We had the good fortune of connecting with Callie Riesling and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Callie, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I am a Colorado native. I spent some of my childhood in Denver and then from 4th grade on, I have lived in Colorado Springs. There are a few big things that I think have really contributed to not only my success in business but overall who I am in life. First thing is, my faith has ALWAYS been important to me. I was always taught that my worth comes from God, not anyone else. Which I truly believe helps me so much in business and every part of my life. I do at times second guess who I am, but it is purely that. It’s a second guess… it’s not the initial question. We all have rough days where we question if we are good enough or are loved. But that is the wonderful, incredible blessing that I have from God. The creator of the universe… of all of the stars and mountains and incredible places thought that the world needed one of me. He has given me different gifts and tools that have all come together to be the photographer that I am and the mom, the wife and the person that I am. Second thing would be my parents. My parents have ALWAYS included my brother and I in everything and also invested in what my brother and I love. I’m not really talking about their monetary investment… I’ll get to that in a few sentences… but I am talking about lacing up their skates and learning to play hockey because my brother loved it so much. I’m talking about how they’ve helped my business by watching my son or my mom being my assistant. Im talking about my Dad helping me learn how to fly my drone. I’m talking about all the hiking and camping trips and adventures we’ve been on that have clarified my brand. All of it. They’ve always been all in… Which brings me to the next part. My parents have never been wealthy. I saw my dad working 3 jobs and going to college for a lot of my childhood. I saw my mom picking up babysitting jobs on the side or extreme couponing before it was cool. My parents not only taught me personal investment in the people you love and care for and they also taught me how to work really hard and hustle and cover all the bases. They have always been incredibly resourceful and have never backed down thinking they couldn’t do something. If they didn’t know how to do something, they tried and practiced or learned from someone else. All of this has greatly made me who I am. And because my brand is literally my name, my brand is also who I am. These are the most important aspects of who I am as a business owner and the things that I believe set me apart in the industry. I really do know who I am and that I am loved in a business that you do need tough skin and confidence in. I really do try as hard as I can to invest in all of my clients because I do love and care about them and I really do try everything I can to work hard and be resourceful in my business plans, marketing and everything else like my parents showed me. I have learned to do all of the things my business requires of me…. everything from brushing up on SEO to trying new marketing ideas on social media. All of this is super important and has contributed to my overall success in the business.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I definitely think I have a unique approach in the photography world. I go for authenticity and joy while still guiding my clients to do so in a flattering way. For engagement sessions, we do adventure sessions… I ask people to pick something they LOVE doing and then we do it. And I really mean we do it, like these aren’t just cute props. I want people to actually have fun while doing their session. Doing something they love so you can feel how much fun they are having in the photos and we pick a gorgeous setting to do them in. I’ve photographed everything from sunrise paddle boarding on an alpine lake, to Jeeping, snowboarding, motocross… all of it. I also have worked with several Rockies players and fans and have done sessions and weddings at Coors Field for years. Adventure can be so many different things for so many different people… it could be cozying up in a cabin together or going to your favorite local brewery for a beer or playing with your pup in the mountains, I am there. I just love photographing people doing things that THEY love. Adventure doesn’t fit in some specific box of a certain type of activity or person, you don’t have to be a certain body type or anything, I just ask that my clients show up with an open mind ready to have fun. And when we do these super fun adventures, I do still guide people into flattering poses or actions. Which in the photography world, it’s typically one or the other. You have some photographers who are super journalistic and don’t like interfering and just would like to capture what is happening and then you have the other side with photographers who are all about the poses and like things to be really structured. I am a hybrid. I really prefer candid photos within guided situations. I like to control what is happening, but document it as it’s happening. So instead of sticking people in a very stagnant pose, I have them really work through a series with movement. I encourage people to be loving and to move around. I encourage my couples to mess around with each other and be playful within a certain spot. I correct body language and postures and add in detail to convey emotions and help people to feel the photos…. even people who don’t know the subjects. You should be able to feel the joy and emotion of a wedding or engagement. You should be able to feel the love and connection between people. On a wedding day, I am also different than many other creatives. There are many great photographers out there that absolutely hate weddings. It really does take a very specific person to not only do it well, but love it and not get burned out. AND it takes a very specific marketing strategy and brand to get the clients that you connect well with. There are absolutely people who don’t mesh well with my brand… because adventure isn’t a specific activity, it’s how you approach life. It’s an attitude. Some people just aren’t interested in doing some of the ‘out there’ things I ask of them. Some people DO like more posing or less posing. And it’s super important that you get along with your wedding photographer