Today’s featured photographer is someone I’ve followed and admired for years. I believe this amazing artist should be a celebrity in the photography world, so this is one spotlight you WON’T want to miss!
Hey, I’m Cierra! I’m the sassy, sarcastic, 5’1 photographer at CeJae Photography, and I have a passion for capturing people in beautiful places. I specialize in on-location, natural light portraiture and small weddings and elopements in Santa Barbara, California. I aim to capture the happiness and natural beauty of my clients, while putting my own style into the photographs; producing bright, vibrant images filled with happiness and light. I aspire to fill my life with light, laughter, and happiness, and I hope I can help my clients do the same by providing them with my services.
- Tell us a little bit about your style!
I would describe my style as bright, colorful, and happy. Working in natural sunlight proves to be essential for me, I’m so incredibly lucky to live in a place where it’s perfect weather 11 months out of the year!
- How did you got started in photography?
As a kid, I grew up loving to take pictures. Disposable cameras were more fun to me than playing with Barbies. As I grew up, the technology changed and suddenly point and shoot cameras were everywhere, and they were affordable, too. When I turned 12, my father bought me my first point and shoot, and I took it everywhere with me. Flowers, insects, and nature were my muse. My mother purchased a Pentax DSLR when I was 14, and I basically stole it and used it like it was my own camera, started posting my images on Facebook, and eventually I started getting inquiries from family friends about taking their pictures. 3 cameras, 8 lenses and 7 years later, it’s now my career and passion in life.
- What is the most important equipment in your personal workflow as a photographer?
Aside from using high quality cameras and lenses to produce the images that I do, excellent customer service and attention to my clients’ needs has proven to be the most important aspect of my business. I make it my number one priority to make sure my clients’ emails and phone calls are answered in appropriate timing, and always keep a positive attitude toward whatever I am faced with. I wish I had known when I was starting out that my age would really affect the way clients would sometimes treat me, and even cost me gigs. I wish I could have prepared myself for that a bit more. Being a young, 5’1 female photographer has proven to be a disadvantage at times. For whatever reason, us young ladies tend to be looked at like we don’t know what we are doing, or that we are not capable of producing high quality work, which is certainly not true.
- What sort of training have your done for your photography?
I am primarily self-taught, however I strongly believe in the “practice makes perfect” approach. I do intend to invest in some workshops in the future, though! Working with other creatives in this field is incredibly beneficial.
- What are your favorite lighting scenarios?
I LIVE for golden hour and the hour just before that. It always excites me when I see beams of sunlight streaming through trees, the glow of light on someone’s hair, etc. Backlit portraits are kind of like crack to me, I never get tired of shooting in late afternoon light.
- Do you have an “AH-HA!” moment in your journey that you can share with us?
There’s this incredible feeling I get after I have a great session or elopement. It’s usually when I’m saying goodbye to my clients and walking back to my car when it hits me. It’s the feeling of pure content. I feel so whole and sure of what I’m supposed to do in life, what I need to do in life, right there in that moment.
- We’d love to know more about your workflow and post-processing techniques!
One of the main things I make sure to do is slightly underexpose my images while shooting and keep the white balance on the cooler side. This is a pretty controversial topic among photographers, especially those in portrait and commercial work, but that’s what works for me. Since the majority of my images are backlit (meaning the light is behind the subject in the photo), I often deal with overexposed backgrounds, unless I underexpose the entire image. This is easily fixed in post-processing by using a “fill light” or bringing up some of the darkness while keeping the details in the highlights. I don’t use any kind of external lighting and only turn to a reflector for some help maybe 5% of the time. I also find it easier to warm up an image in post-production rather than try to cool down an image that’s too warm, especially with skin tones. I do always try to get it as perfect as I can in-camera, especially in regards to the focus, positioning of the subject, lighting, etc. but I would be lying if I said that I do minimal editing to my images. For me, the way I see the final images in my head just cannot be translated in-camera, so being able to use a mix of Lightroom and Photoshop make my photos look the way I imagined them is crucial. I do not use these programs as a crutch, but as a tool to bring these images to a standard that satisfies both myself and the client, which was otherwise not possible to do without.
- Can you tell us how you pose your clients and help them have an AWESOME session?
Not going to lie, I struggle with posing. I’m not a huge fan of very posed images, although I do enjoy them in certain situations. BUT! I have found a useful tool that helps tremendously during my sessions! I called it “posed candids”. This usually involves some sort of movement of the subject or having them perform some kind of act that captures more naturally than giving them specific poses to try. A lot of the clients I work with feel uncomfortable doing posed positions, and it can often feel unnatural or forced, which is why I really prefer posed candids over anything else. I’ll have the subject walk towards me, pick up their partner and spin around, make themselves laugh (or I do/say something to make them crack a genuine smile), anything that creates a more natural image.
- Which photographers have influenced you the most, and how have they shaped who you are as a photographer?
That’s a hard questions to answer, honestly. Being in such a large and diverse group of photographers who are also my friends in person (thanks to photographer meetups the past several years!) means I’m constantly seeing different types of photography on social media. I have a love for all types of photography, including landscape, fashion, conceptual, fine art, commercial, etc.. But photographers whose work I feel most drawn to, portraiture especially, would include Katelyn James, Grace Adams, Dylan & Sara, and The Robertsons.
- What advice do you have for growing photographers that don’t know where to start?
Just pick up the camera and go. The worst mistake I’ve ever made, and sometimes still do make, is not shooting enough. I can have months where I don’t get any work, and during that time my camera is never touched. But I’ve found, quite recently actually, that as long as I pick up my camera, regardless of the reason, I’m happy. Drag a friend or family member to go shoot at a location you’ve been dying to shoot at. Don’t be afraid to ask clients/subjects to pose a certain way, the worst that can happen is they say no. Connect with other creatives, both locally and through social media. Get out there.
Follow along with Cierra here!