Learning Curves: How Maintaining a Lifetime Learner Mindset Can Help You Master Your Fine Art Maternity with Esther Kay

As photographers, many of us are guilty of spending thousands of dollars on equipment, gowns, and props that, at the surface, seem to offer endless variety. But are these things really what drive creativity? Could there be a better investment of your time and resources than the latest trend?

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In today’s episode, I’m interviewing Esther Kay, a professional maternity photographer and educator who believes that lifetime learning is the best investment you can make in your business. You’ll hear how Esther’s own educational pursuits have helped her push the boundaries of creativity, often with just one or two lights and a strong grasp of how to pose her subjects. If you’ve ever wanted to do more with less and create beautiful, timeless photographs for your clients, then this episode is for you!

So, get cozy, grab your notebooks, and tune in. I’m rooting for you, my friends.

What’s in this episode:

  • [02:14] What inspired Esther to become a maternity photographer and educator
  • [09:00] Preventing boredom and making new and fresh photography every time
  • [11:44] Infusing your own creativity and identifying what methods work best for you
  • [19:45] Insight into Esther’s creative process with her clients and her business model
  • [27:07] The role of body positivity and being a good listener in maternity photography

Tune in to this episode to learn how you can become a maternity photographer that embraces lifetime learning.

Meet Esther Kay

Esther is an educator and the proud owner of Esther Kay Studio. She’s an expert in maternity posing and lighting techniques and has taught at several one-on-ones and group workshops. Esther’s teaching approach emphasizes the importance of understanding and mastering the technical aspects of posing and lighting, while also encouraging her students to tap into their own creativity and develop their own unique style. Through her teaching, Esther aims to inspire and empower photographers with consistency in their work to create beautiful art for their clients to last a lifetime.

Connect with Esther

Visit Esther’s Website

Follow Esther on Instagram

Did this episode provide you with a roadmap for being a lifetime learner while becoming a maternity photographer? Check out this episode Magical Maternity Moments: Balancing Fine Art Photography and Family with Olguta Goddard that shares how another photographer started their career!


[00:00:00] Esther Kay: Whether it’s I travel to a workshop, whether it’s I do one on one online, whether I just follow somebody and learn. It’s the fact that you just have to be open. I think the greatest educators, the greatest photographers, the greatest instructors out in the world. The day you say I’m done, I know it all is the death. In my opinion. So I don’t think we should ever be ashamed of learning. I’m very proud, and I think it makes a huge difference. [00:00:30][30.1]

[00:00:34] Lisa DiGeso: Welcome to the Art and Soul Show, where we dive into heart opening chats on photography, business, life and that messy in-between. I’m your host, Lisa DiGeso, a mom, a photographer and entrepreneur, and I’ll be sharing honest conversations and advice for photographers with insight on mindset, entrepreneurship, and creativity. The goal of this podcast is for you to be able to gain insights and strategies that will get you real results. Because let’s face it, having a photography business can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. This is the place you can go when you need a boost of encouragement, a kick in the pants, and inspiration to pick up your camera. This is the Art and Soul Show. [00:01:17][42.3]

[00:01:18] Lisa DiGeso: Hello my beautiful friends! Welcome back to the show today I’m super excited to dive into today’s conversation with Esther Kay. Now she is an educator and proud owner of Esther Kay studio because she has years of experience in the industry. She’s an expert in maternity posing and lighting techniques, and has taught at several one on ones and group workshops and will be featured educator and pro prints investor on the Pipa magazine for the November edition. Now, Esther’s teaching approach emphasizes the importance of understanding and mastering the technical aspects of posing and lighting, while also encouraging her students to tap into their own creativity and develop their own unique style. Now, through her teaching, Esther aims to inspire and empower photographers with consistency in their work to create beautiful art for their clients to last a lifetime. So without further ado, welcome, Esther. [00:02:08][50.4]

[00:02:09] Esther Kay: Hi. Thanks for having me. I’m super excited to be here. Lisa. Thank you. [00:02:13][3.8]

[00:02:14] Lisa DiGeso: Well, Esther, congratulations on your achievements. Now, can you share with our listeners what inspired you to become a maternity photographer and an educator? [00:02:22][8.6]

[00:02:23] Esther Kay: Yes. So as far as being a photographer, I’m not a photographer that had a camera in her hand since she was a little girl. Yeah. Unfortunately, I feel like I if I was, I would be conquering the world now. But, I started my photography journey by a random gift from my father when I was well past my 30, and he gave me a camera, which was my very first camera, and it was a very complicated Sony camera. And anybody that knows me, I’m a big daddy’s girl, so I never want to disappoint my dad. But I remember I was like, oh, thank you. And then I left it on the kitchen counter and about like maybe a few months ago passed and he came by and he goes, oh, you I see that you’re using my gift. And I was like, oh my gosh. And I was like, fine. So then I would tell my husband, like, I got to figure out how do I at least use this camera? It’s a manual camera, very hard. And I started just going on YouTube and looking up how to use the camera. I came across a few educators that were newborn on maternity photographers and maybe me. I think within like three days, Anna Brown was actually here in California, in San Francisco, and I was like, okay, I’m just going to go, I’m going to give it a go and see if I like it or not. And I remember when I showed up, I didn’t even know how to use my camera. And it was just, but, you know, I was just there like, oh, I’m here. I’m going to learn. [00:03:44][80.9]

