Today I am excited to introduce you to the very talented Kristin Dokoza – a Northern California photographer best known for her clean, colorful and thoughtful style. When I was thinking of creative people I would like to feature on our site, Kristin was at the top of my list. She has a swoon-worthy Instagram feed, recently landed her first magazine cover, and is an all-around, genuinely nice person. Kristin shares her journey from graphic designer and hobbyist photographer to full-time professional photographer and Clickin Moms Mentor – as well as her advice for living a creative life. She also divulges her favorite way to spend a Saturday morning (hint: it involves pj’s and coffee)! So grab yourself a cup and read on to learn more about Kristin in this week’s Creative Feature.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m originally from Oregon and moved to Northern California in 1999. I met my husband shortly after moving here, so this is where I have stayed. I’m the mother of two boys who keep me very busy from one activity to another. My youngest started Kindergarten in the Fall, and I love having both boys at the same school. It’s amazing what I can get done during the day now, vs. the middle of the night! But I confess to staying up late working on the computer. When it’s light out I have a hard time sitting still. This past year I would say my photography became a full time job. I work on location using natural light. My business is all word of mouth, and I feel very fortunate for the clients and work that comes my way.
Can you tell us a little about how you got started in photography and how you’ve evolved over time?
My background is in graphic design and I have always had a love for photography. I enjoy setting up a scene. It is so much fun for me to imagine what an image will look like before I even grab my camera. My journey started with designing my boys’ birthday invites, and all the little crafty details to setting up the party and then photographing it. I did not have the technical knowledge of using a camera, but I did understand a little bit about composition and color.
Friends started asking me to help with their kids parties, and then photograph the details as well. I bought my first DSLR, a Canon Rebel in December 2009. In 2010 I answered an ad looking for a photographer to shoot a one year old birthday party. I was very honest about my training, and shared with them my photo albums from my own boys parties. They hired me! This turned into a little side business for me. Who knew people would hire someone to photograph their own kids parties? It’s totally brilliant, because then as the parent you get to actually enjoy the event, and be in some of the pictures.
My dad gave me a Mark II for Christmas, December 2010. I was in shock. Beyond excited to have such a fancy camera and admittedly afraid to even own this piece of equipment that I had no idea how to work. I did not understand aperture, ISO or shutter speed. If I was going to own such a wonderful camera it was up to me to be worthy of it. I joined Clickin Moms in January 2011. That was so intimidating to me. I had never even been on an online forum before, but here was this wonderful place filled with the most gorgeous images – and they had classes! Not to mention all the tutorials at my finger tips. I pretty much just poked my nose around for a couple of months and then finally decided to take a beginner class in March 2011. That’s all it took for me. I just couldn’t get enough. That first year I took three courses back to back and fell in love with photography and Clickin Moms. Since then I’ve taken seven classes on Clickin Moms and absolutely tell anyone who asks that is where I learned how to find myself, and my voice through photography.
I didn’t know I wanted to be a professional photographer. I am a creative person by nature, and photography has become my perfect outlet. My eyes now see depth in the atmosphere. How the light can change just a few leaves in a tree, or cast rays down upon a hillside. My eyes and how I see my surroundings are different because of photography, and I am so thankful. The past two years I have slowly evolved and found my own voice and love sharing my ideas and playing with different light and really creating an image that contains elements within that I consider to be fine art. I feel comfortable where I’m at right now, but that doesn’t mean the wheels aren’t still turning. I’m constantly learning and experimenting.
Photographers love working on little projects. Do you currently have any that you are working on?
I take an image a day with my iphone and post to the #cmglimpse project. This is my daily creative outlet that has just become a part of my routine. I’ve been sharing an image a day for the past two years. Learning to shoot with the iphone has developed my eye for light and composition when I shoot with my DSLR. Recently I was asked to join a group called Pieces of Life, a blog circle of amazingly talented photographers on Clickin Moms. We share one image on the CMpro Daily Project, with a link to an essay on our own blog or website. I’m drawn to story telling images, so I’m really excited about this project and that it is going to push me to photograph my own kids again!
Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of, and why?
I feel like I have been very blessed and lucky along my photography journey. I work very hard, and have had some amazing opportunities to show my work. I do a happy dance whenever I see an image of mine featured. One of the things that I am honestly most proud of is that I have so many returning families that contact me every year for their family photos. Not only do they ask me each year to capture their family, but they pass my name around to their friends. We have a lot of fun during my sessions. It feels awesome to hear that the kids are playing photographer after we hang out. Or run up and give me a big hug before piling back into the car.
Your work was recently featured on the cover of Click Magazine. Can you tell us a little about that?
Yes! My little Louis. I was actually taking an image with my iphone of the green vase and peonies, which was shared on IG. Louis was 3 months old in that image. He is always following me around, and underfoot. The light was good, so I thought why not put the puppy up on the table with the flowers. I grabbed my big camera and took three shots. The image I shared on the CMpro Daily project is the image that was selected for the cover. I received an email asking for the file and permission to possibly use the image in the magazine for an ad. A couple of weeks later I see an email with the subject heading “big news about Louis.” I had to read, and re-read that email telling me that the image was going to be on the cover! I was literally laughing and crying all at once. I could not believe it. That was the first time they featured an image from a photographer that was not actually featured in the magazine itself.
What inspires you?
Light, color, shapes and atmosphere
What’s your favorite way to spend a Saturday morning?
I really like to hang out in my pj’s as long as possible, and enjoy a cup of coffee. My favorite way to spend any day would be at the beach. This is my hands down happy place.
Do you have any advice for living a creative life?
Don’t be afraid to try. I know that sometimes my ideas sound crazy, but I’ve learned to at least give them a try. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Be you. You will be so much happier in the long run.
Where can we find more of your work?
I try to keep my blog up to date, but will admit to being pretty bad at sharing. You can check it out here: kristindokozaphotography.com. It’s in desperate need of a make over! My Instagram is @kdokoza. Then of course over on the CMpro Daily project: A Group Blog of Inspiring Photos from Female Photographers.
Thank you, Kristin, for sharing your photography journey and creative advice with us! I love your advice to “just try,” even when your ideas might sound crazy. We look forward to following you and your photography to see what big ideas you come up with next!