Motherhood & Magical Mamas: The Art of Maternity Photography with Lela Ruth
Expectant mothers want to feel pampered and beautiful. Unfortunately, the perception of how a woman should look is warped by society and the media and filters. It’s an unnatural expectation that’s impossible to live up to. What is possible is bringing out the natural beauty of expectant mothers in their maternity shoots, and Lela Ruth has created high-end artwork in her business that does exactly that.
In today’s episode, I’m chatting with Lela Richardson of Lela Ruth Photography about how she has cultivated a client experience that helps her mamas-to-be to feel comfortable, confident, and beautiful. She also shares how she developed her business model, how she works with fabrics to level up her photo shoots, and a sneak peek of the session she’s teaching at the upcoming Milky Way Retreat.
After many years as a newborn photographer focusing on natural light environments, Lela fell in love with maternity and motherhood photography. She took a huge leap in her career two years ago and opened a high-end portrait studio. A mother of two herself, she loves to help her expectant mothers to look and feel beautiful.
I can’t wait for you to hear this episode and I hope that Lela’s creativity and penchant for prioritizing the comfort and confidence of her clients will inspire you to try some new things in your own portrait work.
What’s in this episode:
- [03:47] How Lela has created a client experience that promotes comfortability and confidence (and leads to stunning portraits), and how she approaches conversations about Photoshopping with her clients
- [11:14] Why Lela made the decision to be all IPS in her business model, her biggest product sellers, and her advice on finding a quality lab to work with
- [18:05] How Lela evolved her business into a high-end studio experience, and how success isn’t linear
- [26:30] How Lela gets her inspiration from fabrics and how they can transform a photo
- [33:37] Lela’s current projects, which include a maternity workshop and a new academy she recently launched for fellow photographers
- [36:51] A sneak peak of Lela’s session at the upcoming Milky Way Retreat
Tune in to this episode with Lela Ruth to learn about high-end studio portrait photography and how to create an experience that leaves your clients feeling comfortable and confident!
As a professional photographer, mother of two and wife to an incredible husband, life keeps her busy. Born and raised in Mississippi, her passion for photography and creativity developed at a young age. After experimenting with various types of photography and creating award winning images of newborns, her desires shifted to maternity and motherhood. She found such joy in seeing her clients love themselves through the images she created. Behind the insecurities, every woman wants to look and feel beautiful. Her goal now is to help women to value themselves and see their true beauty and to help photographers who share her passion.
Awarded Bronze with distinction from The Portraits Master 2022.
Connect with Lela
Did this episode with Lela Ruth inspire you to enhance your client experience and get creative in your photo shoots? Check out this episode from Donatella Nicolini that offers you even more insight on fostering client relationships!
AS Ep 153 FINAL.mp3
[00:00:00] Lela Fabric is such a wide range of things, ideas and just creativity. I feel like it’s me. I feel like I’m a piece of fabric and I could just be molded in all different kinds of way to create different things. And I feel like that’s just so amazing that I can take something not very valuable. I mean, I mean, it’s a piece of fabric, but I can create something incredible and meaningful and inspiring and gorgeous. And I just feel like that, you know, sometimes I just feel like I’m a piece of fabric and I’m just all over the place and flowing here and there. And I feel like once I’ve kind of dived into fabric that has really pulled a lot of inspiration just from inside of me just creating on set. Like I’ll just take a piece of fabric and I’ll just say, you know, we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that. And I just started it’s just it’s just starts flowing.
[00:00:56] Lisa 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.
[00:01:39] Lisa Hello, my beautiful friends. Welcome back to the show. I’m super excited to dive into today’s conversation with Lela Richardson from Lela Ruth Photography. As a professional photographer, mother of two and wife to an incredible husband, life keeps her busy. Born and raised in Mississippi, her passion for photography and creativity developed at a young age. After experimenting with various types of photography and creating award winning images, a newborn, her desires shifted to maternity and motherhood. She found such joy in seeing her clients love themselves through the images she created. Behind the insecurities, every woman wants to look and feel beautiful. Her goal now is to help women to value themselves and see their true beauty and to help photographers who share her passion. Without further ado, here is Lela.
[00:02:30] Lisa Welcome.
[00:02:31] Lela Hi. Thank you, Lisa. I’m so excited to be here. This is actually a dream of mine.
[00:02:37] Lisa Love that. Love. It’s so exciting.
[00:02:40] Lisa Well, tell us really who you are and what you are and what your passion. But I know we shared a little bit in the intro, but dive in and just tell us really who you are and what you love to do the most.
[00:02:49] Lela I’m a wife, for sure. A mom and a photographer and a creative. I think a creative is really what I started out to be like. That was before I got married, before I had kids. Being a creative has always been a part of me as a child. I mean, I love to write. I love to draw. I love to do all these things. But it was just based on creativity and it just it moved me into a space of like, this is where I love to be. This is where I want to be. I feel happy here. I think photography is just an outlet that I fell in love with, and that’s just part of being creative and it’s just fulfilled me tremendously.
