Episode 5: Interview With Christine Lee Smith

Professional Photographer & Instructor


IMG_8201_smallWebIn 2006, Christine and her husband opened a wedding and portrait business based on her classic and emotional style. As she worked with other photographers Christine found a passion for teaching photography in 2007. She specializes in communicating complex or technical information in relatable terms. In 2013 she graduated from seminary and is currently working on integrating the power of photography with spirituality to help people find the beautiful truth of themselves in God.

I want to give a huge thank you to Christine for taking the time to chat with us! I consider myself as much a student as the listening audience, and appreciate her sharing her extensive knowledge.

Resources & Links

» The E-Myth Revisited, by Michael E. Gerber: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work, and What To Do About It. This is the new and totally revised edition of the 150,000-copy underground bestseller, The E-Myth,expanded version.

»Why Photography Matters, by Jerry L. Thompson

»Adobe Lightroom: Saves her time and hassle in the post production process.

»Think Tank Memory Card Holder Accessory: Check it out here.

Christine’s Photo Teaching + Spiritual Direction Website:


Christine’s Manual Digital Photography Course:

»Digital Photography: Shooting in Manual

All of Christine’s Udemy courses:



Read The Full Interview Transcript Here

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Chamira Young: This is Chamira Young from Zenjoyable.com. And I’m totally pumped because we have another awesome interview for you today from our Pro Photographer Interview Series, Episode no. 5. Today we talked to Christine Lee Smith, Professional Photographer & Instructor. In 2006, Christine and her husband opened a wedding and portrait business based on a classic and emotional style. As she worked with other photographers Christine found a passion for teaching photography in 2007. She specializes in communicating complex or technical information in relatable terms. In 2013, she graduated from seminary and is currently working on integrating the power of photography with spirituality to help people find the beautiful truth of themselves in God. And as usual any resources and links that we discussed in the interview will be included in the show notes. So without further ado, let’s get to the interview.
Chamira Young: Hi everybody! I’m hanging with Christine Lee Smith, Professional Photographer & Instructor. And I’m so excited to just chill and chat with her. I wanna thank you Christine for just taking time out of your busy schedule to share some of your photography expertise with us.
Christine Lee Smith: My pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.
Chamira Young: Oh, it’s my pleasure, let me tell you. First of all, I really want people to learn more about you, your background. Just give us an overview of yourself and how you ended up with where you are now as a photographer.
Christine Lee Smith: Yeah. Well, I think, my whole journey began when I was in High School, stumbling through some closets in our home and ran across an old Canon film camera and I was immediately intrigued and found out that it was still workable, I rolled the film, and then began shooting and I just fell in-love. I come from a family of Artists most are painters and illustrators and I actually have {this edge me} in. So for me translating an images in my hand, images in my heart through my hand, it was challenging. When I found photography I was like, aah this is my medium
Chamira Young: Ahuh.
Christine Lee Smith: So it allowed me to do that, to express myself through an image in that way. And I just followed that interest through High School. And then in college, I took photography classes. And I actually ended up getting my undergrad and then, journalism which is a good partner in my interest in photography. And at the same time while I was finishing up High School, I was working in a local camera shop and that experience taught me more than I probably learned in school about photography and working with clients, setting up my business. And then, it’s actually also where I fall in-love with teaching photography as well.
Chamira Young: Okay, okay. One thing that I have noticed definitely and most people would say that once you get out of school, it’s the hands on experience that really teaches you a ton, a ton of the photography and just being on the field.
Christine Lee Smith: Ahuh. Yeah.
Chamira Young: And I know some courses in college, they do put you on a field which is great and get you out of the classroom and working with people.
Christine Lee Smith: One thing that, it was kind of a jumping in my both feet for me when I actually transition full time into photography. Because the environment that I was working in was a little bit you could take old school and wedding photography was not necessarily highly regarded as an art form. And so, I decided that I was gonna show him how as early then. And I just wanna launch job then and start that whole part of my journey.
Chamira Young: In what year did you start your photography business?
Christine Lee Smith: I’m not ascertaining if 2006 when my husband said you gotta do it. You just gotta do it, then… So..
Chamira Young: Haha