[00:03:45] Lisa DiGeso: I’m just going to do this. Yeah. [00:03:46][1.1]

[00:03:46] Esther Kay: Like, yes. And I don’t think anybody noticed that I was a beginner because I walked in and I acted like I was, you know, doing this for many moons. And I remember do not workshop. It was a newborn workshop and then a maternity workshop and a maternity workshop started after the newborn. And it was just two of us. And I recall that she was like, I don’t even know why I didn’t cancel this, but let’s just do it. And in my heart was like, oh, I’m so glad you didn’t cancel. And I remember the very first model that I had in front of my camera. I just like I’m getting goose bumps talking about it. My heart was just like such joy in my heart having this mama. And I remember I just took charge and I was posing her and she to this day is one of my clients. I photographed three maternity, her newborns, her motherhood and that was the start of my journey. So it was just that feeling, you know, when you first fall in love. [00:04:42][55.8]

[00:04:43] Lisa DiGeso: Oh yeah. [00:04:43][0.1]

[00:04:44] Esther Kay: That and for the rest of your life, that love that you felt that very moment. And, you know, sometimes it’s our, I don’t know, high school sweethearts or it’s like a dumb love, but that feeling of love is what kind of keeps you going for the rest of your life. And I feel like that, that passion that I felt. And again, I had no idea what in the world I was doing with my camera. And I look at the images now. I mean, they’re pretty, but oh, so but that’s how it started. And as far as me teaching is, I have a background in teaching, so that’s something that I’ve always loved. I have my teaching degree from San Jose State College, but and I did teach kindergartners for nine years. Yeah. So I love teaching. But the reason I became an educator is because. I am a strong believer that instead of spending thousands of dollars and equipments gowns, I don’t know, props, all these beautiful things that people have. If you know the base and the fundamentals, you can create untouchable, unrepeatable, one of a kind work of art that people will remember and cherish forever. By knowing what you’re doing. And I spent thousands of dollars and in many travels and away from my family on my education, and I am who I am today because of my education. Now, I did have to go with so many different people to gather what I like. And the reason I decided to teach said the fact that I loved it was because I wanted to just put everything into one ball of fire and hand that to my students. Yeah, and that’s what they tell me they take home. I don’t know, because I keep repeating it, but I think that that’s, that’s that’s what pushes me and encourages me to teach and educate. [00:06:33][109.3]

[00:06:34] Lisa DiGeso: I love that. I think it’s funny, actually. I went through my client closet this weekend and I was like, girl, like the things that I purchased that I’ve never even used. Like, I’m sure we’re all like this going through, especially as maternity photographers. And it’s just like, if we could just like if I could go back and tell that beginning photographer that you don’t need everything and like, these styles are not going to be like, buy the timeless things. Don’t buy the trendy things because they will go out of style. You use it once or you won’t use it at all, and then it will live in a bin in your basement. So do you find that with your experience too, that you that you. [00:07:10][36.0]

[00:07:11] Esther Kay: 110%, 110%. And I always preach this to everybody, whether I’m doing a one on one, whether I’m just having a conversation, whether it’s I’m speaking somewhere, we’re all going to spend the money because we want to invest in our business and what we love. But investing in, in the right place is the most important thing. I mean, I’ve done the same thing. I’ve bought lights and modifiers and gowns and I mean, oh my Lord, I the amount of things. So I can’t sit here and say, I haven’t done it, but I have done it. But the reason I want to share it, and I constantly preach it, is because we can learn from each other’s mistakes. So instead of buying thousands of dollars worth of gowns, which they’re beautiful, may I invest in two? But you can create so much more. Buy with just a piece of fabric. I know your clients with the correct lighting, which is what I do all the time, and that’s one of the main things that I teach during my one on ones or workshops, or anywhere that I speak, is all you need is a beautiful, beautiful maternity body and all you gotta do is dress them with your lighting, with the shadows. And that’s that’s the timeless art. That is something that is going to push your client out of their boundaries, something that they’re going to love, they’re going to cherish. And it’s timeless. I mean, you know, I’m not against the big gowns. I have them, I have several of them in my studio. I shoot them once in a while. Right? I think as business owners, you get to have a little bit of everything to keep everybody happy. But I just think that why waste your money on 50 dresses and they become boring? They all look the same. How are you going to end up doing the same poses? So it’s not like it gives you variety. But if you understand the fundamentals of posing and lighting, you can do so much with nothing. Would one light, one modifier or one piece of fabric. [00:08:59][108.3]

[00:09:00] Lisa DiGeso: Yeah. So when you are feeling like you are doing the same thing over and over, how do you feel that you can keep it fresh? And so it does feel like a new experience for you each time. [00:09:09][9.5]

[00:09:10] Esther Kay: Yeah. And it’s I am very guilty of becoming very bored. [00:09:14][3.3]

[00:09:15] Lisa DiGeso: You’re preaching to the choir. [00:09:16][0.7]

