We are constantly inspired by the photographers sharing their work and knowledge at Clickin Moms, a photography forum of over 15,000 women that has developed into a huge learning and support community for its members as well as a beautiful print magazine. We were thrilled that Kendra Okolita and Sarah Wilkerson the founder and CEO, respectively, took time out of their busy lives to talk with us. Read on to learn what lead Kendra to create Clickin Moms, how Sarah came aboard, and how it might be relevant to your own work and development as a photographer. 

Please talk a bit about each of your backgrounds and how you came to be photographers.

Kendra: I have always been in love with photography, but when my oldest were born (now ages 11, 11, 7 & 6), photography became an obsession.  I wanted to document every moment and I wanted to do it beautifully.  I hoped that when I looked back at my pictures, I would not only remember what my children looked like, but how each moment with them made me feel.

Sarah: I am an attorney by trade, and – like many women – my interest in photography didn’t develop until shortly after the birth of my first child. Because my husband was in Iraq for our son’s first year, photography became a critical way to document memories and milestones for him. As I began to get a handle on the technical aspects of my camera and started to use my DSLR as a creative tool, photography became much more personally fulfilling to me. Today, when I shoot, I shoot primarily for myself. 

(photo above by Kendra Okolita, shot with the Sweet 35 Optic)

Kendra, tell us a bit about how you came to found Clickin Moms, and Sarah, how you got involved. 

Kendra: I read books from cover to cover and combed the internet for information on how to use my fancy new DSLR, and managed to teach myself the basics like exposure triangle, shooting in manual, and basic composition. I was left feeling like I wanted so much more.  I yearned to connect with peers, but with 4 small children at home, in-person classes weren’t really an option for me.  Clickin Moms was born as a private, online forum, mostly so that my photographer friends and I could explore and learn together. 

Sarah: I joined Clickin Moms as a member and quickly felt at home; I had found women who not only loved shooting, learning, and talking about photography as much I did, but who embraced photographers at every stage of their artistic journeys — and the genuine warmth of that environment was unlike anything I’d experienced elsewhere online. I became part of the initial group of Mentors on the board, developed CM’s first workshop, and found in Kendra not only a great friend but someone whose vision for the board resonated powerfully…and believing in the person and company for whom you are working makes progress and growth that much more exciting.

For those unfamiliar with Clickin Moms, can you tell us a bit about the site, its community, the workshops, and also the magazine?

Sarah: The heart of Clickin Moms remains our forum. With over 3 million posts and 15,000 members, the online boards represent a wealth of educational resources and an incredible opportunity for socialization and networking.  In the past few years, we’ve added to that CMuniversity – which presents more than 2 dozen online photography workshops and bimonthly breakout sessions with top photographers – an online store, an organization specifically for very advanced photographers, and two very popular blogs: the CMpro Daily Project and the main CMblog. 

CLICK, our newest creation, is a gorgeous print magazine filled with refreshingly beautiful photography, unique products, and the stories behind artists and their art. From the magazine’s design to its imagery to the articles within, it was our goal to put forth a publication “for the modern photograp(her)” unlike anything the industry had seen, and the response that we’ve received has been just wonderful. 

(photo above by Sarah Wilkerson, shot with non-Lensbaby lens)

Talk a bit about what makes Clickin Moms different from other online photography communities/learning centers out there.

Sarah: The warmth and personal supportiveness of this community is truly unparalleled, and we are unique in our heavy focus on personal artistic development and the many ways that photography can enhance women’s lives — professionally, intellectually, creatively, socially, and emotionally. We also recognize that everyone started somewhere (many of them not so very long ago) and are enthusiastic about embracing new photographers and seeing where their journeys will lead. 

Clickin Moms is obviously a great source for supportive help on anything photographic. But what advice can you each offer personally for new photographers just starting out?

Kendra: Give it time.  Learning the mechanics and technicalities of your camera can be frustrating, but once it clicks, it clicks.  Once you’ve got that down, give it even more time.  Shoot as often as you can – using different subjects, different lighting conditions, and from different perspectives.  The more you shoot, the better you get.  Eventually your camera and your creativity will feel like they are a part of you. 

Sarah: Understand that everyone’s journey is different. The question “how long have you been shooting?” means very little; some photographers spend countless hours studying and practicing, some shoot daily, some take workshops or do mentoring, some find that technical mastery comes quickly, and some find that personal creativity flows freely. We all have our own strengths and struggles. Try to clear your head of the expectations you have as to the photographer you want to become, practice plenty, and enjoy the ride. 

(photo above by Kendra Okolita, shot with non-Lensbaby lens)

We know you’ve both just recently started shooting with Lensbaby lenses, but what do you like the most about them so far?

Kendra: My new Lensbaby lenses challenged me in a way that was a tad frustrating at first, but the rewards are exhilarating!  Once the lens and I became friendly, I felt like I was looking at things differently.  It actually broke me out of a small creative rut.  I’ve only been using them for a couple weeks, so I have a ton of room for improvement, but I’m beyond excited to explore more!

Sarah: I’ve been an enthusiastic user of tilt shift lenses for several years, and while I am new to Lensbaby lenses, I am finding that they share some of the same unexpectedly artistic and dreamlike qualities that I love so much; they behave differently enough that one is no substitute for the other, and I love working with both types of lenses. As a creative matter, I love manual focus lenses, as they force me to really focus and slow down in my shooting, making me a more deliberate artist. 

(photo above by Sarah Wilkerson, shot with Sweet 35 Optic)

Where do you go for photo help? Tell us below in a comment and we’ll choose two random commenters to win a free copy of Lensbaby: Bending Your Perspective by Corey Hilz!