Christine Lee Smith: After a few month of convincing, so I finally said, “Okay let’s try this.”
Chamira Young: Awesome. And did that just focus on just wedding photography then?
Christine Lee Smith: Yeah, at that time, I was really promoting weddings, and you know. And of course, I would take you know vocational photo shoots. Or I maybe have had some corporate clients, medical things like that, that have helped to build my business through the years. But really I was presuming mostly weddings when I was starting out.
Chamira Young: Okay, okay. So what would you say you’re doing the most of right now?
Christine Lee Smith: Right now, actually, I’m falling in love with family and children portraiture. I’m feeling like it’s allowing me to re-discover even my passion for photography. I have couple of shoots right now on my blog that I just; I’m just in-love with being able to see those kids as they are through some of the images that we were able to capture was just… I love it.
Chamira Young: So as far as your current style, is it a more journalistic type of photography, or… how would you describe.. in your own words?
Christine Lee Smith: Yeah, that’s an interesting question. I feel like the term photojournalism has been so kind of man-handled. Over the last few years, I feel like that even the meaning of it… is can be un-clear mean something different to every person. So I feel like as I’ve tried the gift I honed it in what my style is, the words classic, the words intimate and emotional really are how I’d like to describe how I feel.
Chamira Young: Hmmm. Okay, okay. And do you do most of your shoots in your studio or do you go on locations?
Christine Lee Smith: I am on location if I can help it I will. Haha.. I have a very very high percentage of on-location shoots. And I feel like it just, it breeze even just the wind of being outside and a sort of a life and breathe too as you could say, that’s way I prefer.
Chamira Young: I’m totally with you there. How do you get yourself inspired for photo shoot particularly with children, you know, I heard different photographers say, and I admit, I’ve experienced this myself, nothing wrong with kids. But working with kids for a photo shoot can be a bit challenging. So, how do you get yourself inspired for that?
Christine Lee Smith: Oh, yeah, one thing is you gotta kind of go in if they’re ready to roll the punches, if you’re not flexible it’s just not gonna happen. You’re not gonna get that shots that you want that they want. But I feel like really getting understand the family, coz the kids, shooting kids always comes with parents. And so you’re never just working with you know, your one client. So I feel like getting understanding of the parents, what their priorities are, what their concerns are, even their personalities. And then, being able to identify some of those pieces in their children and how they’re playing and how they’re interacting is really were kinda of the goal, comes from in terms of what I get on my photos, I feel like it comes from how I would say a place of understanding that.
Chamira Young: That is such a good point. You know I’ve never heard anyone riddled like it as that just like you, I really liked that. One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve seen your photo shoots. So you’re working with 17, 18 year old kids, was that, you have the parents there.
Christine Lee Smith: Yeah.
Chamira Young: And a lot of times, I’ve learned this, sometimes kind of a hard way early on I go into a shoot and I’m expecting to work with that teenager and then you have a one or two parents over there trying to dictate the shoot. And I guess, you’ve encountered that in weddings as well, something to keep in mind. But getting to know their parent or parents that are there present, I learned overtime it really really helped go much more smoothly and capture the character of that teenager.
Christine Lee Smith: Totally. Yeah, you got to make the parents your allied, if you’re fighting against them, it’s gonna show up in the photos. Whether the kids are 6-months old or 16-years old, they’re still responding to their parent and… So you can make that a beneficial… beneficial thing for you. Your hour will become much better.
Chamira Young: Ahaha… Absolutely. Absolutely. So what’s your go-to-gear for a typical photo shoot as far as your camera, your lenses, any external lightning? What do you like to use?
Christine Lee Smith: From my portraits, I like to keep it really simple. If I’ve got fit a dig through a bag, change lenses, it just… it breaks the flow; it breaks the movement, the connection that I have with my client. So when I’m out on a shoot, I bring two buddies with me, my half: Canon 5D and I actually have a really really old back up camera: Canon 28D.
Chamira Young: Okay.
Christine Lee Smith: And on a 28D which is a craft sensor, I’ll go ahead and mount up my 85 1×2 Canon lens. And then on my 5D, I’m… what was that frame called to put on you don’t know, and then I’m mounting up to 24x72m lens.
Chamira Young: Okay.
Christine Lee Smith: And sometimes I’ll add getting a ton a day on my Canon flash or a diffuser but that can come and go. And the only thing I would add really honestly from that when I go shoot out a wedding with me a longer 70 {to 1802A bias} and then I’ll use one or few flashes for all of my wedding lightning.
