Posted by: Katie | October 30, 2012

Chels Design Photography

Chelsea is a photographer that used to be my R.A at a Florida University. She has worked really hard to get where she is today and I am constantly impressed more and more with each new photo I see. Currently, she lives in Washington D.C – so if you are in that area, be sure to check out her website.

1. How did your interest in photography and art begin?
I was always a creative child but I really got into photography in high school. Ironically, it all happened by accident. I signed up for the basic photo class & was put in an upper level class instead. The class was about having direction for your photography as an art, given you knew the basics already. I loved the conceptual idea of this so I didn’t say anything about not knowing basic developing or any technical aspects of photography for that matter. I basically taught myself the nitty gritty of manual film cameras through my classmates, research & the occasionally questions I’d ask my teacher because I was “rusty” not because I was clueless.
The summer after I was involved in photography intensive at the Southeast Museum of Photography that had just opened on the Daytona State College campus near my home. You can see a bit of the show we produced after working with three international photographers.
In college, I changed majors a few times & I had no intention of doing anything with photography but I did want do it on the side so I joined our student newspaper staff as an event photographer. You can see some of the articles where my photos were published here:
By the time I decided to study art, my photography had developed significantly between class projects, travel, friends & events. I still felt the urge to go back to the basics & I finally took basic film photography. By junior year, I had quite a few graduation photo inquires & some who were even willing to pay me! Wow, the pivotal point for most photographers! After that I decided to launch my website & facebook page as Chels Design Photography in April of 2011.
2. What cameras have you used in the past and what do you use now? Do you recommend your current camera?
 In high school I used a small Canon point & shoot that maybe had 7 megapixels. After that first class my junior year, I continued to take the higher-level class and gained a spot in the senior art showcase, all done with my little point & shoot. For graduation, my parents bought me my first DSLR. It was a Nikon D40x. It was wonderful, you couldn’t get it out of my hands & it opened up the world for me. I was determined to master it, self-taught just like I had with film cameras. The film camera I used in high school was a Canon T50 that my parents used throughout my childhood.
I purchased a manual Canon A-1 film camera with a fabulous 85mm F/1.8 lens for my college photography class.  I had someone who was interested in buying my DSLR so I decided to upgrade. I sold my Nikon D40x & bought a Nikon D3100. It was wonderful, lightweight, fast & sharp. I photographed my first handful of clients & they were all happy with the outcome. So was I, even though I had plenty of the scary moments when exposure & focus were not on point (all results of using the auto function on a DSLR.) Now back to the drawing board. I started teaching myself how to shoot in manual & I realized my camera was still very much built for beginners. I had a friend that suggested the D7000 for its speed and decided to upgrade again, in a fairly short period of time.
I had faith in my talent at this point after branding Chels Design Photography & gaining quite a few inquires. It’s been a little more than a year that I’ve been shooting with the D7000 & I am still very happy with it. It has been very reliable & it’s fast!  I am getting to a point where I am considering another upgrade to a Full Frame (FX) Nikon. I never brought myself sell the D3100 & I still very much recommend this beginner camera. I use it when I travel because it is so lightweight & convenient, I never feel like I’m unprepared for an amazing shot!
3. What is the set-up process you go through when taking portrait photography? Do you know in your head what poses the subject should do or is it more of a comfortable/loose situation?
 Once a client decides they want to work with me, I send them a questionnaire that helps me visualize what they want, especially if I do not know them that well. Even with friends and family, the questions give me the direction I need to plan ahead. The questions ask them what they plan to use the photos for, what they were thinking of wearing, the types of locations they would want, and what shoots from my portfolio were they drawn to. After I have an idea of the style they like and want, I start looking at others photographer’s work and sites like Pinterest for inspiration. During the shoot, I pull from what I know about my clients like how they met, their hobbies or what they are studying. I try to keep the shoot casual and conversational rather than invasive and posed. I don’t usually have any specific poses in mind; I direct some general stances and then begin the conversation to provoke natural movements and gestures.
4. Do you have any favorite genres of photography?
I think there is beauty in all photographs regardless of subject but as a portrait photographer I admire this genre the most. Within it, I enjoy studio & fashion photography probably because it is different than the natural light photography that I do but also because it is usually more artistically conceptualized.
5. Who are your favorite photographers and why?
Well I must start with the pioneers of photography because we can always learn from going back to the basics. Annie Leibovitz , Steve McCurry and Ansel Adams all has such power behind their work and especially their portraits.
Here are some more current lifestyle photographers that I regularly follow. They all inspire me for different artistic reasons. But even more than their work, their constant commitment to photography and the business, gives me the courage to grow as an artist and a business owner.
KisMisInk Photography –
Alex Michele Photography –
Hello Gorgeous Photography –
Pure Photography –
Lexi Vornberg – www.
Melly Lee –
Jasmine Star –
Sue Bryce –
Emily Soto –
6. How do you get ideas for your artwork? Do you wait for something to inspire you or do ideas come to your mind without warning?
I am constantly absorbing inspiration like a sponge. Being in a creative field, it is just a habit for me to collect anything that inspires me. The Internet provides a lot of my resources but I also retain many inspiring images from the world around me. Hence, why I am in love with Instagram! (Feel free to follow my stream under my username: ChelsDesign) I believe the best camera is the one you have with you so therefore my Iphone camera roll is a library of my thoughts. The creative process is very much ongoing. Many times I have ideas that I don’t really remember until the right client or location comes around. When I have time to do personal work, I set out to find the perfect things for my idea rather than waiting for them to come to me. Sometimes my client’s personalities inspire an idea on the spot and we try it. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes not so much and if that’s the case we usually get a good laugh out of it. So in other words I do wait for inspiration, I also seek it out and some days it’s like a revelation that comes without warning. I keep them all, sometimes I use the ideas right away and sometimes I wait for the right situation. Most ideas do steam from something I have absorbed whether it is photography related or not.
7. What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Never be afraid to fail. Creativity is doing what others haven’t and there is a fear to reaching that far. Truthfully it is a hit or miss but you will never exceed your own expectations if you don’t try without hesitation. The industry is intimidating and it can be overwhelming when you are starting out. I started living with the idea that you just have to go for it and take the consequences, good or bad. It’s the only way I would have experienced the bad and improve the good. Another piece of advice that changed the way I looked at my business was a quote by another photographer who said that is wasn’t until recently in her career that she was truly happy with her own work. Photographers and artists are their worst critiques but this made me think about the point when you will be pleased with the work you’re producing. It made me accept the growth process. I now look at my work with a critical eye for the bad and the good, taking in both my weaknesses with my strength. I believe the balance is the key to success


  1. Chelsea, I hope you go far in your career….you did an awesome job for AJ and Colleens’ wedding…..the pictures are beautiful…thank you so much!!!

  2. Thank you Mary, working with your family was truly a pleasure!
    Your support has been much appreciated as well. I hope the you learned a little more about my journey here :]

  3. Just want to let you know the link to Chelsea’s page is broken.

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