[00:09:17] Esther Kay: I feel like as creators, as artists, we are all kind of in the same boat, because anybody I speak to kind of is like, I get bored so fast. You get imported so fast. And that is the biggest danger as a creator and as a business owner is when you are not, when that spark in you kind of, like, dies or dies, but it kind of gets not as bright, right? Because, yes, we’re business owners, but deep down we’re artists. And as an artist, if I am bored, I won’t create the magic. And that’s how your business goes down, right? I am always, always out there learning more. Yes, I’m an educator, but to this day I still take workshops. I do on one on one mentorship with people, and it’s not always in my genre of photography. I always go out and different things that I would be like has nothing to do with maternity. Yeah, yes, I bring it back and I put my twist and it makes a huge difference in what I create and what I attract to my business. For example, I took a boudoir workshop a few years back with Yulia, who is amazing. She is phenomenal, and so many things came out of that workshop. I have learned to. Techniques that she never used on maternity during her workshop. They were all on boudoir models. I brought it back into my studio. I didn’t model cos I twisted it and I created art that I hadn’t done before. Right? And we just did a workshop together, which was amazing. And we’re going to be traveling so much next year. We’re going to go to Europe and all kinds of places. But that’s just a prime example of I went to a workshop that had nothing to do with my genre, brought it back and created a new something that blossomed in me. Right. And it’s a huge difference. I look at my images from before the workshop and after the workshop, and it’s every everything I do, whether it’s I travel to a workshop, whether it’s I do a one on one online, whether I just follow somebody and learn. It’s the fact that you just have to be open. I think the greatest educators, the greatest photographers, the greatest instructors out in the world. The day you say I’m done, I know it all is the death of me. [00:11:35][138.1]

[00:11:35] Lisa DiGeso: Yeah, agree. [00:11:36][0.4]

[00:11:36] Esther Kay: So I don’t think we should ever be ashamed of learning. I’m very proud and I think it makes a huge difference. [00:11:43][6.8]

[00:11:44] Lisa DiGeso: It does. It does. Being a lifetime learner and I think you hit the nail on the head is like, because it’s never the end of the journey. It’s like you’re always there’s always something more to learn. And that’s like with our online retreats. That’s one thing. Like I learn something new from every single instructor every year. Like it’s I love it. I think that you can just always be a lifetime learner. And I think it’s just important to just always have that learner’s mindset. So I love hearing that from you. So your specialty is fine art maternity. So can you share what kind of drew you to this particular niche, and how do you infuse your own creativity in your maternity sessions? [00:12:20][36.4]

[00:12:22] Esther Kay: So I think fine art, it’s a beautiful word that can be used in defined and so many different ways, so many different ways. I think it’s a word that allows us to be creative in my brain. When I think of fine art in my dictionary, fine art is timeless work of art now. Timeless work of art could be so many different things for so many different people, but for me, it’s something that my clients can look back in 30 years and say, wow, I am a work of art, I am beautiful, I was beautiful, and rather than think, what was I thinking? And I think that’s kind of with any genre, I hear that with wedding photographers, I hear with newborn photographers and maternity photographers. We all want to create something that the clients can cherish forever, that they don’t want to hide in their in their attic because they’re embarrassed of the way, the way they look like that. Right. And I think what draws me to, again, my definition of fine art is less is more. The less I do, the more beautiful the images are and the more it allows me to be creative. Like I said, I do so much with nothing. That’s just my life. Maybe it’s one, maybe it’s two or however many I use at that time, but it doesn’t put me in a box, right? I feel like if I have a box of imagination, I can’t really go out of it. And what I do, it allows me to be very creative and understand my client rather than saying, this is what I do, I only shoot them big round or I only shoot nude or I. It allows me to do a little bit of it all and create something that’s specific for that person, because what looks good on me might not look great on the next person, or what looks beautiful on you. That beautiful haircut my name got on me, you know? And I want to be able to. Yes, have my touch on my art with something that represents my client. [00:14:24][121.7]

[00:14:24] Lisa DiGeso: Now, are you primarily in studio only, or do you do you do outdoor. [00:14:27][2.9]

[00:14:29] Esther Kay: 100% in studio. [00:14:29][0.2]

[00:14:30] Lisa DiGeso: Oh, which is like. [00:14:30][0.8]

[00:14:31] Esther Kay: Really rare extra I’m only like one every. I don’t know how many years that someone may be able to pull me out, but I am in studio 110% of the time. [00:14:41][9.8]

[00:14:42] Lisa DiGeso: Well, because that gives you so much more control because I am a primarily an outdoor maternity photographer, and the elements that that you battle like rainy days, wind, like all the things you go through. Being a studio photographer, it’s so much easier to control all the things, right? You’re not killing sessions and having to reschedule things because of the weather. So I like that. [00:15:04][21.7]

[00:15:04] Esther Kay: Being an outdoor photographer is beautiful and you guys do a fantastic job of it. And I look at some of the images and I’m like, wow, that’s like breathtaking. I have nothing against them now. It’s not for me because I’m such a control freak, right? If I go outside and I hair is in the air, I would have a heart attack. If that dress is not the way I want it, I would probably my heart would be in like my mouth. Like I could feel like here. And it’s beautiful. The what you do, but it’s not me. So pushing myself to a point where I am so stressed. Yes, I’m so like panicky. I’m not able to be creative, right? And I think that one of the reasons I have been able to achieve what I’ve achieved in the amount of time I’ve been doing it, is because I’ve figured out what works best for me, my personality and my art, and I try to master that rather than 10,000 things at the same time. [00:15:59][55.0]

[00:16:00] Lisa DiGeso: I think that’s so important that it’s not something that we don’t often hear or talk enough about. Is listening to your own intuition and deciding what you like and versus trying to people please? Because a lot of the times when you’re first getting started, it’s like, okay, I’m going to shoot your dog, I’m going to do head shots, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that. And it gets a little overwhelming because you’re like, I don’t really want to say no to anyone. But what happens is it comes at the detriment of your happiness. And I love that you’re just like, no, like, I know this is not good for me. I’m going to choose and design a business that aligns with me. And you’ve done that, I love that. [00:16:36][36.4]

