Crash Taylor Interviews Heather Cole

This week I welcome Heather Cole. I got to know Heather through the blogging world.  She is an excellent photographer who thrives on taking the still image to the next level. I love her blog; it always inspires me when I stop by to comment on her awesome photos. Enjoy the interview and remember to leave a comment when you're done. You know how us photographers love comments. I really hope you're learning something from these interviews and they're making you think outside the box in your own image making.  See you next week for another killer interview.

Hi Heather,

Tell us a little bit about yourself – Born and raised in Kansas City, I’m a wife to my high school sweetheart Jake, and a mother to my beautiful daughter, Olivia. Started this company in the basement of my house and now 4 years later, I have a successful photography business with a studio and second full time photographer.

Where is home? Kansas City, Missouri.

Did you go to school to study photography? I’m completely self-taught which I like I think gives me an advantage because I’m not taught to think a certain way.

How long have you been a photographer?
Professionally 4 years.

How would you describe your style? I love this question because there are so many different styles to my photography. For my high school seniors I think VERY OUTSIDE the box. Nothing indoors, all outdoors and all of them very much structured around who they are as a person. To me each and every senior I shoot is like I’m shooting for a magazine. Each one is completely different than the other. For my weddings you can describe them as emotional, intimate, and sexy.  For my engagement session I want you to see connection. Capturing two people in love on camera is almost a drug to me. Literally I’m on a high when I get that shot that seriously gives me chills. Connection is such a beautiful thing to see. So to answer your question, I have a lot of different styles. It just depends on what I’m shooting.

Favourite wedding and engagement photos you have taken recently?

How many weddings do you average per year? 26. We like to keep the number pretty low so we can invest more of ourselves into our clients. The higher that number gets, the less time I have to spend with them, get to know them, turn around their product. 26 seems to be a good number for us.

Do you photograph weddings on your own or with an assistant / 2nd shooter? Depends, on weddings, if they pay to have my second shooter, Aaron (www.heathercolephoto.com/aaron) with me, then he shoots too (which I love) but if not, then I fly solo, which I don’t mind. As for my Seniors, I shoot them all alone. I love it.

What is your favourite part of the wedding to photograph? The bride and groom. I love portraits. :)

What is your least favourite? Formals. I give them a 10 formal limit. Cause if they hire me...formals are just that a “formality” and nothing that is ABSOLUTELY necessary.

What wedding albums do you use? Renaissance and Vision Art.

What type of cameras do you shoot with? Nikon D3

What is your favourite photography accessory, other than your camera? My Shootsac. I have to have it on photo shoots with me.

If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
JUST ONE! Man….I really like my Sigma 28mm 1.8. I love shooting wide!!!

What lighting equipment do you take on a shoot?
If I’m shooting outside 99.9% of the time I use all natural light. Only when I’m trying to achieve a completely different look/feel do I whip out some lighting. If I do want that look, I like to use video lights, headlights and from time to time, some alien bees.

What is your favourite computer/editing accessory, other than your computer? My wacom tablet. It’s a must have. How on earth I didn’t have it the first few years of my career is a mystery to me.

What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.? Boutwell’s actions and Jesh de rox’s textures.

How important is Photoshop (post processing) in your final images?
For me, post processing is very important. The only time I touch the pictures in Photoshop is for my blog. I hand pick my very favourites from each session and add my “HCP LOVE”. The only other time I do any post processing (outside of Lightroom) is if a client orders a fine art print or it goes in their album. I do however feel there is a point where too much post processing can very easily distract you from the image itself. I think post processing should be used to add “life” or “emotion” to a picture. If I had a texture over my picture you aren’t going to notice THE TEXTURE. You’re going to notice the image and the texture is going to make you FEEL something in that image.

Are you a Mac or PC lover? Mac- ALL THE WAY!!!

What piece of equipment would you most like to get but don’t have yet?
I would love a tilt/shift lens. That would be AWESOME!!!

What’s the best part of being a photographer? Waking up and doing a job that I love, EVERY DAY! I’m so blessed.

How do you keep yourself motivated and your photography fresh?
Workshops and blogs. I love to attend workshops because they allow me to really invest in myself. I also LOVE to look at blogs because they are a constant source of inspiration.

What has been your most memorable assignment and why? About a year ago I did this really fun Trash the Dress assignment. I love being able to showcase your dress, after the wedding, with a really fun photo shoot. I’m not really into the whole TRASHING of it, I actually think, that’s a really bad name for the whole “trend” so to speak. Anyway, I shot this bride and it was literally 32 degrees outside when we did it. Ended up, the New York Times did a story on the “Trash the Dress” trend and one of my images was chosen to be ran in the paper. Needless to say I had no idea that this small assignment I did would turn out to be such a big deal. But I loved the final outcome and the whole process was very fun and creative.

