Today MunaLuchi shines the Coterie Spotlight on international wedding photographer Cierra Johnson of Southern Amore’ Studios. Based out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Cierra, with a background in Marketing, spent years in the commercial banking industry before applying that business knowledge and experience to her creative passion of photography. After years of honing the craft and developing her style, Southern Amore’ Studios became a self-sustaining business in October of 2015. Being a “hopeless romantic” Cierra is “inspired by love,” and it is the ability “to photograph one of the most important milestones in a couple’s relationship” that remains the spark of motivation in her work.
Read all about Southern Amore’ Studios in this insightful and inspirational Spotlight interview.
Tell us a little about your background and how you got started in the photography business? I come from a well known family of entrepreneurs in the New Orleans, La area. It’s funny because it wasn’t until I was in my third year of photography that I realized just how impactful this was in my life. When it was time for me to select my college major, I expressed to my father the desire to be an arts major for film and photography. I really wanted to be a movie director, lol. In response, he told me that this wasn’t a real job and that he wasn’t going to pay for something that couldn’t make me money when I graduated. Heartbroken and confused, I was forced to find something else. After months of research, I decided I would find a loophole to being in the arts and I would go to school for Marketing with the hopes of working in entertainment marketing. I figured if I couldn’t be the artist, I could at least represent it. So long story short, I graduated with a degree in Marketing and found a temporary happy place in commercial banking.
After years of feeling trapped in my banking career, I decided to turn my hobby of photography into something for profit. As a hopeless romantic, I’ve always been a person who admired and valued love stories, so when it was time to determine a specialty, wedding photography came naturally. I started small, photographing a friend’s wedding which led to my first paid wedding a few months later. Eventually, I found a photographer whom I admired, to mentor me. Finding a mentor was my best decision and was a key factor in my growth. After years of developing my style, I was finally at a point where my weddings could support my lifestyle independent of my 9-5. October 2015, I resigned from my corporate job of 10 years to pursue wedding photography full time. Since then, I’ve accomplished goals in my photography career that were set and expected to reach years from now! I’m still in awe at the fact that my dream of being a wedding photographer came true! The best part is, I don’t regret the path that was set for me as my marketing degree taught me everything I needed to know about starting and running a business, my 10 years in corporate banking taught me everything I needed to know about business, business finance, and financial planning, and the time it took me to become my own boss, allowed me the ability to meet financial goals necessary to start up a business. Over the past 6 years, I’ve developed a pretty recognizable brand and I pride myself on my ability to capture emotion, style, and flare in every shot.
What part of the wedding is your favorite to photograph? Ohhh, this is a good one! So, it used to be when the bride comes down the aisle and meets eyes with the groom, but that’s changed over the past 3-4 years as cell phones and devices have made this moment a complete nightmare at non-unplugged weddings. So I would have to say that my most favorite part is now the first look or the 15-20 minutes I get to pull my couple away from the reception to photograph a few intimate newlywed shots of them. These are my favorites because it’s the only time of the day of the wedding where the couple is alone. The only time they truly get to live in the reality of what has occurred. This is my favorite.
What do you shoot – film, digital or both? I currently use digital processors.
What keeps you inspired? Honestly, I’m inspired by love. I love true love! I’m a hopeless romantic so just knowing that I am going to be able to photograph one of the most important milestones in a couple’s relationship, is enough for me.
When you’re not shooting weddings, what do you like to do? I love to travel! I love learning new things and seeing new places and every chance I get to do so, I do.
What advice can you give to couples looking for that perfect photographer? Wedding photography is so important, it’s the one form of photography where there are no second chances. Choosing the wrong photographer for your big day could be a mistake you’d have to live with the rest of your life. Therefore, couples should really invest with photographers who are uniquely suited to their style. Start your research before you consider anyone by browsing wedding magazines and blogs to determine the variety of photographic styles that exist. For example, do you like light and airy, bold and colorful, black and white, dark and moody, etc. Once you’ve narrowed down the style of photography you like, start your local search. The initial search could be a google search or a referral, but essentially you’ll be looking for someone who has the photographic style you’ve determined in your research. If you don’t find anyone locally, open up your search by just googling photographers you’ve seen in the magazines or blogs you used during your research. Once you have a few that fit your style, contact them all! Review packaging and narrow down your initial options to a top 3 based on whose products and services best suit your wedding photography needs. I would suggest having a low, middle, and high investment option as your top 3. This will give you the option to see the value or not in all three options. Schedule an in-person/Skype meeting if not local and see who is uniquely suited to you! While budgets are very important, I don’t think they should determine your photographer. The connection, the portfolio, and the client experience should be the top 3 factors in your selection process. You might think choosing the low photographer of your top 3 is the best option based on the budget, but your personalities don’t match and vice versa in regards to the high. The last step before booking the photographer you think is the one, is to check reviews if you haven’t already. Reviews are a great way to get insight into the photographer’s client experience. If you see brides ranting and raving, there’s a good chance the photographer is just as awesome as you thought and is the right one for you!
Tell us a location that you’d love to shoot. I am dreaming of the day that a couple allows me to photograph their wedding or elopement in Santorini, Greece & Dubai.
Based on your experiences, what would you like every couple to know before their wedding? Don’t let planning your wedding ruin your relationship. Try to work together on the plans as much as possible, but don’t forget to enjoy the engagement. A lot of couples get engaged and become so engulfed in the planning that they forget to actually enjoy their relationship. Focus on keeping each other a priority…
What’s in your handbag right now? Business cards, bath and body works hand sanitizer, lip gloss.
iphone, blackberry or android? Personal phone-iphone, business phone-Android, yes, it’s a nightmare, I still don’t know how to work my android, been an iphone girl since the beginning…
Mac or pc? PC
If you could travel to any location right now, where would it be? Maldives
Favorite song? “Superwoman” by Alicia Keys
Favorite book? The Heatseakers by ZANE
Favorite TV show? Currently Power on Starz
Guilty pleasure? Housewives of Atlanta
Something that recently inspired you? The Coterie Retreat.
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