[00:16:37] Esther Kay: Thank you. I think it’s very important because yes, we’re business owners, but like I said, we’re human, you’re artists, and if you’re unhappy, you’re just going to not grow. In my opinion. And we were all good. We all did it. We all did shoot everything. I tried outdoors, I tried family, I tried children. You have to try to be able to decide. You can just, like, wake up and be like, okay, now I’m going to be a photographer, I’m going to be a maternity photographer. And that’s what’s going to happen, right? You have to go out there and try. And sometimes when we’re just starting our business, we don’t have the luxury of selecting what we do, but we are able to represent what we like. Yeah. So I remember when I wanted to just switch into studio and I went, I wanted to switch from everything to maternity. It was a little scary because it was like, what if I lose everybody else? You don’t have to lose your clients. You can still shoot outdoors. You can still shoot what you need to shoot to pay the bills. Yeah. But it’s more of what you put out there. What you try to sell, like your Instagram. What does it look like? For example, when I wanted to make my switch from everything in everything in the books to just maternity, I did model dolls and that’s all I showed. It took a little while for people to realize, okay, well, that’s all she’s going to do. You know, or whatever anybody want, if someone wants to just shoot outdoors is just indoors. It takes a little bit of a step and a switch, but it’s doable. And what you show, is what you get. And it’s kind of, I think not. I don’t want to say specializing because I don’t like that word, but once you, once you decide what works best for you, you’ll blossom so much. That is what you’re going to track, and that is what you’re going to be known for. [00:18:28][111.2]

[00:18:29] Lisa DiGeso: Yeah. What advice do you have on someone who might be struggling to like niche down and they’re stuck in that people pleasing mode, but they’re unhappy. So how do you identify that you’re number one not happy. And number two, what advice would you have for like starting to make some changes? [00:18:46][17.2]

[00:18:48] Esther Kay: Well, I think we we just have to be honest with ourselves, in my opinion. And I think deep down we all know what we like, right? Yes. Like, being a people pleaser, we all are to an extent. But kind of like taking a step back and realizing, hey, when I edit, what do I not want, finish a bottle of wine? And that is right. Or like what, sessions do I joyfully run to? And I get so excited on the of what what what size, what type of sessions, look creative rather than the same poses in the same style. What just, you know, brings joy to my heart. I think kind of just listening to ourselves. It’s this the basics of life, right? It’s not just photography. It’s being in a relationship. It’s, it’s a little bit of everything. You just have to see what works best for you. [00:19:45][56.5]

[00:19:45] Lisa DiGeso: So could you share a little bit about your creative process when you’re conceptualizing and planning a fine art maternity session to the execution? [00:19:53][7.4]

[00:19:56] Esther Kay: The process. I communicate a lot with my clients, which allows the process to be very smooth. Now, I don’t speak to my clients personally till they show up to my studio. Which, when I talk about it, people are what in the world? I literally don’t speak to them till the day of their session, but I’ve never had a client freak out saying like, oh my goodness, what’s happening? Because my process is so organized. Yeah, and I communicate so much with them. There’s automatic emails that go out. They know from the second the daybook what will happen. On every single week prior to the recession. What to expect, what to bring. I mean from one to sleep, what to eat, what to bring. Like everything pretty. Because I think communication is so important. And the more they know, the less they’re going to ask questions, and then the less they’re going to be nervous. Everything is very well out put out for them. I have a very. Up forward and conversation with them when they’re here. As far as their expectations, by their vision, I spend quite a bit of time, understanding their vision. During the session, it’s very smooth because I communicate a lot. If anybody watches my lines or is on my Instagram, they know I talk a lot to my clients, but that’s what allows them to trust me. Yeah, I think the fact that they trust me, I’m able to be creative and create something that I’ve never done before with a brand new client, which I do on a daily basis. Yeah. So everything is very kind of like out there for them, which if they actually read and follow, there’s never any questions. So they book, they come to their session, they get follow up emails, they get their images, and then they come back for their newborn and motherhood and then next pregnancy. [00:21:49][112.9]

[00:21:50] Lisa DiGeso: Perfect, I love it. So you do do newborns here? [00:21:53][2.9]

[00:21:53] Esther Kay: I do newborns, I started as a newborn photographer. Yeah. And I love newborns. Now I only do it as four times a month because they are just so much work. At what? Not because I want to have it in my studio. Because it suits my soul. And it’s, great birth control. So good. And my husband’s very happy about it. But I do, four times a month. It is not open to the public. It’s only for my own clients. Yeah. And I love it, and I don’t, and I, of course I do. Motherhood. Anything besides maternity is not open to public. It’s only for my own clients because I do very limited for newborns. Three motherhood and one milestone. Yeah. I love that. I love that. For my maternity clients. [00:22:44][50.2]

[00:22:46] Lisa DiGeso: So you’ve been in the industry for about 14 years or so. So do you have any changes you’ve seen or trends you’ve seen in maternity specifically? And how do you stay ahead of the curve? [00:22:58][12.1]