Chamira Young: Okay, okay. Yeah, I had a photographer, I’m trying to remember which interview it was, I think it was with Ken Schultz, he gave me… It was kind of a nightmare story and he was at the wedding. And I think he was shooting with the 5D. Don’t put me on that I have to go back and check but it ended up breaking, something with the mirror and it was, he said it was known for that which I was not aware of. And that was where he learned to carry two camera buddies with him after that point. And thank God, the camera went culprit at the very end of the wedding, I mean, it was literally the last shot. So yeah yeah ‘highly recommended to carry more than one (1) buddy. Not just at the wedding but any photo shoot really.
Christine Lee Smith: Yeah, coz I mean even if you’re in a portrait shoot you get, you know, if you’re 100% that changes lenses something gets in your camera buddy then your sun can fetch all you can have…
Chamira Young: Huh, exactly. And try explaining that to your client. So what do you consider your favorite photography accessory, other than your camera and why?
Christine Lee Smith: Yeah, I think I really startled with this question because I like to keep my equipment so minimal and like “What else do I love?” And I think, this is gonna, this may sound really creepy, I admit it, but this little thing that I got last year which was a pink tank memory card holder and it’s a wallet style one with a hassle bell crow and a chain lock so I can put it in my belt loop or like my camera bag strap or something like that. And I love this darn thing to pieces and I think cost about like 20 bucks and it was like a revelation in my shooting. Just previously to that, I had this wallet that’s wind zipper the zipper’s broke and trying to keep you know, I’m trying to carry two cameras on my shoulders I don’t have a lot of space to you know be worrying about something falling out of the pocket or you know and things like that. And this goofy little thing has… ahh.. made my life so much easier. Slip it to my back pocket, lift it on to my belt loop and it’s golden, {it’s what I’ve ever want so far}.
Chamira Young: Huh. Okay, I might even have to find that or maybe you could send me a link to that so I could share that in a show notes because it’s amazing what a little, what a bit difference a little accessory can make especially when you’re at shoot, you’re running around like you said you don’t have time to be fumbling because you might lose some moment.
Christine Lee Smith: Yeah. Oh, yes, exactly. Yeah, I can send you a link to that, no problem.
Chamira Young: Awesome, thank you Christine. Next, let’s talk about your post-production workflow, can you describe what your post process workflow is like after a photo shoot as far as what kind of software you like to use and why?
Christine Lee Smith: Yeah, I, early on really struggled with post processing getting a good system in place. I was really cumbersome, trying to manage everything and organized. And so, what I’ve come up with over the years has been processed an my own cam-home, and after I’ve downloaded my you know, my cards into an external drive which where I keep everything backed up. And I will bring my images into Light Room and that has been my time saver. I’m currently running things in current version in my old file. After I bring everything in, pre-filters I have already designed which allows me to make most the inner corrections on import.
Chamira Young: Ahuh.
Christine Lee Smith: Then, what I do I’ll vote through in rate 3, 4, 5 stars and for … and I prefer and I found it to be more efficient to have an edit in process. And so, what I mean by that is rather than choosing which images I’m not gonna give the clients I’m choosing which images I will give the client, that’s why I use the Star Rating. And in that way, I’m cutting out the duplicates and you know the ones you know the flash and fires and things like that out rapidly rather than trying to swap with the leader. And then, on a fortunate shoot when it’s happening, I will minimize to see 4 and 5 stars only.
Chamira Young: Okay.
Christine Lee Smith: And generally that gives me about a 65 to 75 images per hour shot with the client and that’s usually where I covered it good.
Chamira Young: Oh, very nice. Very good tips especially when you’re dealing with such a high bulk of photos from the shoot. And actually, just curious, this wasn’t included in the interview questions that I sent you. But did you find that early on you were taking more photos per hour when you were just starting out as a photographer?
Christine Lee Smith: Absolutely yeah, when I was starting out I was shooting out I would shoot it way too much. It was mostly fear based, “oh what if this is the moment?” you know.
Chamira Young: Exactly.
Christine Lee Smith: I feel like as you get comfortable with scenarios like you know I know… you know every wedding is different, but there’s this general theme or structure that kinda holds uniqueness of the couple. And once you get really comfortable with that and you have a much better gut as “Okay, you know, this I don’t need a shoot” I don’t need someone eating fork full of potatoes, that’s just… not necessary.
Chamira Young: Hahaha
Christine Lee Smith: An image shooting has come down.