[00:03:30] Lisa I love that. Well, your work is incredible, and my lovely listeners out there, if you haven’t already gone and checked out her work, you are going to have to. Her maternity work will absolutely blow your mind. It is stunning things.
[00:03:44] Lisa Stunning.
[00:03:47] Lisa So I want to talk about creating a client experience because you can see in your work, your clients absolutely are so comfortable, they’re so flawless or so opposed. So you can see that there is a lot of work that behind the scenes that goes into creating that confidence and that comfortability for your clients. So can you share maybe some things that you do to create that incredible portrait experience for your clients?
[00:04:10] Lela Oh, definitely. I really feel like this is the base for an incredible session. So preparing for a session, actually meet my clients before they book. I bring them in, I get to know them and they get to know me. We figure out if I’m the right fit for them. And if we are, you know, we start moving forward, especially for a maternity client. I want them to feel amazing in what they’re wearing. So I have a wardrobe for them and they come in for a fitting and it really helps them to figure out what looks good on them, what feels good on them, and then it really hypes them up for their session. So they’ve seen me twice already before their session. They feel comfortable with me. They feel comfortable in what they’re wearing. So then they come to the session and they’re just ready to go. Like hair and makeup is offered and they just feel like it’s just a lovely pampering experience. So I feel like that foundation starting out is very important for the for the outcome of the session because you can kind of see the reaction during the posing, during the flow. If they’re kind of stiff, you kind of maybe feel like they’re uncomfortable. So we kind of get all that out of the way beforehand. And then when they come in for their session, they’re just they’re lovely. They’re just happy, they feel beautiful, they feel special. And of course, throughout the session, I’m just complimenting and just like really hyping them up, showing them stuff behind the camera. And they’re just like, they just don’t even know how beautiful they are. And so they see that. And then it’s just incredible. I really feel like starting out, getting to know me as a person, as a mom, and just having that relationship with my clients really gives that outcome of a beautiful gallery. So I feel like that’s most important.
[00:05:59] Lisa I love that. I love that you mentioned that you show them the images on the back of your camera. Because I that’s something I do, too. And like, it’s something like it really gives it there’s almost something where the trust switch clicks on when they’re like, Oh my gosh, you are good and I am beautiful.
[00:06:18] Lela See, that’s it right there. I’ve heard that so many times. They don’t. I feel like maybe they’ve been I guess their mindset has been kind of warped from all of the things they see online. All of these actresses, they’re all filtered up literally. They have. It’s not really natural. And they feel like there’s an expectation that is is really not able to meet. For a normal woman, you know, their mindset switches right in the middle of a session and they’re like, wow. I am that gorgeous. I am beautiful, and I have never had a client walk out and just say, you know, that was awful. They just love it. They can’t wait to look at all of the images. it’s just a beautiful experience to see a woman kind of find herself and love herself again. It is just incredible.
[00:07:02] Lisa I agree. I love that You touched a little bit on Photoshop and Filters because I think that’s something that it’s so funny because as like as a posed photographer, as a portrait photographer, and like as an aging woman, like, I love me some, I love me some Photoshop. I have no shame about this. Right. And I think it’s interesting in this time because we want we want the the authenticity You want to see see that. But we also have to be so aware of what our clients want, too. And so it’s like this tricky balance of trying to figure out where that fine line is with your client of what they want. So do you have conversations with your client about Photoshopping and how do you approach that?
[00:07:46] Lela Okay, so I find out a lot of things in our consultation. So I asked them if they seen my work, if they love the things and a lot of them before they even come in on their submission form, they’ll say, I’m not really comfortable in my body, but I have places where are little lumpy or I have some acne or I have stretch marks or I have things like that, but I don’t that I don’t really care for or can you take those out? And it’s like I said, it’s just from the beginning, starting that relationship with your client, figuring out what they want. And sometimes I just say, you know, if you’ve seen my work, you kind of see kind of the magic that before and after. And a lot of them are just like, Oh, yes, I love that. And a lot of the things are not really drastic, but there are some things where I do take that a little bit more drastic and force.
[00:08:32] Lisa Yeah, just a little bit modifications. Yeah.
[00:08:34] Lela Yeah. And it’s not like I’m actually changing, you know, really anything. It’s just a lot of pregnancy weight because I really want them to see, you know, you are gorgeous, but you know, this stuff is going to go away unless, like, you just don’t really. You sit on the couch all day and you’re just like, whatever. But like, usually all this, all those things are going to go away. You know, you’re going to get back to yourself eventually. And, you know, I just I just want them to to feel incredible in that moment of that journey that they’re taking as a mom or becoming a mom. It’s not easy carrying a child. It’s just not. Everything hurts. Our bodies are changing from being really different. And it’s just it’s just a lot of changes. And I want them to feel really comfortable. And as far as like Photoshop and filters and things like that, I mean, they, they are aware that I do that so they can see a before and after for sure. And they’re okay with that, that they say just do your magic, Lela, just do your magic. I love everything. I’ve had one client she she actually asked to reduce the editing on a portion of her session because she wanted to really remember the rawness of being pregnant. The stretch marks the lumps on her thighs, like the cellulite, like things like that is something to appreciate because you are bringing a life into this world. Your body is carrying this baby or multiple babies, and you’re a warrior. You’re incredible. And those are just like marks of being a strong woman. And I just feel like when she asked me that, I was all for it, I said yes. And I was just so excited. But, you know, at those moments, I’m just I’m like, yes. And if they do ask if they if I will do less, I will do less. But for the most part, everyone loves the Photoshop that I do and just making them feel and look beautiful. And it’s just it’s a work of art. It’s still them, but it’s a work of art. And I feel like that’s that’s just kind of my take on it. And it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay. But I find that my clients really, really love it a lot.
