A few words from Carley: My name is Carley Slater and I have been in the business going on 4 years now. I am a newborn, children, and family photographer in the Chicago area! I have been married to my high school sweetheart for more than 6 years now. We have a 4 year old son named Cohen and a 15 month old daughter Finley. Believe me….our house NEVER has a dull moment. My kids keep me on my toes and challenge me daily. I love watching them grow up and learn new things. It’s been an amazing experience so far! I have sooo many hilarious stories that I love to share about them. Pull up a chair…!
1. If there was one thing you would want us to know about you, what would it be?
I LOOOOOOOVVVEEEE to laugh and make other people laugh. I am never too serious and can probably be called silly a lot of times. I’m sure I embarrass my husband a lot, but, eh….who cares!
My favorite image, of course, is of my two babies. More than the fact that it’s a picture of them, it’s a perfect example that it only takes one shot. The money shot. I love sibling shots! This was a completely spur of the moment capture of them before my son pushed her off of him in disgust! I never want to forget this time in their life. Makes me tear up looking at it.
3. What inspired you to be a photographer?
I consider myself an artist. I am passionate about design and turning nothing into something. Whether that be decorating, designing, sewing, building or photography. I need an outlet to give me some creative freedom to do what I need to do, to make me feel “whole” as a person. When my son was born in 2008, I bought a camera to document his life and it took on a whole new life of it’s own.
4. How long was the transition from hobbyist to paid professional and how long have you officially been taking paid clients?
I would say it took me a good 6 months to feel okay charging a small fee. I have been professionally shooting for 3.5 years now.
5. What type of session do you look forward to the most (maternity, newborn, child, family, senior, wedding, engagement, etc) and why?
I LOVE newborns. They are the hardest to shoot and give me the most challenges when thinking of new things to do. Plus, it’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship I have with my clients. Most of the time, I am photographing them through their first year milestones.
Depends on the time of year, but I’d say on average, 8-10 a month.
7. What has been your most memorable session and why?
I can’t think of just one…but my favorite sessions are when I’m shooting a newborn and the new mom is watching their baby sleep all curled up and it brings her to tears. She just can’t believe that beautiful, perfect, child is her own. That is why I do what I do. So very special.
8. Are you formally taught or self taught? And what has been the best source of information along this journey (workshop, online forums, classroom, mentor, etc)?
I am self taught. I took one class in college for film, but I have got where I’m at today by researching like crazy, asking a million questions and practicing. I have to pay huge credits to forums like LSI for giving priceless information to beginning photographers. It was worth every penny for me. I also had many photographers who I admire, give me amazing advice and encouragement.
9. What has been the biggest source of inspiration in your work?
My family. It has been so amazing to go from a stay at home mom, to a full time working mom (from home), and being able to provide for my family. What a blessing it is. I am doing what I love and helping contribute to my family and their needs. They are my biggest fans!
10. Nikon or Canon, other? Favorite lens?
Canon 5d Mark III and my favorite lens is my 50mm 1.2. Rarely leaves my camera!
11. RAW or jpg and why?
I shoot all of my newborns in RAW, but have started to venture out and shoot Jpeg for my outdoor family/children sessions. Kind of makes me more careful to get it right the first time.
I use both. I cull my images in Lightroom and then edit in Photoshop. However, I’m slowing learning to do more in Lightroom. It’s definitely a challenge for me as I’m so used to Photoshop.
13. What is one piece of advice you would like to offer a new photographer looking to start their own business?
Be confident in who you are and your style. Sounds kind of silly and what everyone says, but I really struggled with that for a long time. Seeing photographers find that niche and make a name for themselves very quickly. That was very hard for me until about a year ago. I’ve learned that it’s ok to fly under the radar…someone is always watching and admiring what you do. I am an achiever and if I don’t get the response I want, I question myself. Believe in yourself. If you don’t, no one else will.
14. What is your favorite and least favorite part of owning your own photography business?
Favorite part, BY FAR, is meeting my clients. Making friendships and being a part of their family. Watching my familes grow and multiply. It’s amazing and I am so thankful that they love bringing their children to me! I love it more than they will ever know. I consider each of them friends! Least favorite part….the business side of the deal. I am not gifted with that. It actually stresses me out a lot of times. But, I’m learning and making mistakes. haha….hopefully I can hire someone to take care of that in the future. Any takers??
15. Who is the most inspirational photographer in your life?
Oh man….there are so many! The Baby as Art team has really driven me. I am always so amazed by some of things they come up with. Makes me wanna be different and stand out. I am also completely BLOWN AWAY by Angie at Simplicity Photography. Mom of 3 and a great photographer with awesome style. Plus, she does a bajillion other things on the side. How she does it, no idea….but I’d love to know her secrets! Love her work!
16. Do you see yourself as a photographer many years down the road?
Honestly, YES!! I don’t ever see this being just a phase in my life. I love it. It’s a never ending opportunity to be creative. Not only that….it’s a part of my clients lives. It’s such an honor to capture their memories that I can’t imagine ever getting sick of that. But who knows what the future will bring!
17. And finally, please briefly describe your photography style for our readers.
That’s a really hard question for me to answer as I feel like I’m still figuring that out myself. But if I had to say something….I’d say, fresh, soft, RAW, informal and artistic.
1. what is your favorite food? mmmm….I love crab legs! I also have a very big sweet tooth. Love me some doughy chocolate chip cookies with ice cream on top. Oooooo boy!
2. what is your favorite beverage? A good glass of white wine in the evening after the kids are asleep.
3. your favorite item of clothing? Oh gosh….I LOVE clothes! Probably a GREAT fitting pair of jeans!
4. your go to pair of shoes? Some fun colored flats. I am 5’8 and my husband isn’t much more than that. So, that’s pretty common for me.
5. what is one word you catch yourself saying too often? “Like”. Ugh….hate it! I just can’t break the habit. Especially when I’m nervous! haha