too. It’s important that we have something in common because we NEED to have a relationship in order to get good photos. Which is why I have a super detailed about me. Most people don’t realize that their wedding photographer (for the bride and sometimes the groom too) is the person they spend the most time with ALL DAY. Like I see you before your future spouse. I am often there from beginning to end. And your wedding planner and other important vendors are often off hosting the wedding guests. As the photographer, I see my day as getting awesome photos yes, but also hosting the wedding couple at their own wedding. I make sure they look and feel good, I make sure they have water or use the restroom if they need to. I make sure no one is overwhelming them or stressing them out. I make sure they stay on schedule. I host the wedding couple so they can enjoy the day too. The wedding planner is off making sure that the food comes out on time and hot and that the DJ knows what time toasts are… they make sure that the tablescapes and decor look perfect and they make sure that the guests are happy. They are so much more behind the scenes than I am. I have to be involved with the couple and I have to work with every vendor to make sure that the day goes flawlessly. I’ve fixed hair for my brides, I’ve bustled dresses, I’ve done countless boutineers, I’ve given my earring back to a mother of the bride moments before walking down the aisle, I’ve caught us up on schedule more times than not. I’ve brought my clients gatorades and hand warmers. I’ve whisked my clients away for a few moments alone (hello golden hour) to make sure that they aren’t just hosting their guests but are enjoying their wedding day and being married (and have gotten some of my favorite photos during this time). I’ve gotten everything from spilled red wine to snow to mud out of wedding dresses and have macgyvered some broken or missing details. I’ve helped brides put on their wedding dress when eloping and have helped them facetime their families. When I show up on a wedding day, I am not there to be a wedding photographer, I am there to be anything my clients need AND a wedding photographer. I generally feel like I can personally be the difference in the way someone feels about their wedding day. And it is important to me. I want their wedding photos (and engagement photos) to be unique and creative. I want them to be art that captures the essence of who they are. I try my very best to capture WHO my clients are, HOW they love each other and an EPIC location all at the same time. Like I said before, I want people to FEEL the photos… even if they don’t know the couple. And the couple’s overall experience on their wedding day DOES affect the way their photos come out.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
So I live in Colorado Springs, but work quite often in Denver and all over Colorado… so this is going to have a lot of suggestions. I’m a native 😉 So I could go onnnnnn and onnn for days about all the things to see and do and try. Denver: I am a HUGE Rockies fan (and it’s fun to cheer some of my clients on too) so I would definently take them to a summer evening game to watch, eat some good ballpark food and of course take in one of our famous Coors Field sunsets. If a Rockies game wasn’t in the cards or if we had time on another day I would def check into Red Rocks and see if there is a film on the rocks or a concert going on. Union Station is another favorite spot and Little Man Ice Cream is really yummy! Colorado Springs: I could write so much about the Springs but my favorite spots are the Broadmoor go for a walk around the lake or get a drink by the fireplace indoors or out and don’t miss the Golden Bee! My Grandparents met there! 😉 Obviously Garden of the Gods for a hike up to Siamese Twins or a picnic at high point (Check out Bramble and Brie for to go picnics and charcuterie boxes. I would take them on a few canyon/4 wheeling drives and then would recommend Edelweiss, Paravicini’s or Kohnami Sushi for dinner (All locally owned and amaaazing!) I haven’t been yet, but we have a new Olympic Museum that I’m really excited to visit. Mountains (up I70): Crepes-A-La-Cart in Breck is amaaazing and the Hearthstone is really great for a bit of a splurge. There are so many good and fun hikes, but don’t miss a scenic drive on Loveland Pass in the summer or a drive up Mt Evans to see the mountain goats. Blue Moose Pizza in Vail is delicious and Lionshead is my favorite village in Colorado! Even if you don’t ski or board, get yourself a scenic day pass and go up the Eagle Bahn to take in the views and get lunch or if it’s summer, head up to visit the adventure park and if you are game, do the hike or bike down! Crested Butte is a really gorgeous part of Colorado with so much to see and do in any season as is Aspen. And if you can make it all the way out to Aspen, don’t miss the Bells! And check out T-Lazy-7 Ranch for snowmobile tours to the Bells in the winter when the road is closed! BUT no matter where you go in the mountains, please look up some mountain driving and hiking etiquette if you aren’t sure! Some passes are still pretty sketchy (like Indy) for people who aren’t used to driving them! <3
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
This one is really tough because I have a huge village of people surrounding me, encouraging me and cheering me on. But I think probably my parents and my husband. All three of them take turns helping me out on the job (Mom has been my assistant on at least 200 weddings!), taking care of my son and making sure I get to and from my jobs safely. They allow me to be everything I need to be and pick up the slack in the areas I can’t always devote as much to as I want. My husband and I are both self employed, so when I am super busy with editing he really picks up the slack around the house and when I am on the road a lot for work, he and my son often join me so I don’t miss out on the mom stuff while I’m gone. I am also super thankful for all of the people I’ve known for YEARS from hockey or school growing up or have kept in touch after various weddings and stuff who have continuously supported my business, commented on my posts, shared my work and have even hired me when they’ve gotten engaged! I am so thankful for these people who’ve showed me such compassion and loyalty over the years!