[00:10:43] Lisa So I love that I’m very similar because I think I think the key really is just having that open communication with your clients and saying, What do you want? I can do both. I’m like, And that’s and that’s the, you know, an artist can do both. It’s your choice. Like, how can I serve you?
[00:10:59] Lela Exactly. It’s it’s your session. We will do whatever you like.
[00:11:03] Lisa Yeah, I love that. So, speaking of, like, our business models, I would love to know if you’re ips, if you’re all digital, if you’re a hybrid, and how you’ve made that decision to serve your clients that way.
[00:11:14] Lela I am actually IPS. I serve my clients in the studio all in-person. Everything is in-person unless they are in a different state or if in a different place. We could do zoom calls and things like that to get to know them. And I work around people that are coming in from out of town. I do work with them, but everything is in-person for the most part, and I find it was kind of challenging in the beginning to switch from digital to all IPS because my clientele shifted. It went from people that were valuing the digital versus the people that are valuing products now. So it was a little bit of a challenge, but once I found the clients that appreciated and valued that, IPS wonderful. My clients appreciate everything that I do and creating and giving them everything. It’s just, I don’t know, like having something that’s on on a USB versus something that’s on your wall or in your hand is a completely different experience. And I feel like my clients deserved things that were in their hand that they could look at and say, Wow, this is gorgeous. This is something that my kids are going to love down the road.
[00:12:20] Lisa So, yeah, I love that. What would you say would be your biggest seller when it comes to your your business? Would it be like albums, prints?
[00:12:30] Lela So I have collections and it’s like a little story box. It has like a window in the front and it has matted prints inside. So you can do a lot of things with that. You can keep the mats inside, you can switch them out every day like a little window, and you can look at your photos, You can take the mats out, you can print, you can frame those and put them on your wall. You can actually frame all of the prints that are in there and keep it as a keepsake box for like your pregnancy items or your baby items or whatever. So that’s my my big seller. As far as the the product, I do sell wall art framed canvases, things like that. And I do have a lot of new stuff that’s coming in. So I’m hoping that my clients love that as well. But yeah, that’s pretty much my big sellers is going to be the collection of the matted prints in the story box.
[00:13:17] Lisa I love that. I think we hear a lot from our students that there is a bit of an overwhelm when it comes to looking at all the different options, all the different print labs, all of the choices that they have. Do you have any advice on finding a lab that you really work with and how to make it work?
[00:13:35] Lela Yeah, I’ve been through a lot of different products and labs and over the years I have went from like really cheap and just like really bad service, really bad product. But at the time it was okay because that’s all I could afford as far as my pricing and things like that, it kind of made sense. And I’m just kind of I bought things and I’ve, you know, wasted a lot of money, which I feel like is not really wasting is more of an investment for your business. So you can kind of figure out what works for you and what works for your clients and what your clients are looking for. I do feel like getting reviews from other photographers. Like if if I see something online and I’m like, Oh, I love that product. I’m going to I’m going to check. I’m going to go and ask that photographer if they mind sharing where they got that from. And most of the time, photographers don’t mind sharing. There are some times where it feels like it’s a little bit more private for them and that’s totally fine. But for the most part they respond and tell me the vendor. I check them out. I look at the reviews and I feel like if you can find a lab that kind of gives you everything instead of pulling from different vendors, that’s going to be amazing for you to keep everything on track. And then as they develop as a product, a vendor, they can offer you more and then you can offer your clients more. But you still get that connection with the lab. I really feel like it’s very important that the lab should have a rep for you or someone that you can talk to and you know you can correspond with them and say, Hey, if I have a problem, can we fix this? And they can fix it for the most part. Those types of vendors are going to it’s going to be a little bit more expensive as far as the products go, because you do get a lot of perks with the vendor. But I feel like that’s very, very important over the time that I’ve spent, you know, searching in and ordering and all these things, I feel like it’s just very important to have that that relationship with the rep. Obviously, you know, that extra few dollars will go a long way. Having that relationship and being able to communicate with the vendor, it’s incredible. I really feel like it’s very, very important when you’re looking for a lab or a vendor for products, for sure.
[00:15:51] Lisa I think a huge fear for a lot of our students too, is a lot of the times the images they’re seeing on their computer are not matching their their labs are getting back. Yeah. And calibration and like the confusion with that. So what advice do you have on that?