Chamira Young: Oh, you nailed it on the head bears. Part of being fear based because I did the same thing years ago and I put every other photographers say that as well. And you really kinds learned the hard way especially when you shoot and trying your way through photos into the thousands and you know it takes forever.
Christine Lee Smith: Well, and I think that’s part of what I enjoy about the edit in and edit out processes. I don’t look at every single photo. And literally in what you’re using light-room and looking at the library grid and not going one at a time you know with full size previews. I’m trusting my gut to tell me in the moment which ones are the truest reflection of that child or that family or that couple. And that system at this point has not failed me. So, I feel like it allows me to let go, and I don’t have to look at every single image. To feel confident that the client got what the client deserved.
Chamira Young: Ahuh, ahuh. And that actually leads us to the next segment, very nicely. I wanna talk to you about lessons that you’ve learned as a photographer. What is the most common mistake that you see professional photographers making most often? It can be a technical mistake, it can be a business mistake, it can be a mistake that you’ve made in the past. Share that with us.
Christine Lee Smith: I think the first thing like as far as like when you’re entering professional photography is that you think it’s all that gator and to over spend and to get caught up and making sure you have the latest, greatest, newest, shiniest camera lens accessory. I mean, the photography industry is built to sell us stuff sort of stuff for us to buy.
Chamira Young: Agreed.
Christine Lee Smith: But really, equipment is not what makes the photographer. And if you can learn to shoot amazing images with, you know what you have… then when you maybe the funds or the number of clients coming in that will support a purchase. And you’ll actually be using it to its fullest potential. I feel like when we over buy too quickly, then, we’re not even maximizing with you know that piece of equipment is necessarily intended to do. So, you know, boiling it down, 2-3 lenses you know, 2 buddies, some sort of a lightning whatever makes sense for you, call it good {earlier I said it I forgot to say it’s a good catch}, that’s where a good place to start.
Chamira Young: Okay, very good. And in your opinion what makes a good photo stand out from an average photo?
Christine Lee Smith: I don’t know how I could communicate this well but other thing than bold layers. I feel like a good photo is gonna actually represent the essence of the person. A good photo is one you’ll friend say and you say “Oh my gosh, you nailed it! That’s totally her! That’s totally him!” And that’s, you know the photo in between the smile and the laugh and it’s been patient enough to and being aware enough to wait for that moment and to shoot through that moment. And that’s where this golden nugget comes from. So I feel that it’s really that the depth revealing even the person’s soul through a single image.
Chamira Young: Well said. You know, I love asking that questions because I always get different answers. It’s a tough one. But there’s always something that makes a photo stand out and even people who aren’t photographers almost said normal, we’re all normal people, but none photographers look at the photo at many instances, they look at one and they will look at another. And oftentimes, people gravitate towards a photo that precedes the significantly better but it’s difficult to verbalize why all the time.
Christine Lee Smith: Yeah, totally. Totally.
Chamira Young: Exactly. I think the photographers see something that we always striving for to take that good photo. And I heard another photographer, oh was it… it might have been, hmm maybe Daniel Franco, he described it as capturing the story behind the photo, the story of that person which is such a great way to put it.
Christine Lee Smith: Totally, I absolutely agree with that as well.
Chamira Young: Excellent. Now, what is one thing you wish you knew before you became a professional photographer?
Christine Lee Smith: *Giggles* I wanted this question. From the mountain of my mistakes and misguided attempts and failures, the one thing I wish someone had told me before I started was that, this is a business… that one part of your job would be to take photos. But on a scale thing that you are now responsible for is very small part. And you will need to become or to build into a team which is the preferred, I would say preferred way to do it is to have a team rather than you, but everything, you know sales, into marketing, to social media, to contracts, to taxes, to bookkeeping, you know. You’re ultimately responsible to fill or to find people to fill those roles. And that’s both for your benefit and for your clients. And as I did if you understand you know photography business as primary as I’m the photographer, it creates a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, a lot of tension. I feel it over time because I think it leads to burn out, because you’re finding the limits of your expectations, and then the needs for your business and when they don’t expect one another then it’s really easy to get overworked and to ultimately realize that you’re not making very much money.
