any special requests by the parents (i.e. a small rash to be edited out, a scrape on a knee, bruise removed, etc.).  I carefully look over every image before posting it to my client’s gallery or sending an image package to a designer.  And music?  I’m so inspired by music.   I’m pulled in by each song that sometimes I get stuck at my computer well after 1am waiting for each song to end but then the next pulls me too. lol  I listen to Pandora and my favorite station right now is ‘Freshman’ radio.  I’m taken by Adele, Rachel Diggs, Kate Nash, A Fine Frenzy,  Gary Jules, Ida Maria, Joshua Radin and the list goes on.  If I don’t have music or inspiring background noise I tend to get in a sleepy, nappish-desiring sort of mood.

Q. What is the best marketing tool that works for you or was a total waste of time?  Do you advertise in print?  Do you offer referral bonuses?  If yes, please share a little.

Word-of-Mouth is the best marketing tool for me and it’s the only marketing tool I use.  I don’t advertise any other way at this time.    I also don’t have a separate Facebook Page for my business since most of my  work is inspired so much by my personal life – so I don’t separate the two.   It works well for me since I don’t openly promote specials or do give-aways’s on Facebook – I just share my work, personal tid-bits and other random life happenings.   My blog which spreads via WOM is also a great advertising tool.  Sometimes I feel like it’s a little redundant to what I share on Facebook but it’s been a great way for clients and designers to see my recent work.

Q. What do you do to “stand out” from surrounding photographers that you’re competing with?

There are so many photographers in my area and around the country.  It’s an exploding industry and you have stand out if you’re going to stay afloat.  Thankfully I’ve developed great friendships with several photographers in the area and I love that!  It can be a lonely industry since it’s so competitive.  But if you have a consistent style, you’re true to that style and if you’re priced appropriately you won’t burn out or skimp on quality to keep up with the demand.   Also, I don’t look at other photographers work in my area.  I don’t want to be influenced by it in any way.  Sounds funny but if I just focus on what I want to create then I’m in that mode and I don’t need to look outside of what I’m aiming to create.

Q.What was your biggest mistake and how did you fix it?

My biggest mistake….hmmmm.  That’s a great question.  I think my biggest mistake is passing up opportunities to be on special projects for fear I wouldn’t succeed.  I was asked a few years ago by a major corporation to do some work for them and declined due to fear.  I don’t really know if that was a smart thing to do or a mistake.   I’ve turned down projects out of fear.  And fixing it…I’m working on conquering my fears.  I’m a perfectionist and bit of a worrier so the combination can sometimes be paralyzing.

Q. Please share your favorite image and tell us what makes this your favorite?

Oh wow, my favorite image.  So many emotions surface when I look through my images but I’d have to say that right now my favorite image is this one of my daughter crying.  It hurts me that she’s hurting but I can’t help but love the emotion this photograph evokes.  It’s my baby at a point in time during a vulnerable moment.  I know that someday she’ll hide her tears but at this moment (she had fallen and scraped her knee) she just let her emotions show.  They are pure, honest and deep.  Not an emotion often captured.

Q. Can you show us your shooting space?  If you are shooting inside can you show a simple pull back shot or lots of images if you have a large studio.  If you shoot on location please share an image of you favorite location.

Right now my indoor shooting space is my garage.  Nice huh?  But since I’m shoot outdoors 98% of the time, the places around me are my backdrop and shooting spaces.   So here are just a couple of the places I love to hold my sessions.

Q. Is there anything you would like to promote?  Maybe a mentoring you offer or any side projects.

Right now I’m working on another side of my creativity….more to be revealed soon.

Q. Before & After

I get asked a lot about my editing techniques.  It’s not magic and it’s pretty simple to be honest.  Here’s a little before and after.  To achieve the ‘after’, I added texture making sure the skin is not textured by erasing the texture in that space and replacing it with a color similar to the overall texture.  I also increased the contrast in the image and did some burning to the edges so that your eye is brought in to my subject.  I also, used the curve tool and created a very slight ‘S’ shape with the tool to get the balance of shadows and highlights I wanted to achieve.  Sharpened a little and then I’m done!  That’s it.

Q. Please share an image of your Prop stash!  This doesn’t have to be an organized space just an image showing off your addiction.

Messy, disorganized and scattered.  That’s what I would say to describe my prop stash.  But here is a little tiny peak at some of my props:)

More of Kara’s Breathtaking Work:

Thank You Kara for sharing SO much with us!



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Haleigh Rohner - August 1, 2011 - 12:35 am

Ahh! Kara is amazing! Love her work…. She’s a beautiful person, inside and out!

kelly saunders - August 1, 2011 - 6:32 am

Pure/Simple and absolutely Beautiful :)

Niina - August 1, 2011 - 8:24 am

I feel wordless…Stunning images! And absolutey gorgeous outdoor locations!

Ambrelee Taylor - August 1, 2011 - 10:06 am

Loved reading about Kara! <3 Thank you for featuring such a wonderful soul!

Jackie - August 1, 2011 - 10:52 am

Amazing feature and fabulous photographer you chose to share. I’m a new fan of her work!

Meredith - August 1, 2011 - 11:20 am

You are awesome! It brought tears to my eyes to see your beautiful collection! I hope to one day be half as unique and creative as you are! ~Meredith

Jennifer Penn - August 1, 2011 - 11:19 pm

What a great article featuring a terrific photographer! I really enjoyed looking at all the photos Kara has taken, but equally enjoyed hearing about what it takes to create them. She has definitely found her calling! Oh, to have this type of talent!

Melissa - August 2, 2011 - 12:09 am

OMG what a great interview….i’m leaving inspired. Thank you for sharing the before and after info. What you do is amazing!!!

Kara May - August 2, 2011 - 8:50 pm

Thank you so much for the fun feature Tabitha! I loved your thoughtful questions. You’re site is amazing. xoxo

Mae Knobel - August 3, 2011 - 12:22 pm

These shots are wonderful. I am drawn to the eyes. I would love the capture a shot of eyes that way..any hints.

Michelle Monson - August 3, 2011 - 12:33 pm

All of it…just beautiful!!

Becky - August 3, 2011 - 4:44 pm

Wow, speechless!! Such a true soul with amazing work and depth to ever shot she takes. I’m so glad you introduced us to her work. Thank you

Kimmy - August 4, 2011 - 1:14 pm

These photos make me breathless. Perfect photographer to feature! I puffy heart her before and after and her prop photos.

Caitlin - August 7, 2011 - 8:49 pm

Kara—awesome!!! Congrats! Your props (and models…and pix….) always rock!

Lisa Hodack - September 14, 2011 - 9:34 am

Wow. I’m speechless. Her photos are so breathtking! Does anyone know what actions/textures Kara uses?

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