[00:16:05] Lela So my advice is if you find a vendor that you really like and you’ve heard really great things, I would reach out to the company, get sample prints. Figure out what works, and then figure out what you need to fix. Fix it. And if it works, continue with the vendor. If it doesn’t work, then move on. And a lot of the time they they love to send samples. They’ll say, you know, send us this and I’ll send you samples of like what your work looks like. And a lot of the time, I mean, if it’s a really good vendor and, you know, and it’s really highly reviewed and things like that, they will have someone that will talk you through, get on the phone or whatever, and just kind of talk through everything if you need to calibrate. You know, I don’t think I think there was only one vendor that I had to calibrate for. I don’t use them anymore, but the one I use now, I don’t think I ever had to calibrate or anything like that. I will say having a good computer that’s already calibrated and what you see is what you get with whatever, wherever you print you’re going to, you’re going to see that. And I feel like that’s very important. Do you need to be able to have a good computer, a good monitor, make sure that your monitors calibrate and calibrated and everything, and that’s going to help you get the results from the lab instead of all the headache. This is green. This is purple.
[00:17:26] Lisa I know.
[00:17:26] Lisa Right? The back and forth are like the dreaded. When you give the you you get the e-mail back after giving digitals and you’re like, why are the people green? And you’re like, Because you went to Walmart.
[00:17:36] Lela Yes.
[00:17:38] Lela Why are they magenta? Because you went to Walmart.
[00:17:41] Lisa Walmart? Yes. It’s like why? You know, just order for me, please. I know.
[00:17:48] Lela Just like and I do say that I do know that. I can’t guarantee, you know, if you print somewhere else, I can’t guarantee the quality because my computer’s calibrated and my, you know, my my vendor that I get my prints from, they match up. They’re perfect. So I can’t guarantee anything else. And they know that. So that’s.
[00:18:05] Lisa Great. So you’ve really positioned yourself as a high end studio. So can you tell us how you were able to do so? Did you gradually increase your prices, gradually get a beautiful studio? And how did you know you wanted to serve this high end clientele?
[00:18:18] Lela Wow. This is a loaded question because I think I have spent my entire career getting to where I am right now. I feel like I’ve been doing this for 15 plus years. Like, I know, I know. I probably seem young. I’m almost 35, but I, I feel like I’m old in the industry. Yeah. Because I feel like I’ve just been a workhorse trying to get where I want to go and and see the results. And it just feels like it’s just been forever to get where I am right now. With you. Lisa It just feels like it’s just been forever. So I started out outdoors. I think a lot of photographers do. Oh yeah, I do. Photographers. When I first started out, you know, everything was like landscape. When I was in high school, I took a class in photography and I was like, This is it, you know? Yeah, I love this so much. And I really wanted to pursue it then. So then it just kind of escalated and fast forward, you know, as outdoors. And then I started getting into a little bit of the natural light indoors. So I was a natural light photographer for about 14 years before I switched over to studio life. Really, That was that was.
[00:19:30] Lela Like a culture shock. Like, I don’t know, I lost my mind. I mean, it’s crazy.
[00:19:36] Lela But it was just something that I fell in love with a long time ago. Natural light was just so gorgeous. I loved it. And I hate to say this, but it was cheaper because I didn’t have to get a lot of studio equipment. Like I didn’t have to buy lights, I didn’t have to buy receivers and transmitters and all this stuff. You know, I had a beautiful natural light studio built right beside my house and I was in there for a while. I was in there for a very long time, which I started out my dining room like most people do. And then I switched over. When I just busted out of my house, I was like, okay, it’s time to build something. So we built that little studio and it was great for a while and then we sold the house. So the studio, then I needed a space and there was no spaces for natural light photographers around here. There was no spaces that had natural light. So we just plunged in headfirst and went studio light, bought a commercial space on Main Street in our town and just went fast forward. We just really did we I mean, literally, we just never stopped running and just kept on and kept on. And so I’ve been in this actual space for about two years and I think it’s just it’s just grown. And as far as my client base, it was like I said, it was digital first and then I switched over. Then it was like 2018, maybe 2017, 20 now. I think it was 2018. So to 2018 I switched over from digital to IPS full like I did not gradually go. I just went that we’re going. So I boom changed everything. I lost a lot of clients because it was just not what they were wanting. Then I had to build up that clientele and then, yeah, as I went on with the clients, so I had a little bit lower pricing and IPS, so it was a little bit lower. And I gradually raised and then I gradually raised them and I found that the more that I raised my prices, the more value clients that I found. And then I was just like, you know, these are the clients that really value what I do and desire it. And I was I was thinking, why would I, why would I want to book clients that don’t desire what I offer? So I just, you know, I raised my prices. It was challenging to do that. Very scary, because me and my husband both do this full time. We don’t have extra jobs. This is this is what we do. And it was just one of those sacrifices and risks that we decided that we were going to take. I just you know, I feel like now it was the best decision for me to pursue those clients because they value what I am passionate about and what I love to do. And just the whole experience. I always thought I’m like, you know, it shouldn’t just be a snap and go. It shouldn’t be that way because these are memories that are supposed to last forever. And I want it to be magical and I don’t want it to be scary and I don’t want it to be uncomfortable and like, Oh, we got to go take pictures. You know, I don’t want it to feel like that. So I kind of just switched everything and I found that booking those high end clients and having a high end studio is where I find happiness because I’m making my clients happy because they value what I do. And it just kind of like this big circle of like everybody loves everything and I love everybody and I love everything. And it’s just like, you know, obviously it’s not all, you know, rainbows and fairy tales and stuff, but, you know, for the most part, there’s clients that actually book with me. I love it and my clients love me. I love my clients. I serve my clients to the best of my ability. And it’s just it’s wonderful. But it did not happen overnight. It did not happen overnight. Was a lot of hard work, a lot of tears, lots of lots of tears, a lot of headaches and doubt. A lot of doubt. Like, why did I do this? Should I not done this or should I done something different? And oh my goodness, there were so many times I was just like, I need to quit because I just.
