Richard Photo Lab

Richard's Photographer Spotlight: Eric Kelley

Today in Richard Photo Lab's Photog Spotlight, it's Eric Kelley! Eric's passion is using his lens to tell a story, meeting the energy of a new place with his camera in hand. With accolades including being named one of the Top Photographers by Martha Stewart Weddings and a “Rising Star” by Rangefinder Magazine in 2013, Eric's own story in fine art film photography is one for the books—or in this case, the blog! Join Richard for a chat with Eric Kelley.

Richard: What first sparked your passion for photography?

Eric Kelley: I grew up in a small town in Illinois, and my dad’s company would often send him to Russia. While he was traveling to Russia, I met a staff photographer that took these big beautiful images of Russian landscapes and the people. That experience was so inspiring and impactful because I was able to participate and enjoy a culture that was so far away from my own. It made me want to continue to document life and cultures around the world.

Image by Eric Kelley

R: Making the leap from photography as a personal passion to a paying gig is a big one... how did you decide to pursue it as a career?

EK: I studied Fine Art Photography at the University of Virginia. I knew that classical fine art (photos of fruit and still life) wasn’t what I wanted to do professionally—though I do a lot of that in wedding photography, like bouquets, paper suite, rings, etc. I wanted to be in an industry that was social and energizing. I loved the idea of participating in the fabric of someone’s story and being a part of what helps them keep their vows.

Imagery is very powerful. It evokes memories, reminds us of who we were and who we are—I wanted to do that, so I did.

R: When you aren't shooting for clients, what do you LOVE to photograph?

EK: I love to photograph landscapes, nature, environmental portraits of people. I love to travel and observe new cultures and people. There is so much beauty in the diverse human experience, and I want to see and show people that.

Image by Eric Kelley

R: How do you find a balance between being creatively fulfilled and paying the bills?

EK: My goal was never creative fulfillment. I strive to play in my work, but there are always doldrum tasks, and doing them is a part of being an adult. My goal was to do good work, whatever kind of work that ended up being—to get married, have a family and provide for them. I am very fulfilled by being able to do that. The mystery, I’ve found, about the quotidian is that by participating in it (not just observing it, which seems daunting), I’ve been able to taste the fruit of my labor in ways I never would have imagined. To see that my work gives life to my children and to my wife is pretty awesome.

R: What is your favorite camera?

EK: Right now, I’m really enjoying the Hasselblad. My main go-to camera is the contax 645. It’s the easiest to wield at a wedding to achieve the results I’m looking for. I also use the Canon 5D Mark III.

R: What's your first memory of shooting film, and why do you continue to shoot it as a pro photographer?

EK: My first memory of attempting to shot film was for a wedding in April about five years ago. I bought a Contax, and it arrived just days before my cousin's wedding. I couldn't get it to turn on. I texted maybe ten different people, trying to get help figuring out how to turn it on! In the end, I just had to move the plate on the back, haha.

But when the scans first came in (watching them download slowly...), I was so grateful for the depth of field, the creamy bokeh, and the calm and calculated pace it forced me to practice at weddings. It’s made my digital work that much better. It also helps with the post-processing conundrum. I work very closely with Richard Photo Lab for the post-processing portion.

Image by Eric Kelley

R: Why is it important to have continuous communication with your lab(s)?

EK: I picture my lab as an in-house, in-studio, right-next-to-me editor. I partner with Richard to achieve the look I want. There has to be constant communication to ensure that my images look how I want them to look. This is especially important as my voice in photography evolves—the look of my images, the strength of the blacks and contrast, the saturation, the over-tones—all of that speaks to the voice of my images, and they partner with me in that.

R: Do you have any pre-shoot rituals?

EK: It’s redacted ;) wink

R: Let’s play a game of “Either/Or”! Savory or sweet?

EK: Sweet.

R: Chocolate or vanilla?

EK: Vanilla (with chocolate syrup, yo!).

R: Dogs or cats?

EK: Dogs.

R: Urban or rural?

EK: Urban.

R: Warm weather or cold weather?

EK: Cold weather.

R: Early bird or night owl?

EK: Both (I sleep four hours a night—FOMO).

R: Crossword or Sudoku?

EK: Scrabble.

R: Breakfast or dinner?

EK: Dinner.

R: Batman or Superman?

EK: Superman.

R: Historical Non-fiction or SciFi/Fantasy?

EK: Suspense thriller!

R: Comedy or Drama?

EK: Comedy.

R: Truth or dare?

EK: Dare.

Image by Eric Kelley

R: What music do you listen to to get pumped up?

EK: I drink coffee to get pumped up.

R: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be when you grow up?

EK: If I could get paid to generate ideas, that's what I'd do.

R: If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?

EK: The power to materialize anything I’d need at that moment.

R: What is your favorite word, and why?

EK: "Yes". Because I suck at saying "no"!