Chamira Young: You know, that’s one thing I wish they would have really impressed upon us in school and I was in college a little while ago, a few years ago… I think more than a few. And we had photography courses and I went to graphic courses, creative courses but one thing that was not really impressed upon me was the business aspect of it. And who knows maybe they’re teaching that more in colleges now I sure hope so because that’s such a great point. Actually taking the photos is just a small percentage of what you need to do.
Christine Lee Smith: Ahuh.
Chamira Young: And I know some people who are the most talented photographers, sketchers, painters but they’re… they got frustrated and quickly burned out because they think that actually doing physically sketching… sketching a sketcher, painting something or taking a photo they thought that would be the only thing they have to do. And when they find out that they really have to either run that business or find a team that will help them with the finances or the social media, many people don’t get that.
Christine Lee Smith: Yes. Yeah.
Chamira Young: And when they think they can do it and then they stepped away from it.
Christine Lee Smith: Or they start doing it themselves and then they just burned out really quick.
Chamira Young: Only a matter of time. Absolutely. I’ve been there.
Christine Lee Smith: Yeah. Me too. Haha. Me too.
Chamira Young: So, tell us Christine, is there a particular photography resource, a tool, a book or even software that you would recommend to our listeners today?
Christine Lee Smith: : Well, my personality type, I collect resources, I love resources. Any information just makes me happy. So yes, but to keep the list short I would say one thing, for maybe people transitioning into photography as maybe a second career would be just as the way they understand what they’re walking into would be the book E-Myth and that’s the one that talks about business venture and that’s applicable to any entrepreneur or enterprising clinging photography. Like if they read it and attend to it that would be even so much grief. And then the 2nd book that I;ve love and would recommend actually I’ve just read recently is called Why Photography Matters.
Chamira Young: Okay.
Christine Lee Smith: It’s by a general name Jerry L. Thompson and I feel like that this book, it’s a short little book I think it’s about a hundred pages. It’s a beautiful job describing the importance and value of what we do and I feel like understanding that and hearing it from someone else can be empowering experience especially for someone who is struggling right now, just getting started or with you know being in the middle of things. So, it can be a really good resource. And then as far as software, I would say honestly I use Light Room, you don’t need to import every photo in to photo shopped. Please don’t. And using Light Room as a major part of your workflow I think will save you time, hassle and simplify your life and your workflow.
Chamira Young: Excellent, excellent. Thank you for sharing that with us. I’ll definitely include those in the show notes. And just to make sure I got the titles of those books correct, the first one you said was E-Myth?
Christine Lee Smith: E hyphen and then the word Myth stands for Entrepreneurial Myth.
Chamira Young: Okay. And the 2nd book was Why Photography Matters, correct?
Christine Lee Smith: Yes. That’s it.
Chamira Young: Great. Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. And last but certainly certainly not least, tell us where we can find you as far as your website, you can mention your unique course or any other products you have going on in the oven?
Christine Lee Smith: Yeah, right now you can reach me primarily on my main website which is christineleesmith.com and that’s where I just being been {the way that I am} where two hand-in-hand and more than pack at a time and as photography it’s a big pot for me. But I’ve also have been, also finished some seminar trainings so I’m bringing in some of that information on that website as well. And then, you know you’ll see bunch of my photos on blog as well that’s associated there. But I’m also teaching online photography courses and bringing my passion to helping people understand how to take photos better on through udemy. And you could find my courses listed under my profile which is udemy.com/u/christineleesmith and if you go there you’ll see the full list that I currently offer.
Chamira Young: Awesome, great. Thank you. Thank you so much Christine…
Christine Lee Smith: Yeah, thank you.
Chamira Young: For chatting with us, and sharing your knowledge or years of experience with us. I’m sure, I know I’ve certainly taken tid bits away and I know our listeners have as well just to help our photography businesses run better. So we just thank you for that.
Christine Lee Smith: Yeah, it’s been absolutely my pleasure. I love helping anybody avoid hopefully any of the obstacles that I’ve come again. And I would even just invite your listeners if they do have more specific questions or anything that we’ve covered, I would be more than happy to dialogue with them or email or chat or anything like that. So just use the contact form on my {website}, get in touch and help you go through what you’re going through.
Chamira Young: Excellent excellent. Thank you so much Christine.
Christine Lee Smith: My pleasure. Thank you.