Artist Interview - Kristen Marie Parker
Pacific Northwest-based WBWP member, and Rangefinder Rising Star, Kristen Marie Parker is known for her modern, emotive style that makes her one of the most sought-after wedding and portrait photographers anywhere. We reached out to Kristen recently for a brief chat about what inspires her art and what she’s been up to lately. Scroll down and learn why we adore Kristen, and why couples beat a path to her door.
Jenn: There's always a spirit of movement in your work. Do you think this has become part of your distinctive voice?
Kristen: I hope that when others see my images, they see a sense of comfort and fluidity! Whether or not it's become a part of my voice, I'm not sure... but the way I photograph has a need for movement or I feel like the moment gets stagnant or too quiet. My hope is that my clients feel at ease enough to step, walk, interact and come together in a way that reflects their day to day. I want movement to become a part of my voice if it's not already there. I can tell you that in the moment I do feel an itch to constantly be moving while I shoot, both for myself and my subjects.
Jenn: I remember seeing this photo hit your IG and was enthralled by the subtle lighting. Did you add some lighting or was it just ambient? Tell us a little about this space and this wedding.
Kristen: I got so incredibly lucky with this wedding! I was sent this couple by a photographer who wasn't able to shoot the wedding (due to happy and great reasons!) and the client wanted photography that reflected more mood and dark undertones. With the ceremony and reception in the evening, their hope was to light the space as dimly as possible. For the ceremony, the planner actually set up two spot lights in the balcony that only highlighted the couple. I knew that if I could walk around, I'd be able to photograph different light effects fairly easily. Later on during the reception, all of the lights were turned off for dinner, so I put an OCF set up in the balcony to mimic the ceremony light. One of my favorite parts about this photo is how the guests are so incredibly present and emotionally there... A benefit of putting their cell phones away!
Jenn: You also shoot for commercial clients and your work in that genre has the same aesthetic as your wedding photography, keeping your look on brand. Do you think, it is important to your success in both fields of photography to have the same aesthetic and stick to it? Do your commercial clients find you through your wedding work, and therefore ask to produce a similar vibe?
Kristen: About 10% of the work that I do is commercial work, and that is mainly due to my past couples wanting to work with me again for their businesses or referring me to larger corporations. I think part of the reason why both my commercial and wedding styles blend so well is because those clients have mostly only seen my wedding work. I have a groom that I photographed 8 years ago who continually brings me on to his brand design projects so I've gotten to photograph restaurants, lawyers, schools, tour companies and more! With weddings, I'm so used to being in a hustle and go, go, go mentality that commercial work is a nice place for me to hit pause and slow down. I get to nail the shot and remove my emotions... the validation is very different! I'd love to explore this some more.
Jenn: This photo from the wedding of our mutual friend Amber to her now-husband Luke is iconic to me. It feels like your voice through and through. Has your style evolved since you took this picture, and if so, it what way?
Kristen: I just love this photo. This image was one of those images that almost didn't happen. Amber and Luke got married on Orcas Island and we spent part of that day up on Mt. Constitution for portraits, not knowing that fog met us the moment we started to ascend. We took a few images up at the top and then headed back down as we were in a hurry to get to the ceremony. I rounded a corner and saw this patch of trees and immediately stopped the car and had them do a quick circle walk through the trees. It was truly a "walk out there and come back!" piece of direction. I just love this image and it's been one of my favorites to showcase over the years.
While my style subtly evolves I think my natural voice in photography continues to hold strength. I hope it speaks through composition, emotion and great light, and show that my clients are comfortable and content while feeling calm and safe around me. Ultimately, I want my imagery to show that I listen and understand. I feel that those underlying waves are constant and true to my work, even though the weddings that I shoot change and are always different. I have made my photos a bit more bright in recent years as my market has changed to working high end weddings with planners who want to be published. It's important to me to showcase the colors and tones of the details as true to eye as possible.
Jenn: I've noticed you've gotten into styling for some of your photos and I love your beautiful flatlays. Do you think photographers should learn this technique - among the many other little skills necessary to be a well-rounded wedding photographer?
Kristen: These are so fun! I am certainly trying to give them a go and would love more formal training. I always love seeing what Rebecca Yale does with her flat lays, they are so remarkable! I definitely do think that if you want to up your portfolio and detail shots, that providing flat lays are an added bonus to your clientele. These definitely take some time and plenty of props (either from you or your client). Having flat lays is super special for planners, vendors and couples, because it showcases the work and creative planning that can take over a year to put together! Rebecca Yale and Kaleb Norman James offer workshops on how to style flat lays and they're wonderful.
Jenn: You are well known for KMP Products including your kits on creating great clients experiences and clear contracts. Have you always wanted to be an educator?
Kristen: I am a natural helper but never thought I could be an educator... I'm still juggling with how I feel about that title as there are so many others who are so powerful and naturally gifted at that role. I've been so fortunate that others believe in me and my work and that they want me to share about what I do. I've even gotten to travel the world and offer stage talks! I've found that while getting up on a stage is incredibly exciting because I get to meet so many amazing creatives, it can also take an energy toll on this introvert. I offer mentor sessions to photographers and have started selling online products and that's been a super happy medium that gives me more one on one time with other photographers who want my help.
Jenn: You do a lot of destination weddings. How do you prepare for them?
Kristen: Aside from looking into what permits, visas and travel requirements are needed (each country is different), my self preparation begins a week before the wedding. I always stay hydrated, exercise, and begin prepping my gear. What I bring to a destination wedding is pared down compared to a local wedding and so I have to pack accordingly. Travel friendly light stands and LED Panels, flashes and back up gear all needs to be cleaned, charged and packed away nicely. In the meantime, I sleep really well and take vitamins like Wellness Formula to make sure my immune system is strong before hopping on a flight. I also always wipe down my airplane seat, seatbelt, window and tray when I fly, and pack some healthy snacks and a reusable water bottle to bring with me on the flight. When I arrive at the destination and have gotten my rental car, I seek out a grocery store right away for food and water for my time there. Destination weddings usually take up 3-4 days of my week and it's important that I treat those days with intention and take care of my body so I can be at my best for my clients. Traveling can really wear on ya, even though it is always exciting!
Jenn: Many of your weddings are professionally designed and published? What advice can you give about working with designers and planners?
Kristen: Working with designers and planners is a gift and I always make sure to be flexible to meet their needs. They're the ones referring me to their couples, and therefore I need to provide the same level of care and quality that they give to their clients. It's a group effort to come together as a team and so the best thing I can do is listen and adapt while continuing to do my job at the best of my ability. I owe so much to designers and planners and want to continue to facilitate relationships with them and support all the hard work that they do. When working with planners, it's best to not step on their toes and instead, allow them to do their jobs. It's also very important for me to familiarize myself with the venue before I start and to stick strongly to the schedule that they provide. They make life easy on you and your clients and that always a plus.