By Meredith Knight
Imagine being 22, throwing everything you own in your Mustang and heading to Los Angeles with $300 in your pocket. That’s exactly what Kelley Sweet did. “I figured if I hated it, I could always come home with L.A experience under my belt,” she said. “But if I didn’t go then, I might never go.” Kelley had been drawn to photography since she was a kid swiping her mom’s camera to snap pictures of all things that are mattered to her. Her dog. Her sisters. Her shoes.
She was the band photographer and worked with the journalism staff in high school and in college where she studied photography. She gained technical experience working in a small photo lab in the mall then for a professional lab while in college. She even did a two-year apprenticeship with a master photographer. But it’s been through interaction with her subjects that she garnered the most important lessons.
Kelley flourished in L.A. for almost 15 years, working in the movie industry, on music videos, and snapping countless head shots. “I loved it out there, until I realized I wanted a family,” she said. “Once my sister had kids and I experienced how much I loved them, I knew I’d want to stay home with my own kids someday. I needed to find their father first. Priorities changed. I’d worked all over the world, but I wanted something more.”
The next thing Kelley knew she was happily married with three kids, living the life she’d envisioned with a welcome addition—a thriving photography career. “I’m blessed and I know it—to be the wife and mother I want to be and also so rewarded in the career I love,” Kelley said. As word got around about the outstanding work she’s doing, Kelley has found herself in big demand, not just on the wedding, graduation, and family portrait circuit but doing architectural and commercial photography as well.
A self-professed “helpless romantic,” Kelley has a knack for photographing not just the traditional shots everyone expects but the ones that grab her clients by the heart. “Grandma drying her eyes as the bride comes down the aisle, a baby yawning, or a mom hugging the neck of her high school graduate when she didn’t even intend to be in the photo,” Kelley said “I know what I’d treasure in a photo. That’s what I try to give my clients.”
She begins by getting to know her clients. “If I really ‘get’ the bride, the business owner, or the family, I’ll know what shots will means the most to them,” Kelley said. “I had a mother-of-the-bride tell me I’m a ‘moment savant.’ She said I seem to see the important moments before they occur. For 30 years, my goal has been to help everyone enjoy the process as much as I do. When they do, it’ll come across in their photos and those are the shots that will stand the test of time.”