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Meet Kelley Luikey

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelley Luikey.

Hi Kelley, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I took photography classes in college and continued exploring photography for the next several years. This was before digital so I learned to handle my camera using film and develop images on my own. When digital started to really take over I always had a camera but it was usually focused on my children and was just for fun.

In 2013, I went through the Master Naturalist program here in the Lowcountry and brought my camera along to document all of the flora and fauna we were learning about. It was then that I realized that I wanted to revisit photography more seriously weaving what I had learned about our local area.

I brought with me an understanding of how a camera worked in terms of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO but digital photography opened so many more options and opportunities to experiment creatively. I am completely self-taught in digital photography and editing – all through trial and error.

While I started out shooting primarily landscapes because the lenses were less pricey, I now focus almost exclusively on birds. I love the entire process from shooting, to editing to beautifully framing an image as a piece of art for someone’s home.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I definitely employed the “fake it til you make it strategy” and just kept plugging along despite setbacks. My greatest challenge was probably that my children were quite young when I decided to dig into photography more seriously so getting out pre-dawn or during sunset, hours was challenging.

There were many times that I drug them along or would resort to bribery and bring the along searching for birds to photograph. Light makes or breaks a shot so it wasn’t until my kids were a bit older and I could leave them that I feel like I really was able to grow and learn how to work my camera in optimal conditions.

Equipment was also something that I slowly acquired. Lenses for bird photography are very expensive and I never felt I could invest in one until my skills were at a level that I felt justified the purchase. I learned to work with what I had and while some of my favorite images to date came from my more modest equipment – it is definitely a game-changer to now shoot with what I have.

Learning how to print well was also a challenge. There are many images that might do well on social media that are not necessarily something that people want on their walls. Learning to select the right images to print was a skill I had to hone. Making printing mistakes are costly and unfortunately, lots of my early work ended up in the trash bin.

While I still make mistakes from time to time, I have learned how to select a beautiful image and make it even more beautiful by printing, matting, and framing it well. Just as there is a style to my photography, I have also developed a style for my framing.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I specialize in Bird Photography -primarily to be sold as art for people’s homes or offices. I am extremely proud of being self-taught. I couldn’t afford to go to pricey workshops or hire a mentor while I was learning so everything that I produce is from my own trial and error.

Through the years, I have developed a signature style and favorite light to shoot in. Creating a “dreamy image” in the soft early morning or late evening light is what I specialize in. I love when people on social media say that they know an image was mine before seeing my name on it – it means that I have developed something unique and different than what others are producing!

While there are many great bird photographers around, the majority of them don’t take the images further than their screens. Printing and framing are one of my favorite parts of what I do, I love the first time I get to see an image I have worked so hard for – printed large and beautifully framed and matted for someone to enjoy on their walls for many years!

As soon as I became a profitable business, I knew I wanted to be able to give back. I proudly give 2% of my total sales and 100% of my speaking fees to Audubon South Carolina to help support our resident and migratory birds here in the Lowcountry.

I love being able to give back financially as well as speak out on the issues and challenges our birds face through social media, articles, and during presentations.

Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
I show my work at a co-op gallery in Old Town Bluffton called Pluff Mudd Art. We are a group of local artists who share the responsibilities of running a gallery, this allows me more time to be out shooting!

We just put a deposit on an Airstream Trailer that we plan to use as a way to host photographers so that I can teach editing and shooting one on one. Hoping to have this up and running early next spring.

I am super excited to expand what I do and teach what I have learned along the way to others!

Contact Info:

Image Credits

John Wollwerth and Betty Laurent

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