Posted April 9, 2015 by Casey McCallister

Kelly is a portrait and real estate photographer from Little Rock, Arkansas. I initially was drawn to Kelly’s profile via his use of dramatic light and discovered his phenomenal candid orchestra series. Read about his inspiration and why it is always best to get out from the computer and shoot!

Tell me about yourself. How did you get into photography?

Photography has been with me for quite some time. I remember as a kid being fascinated with my mom’s camera and trying to steal it to pop off a few shots, before she would notice. After college I found myself in the real world and looked for an outlet to find something creative to do. I signed up for a film photography class at my local art center and didn’t look back. Before long, I had tubs of developer and fixer in my house. I love film, but digital allowed me to get rid of the chemical spills that kept occurring.

SmartShoot Photographer Kelly Hicks
SmartShoot Photographer Kelly Hicks

I see you tend to focus on Portraits, Events, and Real Estate photography, but what kind of subjects really reel you in? What catches your eye to compel you to photograph it?

I love doing portraits, especially lately with just a hint of light on the subject. I am always drawn to the slivers of light that highlight the subject, helps tell a story, or gives some sense of mystery. I always keep a notebook with me and write down conceptual ideas or photograph backgrounds so that I can go back and use later. Trying to convey emotion is my main goal, whether it is a portrait, event, or even photographing a space for commercial real estate.
SmartShoot Photographer Kelly Hicks
Any projects that you’re working on that you’re excited about?

I’ve been working with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra for the last few years photographing their concerts and backstage antics. It’s really taught me a lot about seeing light and has given me a larger stage to present my work. I’m working on an exhibit that is the accumulation of my work with them and also a book. I would love to work with other symphony and theatre groups. There is something about capturing the excitement backstage before the show that is very satisfying. The light is usually cool too!
SmartShoot Photographer Kelly HicksSmartShoot Photographer Kelly Hicks
Who are your mentors? Who do you look to for inspiration?

I really enjoy the work of Gregory Heisler. His book, 50 Portraits, has great insight behind the thought process of taking an image. It’s an atypical photography book in that it doesn’t have technical lighting setups. Aaron Siskind photographed beautiful abstracts and textures which I have always found inspiring. Erwin Olaf‘s use of lighting and vision is amazing. Don Giannatti, a Phoenix based photographer who offers inspiration and guidance to emerging photographers through his web site, lightingessentials.com and workshops. Don has been a mentor for me this past year and is always available to share his insights and experiences with others.

SmartShoot Photographer Kelly Hicks
SmartShoot Photographer Kelly Hicks

With the barriers of getting into photography becoming fewer, how are you staying competitive in the quickly changing field? In what way has SmartShoot helped your business be successful?

With the availability of digital and the barrage of images, it is hard not to be overwhelmed with the amount of talent that is out there. Early on I found out that a working photographer has to adapt to a variety of different shooting assignments and client expectations. SmartShoot came at the right time in my career, by giving me the opportunities to work with a variety of different clients and take on various job roles that I may not have gotten a chance to do otherwise. I appreciate that SmartShoot continues to listen to the photographer and videographer community.
SmartShoot Photographer Kelly HicksSmartShoot Photographer Kelly Hicks
What do you wish someone told you when you were just starting out? Any advice for fellow photographers?

For anyone getting into the business of photography, shoot as much as possible. It is too easy to be an armchair photographer these days, watching YouTube videos and reading forums, you have to get out there and do it! Personal projects are something that I use to get motivated when things are slow or I need a creative jolt. By engaging yourself in a personal project, I found it helps your focus in general and leads to more self-confidence. Also, find the best photographers in the area and see if you can meet with them or take them out for coffee. It is a great way to let them know who you are and develop a professional friendship. Many times this has led to assisting on shoots and getting some firsthand experience from someone who is successful in the field.
SmartShoot Photographer Kelly Hicks

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About Casey McCallister

I am an adventure and outdoor lifestyle photographer from San Francisco and the growth hacker at SmartShoot. I enjoy traveling and spending time in nature.

Keep in touch: @caseymac

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