[00:23:00] Esther Kay: So the 14 I mean, I’m very, it feels good that you think that I’ve been in industry for 14 years. Maybe it’s a misstep I’ve been in, but that’s okay. If you believe that this should be good news, I’ll take it. I’ve been an issue for four years. [00:23:17][16.6]

[00:23:17] Lisa DiGeso: Oh, my gosh, it was a miss type. Yeah. [00:23:19][1.9]

[00:23:20] Esther Kay: Right. I have I have seen quite a bit of changes, and I quite have people think that I’ve been in industry for. I don’t. Think so. The reason for that is, like I mentioned earlier, is because I invested so much in education, which is the reason why I was able to take such large steps towards, becoming who I am today. But I have seen a lot of trends. I remember when I first started, there were a lot of, bows and a lot of the pampas grass, which they’re beautiful, I love them, I have had them in my home for many moons, but, a lot of that I saw a lot of, lifestyles, a lot of outdoors, they’re all beautiful. And I think that, as a business owner, we need to pay attention to what’s coming around. Yeah. But it’s more of, like, not allowing it to change. Yeah. I have a style. I have something that allows me to be creative and be me. Now, when there’s a new shenanigans out in the world, I bring it in. I would open arms, but I twisted for it to become me. I want someone that’s not my clients to look at an image, whether it’s something that I normally do or something completely new and say, oh, that’s Astra’s image. And I think that’s really important as an artist and as an, as, educator, as a business owner is instead of finding other people around you is just create something that has your signature. [00:24:54][94.6]

[00:24:55] Lisa DiGeso: Yeah. Hundred percent. 100%. Okay. So can you show your business model? Are you, all digital IPS or a hybrid? [00:25:04][8.5]

[00:25:07] Esther Kay: That’s a hard question. I maybe, I guess you can call it a hybrid. I have everything out, and they can decide I don’t. I don’t sell anything to my clients as far as digital or print. I don’t recommend anything. Everything is out for them and I do both. I do digital, and I do lots of prints. I do offer a white glove service for my prints clients, which everybody loves. I go into their homes and I designed a wall, so it’s like a wall plaza. So I want to say 80, 90% of my clients do go for the prints. But I the reason I said I guess you can call hybrid is because I don’t sell either or. Yeah. I send them everything. Everything is on my website, and I’m through email and I have catalogs, I get Centrum and they make their decision. So whatever they like, I give them. [00:25:59][51.9]

[00:26:00] Lisa DiGeso: I love that. Love that. So are there any special touches that you like to include for your clients? [00:26:05][5.9]

[00:26:08] Esther Kay: Special touches? Yes. When they arrive, I want him to remember me. Whether is, you know, from the experience, from the smile, from the stand. So I have a certain sense in the studio that I have that everybody loves. And I’ve had special maternity body shaped candle made from that scent, so I give that to every client. Also, there’s a bunch of goodies and a little necklace that has, like, a mommy holding a baby. And so I do, I do personalize stuff for them that they get a little basket when they come. And as a gift, which is usually a surprise for them. I send them, I give them a canvas, a 20 by 30 canvas to their homes. After the session, after we’re done with everything. [00:26:54][45.5]

[00:26:54] Lisa DiGeso: Oh, I love that. Oh, gosh. What was my question? It was in my brain, and now it’s gone. This happens every time. Every time. Every time. It’s already gone. [00:27:03][8.6]

[00:27:05] Esther Kay: It’ll come back. [00:27:05][0.6]

[00:27:07] Lisa DiGeso: So, so many of us struggle with self-image and feeling confident, especially when pregnant. So what role does body positivity and self-acceptance play in your approach to maternity photography? [00:27:18][11.2]

[00:27:21] Esther Kay: It’s very true that when people are pregnant, they’re the most vulnerable. And one of the reasons I love, love what I do is the smile on their faces when they leave my studio. They haven’t seen a single image. They haven’t seen the final result. So they’re kind of like and, unknown. But when they leave, they give me a hug and say, like, thank you so much. I felt so beautiful. Now I won’t be able to relay that to my clients if I don’t feel confident in me. And I say this to all my students is once you’re confident in your work, your art, your knowledge, your lighting, your posing, all that good stuff. Once your confidence in yourself and what you’re giving your clients, they will be able to trust you and you will make them feel beautiful. If I stand behind my camera and I go click, click, click click click. They don’t know what they’re doing. Now. If I’m in it like I tell them, I’m like word team. I tell them and you know, they questions. And I think maternity is everybody seems like they’re shooting maternity these days. But it’s such a touchy. Yeah. Such special touchy, drawn to photograph. Because they’re vulnerable. They feel the largest they ever have in their life. They’re going to question you. They’re gonna wonder, and you can see it all in their face. So if you are not, you’re at your 100% whether you’re posing them, whether you’re shooting your lighting. And I’m not saying you have to be a master at it, because a lot of times I tell em, I’m like, hey, I don’t think that works. Let’s change it. But I communicate with them, right? And I tell them I’m like, hey, when I pose you, I guarantee you you are going to look the best in my camera. They never question ever. Now I mirror for them. I show them it’s all about communication. The more you communicate, the more they trust you. The more they trust you, the more they’re going to feel relaxed. And when they’re relaxed, they’re going to have such a fantastic job. They’re going to have such a fantastic time, and I’m going to do such a fantastic job. [00:29:38][136.9]

[00:29:38] Lisa DiGeso: I love that it’s so true. You should. Do you show them the back of your camera? [00:29:43][4.2]

