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Life & Work with Carrie Cantrell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Carrie Cantrell.

Hi Carrie, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Hi! My name is Carrie Cantrell and I am the owner and sole photographer at Carrie Ellen Photography. I am a self-taught wedding and lifestyle photographer serving West and Middle Tennessee. For as long as I can remember, I had a love for taking pictures and looking back at the memories and stories that a photograph holds. I never once considered my hobby turning into a career but this began to change into my adulthood. My love for photography really blossomed after running a handmade jewelry business on Etsy from 2008-2012.

I invested in a nice, DSLR camera to take better photos of my jewelry and quickly learned that I enjoyed taking the photos more than making the jewelry. My first child was born in 2011, so I put my jewelry business on hold for a couple of years to focus on my family and my camera had a new subject. Then after my second son was born in 2014, I loved capturing my boys as they were growing and took their photos regularly. I started learning more about the settings and composition to get better photos. Over time, I would have requests from family and friends to photograph their families for Christmas cards. Finally, in 2015, I felt a deep desire in my heart to offer photos for more than just the occasional family or friend. I remember feeling so nervous and vulnerable to put myself out there like that, but I wanted to make some extra money, so I made a Facebook post asking if anyone wanted Christmas card photos that I could do them for $25.

I almost deleted that post as soon as I made it for fear of rejection. I ended up booking 40 sessions and I found myself loving it but knew I needed better gear and would eventually have to charge more for an upgrade not to mention all the time I was putting into editing and spending time away from my family. I worked incredibly hard for two years building this business and learning everything I could possibly learn by trial and error all while working full-time at a local University. My business basically fell in my lap after praying for years to be able to support my children from home. I strongly felt that the Lord placed a calling on my heart to be a photographer.

After realizing that my hobby had turned into a 2nd, full-time job I started considering taking a huge leap of faith to pursue photography full-time. After a ton of prayer, I was able to quit my job and do what I loved as a career. Today, I have been in business for 6 years, and four of those years being a full-time photographer. I have been so happy with my decision to trust my gut and take a chance. I feel incredibly blessed to meet such amazing clients who have turned into wonderful, lifelong friends. The opportunity to travel and see so many amazing things while doing what I love feels surreal to me, still. It is a joy to capture such special moments in others’ lives. I could not ask for a better career.

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 believe there will always be obstacles with anything you do but especially when you are opening your own business and taking a leap of faith that people will love and support you and trust your work. The biggest obstacles for me were the startup costs. Photography is not a cheap hobby. Having to make the best out of the gear you have until you can afford better is a challenge when this field is saturated with other talented photographers.

Another challenge was deciding what my editing style would be and honing into my overall brand. I love so many different styles of photography and trying to figure out what was best for me and my business took a lot of trial and error but I must say it helped me figure out who I really am and I know my work is recognizable now and that makes me so proud!

I think believing in yourself and having a good support system that believes in you is the biggest key to being successful with opening your own business. Without the support of my family and friends, I would not have kept pushing myself to my full potential.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am a wedding and lifestyle photographer. I photograph everything from births, families, seniors, boutiques to weddings. I am known for my laidback, client-led approach which provides a stress-free, fun experience that allows my clients to relax, be themselves and let me, “work my magic,” as they say.

My work is recognized by the the warm, and realistic vibe that makes the images come to life and feel fresh. I am most proud of the clientele that I have built and for seeing the memories that I have captured filling the walls of my clients’ homes. I hear horror stories from other photographers about having bridezillas or unfriendly families and I can truly say I have the best clients! They are so good to me! I think what sets me apart is the relationships I develop with my clients becomes more like family. I believe they feel comfortable letting me into their lives because they know I genuinely love and care for them and we have a bond that is so special to me and I do not take for granted. I am always cheering them on in whatever way I can, whether that’s to make sure their hair isn’t sticking to their sweaty forehead on a hot August wedding day, giving a two-year-old a little space to wander to avoid a tantrum-while I chase them around capturing all their exploration. Or holding a baby on my hip to get pictures of mom and dad by themselves, cleaning up spit-up, or picking up a dead bird that was at the altar-yes, this really happened! I consider it such a privilege to be a part of their fleeting moments. They entrust me to capture their inner feelings and love that they have for their family and I oftentimes feel when I am looking through my lens that I am able to get a glimpse of their beautiful souls. It is a remarkable thing to be on the other side looking in.

Are there any books, apps, podcasts, or blogs that help you do your best?
A couple of my favorite books that have been helpful for me to really figure out who I am and help me get past my anxiety and fears with being a business owner are, “The Road Back to You,” by Ian Morgan and “The Power of Vulnerability,” by Brene Brown.

As far as a photographer blog, I really enjoy Katelyn James. She is very insightful and experienced with weddings which is incredibly helpful, especially when you are just starting out.

As well as, Camera Mama, Twig and Olive and Sara Hill. When I first began my business I focused strictly on families. I purchased a photographer workflow guide from Sara Hill that changed my business dramatically. I highly recommend this if you are starting out.

Contact Info:


Image Credits:

Megan Butler & Macee Murley.

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