Shannon Smith- Photographer extraordinaire
Shannon Smith remembers the time her father, who had a keen love of photography, bought her a point and shoot camera. She was 8 years old. This would spark her keen interest and love for photography. By the time she was a teenager, she was always borrowing her dad’s camera to take nature photos. “I wasn’t particularly good, and my dad used tell me he wasn’t paying to have the film developed unless I took better pictures,” Shannon explains.
As luck would have it, Shannon landed her first job, which happened to be at a Fuji film 1-hour processing lab. During her days spent her, she realised after printing many dreadful photos for customers, that by comparison hers actually weren’t that bad.
Shannon was eventually approached by local newspapers to capture images of events, sports etc. “I had a customer at work ask if I would consider taking wedding photos… so I did. I was a 19-year-old with a film camera that ran on auto. Thank goodness I didn’t stuff anything major up”.
One wedding would lead to Shannon progressing to multiple weddings over the years. Then digital emerged so she embraced it. Unfortunately, because she lacked some computer skills, she gave photography away altogether. In 2012 started La Bella Vita, her independent photography company. “I had two children and I used it as an outlet to get out of the house and maybe, if I was lucky, book one or two shoots a month to help pay the bills”.
From there, her popularity has only grown and she has a large portfolio of stunning photos to go with it. She now regularly shoots families, individuals, pets horses and maternity.
Letting the photos happen naturally
While a lot of photographers tend to stick to the same style of shooting or the one niche, Shannon doesn’t define her work as fitting into a particular box. She typically works with what’s there to shoot and what becomes of it. “Most people describe my work as whimsical, magical or fairytale like. I guess over time, my images have developed a soft, hazy quality that most people seem to recognise as me”. Shannon admits that she isn’t the best when it comes to photoshop but likes to let the photos speak for themselves.
Shannon shoots various occasions, but her favourite are those involving animals. “My absolute favourite is equine and rider sessions closely followed be creative sessions incorporating animals,” Shannon explains. She has worked with everything from marmosets, to snakes, llamas and camels. “I don’t ever set out to define myself as a photographer who combines humans and animals, but these opportunities seem to present themselves to me”.
Working with animals can be like working with children. Things go wrong from time to time. Shannon has experienced a lot of spills and mishaps including an occasion where a model was riding a horse who then decided to throw her off. He was on the loose. “We were shooting in a public area and he decided to run around in the park for a good 30 minutes with us chasing him. It was 42 degrees, and close to a road with heavy vehicles travelling along it. We were all terrified he would run on the road”. Needless to say, they were dripping with sweat trying to catch the horse; running on adrenaline, panic and stress.
Shannon has had other memorable sessions that were for the right reasons. One particular moment was a maternity session for a woman who had miscarried her baby previously. The woman was pregnant once again with her rainbow baby. “It was pouring rain right before her session and I was about to call it off. She had paid to get her hair and makeup done though, so I wanted to make sure I got something for her. She said to me ‘maybe we will get a rainbow for my rainbow baby’.” Toward the end of the session, a rainbow appeared out of nowhere. “I couldn’t believe it. I told her to look behind her and it was an emotional moment that’s for sure”.
In 2017, Shannon published a book titled The Pony Project which features a collection of her equine images. It all started when she was approached by the Sunday Telegraph who asked to feature some of her images in their paper. “I was so thrilled for the opportunity and it was quite a large feature,” she says of the experience.
Soon after, Channel 7’s The Morning Show approached her to be interviewed about her work. Needless to say, this opportunity left her stunned. “I appeared on the show and people started to approach me about purchasing some of my unicorn images so I pondered the idea of a book of my best equine work”.
Shannon worked hard for the next few months to create that content that would be seen in The Pony Project. She found a lady who had self-published her own book, so she hired her to assist with putting the book together and publishing it.
Shannon still can’t quite come to grips with getting her work recognised the way that it does. “I still pinch myself that I’ve had such opportunities. I’ve had my images featured in the Telegraph 4 times now for my equine, maternity, puppy newborn and a little wildlife warrior Ashara”. Her llama images have also recently featured in Hunter and Coastal Lifestyle magazine. She’s also had her brumby images feature in the Newcastle Herald and various equine images feature on four different magazine covers. “I’m extremely humbled by these opportunities”.
Shannon's pure love for photography
Although the recognition is amazing, Shannon doesn’t take photos just to be noticed. She does it because it is an opportunity for her to show her subjects how she sees them. “A heavily pregnant woman may feel huge and uncomfortable, but for an hour I can make her feel like a goddess. I’m so passionate about light and how it can make or break an image,” she says. She further says that she also loves how photography gives her the opportunity to creatively express herself. “Photography allows me to push boundaries and create things no one has seen before”.
If you’re thinking of taking up photography and succeeding like Shannon has, she has these words of advice for you. “Register and insure your business. Create from your heart, rather than attempting to replicate someone else’s work. Find what sets you apart from others and do you!”
To view more of Shannon’s work visit her website here
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