[00:29:44] Esther Kay: No you don’t, at all because, I want to say a 50% of my art is my editing. Now, I’m not saying that changing them is my editing. Yeah, it’s the feeling and the emotions that I put in the image. You cannot tell me there’s a single image that you see in the back of the camera, and the final results that’s printed on the wall. Look, I don’t know whether it’s you tweaking the lighting, whether it’s you touching up the skin, whether it’s you, I don’t know, adding a little. Extra fabric. Whatever it is, it’s not going to look the same. Now being pregnant, it’s you have so much emotions, so much hormones that you could show them the most beautiful image. They could look breathtaking. I guarantee they’ll find something that they’ll be like. Yeah, right. And I never want them to go home and spend four weeks before they get their images that. Look, stressing. Anxiety, because then all they’re going to do is just message me is my imagery, am I do I look good? Oh, by the way, I don’t like my arms that are so I never do. I never ever should the back of my camera. But. The way I can get away with that is by being their mirror. I stand in front of them. I pose for them. I show them everything. I communicate, I tell them how beautiful they are. Because they are. They’re just so beautiful and magical and. And they never even ask to look at my camera, thankfully. [00:31:11][86.7]

[00:31:14] Lisa DiGeso: I love that. Now, do you ever find, clients that maybe are not happy with how they end up looking? And how do you deal with that? [00:31:24][10.1]

[00:31:26] Esther Kay: It’s very rare that I have a client. I mean, I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but it’s rare because everything is so out on the table. And like I said, communication is the key when they’re here. Instead of saying, what don’t you like about yourself? I bring little I hint at things, so it’s more about being a good listener. Before they leave, I talk about the process of my editing. I say, hey, I make everybody look a certain way, and then I communicate. I explain to them prior to delivering their gallery because I don’t edit everything. I sample edit images for them. They see raw images, but I sample edit and I tell them, hey, communicate with me. Tell me what you like. Tell me what you don’t like. And I’m very open about it. It’s very. I want to say I don’t even remember the last person that came back with Reedit request. Because I’m so open about it. Because it’s so. Well. Like I said, I spent a lot of extra time communicating with them, but it saves me from an unhappy client or someone that’s constantly, like, nervous. And then all the things like, yeah. [00:32:35][68.3]

[00:32:35] Lisa DiGeso: Yeah, you can tell a photographer that listens when you get the gallery back and they and it’s like, because, because I specifically only ever want to be shot from this, this angle. I don’t like this angle, I look different, I like this angle. And so when I get if I were to get a gallery back and I was shot entirely from this angle, I’m like, that photographer didn’t listen to me. You know what I mean? Like, right, I get it. [00:32:56][20.7]

[00:32:57] Esther Kay: I go, yeah, it’s you got it. We got. I’m a talker, as you can tell. I’m a big talker, but, at the same time that I talk, I’m able to kind of, like, grasp what they like because they’re nervous if I don’t talk to them and kind of, like, bring their energy up, my session is going to just be a no go. It’s going to be so bad and they’re going to be just nervous. So when I talk and I giggle, or if I want to find out if they don’t like something about themselves, I bring it up about myself. Oh, I don’t right. Yeah, I was in my arms. So let’s do this. So covers and talking and communicating and listening. It’s it’s just such a key. [00:33:33][36.1]

[00:33:33] Lisa DiGeso: It completely. That’s something that I’ve always done with my maternity sessions too, which I find really it’s interesting because you’re putting people at ease and you’re not giving them that time to question how they’re looking, because you’re always just chit chatting about something. Then they come to the newborn session and you’re like, like, I’m so quiet. And they’re like, it’s like you’re two different people. I’m like, but I do this strategically, right? And I’m sure you do too, because you figured out what you need to, what you need to give from yourself in order to get the result that you need from your client. [00:34:03][30.0]

[00:34:04] Esther Kay: 100% and 100%. And they love it. They they, they enjoy the fact that you’re communicating with them. And even like I said, I say this to my students all the time, if there is something you’re doing and it’s not going right, don’t be scared of changing it, even communicating with them, because you don’t want to be stuck with a gallery. That just is not the way you like, or the lighting or the posing. I literally could pose someone and be like, let’s just try something different. I like literally move them. Or if I’m trying something brand new, I tell them, oh, let’s try this. And they appreciate it so much more than you being silent and looking professional. [00:34:44][39.3]

[00:34:45] Lisa DiGeso: Yeah. No. You’re in California, right? Yes. So have you started working with celebrity clients yet? [00:34:50][5.3]

[00:34:52] Esther Kay: I do in my area. I’m in Bay Area. Yeah. So our celebrities, there are a lot of football. Basketball, all, you know, that that type of celebrity. Yes. I’ve shot quite a bit. No movie stars yet. [00:35:05][13.7]

[00:35:06] Lisa DiGeso: Not yet. [00:35:06][0.2]

[00:35:07] Esther Kay: No, but they’re going to I mean, they’re going to play next year to do all of that. [00:35:11][4.3]

[00:35:12] Lisa DiGeso: Totally, I love that. Well, you know, what’s interesting is I was having a conversation recently with this, another photographer, he’s he’s a wedding photographer in California, and he was surprised at how few photographers actually reach out to celebrities and influencers to say, hey, I’d love to shoot you. You know, he’s like, people should just do it. And I was like, that is brilliant. Because man, I would be like a dirty shirt if I live in California. [00:35:38][25.9]

