Kristen Lenox, the owner and lead shooter at K. Lenox Photography, is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny, she’s warm, she loves to laugh, she’s probably really great at giving hugs, but when it comes down to business, she’s not joking around. She knows what she wants, and in an industry fixated on perfectionism, the New Hampshire-based photographer goes the other way. “I want what’s real. I don’t like perfection,” she says as she speaks to us for this new Featured Photographer story.
From her light and airy photography style and her ‘never stop learning’ motto to her genuine love for her profession and her ‘no vendor left behind’ strategy – there’s A LOT that we love about Kristen and what K. Lenox Photography stands for, so it was a no-brainer for us to choose her story to celebrate International Women’s Day. Also, she’s A LOT of fun, and even though we spoke to her through a camera, we can guarantee that she lights up a room as soon as she walks in (pun intended!).
The Spark That Lit A Fire
Before becoming a full-time wedding photographer and starting K. Lenox Photography, Kristen was a geriatric nurse who would often see her patients’ loved ones bring in pictures instead of flowers or gifts during their last moments. “They brought photos that told stories, and I liked that aspect of it. I liked how important it was,” she says as she remembers what it was that solidified her interest in photography.
When she was a senior in high school, Kristen would “annoy the s%!# out of everyone” when she’d ask them to stop what they were doing so she could capture that moment using her Instamatic Kodak film camera. She tells us, “I used to p%!# my friends off. Because I’d go, like, “Wait. Hold. Just wait one second. I’m p%!#@•^ you guys off now, but you’re gonna love me in 20 years.”” If some of you read this and instantly said, “OMG! That’s me!” you might just have a kindred spirit in Kristen.
“My interest in photography really solidified when I became a nurse. My husband bought me that Canon Rebel Ti, and then I wanted to learn everything. I wanted to learn how to make the background blurry. I wanted to learn everything, so I just dug in,” she says, adding, “I took an online course with the New York Institute of Photography. I also took a course with someone who was a nature photographer in the area. Blogs, seminars, tons of classes. I am always buying classes. Even now.”
Going From Donations To Getting Paid To Shoot
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @klenoxphotography
With a Canon Rebel Ti in her arsenal, Kristen was out to conquer the photography world. After her second son was born, she wanted to leave nursing and spend more time with the kids. While Kristen’s initial plan was to become a wedding planner, she fell in love with the photography aspect of weddings.
When we ask the light and airy wedding photographer about how she took her passion and made a professional wedding photography career out of it, she responds, “It’s funny because I still don’t feel professional.” “I just started posting pictures on Facebook, and my friends were like, “Hey! Can you take some pictures of me?” she shares and quickly follows up with, “Of course, everyone wants you when you’re free.” We swear, in that moment, even though she didn’t, we just pictured Kristen dropping the mic.
There came a point when Kristen became a “part-time” photographer and before she went legit with K. Lenox Photography, the photographer worked on “donations”. She says, “I didn’t want to charge because I am adamant on doing things the right way. So I took donations. But then over time I realized that I was getting taken advantage of, so I legitimized my business and started charging more.”
She also made sure she knew what she was signing up for by becoming a second shooter first – that too with someone she idolized at the time. “He was a local photographer in the area who had been doing this for eons, and he let me shoot with him,” she shares, adding, “I think I shot 1-2 weddings before I started taking weddings on my own. Don’t recommend that.” After telling us that she learned a lot about off-camera lighting during her brief stint as a second shooter, she pauses for a bit and says, “I don’t want to say too much, but I actually learned what I don’t like.”
When we ask her to elaborate, she adds, “I don’t like overly posed s%!#. I don’t like directing the day too much. And honestly, I don’t even like the perfect lighting. I don’t like that perfect ‘everything’s in focus’ look.” All of this makes complete sense because, at this point, K. Lenox Photography is pretty much synonymous with candid wedding photography.
Defining Her Own Photography Style
We ask Kristen if she’d consider herself a photojournalist, and she replies, “My photography style is somewhere in between. I infuse a lot of movement into my photos. I don’t want perfection. But when we are doing the “grandma shots”, I will fluff the dress and get that traditional grandma shot, the wedding party and family pictures.”