[00:23:47] Lisa Yeah, like.
[00:23:48] Lela You know, I don’t want to do this, but.
[00:23:49] Lisa This is not like Mona. Yeah, yeah, yeah. The panic moments when you’re not getting inquiries and you’re just like, Oh.
[00:23:55] Lela My God, what am I doing here? You’re not going to have money.
[00:24:00] Lela I know. So. And then it was just like you had that one client where it was like, This is why I do this. This was an amazing session. They love everything. They actually bought wall art and they bought this and they bought that and they just really valued everything. And then it just kind of jumpstart me again and I’m like, okay, I’m going to do this. This is I’m not quitting because I want this for my clients and I want them to feel that. And I was like, No, I can’t stop. I can’t I can’t stop this.
[00:24:26] Lisa I love that. What I love that you touched on there is that success truly, really isn’t linear. Like it’s like it’s there is a roller coaster and in waves you’re going to have ups and you’re going to have downs, and it’s just not giving up. Like that’s literally the only secret is like, just keep going.
[00:24:42] Lela Yes, I think you have to have the mindset of being persistent and knowing what you want. So you have to have a goal and you have to plan. You know, they say that if you plan or what is that plan.
[00:24:59] Lisa Fail to plan. Plan to fail.
[00:25:01] Lela Yes.
[00:25:01] Lela Yes, it is. I was like, oh, my goodness.
[00:25:04] Lela Yes. So it’s like you have to have those goals and you have to have that vision of saying, you know, this is what I want and I’m not going to stop until I get it. And you have to understand that there’s going to be a lot of hard times and you’re going to get over it. It’s only for a season. It’s going to pass and you’re going to reap that harvest. But you have to just keep moving and keep going forward and just be persistent. Like you cannot think about the what ifs that that that’s very hard for me because I’m I’m always thinking, well, what if I did this or what have I done that? So you just have to tell yourself, you know, this is it. This is what I’m going to do and I’m just going to do it and just do it. Like you really have to get that mindset. That’s a huge thing for people. It’s like we can’t seem to get over the mind is is so powerful both ways, you know, the doubt and the fear.
[00:26:02] Lisa You can. Convince yourself that you’re going to do it or you can convince yourself that you’re going to. Fail. Yes. And the only one that’s in the driver’s seat is you.
[00:26:09] Lela Yeah, exactly. And you just have to just choose to do that. You have to choose to be presented and persistent and move forward.
[00:26:17] Lisa Agree. How? Right. Well, I’m going to circle back down to some inspiration. So you create your photography in your art really is they’re unique pieces of art. So I want to ask, where are you drawing your inspiration from?
[00:26:30] Lela Well, I have a few artists that I follow, photographers that I follow, and I really found that they are it’s sort of like a combination of these two photographers and a few other things too. But Lola Melanie is one of my favorite.
[00:26:45] Lisa Oh, yes.
[00:26:45] Lela She’s so inspiring. I love her creativity. It’s almost like I just feel it coming through when I’m watching. I’m just I feel it kind of filling my soul like I can just feel it. And then things start. Kind of like my mind just going. Yes. It’s just like ideas. They they’re they’re they’re because she’s just it’s just full of inspiration. And Natasha eats. I love Natasha. She’s incredible.
[00:27:12] Lisa She’s such a good human.