[00:35:39] Esther Kay: I, I, I agree, and you know, people are kind, people are very kind, actually. I mean, they usually don’t say no. So if they just go through and who cares? Someone goes to zoo like I am. People ask me all the time is like, how do you get your models? I do quite a bit of model calls because I do. I want to try something new or I have a teaching. And all you gotta do is just ask. Yeah. And mostly you can say no, which nobody does. They go see if they don’t want to work with you and it’s okay. Who cares? Yeah. But yeah. So it’s fine. I mean, just ask. Yeah. Which is great way of, kind of putting yourself out there. Yeah. It’s the best, most free type of advertising you can do, is just to collaborate with people that are, you know, a little well known in your, in your area, and they didn’t advertise it for you. [00:36:29][50.2]

[00:36:30] Lisa DiGeso: Yep. Totally love it. So you ready for a lightning round? [00:36:32][2.6]

[00:36:34] Esther Kay: Yeah. Okay. [00:36:35][0.8]

[00:36:37] Lisa DiGeso: Oh. What’s your favorite movie? [00:36:38][0.7]

[00:36:39] Esther Kay: Breakfast at Tiffany’s. [00:36:40][0.5]

[00:36:41] Lisa DiGeso: Oh, see, that’s a good one. What did you want to be when you grew up as a kid? [00:36:47][5.9]

[00:36:48] Esther Kay: I wanted to be a TV host because I just liked that. There. Just, like, in front of. In front of the camera talking. And they have control over everything. And then I also wanted to be a lawyer because I like to argue. I became none of those. [00:37:02][14.1]

[00:37:05] Lisa DiGeso: I love it. Favorite TV show is a kid? [00:37:07][2.1]

[00:37:09] Esther Kay: You know, I didn’t do much TV when I was. No. I don’t even do much TV now. No, the TV and the movie questions are not going to be. [00:37:18][9.3]

[00:37:18] Lisa DiGeso: A that’s too much for you, okay? Oceans are mountains. And why? [00:37:21][2.8]

[00:37:23] Esther Kay: Love them both. Oceans just are calming to my soul. But mountains because. Whatever season, there’s a new piece of art in front of your face, and I just. I said, I get bored so fast. And I think looking at the same waves every single day, my warm, my soul. [00:37:39][16.5]

[00:37:40] Lisa DiGeso: So my. Favorite, guilty or not so guilty pleasure. [00:37:45][5.0]

[00:37:47] Esther Kay: Traveling. As a mom, it’s really hard because, I’ve got two little ones. Three and five. Yeah. So it’s really hard to travel. But I do it for teaching, and then I usually stay a day later or go there early because I just love travel. [00:38:02][15.4]

[00:38:02] Lisa DiGeso: Yeah, yeah. What’s for dinner tonight. [00:38:05][2.6]

[00:38:06] Esther Kay: I have no idea. My husband’s cooking. [00:38:07][0.9]

[00:38:08] Lisa DiGeso: Nice. Same. Go to song that lifts you up when you’re down. [00:38:13][5.3]

[00:38:18] Esther Kay: When. When I’m down and I lift it up. It’s not the music that brings me up. I workout, I do hot yoga, or I go cycling, or I go to the gym, and it’s. It’s the best. Yeah. Thing. [00:38:32][13.9]

[00:38:32] Lisa DiGeso: I love hot yoga. My jam. [00:38:34][1.8]

[00:38:35] Esther Kay: Me too. I did one this morning. [00:38:36][0.5]

[00:38:37] Lisa DiGeso: So I haven’t been in a while. I’m. I need to get back. [00:38:39][2.1]

[00:38:40] Esther Kay: I love it, it allows me to shut my brain. Yes. Like the seven meditation. The heat. And it’s just so good. [00:38:46][6.8]

[00:38:47] Lisa DiGeso: So I love it. What’s been the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given? [00:38:51][4.0]

[00:38:55] Esther Kay: It’s been to print my art. I met a gal at the same workshop that I won for the very first time, that I’ve decided that this is my jam, and I going to be a photographer. I met a gal. Sweet, sweet, sweet girl. And we just had each other on Instagram. And randomly she hits me up. Not too long ago, I think a year and a half ago. And she said, I hope that your printing your art. And I was like, no, what are you talking about? And she kind of introduced me to the world of prints and, the best thing that’s ever happened to me. And she’s became one of my. Closest people that I reach out to, whether it’s for business or family. She’s my person and she gave me that advice. [00:39:42][47.0]

[00:39:42] Lisa DiGeso: I love that. Do you have the home studio or do you have a boutique studio? [00:39:46][3.5]

[00:39:47] Esther Kay: I have, not a home studio and not a storefront, but I have, a home studio outside of home. [00:39:55][7.5]

[00:39:56] Lisa DiGeso: Oh, awesome. [00:39:57][0.4]

[00:39:57] Esther Kay: It’s just I’ve. I’ve made it my own. It’s four different office spaces, or, like, 450ft² each. And I’ve dedicated each room to, I have a newborn, I have a maternity. I have, client closet and hair and makeup, a storage and an office. So, so cool. It’s not your typical studio, but it’s the best studio for me. [00:40:17][20.3]

[00:40:18] Lisa DiGeso: I love that. That’s awesome. Can you maybe share a memorable maternity shoot where you felt a deep connection with your client and your art? [00:40:27][8.9]