If you could shoot a wedding with someone who would it be and why? Nate Kaiser (www.theimageisfound.com). I love his work and he’s a constant source of inspiration. I would LOVE to shoot a wedding with him.

Where would be your dream destination wedding?
Italy. I’m Italian and my dream would be to go there and shoot a wedding. Any takers??

I see you photograph seniors, is this a big part of your business? Do you have some recent images you can share with us? Seniors are a BIG part of our business.  Truth be told, this last year was the first year we hit the senior market hard. The opening of our studio and the way we market ourselves through Facebook and Myspace have really taken our senior business to the next step because of that.

Who or what inspires you in your personal life and work? In my personal life, it would have to be my daughter. I love how with every month that passes she changes so dramatically. One month she’s excited that she can tie her shoes and the next month she’s reading off words as we drive in the car. It’s amazing when you look at the world with a fresh pair of eyes. I have to constantly remind myself of that. Try to look at things with a fresh pair of eyes. I try to say to myself, shoot this wedding like it was your first.

A website and/or blog you visit often?

The Image is Found
Jesh de Rox
Ben Chrisman
Kelly Moore
Jeff Newsome

The hardest part of your job? Balancing being a wife, a mom and a business owner. I’m still trying to master that.

Things you say or do to put your clients at ease in front of the camera? There isn’t anything I really say to them, it’s just the relationship I build with them. After they trust me as their friend, the comfort in front of the camera comes naturally.

The first photographer that comes to your mind and why? Bobbi from Bobbi+Mike (www.bobbiandmike.com/blog).  Today is Friday the day we “weigh in” together. We are both on a mission to lose some weight before WPPI and we are making it a team effort with all of our blog readers. It’s really fun!

A wedding photographer who inspires you? Kelly Moore. I love how she uses light in her photography. It takes my breath away.

The last workshop or seminar you attended and why? Jesh de Rox’s “Life as an Artform”. It was a year ago this week. It changed my life in so many ways and made me a better person. If you ever have the chance to attend one, I would recommend you go. You will NOT regret it.

Do you conduct workshops for aspiring photographers? Not YET. It’s one of my goals for the next few years. I love helping people and I would love to allow people to see how I’ve managed to take a small one person operation from my basement of my home into a 2,000 square feet studio with a second full time photographer. I just want to make sure that if and when I do it…it will be amazing. ☺

One way you market your business? My wedding business is marketed by word of mouth. It’s seriously the best form of advertising because if I’ve done a job well done, people are going to talk. It’s that simple.  For my high school seniors I use Facebook. It’s such an amazing networking tool. I love it!

If not a photographer you would have been? Actor, singer. I love to sing and act (at least I did when I was younger).

Do you make time for personal photographic work? If so, what do you enjoy photographing and do you have some images you can share with us? My only time outside of my business is with my family and friends. With that being said, I really enjoy taking pictures of my daughter, Olivia. Here are two of my favourite pictures I’ve recently taken of her.

If you could be invisible for one day with your camera... that’s really hard because I’m the kind of person that has to be connected with my subjects so I’m not sure what I’d do if I was invisible with my camera. Perhaps I would be hanging with one of my favourite photographers watching them in action. ☺

Photographing penguins in the Antarctic, a fashion shoot for Vogue in Paris or the wedding of Brad and Angelina? The wedding of Brad and Angelina, definitely. It would be so cool to connect with the two of them and interpret their love on my camera. I also think it would be awesome to tell the story of their dynamic family on that particular day. That would be cool. ☺

London, Japan or the Bahamas with a Hasselblad H3DII-50 and Kate Moss?
London. I have never been, and the place FACINATES ME!! I love the architecture, the culture, and the history. I love places with character.

Is there anybody, living or dead you would love to capture on film and why?
My dad. He passed away five years ago before I started my business and I have no professional pictures of him. I would photograph his hands, his eyes, his corners of his mouth when he smiled. His watch on his arm. Just things that I miss seeing or touching.

What advice do you have for photographers just starting out?
Invest in yourself. No matter what you are shooting with, if the artist behind the camera is lacking, your pictures are going to show that. When you attend workshops, you gain a better understanding of who you are, what you want out of our business, what you have to do to get there, and the tools to help you do it. If you don’t invest in yourself by attending workshops/classes I think you are not only cheating yourself, but you are cheating your clients.

What talent would you most like to have? To do some mad wicked stuff with off camera lighting.

Something you’re still learning? See above.

What do you love to indulge in? Equipment. I love lenses, cameras, computers, gadgets. It’s crazy.

Something that is overrated? Owners Manuals. Just take it out of the box and experiment! Woo hoo!

Something you’re saving up for?
A tilt shift lens.