[00:27:13] Lela She’s just like. One of a kind. Her and Lola both are just one of a kind. And so different. They’re completely different. And I feel like I’ve drawn from both of them to create a specific look that I love to create. And a lot of things happen in Photoshop too, like magic happens and things like that that I’ve created for myself and the style that I have. But those those two photographers are probably on the top of my list as far as inspiration for photographers and also to when I started working with Fabric, which I know this is the class that I’m teaching, but the fabric is such a wide range of things, ideas and just creativity. I feel like it’s me. I feel like I’m a piece of fabric and I could just be molded in all different kinds of way to create different things. And I feel like that’s just so amazing that I can take something not very valuable. I mean, I mean, it’s a piece of fabric, but I can create something incredible and meaningful and inspiring and gorgeous. And I just feel like that, you know, sometimes I just feel like I’m a piece of fabric and I’m just all over the place and flowing here and there. And I feel like once I’ve kind of dived into fabric that has really pulled a lot of inspiration just from inside of me just creating on set. Like I’ll just take a piece of fabric and I’ll just say, you know, we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that. And I just started it’s just it’s just starts flowing and my clients love it. They absolutely. And I don’t sometimes I don’t have a plan. I just wing it and they love it. They just they’re like, oh, my goodness, this is gorgeous. And you made that other piece of fabric. And also to just bringing elements in and just creating different things. I’m on Instagram all the time and I love like finding like fashion photographers and of course, like different like I love movies. I love movies. So I see sometimes I see things in movies that I’m like, okay, that is really cool. I want to try to incorporate things like that. But I mean, really, I love to just create on set. I find a lot of my inspiration comes from just winging it. Just, just start with something. If I don’t like it, I change it and I just keep stacking on top and top and top and I’m like, Wow, this turned out amazing, you know? And it’s just sort of one of those things where it just happens and I’m like, Wow, this is so fun.
[00:29:37] Lisa I love that.
[00:29:38] Lisa I think it’s so fun. I love that you touch on movies and like because that’s one thing, like movies or music and like, I don’t know, like you say, you just catch an idea. My favorite, though, is Pinterest. Like, I actually I’ve been going through this. I’m really into fine art and like, yeah.
[00:29:54] Lisa Just.
[00:29:54] Lisa Old paintings from like the 1700s.
[00:29:57] Lisa Like that. It’s so cool. I am such a.
[00:30:01] Lisa Little weirdo that I’m just like, myself. Like, I’m just like myself. Like, let your freak flag fly. Like, do it. Show your weird. Yeah. Show your weird. It’s so fun. It is so fun. So yeah, it’s been that’s been my.
[00:30:14] Lisa Little but inspiration.
[00:30:16] Lisa Lately.
[00:30:16] Lela Stuff that you’re putting out. It’s really incredible. It’s so pretty. It’s so cool to see you kind of transform everything.
[00:30:23] Lisa It’s fun. You know, I spend a lot of time telling because, like, part of my job really is finding incredible photographers like yourself. And we create these amazing retreats. And so, like over the years, we’ve probably worked with easily 300 incredible world renowned photographers. I didn’t realize what that would do to me in like when your comparison brain starts kicking in. And finally, I just had to sit down and have a talk with myself and say, Hey, dude, like, stop telling yourself you’re crap.
[00:30:53] Lisa Exactly. You’re not like.
[00:30:56] Lela It’s so hard to do that because it’s you find, you know, I can tell a client all day long that they’re gorgeous and they’re beautiful and all these things. And I go home and I’m like, I got to get wrinkles taken out. I need to fix this. I need to fix that or that looks that doesn’t look right. I don’t like that. And we’ve got to stop doing that because what we what comes out is what’s going to manifest. And we don’t want that. You know, we really have to we really have to value ourselves before we can value anyone else. It’s sort of like you’re kind of faking it or being someone else or wearing a mask or whatever. It’s like, Yeah, that’s not really who you are. And that’s unfair to our clients because we’re pretending to be something that we’re not and we don’t we don’t believe what we’re telling our clients for ourselves. Yeah, that in the long run, that’s not, that’s not healthy.
[00:31:45] Lela So it’s not how you know.
[00:31:47] Lela Yeah, start loving yourself. Because in that way, you can love your clients even more.
[00:31:51] Lisa Yeah. Boom! Mike drop. So you ready for our lightning round?
[00:31:57] Lela Oh, yes.
[00:31:58] Lisa Okay. Coffee or tea?
[00:32:01] Lela Both. I have. I have. I love both. So it’s. That’s hard for me. Yeah.
[00:32:07] Lisa That’s a good one.
[00:32:07] Lisa Last thing you did for yourself as an indulgence.
[00:32:10] Lela Oh.
[00:32:12] Lela See, that’s the thing. I don’t. I don’t have a lot of indulgence for myself, but I feel like that doesn’t count. Like giving myself to other people, like my kids and my husband and spending time with them. It’s like. That makes me happy, you know what I’m saying? But it’s not for myself. Like. But I don’t know. That doesn’t count. I really don’t do any any indulgence for myself. I don’t. I don’t really do anything. I need to do that. Okay, That’s your homework. That’s homework. I’m going to do that for myself. Okay? I’m going to go get a facial. I’m going to go to get a facial and one in a facial. Yeah, I’m going to go do it because Lisa told me to do it. I’m going to do.
[00:32:45] Lisa Yes. Yes. I love this. But I started doing because I was the same way a few years ago. And finally I was like, you know what? For Christmas asked my husband. You know, you know what I want? I want a once a month massage. Oh, wow. And I want to I want a year of massages. So I find a place and like, she’s relatively inexpensive. It’s like $75 for a 90 minute massage. And I go once a month, and it is just like that one treat for myself. And yeah.