[00:40:28] Esther Kay: Yes. This gal right here that you can see. I don’t know if you can see her image. I’ve done four maternity sessions with her for newborns and for motherhood, and she comes here all the time, and I photograph her just because I met her in my garage when I was shooting in my garage. She was my very first paid maternity client. And she’s just breathtaking. And she’s actually a professional. She used to be a professional model, which I think is why I loved photographing her, because it made my life so much easier as a new photographer. But we are. We just connected, and she has the same vision as me, and we she’s so open to trying new things. And I’ve photographed her for many moons. And every time I would let people see her on my Instagram all the time because she’s pregnant all the time. So she’s always here and I love her, and we hang out outside of the studio. Our kids hang out. So it’s I’ve built a really good relationship with her as well. [00:41:28][59.7]

[00:41:28] Lisa DiGeso: I love that, isn’t it, that the gift. I’ve got one client that she’s expecting her fifth, and I’ve been there from, like, the beginning, and one client just had her seventh, and I know, and I’ve been there since beginning too. [00:41:40][11.9]

[00:41:40] Esther Kay: Wow. Yeah, she’s my top. She’s got four and I’m so excited. I’ve done four. I keep telling her every time she comes back for I’m, a mother. I’m like, so when are you having your next? [00:41:50][9.9]

[00:41:51] Lisa DiGeso: Yeah. It’s so funny, I love it. So what advice would you have for someone just starting out as a photographer? [00:41:56][5.3]

[00:41:59] Esther Kay: Invest in your education. Yeah I that’s I am like as I always say I am who I am today and I’ve jumped so many steps and I’ve kind of like graduated from every step so fast because I invested so much in my education. Yeah. Instead of buying so many equipments. Yeah. We props take that one third of that money and put it in education. And kind of find your cup of tea, your genre, what suits your soul. I think that’s what everybody should do. Because when you’re happy, you’re just, you know, you’re happy to the world. [00:42:38][39.6]

[00:42:39] Lisa DiGeso: Yeah. It’s true. So where can our listeners learn more from you? [00:42:43][4.5]

[00:42:45] Esther Kay: Oh. I’m everywhere. I am everywhere. Obviously on my Instagram, the most presence on my Instagram. As much as I dislike social media, I am on my Instagram all the time. My family’s on Instagram, so I’m on Instagram all the time. I do have a live show. Which, Lisa, you should be on the 22nd live show that I, that’s just my way of grabbing a cup of coffee with, amazing photographers from all over the world. I’ve interviewed people from Iran, from UK, all over, from here, down the street, everywhere. So they can they can, see me there. I’m also going to go to Canada, in January, January 27th. I have a master class in Canada. I’ll be at imaging USA at the counter. I’ll be teaching there for two days. I’m going to San Diego. I’ll be teaching there. I’ll be in New York in May. I’ll be in Costa Rica. I’ll be teaching there and a bunch of places in Europe. So I’m everywhere, and hopefully I’ll be the Milky Way next year. [00:43:46][61.5]

[00:43:48] Lisa DiGeso: Yep. You bet. I love it. I love it. So I love to end my interviews just with this last question. And it is what are you currently curious about or artistically curious about? [00:44:01][13.6]

[00:44:05] Esther Kay: So right now I’m trying to incorporate more color into my world in general. As you can see, I don’t do much color in life. I like black, I like white, and I like beige. Even in my house, that is all. You see? That’s all I wear. And I’m trying to incorporate color. Not as a factor, like just just adding color. I’m investing in understanding the relationship of different colors with one another. Which is something that you can see in my work recently. I do a lot of overlaying canvases. And it’s just such a fun thing to do. And like I said, for someone that is just not a fan of color, it’s a huge step stepping out of my comfort zone. But like I said, got to try new things to be able to create new things. [00:44:56][50.8]

[00:44:58] Lisa DiGeso: Absolutely. Now, have you played with colored gels at all on your lights? Yeah, yeah. Fun. [00:45:01][3.4]

[00:45:02] Esther Kay: Yeah, those are fun. I’m not. Surprisingly. I mean, I think as photographers we are all a big fan because it’s such a cool thing to do. Clients not so much. I know. Why. And, so sometimes, like, as far as my idea, they kind of do it, but I’ve noticed that, playing with canvases, I don’t know, maybe it’s the texture they love. Maybe it’s the fact that overlaying them, it just every image looks different. They just love it. And I love that. So. Yeah. [00:45:34][32.0]

[00:45:35] Lisa DiGeso: I love that. So. Well, Esther, thank you so much for joining me today. [00:45:38][3.1]

[00:45:39] Esther Kay: Thank you so much for having me. It was so much fun. Thank you. [00:45:41][2.7]

[00:45:43] Lisa DiGeso: Oh, my beautiful friends. I hope you have enjoyed this conversation just as much as I have. I’m sending you so much of my light and my love today and every single day. We will see you next time. [00:45:55][11.9]

[00:45:57] Lisa DiGeso: I wanted to take a moment to ask you a little favor. I so appreciate you spending your time with me and tuning in and listening to the show. I would be so incredibly grateful if you could take a quick moment to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Your review helps other photographers discover the podcast and learn how to grow their own photography businesses, and gain confidence to go after their dreams. It also means the world to me personally and helps me know what content you find most helpful. Thank you so much for your support and for being part of our amazing community. [00:45:57][0.0]


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