The wedding and portrait photographer is such a big believer in the concept of capturing what’s real that she wasn’t fazed when the picture she submitted to the New York Institute of Photography didn’t exactly get their seal of approval. “It was a set of grandparents. I had them on a rock, and there were like 10 or 11 grandkids. One was falling off, one was picking his nose, grandma’s fixing the shirt. And they didn’t like that.” And we’re so glad that you didn’t let them change your mind, Kristen! Because without your authenticity and style, K Lenox Photography wouldn’t represent what it does today.
In the wedding photography industry, it can get easy to keep comparing yourself to others. Many creative professionals go through this, and Kristen still does. “You are always comparing yourself to everyone else. Like, “Oh s%!#, why didn’t I think of that? Oh, damn. That was really good. Why did I get that angle? It’s so easy to feel like you’re not a legit photographer,” she shares, adding, “I know I am decent. I know I am okay. I know my s%!#. But at the same time, there’s always more to learn.” Kristen, if you’re reading this, we just want you to know that not only do we LOVE your work and you, we have now also become big fans of your humility.
The ‘No Vendor Left Behind’ Strategy At K. Lenox Photography
One of the things that sets Kristen and her photography team apart from her competitors is her ‘no vendor left behind’ strategy. What is that? Well, in short, she’s not just a couple’s photographer, she’s the florist’s, hair and makeup artist’s, venue’s, and other vendors’ photographer too. “My main goal is to make the bride and groom’s day successful. I am a team player. I like to go to rehearsals, meet the officiant, planner, and the staff,” she says, adding, “I share the photos and galleries with the entire vendor team, I tag everyone, and I also send an introductory email when I first find out who I am going to be working with. And I don’t charge other vendors for the photos. I just ask them to give me photo credit.”
Even though she’s taking photos of and for her couples, Kristen is always thinking of everyone else. She says, “How many times have you seen a florist, for example, taking pictures of their work with their phone? And I just think that it does not do it justice. When I go to rehearsals, I will ask the vendors if there’s something particular that they want. While I can’t always promise something, I always keep an eye out for the specific image they are looking for.” She says she doesn’t have a particular “strategy” for generating leads, but we feel like good business ethics and just being a good human being is what fuels K. Lenox Photography.
Leads are the gasoline to any wedding photographer’s business. They’re what keep the business going and growing. And in a world where there are so many options to reel in those leads, Kristen finds her ideal clients through a mix of good business ethics and good relationships. “I am right in between being a referral and lead generation engine. Most of my leads come in through word-of-mouth referrals from vendors or from former couples. 80% of my clients become my clients through preferred vendors lists. And for the rest, I use Google, Facebook, and Instagram,” she explains. And just to be clear, this 80% comes in without a referral program in place. It’s purely based on the amazing client and vendor relationships and top-notch customer service that one experiences when they connect with K. Lenox Photography.
Suggested Read: How To Get A Continuous Flow Of Wedding Photography Leads
To Rejecting Perfectionism
Kristen’s message to wedding photographers is pretty simple: “Those minute things you notice; 90% of our couples are not noticing that s%!#”. In other words, she is just saying perfectionism is overrated. And that is why she was our first choice for this International Women’s Day feature. Not only did she build a successful photography career by chasing her passion, she also did it all on her own terms.
In an industry obsessed with making everything 100% perfect, Kristen chose to tell real stories (with spectacular lighting, might we add). She likes the imperfections; in fact, we could say she actually looks for them and only considers them to be worth her time and attention. You might not find perfect lighting or perfectly-posed wedding photos in Kristen’s portfolio, but what you will find is real moments that make a wedding day and families and couples so special. She’s really a poster child for a girl boss, and we feel like this world will always need more of them.
“Every single wedding I photograph, I am getting complimented on smiling. People have come up to me and said, “Oh my gosh. You look like you’re having so much fun”. It’s work; don’t get me wrong. But you have to love it if you want to be asked back. If you’re walking around like a miserable piece of s%!#, nobody’s going to want to work with you,” Kristen jokes as she tells us about what makes people want to work with her. Remember what we said about her lighting up the room when she walks in? Well, you have the proof now too.
Kristen, here’s our message to you: We are fans of you, your work, your ethics, everything you do. And we’re so honored to be associated with you. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us and sharing your story with us. We’re rooting for you!
Further Read: Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories
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