[00:33:16] Lisa So it’s so nice.
[00:33:18] Lisa Like when I started scheduling and like making that time for my own joy and my own self.
[00:33:25] Lisa I don’t know.
[00:33:26] Lela Just your self care. Yeah.
[00:33:28] Lisa Self care and self love. I really it really started I started making different says in different areas too.
[00:33:34] Lela That’s great. I need to that this one I need to do that a lot more.
[00:33:37] Lisa Work is get get your facial. So do you have any personal projects going on right now? And if so, what is it?
[00:33:44] Lela Well, I actually we I just launched my first workshop with.
[00:33:50] Lela Kelsey Freeman.
[00:33:51] Lela We’re having a maternity workshop.
[00:33:55] Lela Kelsey’s incredible.
[00:33:56] Lela I love Kelsey so much. We actually met a few years ago and at a retreat, like an in-person retreat, and she was just so sweet and lovely. And then we’ve just stay connected every since. And I was like, I’m coming to Atlanta, Georgia. Let’s do a workshop. She’s like, Let’s do it. So we did. We planned it, and we’re going in March. I’m so excited. It’s almost sold out, which is crazy, but we’re really excited about that one. And I’m not sure if I’m going to have any more in-person workshops. I’m not sure. Maybe I’m not sure. We are renovating our studio, so that’s a project that we’re working on where we’re creating a more luxury space for our clients. I’m having a little make up place and a dressing room with more gowns and just to get more artwork up and just really freshen up the place and really let it reflect who I am now because I feel like I’ve grown over the last few years and I really want that to reflect when they come in. I want it to be like, Wow, okay, this is where I want to be. So we’re working on that. And I just launched maybe a month or two ago. I launched my academy. I have been wanting to do this since I was in my twenties. Like, like early bird, like photographer, like I’ve always wanted to have a place where I could just share my heart and everything that I’m learning with other photographers because I feel like there’s a well, now there, there is a lot more stuff out there. But at the time I felt like there’s like nothing out there for people to learn or to like, really figure out what is what with photography. And it’s just taken me a long time to get to where I want to be with this. But we did. We launched the academy. It’s slowly going. I have a few videos up and it’s just it’s just in a baby stage right now. It’s just a baby. But I love it and I’m getting a lot of good feedback from it. We’re adding to that all the time. Like literally every time we can start filming, we’re doing it and we’re putting it online. So we’re really excited about that. I don’t know if there’s anything else except for just the Milky Way retreat.
[00:36:06] Lela Yeah, it’s so amazing.
[00:36:08] Lela I’m so like, literally this has been on my bucket list since I don’t even know when, like this was on my list for such a long time. This is really a dream. Like, I can’t believe I’m here with you. Lisa. This is incredible. Like, I don’t want to cry, but I really. This is so surreal. I can’t believe this is happening. I can’t believe that I’m here in this season. That’s my life. It’s just incredible. I.
[00:36:33] Lela I don’t.
[00:36:34] Lela Know. I just. I feel like, is this really happening?
[00:36:37] Lela Yeah. I’m just.
[00:36:38] Lela So sweet. Oh, my goodness. This is just crazy. I’m so excited. Like, my face hurts because I’m smiling so much.
[00:36:44] Lisa I love it.
[00:36:45] Lisa So speaking of the retreat, can you share what you’re going to be teaching on?
[00:36:51] Lela Oh, my goodness. Okay. So we’re going to be doing fabrics, creating designer gowns with fabrics, creating flowy fabrics, and just anything you can think about with fabrics. I’m going to share how I use my seamless paper, how I use canvas, and how I use fabric backdrops. So you’re getting a big like array of things. Like it’s not just one thing, you know, fabric on a seamless paper, like you’re getting a whole bunch of things. I’m using different types of fabrics. I’m going to show you how I create dresses on set, on my model, like how I do it and everything. And the best thing is you don’t have to sew. You don’t have to sew. It’s just it’s just draping. It’s incredible. It’s so fun. And I’m going to show you how you can do it in a super easy, super simple. And I’m only use in one light. So it’s not like you have to have a whole bunch of equipment. It’s just it’s going to be amazing. Like it’s going to be so fun. It’s going to be easy. And I feel like after you see the class, you’re going to see immediate changes, like literally the next session that you have. If you implement the few things that we went over. Incredible. I mean, literally life changing. I just feel like it’s going to be incredible. I’m so excited.
[00:38:06] Lisa And you’re showing an edit, you’re showing your editing too.
[00:38:08] Lela I am. I’m going to be showing editing too. Yeah.
[00:38:11] Lisa So you get the. Start to finish.
[00:38:13] Lela Start to finish. It’s going to be incredible. I am just so excited and it’s a lot of new things that I’ve that I haven’t really done before. So it’s exciting for me, but it’s exciting for the students because it’s fresh, it’s new, it’s never been done as far as for me. And I just feel like it’s just going to be incredible. I’m so excited to share it.
