We had the good fortune of connecting with Sierra Campbell and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Sierra, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I was raised in Park City, Utah. My dad was a photojournalist for one of the main newspapers in the state, as well as the sports photographer for the University of Utah and many different Olympics in addition to other freelance work. I grew up going on assignment with him, carrying his large lens’ around the sidelines of football and basketball games, and earning money working in the darkroom by his side. The smell of developer and fixer will always bring me right back to my childhood!  

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Part of what I love so much about photography is that I feel like even though I’m being paid, I get to be the one to give the gift. I mean, how many people can say that about their job?! Having now done this for 14+ years, I have the benefit of retrospect. Photography means so much more to me now than it did at the beginning (which was a means to independent financial aid). I’ve been able to be a part of the most miraculous life events like babies being brought into the world. I’ve shared some of the darkest heartbreaks with parents who’ve lost children and felt some peace in the fact that they’ve had beautiful photographs taken over the years that are absolutely priceless. I’ve cried HARD through many shoots. I see families change and grow over the years, and am given an intimate look into their family units. Because of this, I feel bonded to my clients on another level. Some of them I’ve photographed for so many years, I could seriously feel comfortable being part of their family.

Getting here wasn’t easy. I spread myself pretty thin on all the different genres of photography… events, corporate, product, boudoir, families, newborn – I would accept any kind of work. I started to dread anything not family or newborn. I would stress for weeks leading up, never really confident that I liked what I delivered. It probably took me a good 5-7 years to really narrow down my niche to newborn and family and learn to just say ‘no’ to things that didn’t spark my interest. Because of this, I accumulated a junkyard of gear I didn’t really need. Lights that weren’t what I needed, lens’ that weren’t necessary, etc. My advice to any budding photographer would be to find the genre you want to focus on, invest in a mentorship, follow Facebook groups, and figure out the equipment that is tried and true for that specific field. Also, don’t skimp on your gear. Your lens is just as important, if not more important, than your camera. You are only as good as your equipment lets you be. I remember a friend handed me her camera during her daughter’s birthday party, and I couldn’t do anything with it that I wanted! I was embarrassed because what I took for her was nowhere near the quality of work I would feel comfortable delivering! The other challenge I had to overcome was pushing my stamina to the breaking point. I still struggle with this during my busy season (adding October – December for family portraits), but for the most part, I’ve learned that charging a little more and taking on less keeps my quality high and is good for my mental state. This way, I connect more with each shoot and deliver a better product.
At this point in my career, I’m primarily a newborn photographer. I used to travel to clients’ houses but after many years I started to think I didn’t like newborn photography anymore. I had to take a break and really analyze my situation, ask myself what I didn’t like about it (which came down to the stress and exhaustion of moving my set to a new, unknown location every time.). My husband jumped on board to create a home studio. Now I have full control of the space, lighting, temperature, sounds, sanitation, etc. Most photographers can figure out how to shoot most genres, but newborn photography is a whole different ball game. I’ve been to many newborn photography conventions, studied under some of the best newborn photographers in the world, and taken handfuls of safety courses on wrapping techniques, posing safely, etc. I like to take at least 1-2 educational courses or mentorships each year. I like to tell my clients that I believe newborn photography is 40% photography and 60% baby handling! Growing up with a photojournalist as my dad, I would see the impact he had on people’s lives. The emotion he could capture in just one photograph was sometimes overwhelming. I’m happy to have found that joy working with newborns. I love meeting the new families, sharing stories of pregnancy, birth, parenting… all the highs and lows. I realized the beauty in the fact that I get to be one of the first people to meet this new life and capture the fleeting moment for the parents. It’s been quite a journey to get where I am today, and I don’t take one shoot for granted.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If someone was visiting Orange County, I would tell them to visit a new beach town each day. Maybe start at Newport and enjoy the expansive beaches, which are fun for playing frisbee, boogie boarding and walking to the pier. Another day, (moving south) walk around Balboa Island in Newport, take the ferry across to the Peninsula, and gorge yourself on Balboa Bars (ice cream bars dipped in chocolate with toppings) or frozen bananas. Another day, move south to Crystal Cove, take the beautiful walk down to the beach and eat at the Beach Comber. Then maybe spend a few days exploring all the different Laguna Beach coves and shops. Just look at a map and adventure down to any public access cove! Don’t miss the 1000 Steps Beach, which will be quite a walk down but worth it to discover all the amazing caves and tide pools to the south (make sure you go at low tide!). For young and new surfers, spend at least a day at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, where you can rent boards and bicycle trollies.   

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents are a huge reason to my success. They set the groundwork in making me realize the value of hard work and how to be self-sufficient in a meaningful way. In my early 20’s, I was working for the Orange County Business Journal and realized I wanted to branch off on my own with photography. One day while at work, a box showed up on my desk. In it was a brand new camera (from my parents) and I remember thinking, “well, now I HAVE to go for it!” As any photographer knows, getting into the industry is a huge investment with all the gear, and I was agonizing over how much the really good lens was going to cost me. Out of the blue, my step-mother-in-law handed me an envelope. In it was a check and a small note that read, “go buy the lens”. I still have that note. I remember being completely overwhelmed with emotion. Since the start of my photography career, my husband has been the first person to tell me – with zero hesitation – to sign up for the mentorship, buy the better equipment, make the investment in myself and my trade. Then a few years ago, a local amazing OB/GYN (Dr. Gigi Kroll, Newport Center Women’s Health) reached out to me and asked if they could decorate their office with my work. That was a dream come true that didn’t feel real, I kept thinking that she would be like “never mind, we don’t need it anymore” – but it was real! It wasn’t a dream! Sometimes I still don’t feel like I’m worthy to have all my art decorating their office, but they are all so kind and supportive of my work. I always think, “how could all these people believe so strongly in me?” Photography is a tough industry because as an art, it is open to the interpretation of each individual. It can be brutal and it can be doubly rewarding. I am so lucky to have so many supporters – from family and friends to clients (who start to feel like family) – to continually buoy me up.

Website: www.sierracampbellphotography.com
Instagram: sierracampbellphotography
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sierrasmartcampbellphotography

Image Credits
Sierra Campbell Photography

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