Interview with Leah Cook of Leah Cook Photography

by Liz LaBianca
In the second of our series, Photographers Who Inspire, Liz interviews Leah Cook, an on location, modern portrait photographer based in Dallas, TX. 

Who was your original inspiration when you started your business? Who inspires you now?
I’ve always been fascinated with photography and all forms of art in general.  I fully didn’t understand my love for taking pictures until I had my first baby.  Like so many mothers, I’ve found inspiration in my own family.  The first photographer that certainly inspired me was Michele Anderson of Pinkle Toes Photography.  It was positively refreshing to see new and different ideas and perspectives.  I realized that portrait photography had evolved into something much more personal and real.  Of course I am continually inspired by my babies and also the world around me…every day things, textures, colors, and of course beautiful sun light give me new ideas all the time.  I do follow fellow photographer’s blogs, but with limitation.  As photographers it’s easy to get lost in others’ work + styles and focus too much on what everyone else is doing.  If we’re not careful it can do the opposite of inspire, it can cause frustration. I’ve been honored to participate in a new Clickin Mom’s adventure called the CMpro Daily Project . It’s been a challenge and personally inspirational to capture my every day life in a creative way and edit one shot a day for the blog. You must check it out – such incredible images!

What was the hardest part of starting your own business? What do you wish you would have known?
Well, starting a business…and maintaining a business is not easy, whatever it is. My lack of organization has definitely been an issue – I struggle with it daily. My creative brain takes over and soon things become a mess. Pricing – I am guilty of pricing myself too low and not respecting my own work. Finally I’ve realized my time and art are valuable and I’ve had the confidence to price myself appropriately. This is a hard concept when you’re starting out…you’ll have a moment where you just ‘get it’. My style. What is it? It took me a long time to figure out ‘my style’…other’s could see and describe it, but I could not. Lately I’ve realized that I’m all over the place and that’s okay!! Be patient…it will evolve, just as your skill as a photographer does. One HUGE piece of advice I can give is to become friends with other photographers – they will be an amazing support system and just ‘get it’. I could never tell you what my photog friends mean to me…both locally and miles away online, they are invaluable.

Tell us about your favorite lens and why it is #1 in your camera bag over your other lenses
Wow.  Honestly that is sooo hard and I can’t pick a favorite lens.  I love all of them for different reasons, and I try my hardest to use as many as I can at a session.  My top three are all Canon: the 85 12.L, 24-70 2.8L, and the 50 1.4  In fact I just wrote an article on the Clickin Mom’s Blog about lens choice.

Photoshop or Lightrooom – or both. How long does it take for you to get your proofs to your clients?
ACR and Photoshop.  I would love to take the time to learn Lightroom and know it has so many benefits.  I do have to say that ACR and Photoshop have served me well, especially while editing on my iMac…after I switched from a PC, my editing improved greatly.

With the demand for digital images on the rise – Do you sell your Jpegs?
Yes, I have several digital collections to choose from.  I know how important having those images on a CD is to clients. I personally would want this option and therefore it’s what I offer.  Digital collections can be expensive, but as photographers we put so much time and effort into each image that we take and edit.  That being said, I do believe in hanging pictures on your wall and making albums for your coffee table (even though I am way behind on that myself!!).

How many photos do you typically take in a full session? How manydo you edit and do you ever show your un-edits to clients?
I am definitely what you would call an over-shooter.  I’ve always been that way.  Thankfully (for my hard drive) I’ve gotten better, but I have a trigger happy finger for sure…that’s the beauty of digital.  I shoot on average 300-500 images per session.  I typically edit around 40 images per session, but it really depends on the subject and type of session.  The only time I might show a client an image is on the back of my camera at the session, but it’s not a regular thing.  Kids do loooove to see pictures of themselves and it’s a great way to get them involved and wanting to participate.

How do you handle Family and close friends who want to hire you? Do you offer any discounts?
The friends and family topic seems to come up a lot but even more so during holiday time.  I would love nothing more than to take pictures for those close to me whenever I could at no cost, but I just can’t.  This is my job, and the people that love + respect me as a person (not just a photographer) understand that (for the most part!)  All photographers that are JSO, remember that your time and craft are valuable.

How do you break the ice in the beginning of the session and get families to loosen up?Oh I’m just crazy silly…and a big dork.  I make jokes (bad ones) and try my best to keep things light.  I communicate…before, during, and after a session.  I do my best to get to know my clients and who they are as people before I photograph them.  We talk a lot and I genuinely want to know and connect with my clients and their kids.  The first part of a session feels weird – for everyone.  We have to find our groove, but once we warm up to each other it’s so much fun!  I’ve had several clients lately text or email me after a session saying that ‘big brother’ or even ‘Dad’ had a blast…those are usually the tough cookies to break, so it makes me grin.

Do you have any tricks or tips that you want to share with us?
Hmmm.  Every family and every session is different.  I do have a couple different ways of positioning clients so that I know they’ll look good.  I always remember to get up high and down low for a few.  I want to take beautiful pictures of Mom so she can see how gorgeous she is…that’s really important to me.  I must say that if there is a toddler in the mix, then anything goes!!  I just hope and pray we get shots in focus!

Can you share a story of a difficult shoot and how you handled it?
It might sound cliché, but I’ve been beyond blessed to have amazing clients.  There have been a couple of times during older baby sessions that the little one was just not feelin’ it…for whatever reason.  It’s no one’s fault and we just meet back up to re-shoot.  I’ve had a few dads not want to take pictures, and the best advice I can give is to just be patient, stay confident, and be yourself.  They will come around.  Something that many photographers struggle with more than a difficult client, is a difficult location – a dark house (where’s the light?) or meeting outside when the sun is too high…I love the challenge of figuring out how to make those places ‘work’.

If you weren’t a photographer – What would be your dream profession?
Before having my own kids and my photography business, I was a Special Education Teacher.  I worked with at risk kids that had emotional and behavioral struggles. If it’s in the cards, I would love to work with this population of kids again…possibly on the counseling level and not in the classroom.  I can begin to tell you  how much life experience I gained when I was a teacher – my students taught me patience and the value of unconditional love…I miss them and the school staff dearly.

You just won the jackpot ..what is in your dream camera bag?
Jackpot!! I’d upgrade my 50mm to the 1.2, purchase the 35mm, and get my hands on a tilt shift (I have a Lens Baby now.) Oh, and I’d buy another camera body…the mkiii!?

What has been your proudest moment in your business?
Thank you so much for interviewing me on Inspire Me Baby!!  Such a fun opportunity and I’m thrilled to be a part of this series.  I am also extremely proud to be a member of Clickin Mom’s Pro and recently I was asked to be a mentor!  I have an exciting new project in the works for CM early next year.  I’m looking forward to bringing my style of capturing newborns to others!  It’s an honor and feels amazing that new photographers would like to learn from me.  So stay tuned!!


Portrait by: Pinkle Toes Photography

Leah Cook specializes in newborn and family photography, combining both lifestyle and traditional approaches. She is also a proud member of Clickin Moms Pro. You can view her Blogsite at:

• Please like her Facebook page

• See images on the CMpro Daily Project Blog

• Leah also offers mentoring through Clickin Moms




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