[00:38:34] Lisa So good, so good. So I need to ask what has been the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
[00:38:42] Lela Okay. I feel like this is a given from most teachers and photographers that have been through a lot in their career. And it’s it’s hard, especially, you know, when you’re starting out. Or if you just you’re in a rut. You know, you have to understand that this is a business. And as much as we love it, it is our passion and we love it. We have to understand that it’s a business and we really have to invest. That’s a huge word because I feel like we all say that we need to invest in our business and in ourself, which we are our business. If you this is your baby, you have to invest in it. If you don’t take care of it, it’s going to become weak and it’s going to die. Okay. So we don’t want that. So we want to invest and nourish and care for our business. And once you have made that decision, I’m going to do this. The first thing you need to do is you need to invest in the knowledge on how to do what you want to do. You need to get all the best, the wisdom from all of the greats. Just find someone and just really get everything you can. Don’t try to do it on your own because that is so long time ago. The so long time ago. We don’t need to do that because we have so many resources. Find someone. Soak up all the information, everything you can think of, and then hit the ground running. Don’t stop. Just keep going and always try to keep. Like for me. I don’t want to stop growing. I don’t want to do the same thing over and over and over again. Like I want to just keep. It’s like this pool of water. I just want to keep getting more and more and more and more filled. And I don’t want to stay a small little puddle and just do the same thing over again. I just want to keep growing and keep keep investing in my knowledge and keep trying and experimenting and doing all these things. And I feel like. You know, starting out, getting the knowledge that you need for the business, investing in yourself, which is going to be getting the knowledge that you need for your business and. Don’t give up. If it’s a mentor, find someone that’s going to push you, is going to inspire you. And don’t lose focus. Just don’t waver. Just keep your eye on the prize. And don’t worry about anybody else. Don’t worry about anybody else. You should focus on what you want and you go for it. And really, I know it’s really hard to do. But you have to start somewhere. You’re not always going to be like 100% on your side, you know? You know? So this is the way it is. Being a business person is like, it’s not easy, but you have to have the mindset of just don’t ever give up. Invest in yourself. You’re worth it. You have to tell yourself you’re worth it. If you have to start watching some motivational speaking, do it. It will fill you and it will change your mindset because a lot of the times we’re speaking the negative, we’re speaking the doubt, we’re speaking the fear. But if we have someone else speaking life and speaking joy and encouragement in to us, then that’s what we’re going to be thinking about. We’re going to be thinking, okay, I can do this. Oh, yeah, If that person did that, I could do that. Oh yeah, I can do this. And it’s just kind of like a snowball effect. You’re just going to keep going to keep going and keep going and start those good habits and leave all the bad habits away and just keep going. Keep moving forward.
[00:42:24] Lisa I love that. So I love to end my interview just that this last question and it is what are you currently curious about or artistically curious about?
[00:42:35] Lela I don’t know. I don’t.
[00:42:37] Lela Know. This is a hard one.
[00:42:38] Lela Lisa Oh.
[00:42:39] Lisa So when you see if you’re lying in bed at night, or your sitting on the phone, What do you find yourself just googling or looking up?
[00:42:47] Lela Oh gosh.
[00:42:49] Lela I mean, like everything I.
[00:42:51] Lela Know, it’s like everything I have. It’s so, yeah, I’m like.
[00:42:57] Lela Oh my goodness. So I do I a lot of the time I’m looking for inspiration for my next session. I’m looking for something that will spark something inside of my my brain. And I’m just like, okay. And then I just start going crazy and I’m just like, I have so many ideas flowing in. Then I have to write that down. And I’m like, Okay, now it’s time to go to bed. And I’m and I’m like, I’m wired. I can’t go to sleep. But a lot of the time I’m focusing on what can I do for my business? How can I serve my clients better? What’s something creative that I can create? And I’m always looking for that, that next inspiration. I’m looking for something that’s just going to spark something inside of me. And I never I never want to be like in a standstill of like. I don’t know what to do. And, you know, I don’t. I’m in a rut. And I’ve been in many ruts many, many times. But I feel like if I if I can just keep finding inspiration, then I can keep creating. And I don’t have to be in a rut. And then I just try new things, like I’m always trying new things. So I feel like if I’m laying in bed at night, I’m probably scrolling for inspiration for my next session or my next creative thing, I don’t know. And then of course, it’s just like business. A lot of business stuff goes through my mind trying to make everything better. I’m always I just want to make everything better than it was yesterday. And so, yeah, that’s.
[00:44:23] Lela Yeah, I love it. Yeah.
[00:44:25] Lisa So. Well, Lela, thank you so much for joining me today.
[00:44:28] Lela Thank you so much for having me. It’s been wonderful, Lisa.
[00:44:32] Lisa Oh, my beautiful friends, I hope you’ve loved this conversation just as much as I did. I am sending you so much of my light and my love today and every single day. We will see you next time.
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