Lissa Chandler grew up with a camera in her back pocket and, now that she’s grown, she’s a wedding and portrait photographer in Northwest Arkansas. A total Canon girl, Lissa shoots mainly with a 5d Mark III, a slew of prime lenses and edits her photographs in Lightroom. Lissa specializes in creative, happy, and magical photographs and she loves photography with her whole heart. Like, big puffy heart loves it with a cherry on top.
How did you get your start in photography?
I have loved photography for as long as I can remember and I started casually shooting portrait sessions for friends and family when I was nineteen years old.
Photography was never supposed to be my career – it was supposed to be a fun hobby! – but, over time, the spark I felt for photography grew into a full on flame. As my love for photography ran wild and my husband saw how much joy photography brought me, he encouraged me to branch out and go into business for myself. Running a business totally intimidated me so, rather than jumping in, he suggested that I photograph ten portrait sessions with total strangers to test the waters. Thinking I wouldn’t like it at all, I agreed to the ten portrait sessions and I was totally hooked by the time I drove away from the very first session. I haven’t looked back since! Being a photographer is the best and, to this day, I’m so grateful that my husband gave me the push I needed to step out of my comfort zone. He’s amazing and the support and love he shares with me totally infuses itself into all of my photographs.
What type of photography are you shooting and what motivated you to focus on that genre?
I mainly shoot weddings but pepper in portrait sessions whenever I am able. Falling in love with wedding photography was a total accident – my first few weddings were completely overwhelming and, just when I thought I’d never shoot another, I found myself in the middle of a ballroom as a bride and groom danced their first dance and I thought to myself, “This is it!”. And it was!! I love photographing weddings with my whole heart because there is so much life, love, and flowers to photograph at every single wedding.
Did you experience any challenges as a woman entering into the photography market?
Of course! When I began to say that I wanted to be a photographer, it was very common for people to respond to me with a tight lipped smile. Since the photography world is fairly saturated and the world is full of photography lovers, it took several years for people to take my work and ambitions seriously.
Also! It took me ages to feel confident in advertising my photography and, when I did, I got two messages. The first was from a man telling me that I was a “camera owner, not a photographer”; the second was from a man asking me to photograph him naked.
What has been your biggest achievement or obstacle along the way?
My biggest obstacle was (and is) being confident in my own work.
When you first become involved with photography, it’s easy to believe that when X,Y, or Z happens, you’ll have “made it”. So, for example, I thought that I would “make it” if I could nail focus or if I mastered backlight or if I booked 10 weddings in one year. Once I did all of those things, I thought that I would “make it” if I grossed a certain amount of money or was praised by my peers or if I booked 10 weddings at my top package. And after that? I thought that I would (finally!) feel like I’d “made it” if I was published in a magazine or asked to speak at a conference or if I reached a certain amount of followers on a social media platform. The further I got into photography, the more I realized that there is no “making it” and, eventually, I needed to let myself be unapologetically confident in my work no matter what anyone else thought about me.
Being unapologetically confident can be difficult for anyone but, as a woman, it can be hard to be confident without coming off abrasive and it took me several years to be able to say “I am good at this!” without blinking and, even today, I often have the urge to frame my confidence with phrases such as “I am not the best photographer in the world, but…” and then go on to talk about why I am good at what I do while also demurring. And while that’s true – no one is always the very best at everything they do! – my photographs are so personal and so heartfelt and, even if they are not the best photographs in the world, I am the only person who can create the photographs I create. Saying that can be so hard, though!
Who and/or what inspires you most?
I am most inspired by the three L’s: Life, Light, and Love. I’m also very drawn to color and texture and, when I look at my photographs, I want color and happiness to jump right off the photograph and into my heart. I mean, that’s probably the cheesiest line I’ve ever written in my life but it’s totally true, too!
What is your approach? Is there anything in particular you try to achieve during a shoot (for example triggering certain feelings, etc.) or are there any specific techniques you use?
My approach to photography is to go with the flow. I am a very bossy photographer but, once a session or wedding starts to roll, I firmly believe that the day should evolve on its own. Some of my couples are super lovey dovey, others are bashful, and others joke around the entire shoot. My job is to photograph them as they are and, while I definitely direct, I like to give people very vague instructions so that, when they follow them, they do their own thing.
For example, I often say “look at me” to my clients. If I said this to my sister, she would smolder the camera. If someone asked me to look at the camera, I’d start laughing and probably look anywhere but the camera. I love how directions like this can bring out personality in photographs and it’s definitely something I incorporate into all of my sessions.
Why is accurate color important within your workflow?
Accurate color is everything. I sometimes liken my photographs to a brand new box of 120 Crayola crayons: I want there to be lots of possibility, lots of magic, and an enormous amount of color. While light is the driving force of photography, color is its fraternal twin sister: Color can convey all kinds of moods and emotions and tones and, as much as I love light, I love experimenting with all kinds of color to convey the kinds of emotions I want my photographs to convey. Color is magic!
Any tips or advice for photographers just beginning their career?
My advice is to own it! Own your style, own your photographic capabilities, and take total ownership over why you make the artistic choices that you make. No one has a monopoly on photography and art and, if you’re different, that’s okay! In fact, it’s better than okay – embracing that difference will get you so far as you hone your craft and turn your photographs into art.