September 2013 Featured Member – James Kegley


Portraits and Interview by Kate Bohler.

How did you first get started in photography, was it one specific thing or a combination of events that drove you to photography?

 It was a combination of events. I had been a sales rep for computers, found it unsatisfying, so went back to school and got an MS in exercise physiology. This led to a few ventures landing me back in pharmaceutical sales. Once again it didn’t fulfill me.  After 3 years of that I quit, sold the condo and boat and travelled around the world doing different things to make money as I went and traveling quite cheaply.  In India I was taking some pictures and getting paid with absolutely NO idea what I was doing.  I faxed Paul Fetters, who was a friend, about advice on what lens to buy there and after a fax or two we decided I should come be his assistant and learn.  I had no idea how much I had to learn, and was more than a little intimidated at the prospect but came back from this incredible adventure to embark on a new one.


You mentioned working in a different field before working as a full time photographer.  What do you enjoy most about your switch to photography?

I love this job.  I love that I get to go places I wouldn’t normally go, meet people I wouldn’t get to meet, and take a momentary peek into their worlds. It is, in a sense, a continuation of the early 2 year journey. I enjoy continuing to learn about the craft of photography and the business of photography and continuing to grow my business. The combination of all those things is really fulfilling.


Did you ever assist other photographers when you first started out?  If so, what was the most valuable thing you learned from them to help you get started?

 At first I was Paul Fetters’ full time assistant. That was invaluable. We had a year commitment, which of course morphed into a longer working relationship as I understood his approach at the time so we made a good team.  The obvious is the lighting, but beyond that, Paul is great with clients and was good at discussing the business end of things with clients in a professional manner. He pretty much shaped how I approached things. After that I spent another year assisting Brett Littlehales who was also great to learn from and spend time with. Barb Ries was also another regular who had(s) a wonderful approach to things and always makes whoever she is photographing at ease. Another I used to assist frequently was Walter Calahan.  Once again, seeing slightly different approaches to solving the same hurdles, was invaluable and everyone was very generous in sharing why the did certain things.


You spoke a lot about your work in education.  What do you like most about working in schools or for your education clients?

Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that I was decent at shooting in these educational environments. At one school recently, shooting images for their viewbook/website one middle schoolish kid looked at me and said…”its kind of like you are on safari, only in the schools….like…”oh hey theres a student studying! Thats a good shot!”.  And to a degree he nailed it. It is really fun and sometimes challenging finding the good shots that serve the clients needs at the same time as being the less obvious cliched shot and one that is naturally lit well. And trying to fit that into a specific layout at times is an added challenge.  I do a lot of work with/for Catalone Design and I really enjoy the thoughtful way they have planned out a piece and what sort of image might go where. So working with them and a specific layout to fill with my images is a wonderful process I have enjoyed.


Is there anything that inspires you when you work with the children and staff at the schools?

 As a father of two young boys in school, I enjoy being in all these different learning environments getting a peek into the world these kids are growing up in. Plus kids are so great and unpredictable, there is always a reason to smile which is nice.


Your portrait work is really wonderful. When you first interact with a client, how do you decide what the best location/lighting/props/etc. will be right for that particular subject?  

Thank you. I enjoy it.  Its hard to say.  I would say my work, clients vary so much. I have many long term clients I have never met, particularly the clients who are hiring me for portraits. They are usually in some other part of the states.  But for me, basically I react to what is happening with the existing light and try to find a place that has something interesting going in in terms of light, shapes etc, keeping it relevant to the clients direction and needs while talking to the subject about what they do.


Are the shoots mainly your creative genius or do you work closely with the clients to come to a joint decision on what type of portrait will be appropriate?

Ha! Let’s leave the genius part out.  I have both types of clients, some who are very specific and some who are looser. The longer the working relationship has gone on, the more trust on both sides exists which is nice for both of us. I did a shoot this week with a new client, a portrait for an alumni magazine, and the direction was very specific with a lot of caveats about what they don’t want and stories to accompany those concerns. The stories all involved photographers who didn’t listen to their layout needs or some such. Needless to say, I was a tad nervous until she saw the gallery and really liked it. But I am pretty easy to work with I think and will sometimes do exactly what they want and then when that is done shoot something slightly different that I see along the way. Because in the end, clients are hopefully assigning us for the way we see a picture.

I loved browsing through your travel images on your website.  Was most of that shot for a client/job or did you shoot that while on a vacation of your own?

Most of those I shot on my own. I have done some travel photography for work and really enjoyed it. I would like to keep that in the mix, but the goal to have that be what I do all the time went away when I had kids.

What do you see for the future of your career, and do you see yourself in the field for quite a long time?

Yes, I see myself doing photography forever. As for where it is going, I hope to continue to mix it up, some education work, some portrait work, some lifestyle work and the occasional travel shoot.

Last but not least, how has your family influenced your career?

When I first got into this, I thought I would love to do travel photography. I have done some traveling to some cool places on assignment and gotten to see some interesting things. But getting married and having kids changed what I see as ideal. Now I really wouldn’t want to be on the road all the time, missing chunks of their lives. Everything changed for me once we had them and all for the good.



Find even more of James’ images at

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