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© Ute Reckhorn

© Ute Reckhorn

Journey Story: Stacey Ilyse

  • 4 min read

Welcome to Lensbaby Journeys. We have asked photographers to write about their journey with photography and with Lensbaby, however they want to approach it. Each piece will come directly from an individual photographer in their own words, accompanied by their photographs. Our hope is that these journey stories will resonate with you, inspire you, and push you forward on your own path.

What is your Lensbaby journey, Stacey?

Im one of those few (and now far between) people who actually studied the fine art of photography. I started in college - before digital cameras ever existed. I learned on film, developing my own negatives and printing in a dark room. I was pushed to create images that evoked meaning, feeling, and explore techniques that could only be accomplished during the printing process.

Photography took me to places like New Mexico for studies where I was surrounded by amazingly talented people of all walks of life - it was very inspiring. When I came home I knew I needed to intern before stepping out into the world...I pushed and received 2 internships with really amazing photographers (Norman Jean Roy and David LaChapelle) who taught me a lot - and also taught me what I DIDNT want to do too.

While in college digital photography was just starting - first only with the ability to scan our film negatives and use PS for digital purposes to print. By the time I was done in 2005 Canon released their first digital camera for the masses, which I purchased to go along with my new job as a studio manager/2nd shooter for an up-and-coming New York City wedding photographer. I moved to New York, worked my butt off for him and within 9 months I realized that I could do what he was doing. I booked my first few gigs via craigslist and my wedding photography career was born.

Stacey Ilyse with Composer Pro and Edge 50 Optic Lensbaby Creative Photography Stacey Ilyse with Composer Pro and Edge 50 Optic

I spent 6 years shooting non-stop and at the high point in my career I shot 40 weddings a season! I was known in the industry, invited to parties, and recommended by high-end venues and planners. It was a dream! Until it wasnt. We decided to move out to New Jersey and with that my anxiety for travel, being on time, and the longer commute started to get to me. I got pregnant, still shot 18 weddings...and within a week of my last wedding my daughter was born, 5 weeks early - most likely due to the stress I put on my body.

Motherhood forced me to put my business on hold, and allowed me to evaluate what was important to me - as she got older, I transitioned to family photography and took on clients, met many amazing local photographer friends who've helped me along the way. However, with the birth of my 2nd daughter I almost considered hanging up my gear professionally for good due to the pressure and desire for being successful monetarily as well as inspired artistically.

Then, last year, I found a group on Facebook that focused on documentary family photography - and 2 mentors of sorts whose workshop I took and helped me feel more focused. I decided to rebrand myself as a documentary photographer. Also within that time I learned video and added that to my portfolio, creating family documentary films for clients.


Stacey Ilyse Video "Luca Puddles" with Composer Pro II and Edge 50 Optic

Through both video and documentary photography groups I have met and befriended some AMAZING photographers. I learned about Lensbaby from a few of them, then bought one and gave it a whirl. The results sparked something in me that had laid dormant for a long time - my desire to create ART with the images I take. To push myself to learn something new and create something unique and beautiful. I want to take my Lensbaby skills, my love for pushing the envelope and offer it to my clients. I want them to see that life is beautiful, messy, blurry, clear, dark and bright all in the same moment.

Some of my most favorite recent images have been created with my Edge 50. It helps me to produce hauntingly quiet images, specifically of my older daughter who is one half of my 2 muses...she is the most beautiful, vulnerable, delicate, sensitive and yet strong little girl I've ever met. She loves being in front of the camera for me, giving me a permanent model.

Im so excited to take these techniques and skills and offer them to clients, to push the envelope within the genre of family photography, create a hybrid of session of sorts and gain that trust with my clients that will allow me to give them something unique and special to hang on their walls and remember.

Read more about Stacey and see more photos on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Do you have a Lensbaby journey story? Share it with us for your very own feature! Email us at journey@lensbaby.com.