With her Nikon in hand, Kelly Sweet is ready to take on the world, or at least commit it to film. The Grand Rapids business owner is forever advancing in the field and willing to go anywhere to perfect her craft.
After high school, Kelly hit the road and landed in San Francisco she where bought a good camera and took classes for fun in photography at the local community college. After that, she got her Bachelor's degree in photojournalism. She was working sporadically as a second shooting photographer in San Francisco before she moved home to West Michigan.
Kelly Sweet Photography opened shop in 2003, and since, Kelly has been working her way up the ladder of success. Wedding photography is unique in that it seems to be a female dominated field, Kelly said, and because there are so many similar professionals and amateurs alike, Kelly does what she can to keep her business fresh and trending.
Updating her website was the first step. Her old domain was a Flash site, but because the application isn't compatible with iPads, Kelly upgraded and is now using WordPress. Having the top equipment is one way Kelly advances her services in the industry, but her biggest draw is personality.
"I think maintaining relationships and networking relationships" with other wedding industry businesses like florists and reception sites "helps the most," Kelly says.
Kelly wants to tell the story of her clients with her pictures and draws from her knowledge of photojournalism in every shoot. Her goal is to make her subjects look as natural in their surroundings as possible to give the photos a timeless look.
Dependability is another pillar in Kelly's business, and for her, having a back up is crucial. Getting sick when she's scheduled for a shoot is one of her worst fears, so she takes precautions in the form of planning and healthy eating to ensure her immune system is top notch.
"I have a good back up system in place in case I get sick. Luckily, it hasn't happened. I eat at home, I don't eat out. There's a weird regimen I follow," she says.
Taking the occasional photography workshop helps Kelly learn new techniques, and she couples industry knowledge with her own unique style.
"When I work with people, I get right up in there to get the right shot and (I don't) feel shy about it. I encourage anyone to take a lot of photography classes rather than self-teach. There are so many things people can learn in school that you can't teach yourself," she says.
Except style. "That's your own that you can develop," she says.
Written by: Erika Fifelski is the West Michigan Woman magazine editorial coordinator. She was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it. Erika enjoys cooking, vacuuming, and discovering new ways to live sustainably and support local businesses. Photos provided by Kelly Sweet.