If you could have lunch with anyone who is famous who would it be? Lunch is so overrated! Dinner is where it’s at!! So dinner, at a good steak house, bottle of wine and Will Ferrell. I love laughter in my life so I think he’d be awesome to sit and break bread with. ☺

Where you'll find me on a Friday night at 9 p.m.?
Hanging out with my friends and family.

Your favourite film (movie) of all time? Pride and Prejudice.

First thing you would do if you won the lottery? Take a much needed vacation with my family. ☺

Three words that describe you?
Loving, high spirited, a good friend.

What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now? Still shooting weddings and growing our studio by one or more full time second shooters. Developing a Workshop as well.

And the last question, if you had one wish… one wish….wow, that’s hard. I wish that life will continue on the path it’s going and that my family and friends stay happy and healthy.

Oh one more, if someone said ‘how can I be the next Heather Cole?’ What would you say? As for the last question, Educate yourself. I only started truly enjoying my work, and my business after going to several different workshops that taught me about Photoshop, lighting, branding, my business and most importantly...ME. Don’t be afraid to be who you are. The moment I stopped trying to be someone I thought my clients wanted and the moment I started being the REAL ME was a pivotal moment in my career. I started pulling in the clients I wanted cause in turn, they wanted ME!

Your readers can find out more about me:

Website: www.heathercolephotography.com

Blog: The same. It’s all one thing! How convenient!! ☺

  • Great.

    One of my faves so far.

    Keep it up


  • Wow - you found someone who is possibly even more enthusiastic about shooting weddings than you are!
    Oddly, I particularly like the fact that Heather is happy to include flare in her images of 'young love' - it definitely helps build the atmosphere.

  • I love Heather's style, beautiful. As a female photography student here in the UK this is a great read. Heather you have definitely inspired me, though I think it will take me years to get to your level. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and THANK YOU Crash for doing these interviews.


  • Great interview really cool.

  • I absolutely love her style, this is the kind of photographer I wish I could be. The images are very inspiring, I love the composition, use of colour and lighting, and she really captures the love between the bride and groom.

    I really enjoyed this interview - definitely my favourite so far.


  • You captured her just as she is IRL!!!!! She is an amazing person from inside all the way to the outside!

  • Inspiring interview. Heather is energized and powerful, and has given me new fire to get out and market! Great work, Crash!

  • What a talent! Loved this interview. Thanks Crash and Heather.

  • Thanks for the great interview--best photog conversations on the web, hands down.

  • Another excellent insight - I love the last paragraph, don't be afraid to be who you are - I don't think I've quite got there yet - I think it's a case of get over the fear and do it anyway.


  • Heather you are an inspiration. AND YOU MUST DO A WORKSHOP!! One dinner with you and you had made me rethink what i was doing and made me feel confident. My business has taken off because of that feeling! If someone could bottle you up and sell you they would be rich!!!

  • I love the engagement portraits! Totally stunning! Agree with Pete, the flare is very cool!

  • Great interview! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • love Heather. Her photography is inspirational and I hope to be a "Heather Cole" one day... I may be 90 by then, but I'm working towards it! The interview provided even more inspiration to keep going for my dreams. And Heather looks great with her new "red" hair! :-)


  • GREAT interview Heather! You know I love your work, how lovely to hear about what you do behind the lens!!



  • Good one Crash

  • I've been following Heather's work for quite a while. I go visit her blog at least once a week. I learned some tidbits I didn't know before from your interview Crash. Thanks for doing these!

    Heather Cole's work is truly a breath of fresh air. I hope to meet her one day & you Crash.


  • Thanks again Crash, definately adding this blog to my favourites, love her work she really captures the emotion between the couples.

  • I have to say, regardless of how you are trained, some people just see things that others don't. When Heather first started shooting, she had it. A skill, an eye for beauty, unusal beauty. And she has only gotten better over the years.

    Heather you need to put a portrait book together. You make everyone look amazing.

    As for being invisible with or without her camera, that would be impossible. You would be able to feel her spirit. And she'd probably have plenty to say.

    I love the interviews. Keep them up.

  • Heather Cole is amazing!!! I feel so remarkably blessed to have her photographing my wedding next year. I can't wait!

  • I am a huge fan of Heather Cole..
    even though she's probably never heard of me!
    I'm friends with Bobbi+Mike from Bobbi+Mike Photography...
    and I LOVEEEEEE HCP and BMP.
    They're both so fresh and talented!
    Keep up the good work Heather! & Bobbi!

  • Great interview (again!) Crash. Must admit I hadn't heard of Heather but I love her work, extremely inspirational. Thanks to you both!

  • who doesn't just LOVE heather!!!! awesome interview!!!

  • questo è il modo di lavorare brava continua così con la mente libera
    auguri luigi

  • thanks heather for links, i found some new inspirations there;)