There’s something both understated and dazzling about photographer Brittany Kelley. Maybe it’s because she hails from Texas (“Don’t mess with…”), or it could be that she artfully stills her mind for her craft. Or is it that she’s tall and blonde and witty, a wordsmith in her own right, who also comes across as truly steadfast when it comes to character?
She’s got the right stuff, that’s for sure, in her presence and her passion.
Food, travel, and adventure speak Brittany’s language. A successful, once-upon-a-time stockbroker, she hungered for some real soul food. Her first camera went everywhere with Brittany when she was a kid, and she boldly chose to put this long-time love on the front burner in 2017.
An unexpected upside of the hard work and heartfelt commitment: she was recently named one of Seattle’s “Top 12 Food Photographers” by Peerspace.
“That recognition really floored me,” Brittany admits. “I mean, I’ve just started out, and I’m completely self-taught. When you’re pursuing an art, you feel incredibly vulnerable. It stares you right in the face, and panic can set in, something fierce. I feel a boost just clicking on a link to that article. It’s a reminder that I’m moving in the right direction.”
This photo master recognizes that visual-driven content is more critical than ever in connecting brands to their audiences.
“Let’s say you’re checking out a coffee shop online. It’s my feeling that you want your customers to experience your passion before they even walk in the door,” says Brittany. “With website and social media platforms serving up images everywhere, we all get a ‘flash’ impression of what a place or person is about, what they have to offer, how good they are at what they do, how their food tastes. Pictures count big-time in convincing people of value.”
Most of all, Brittany wants to make you memorable.
Your website says “Elevate your visual content.” What does that mean to you?
Brittany: My mission is to provide imagery for businesses that will take their marketing efforts to the next level. Photography should elevate the way people see what you’re doing. For instance, if you’re a chef and you create beautiful food but have low-quality photos, it doesn’t translate well in print or online. It doesn’t entice people to discover your restaurant or café or cuisine. Whereas if you have high-quality, attractive, sexy photos, then you’re talking.
How would you describe professional multi-platform image optimization?
Brittany: As a mouthful! Actually, depending on the platform or the media that you’re using visuals on, there are different optimizations required. So, you wouldn’t put a massive file or image on your website. That would slow it down. I just focus on what you’re going to need for a media kit, because one size doesn’t fit all. There are images appropriate for social media and those for hero shots on a website or a massive billboard.
What do you feel is your superpower?
Brittany: As a photographer, it’s reading people. If I’m shooting a plate of food, it’s that chef’s vulnerability on display, and I can connect with him or her in an authentic way. There are no pretenses with me. The end result always looked polished, but the process of creating the image is messy. And that’s not just to say food, but you also have all the emotions tied into having, say, a head shot taken. I think just authenticity in communication and the transparency that goes with it.
Why do you think Vibe has become such a hub in Kitsap County?
Brittany: It’s a community of wonderful people in a beautiful space. There’s nothing else quite like it; it’s the best thing to come to town. And I get a lot of work done here.
What special impact has coworking had on you as a freelancer?
Brittany: I would say community and efficiency. My big joke with Alanna, Vibe’s founder, is that I walk in, the coffee’s made, I’ll be hydrated and caffeinated, and I can have my lunch and take a phone call, all without Chance barking up a storm in the background. I get double the work done, easily. Amazing.
Did you have an “a-ha” moment when you were in high finance?
Brittany: I set off in my early 20s and it was all about that success as a stockbroker. I value what I learned in the financial industry, and I’ll have that forever (I love me a good spreadsheet!). But when I had my son Hayden, I started to lean more into the artist’s way.
I dreamed all of these dreams for him. There are so many things that I want for my son to experience in the world. I want him to be brave, not waste any time doing anything other than what he loves—and to show him all this by setting an example. We do learn best by example.
So, after a couple of years of self-doubt, I finally got a tax ID, and thought, I’m putting myself out there. I’m continuing to show creativity to Hayden every day, I think. My husband Brian loves to cook, and because I’ve seen some of the finest plated food right at home, Hayden was right behind me with an old camera of mine, also shooting everything. He takes it very seriously, and he knows if he needs a battery or a memory card. Even when Hayden was three, he had a pretty good eye for composition. He’s held many reflectors for me.
How did your upbringing shape your muse?
Brittany: I’ve always had a camera. It’s like photography chose me. I feel so drawn to it. Here I was 10 years old with a Polaroid and then I had my first 35mm film camera by the age of 13. From there, I didn’t really pick up another camera until I was in DC working for a firm and got enough money to buy my first DigitalSLR.
My mom is super creative and as a young girl, I would watch her simply creating things. She’s really good at interiors. She also paints well—anything really—but I specifically remember my mom dry brushing pottery for a 3D effect. All with no training whatsoever.
Do you have a favorite kind of dog?
Brittany: I can’t choose between my current two, or one of them will get mad. I have two dogs, Hank, a Lab, and his big brother Chance, who is a geriatric chihuahua. His full name is Last Chance because I adopted him with half his teeth and three good legs. I definitely didn’t want a chihuahua, so he had to act like a big dog. I made him do big dog things, like kayaking and hiking. And Chance is brave. He once scared a big black bear away while the Lab got nervous and took off.
How would you define success?
Brittany: I think success is obtaining the ability to bloom, no matter the soil conditions. It’s the ability to stand right where you are and feel all of the good that is now, no matter what you’re striving for. Success to me is the balance, finding it.
What or who would make the best eye candy?
Brittany: Are you talking about hot guys, are you talking about food? Well, to keep it clean, I love taking pictures of my son. Because I have those “forevers.” I like to make those big photo books, so Hayden will always have them. There’s something to be said about the tangible. If I had to pick like a plate, shellfish or something from the sea. I like things that are different and unique. I keep going back to food, but that is where I am. I’m in it.
Who’s your favorite writer?
Brittany: Ooh. Well, it just depends. I’ve should have been a psych major because I read a lot of self-help books. I could read them forever, figuring out my own progress, my own self. Figuring out just how to do the best at life that I can. I’m a recovering perfectionist.
Right now, I’m in like with Elizabeth Gilbert. Not the EAT, PRAY LOVE Elizabeth, but her BIG MAGIC, which, if you’re in a creative rut, is easy breezy. Also, Dr. Brene Brown, and all her messages on vulnerability and worthiness. And I like a really good, raunchy Chelsea Handler. My favorite writer to go have cocktails with would definitely be Susan O’Meara. It’s true!
Are you hooked on a film or TV show?
Brittany: Oh man. Game of Thrones and I just broke up. It just wasn’t right. I can’t accept it. I think that Bryan Cranston, aka Walter White, as the Arizonian who cooks up meth in Breaking Bad, I loved that series. It was just written so well, and I love the way it was shot. Breaking Bad was so provocative, challenging you to ask what you would do in that situation. It did a great job of putting you in someone else’s shoes, figuring out what is the limit?
Have you done any of the courses at Vibe Coworks?
Brittany: I’m very interested in the bi-weekly Business + Accountability Mastermind Group that [Space Captain] Jamie’s been talking about for Vibe members. Definitely signing up for that. A lot of Vibe’s events pop on my radar. I feel like the membership here is so impressive. You read about people and wow. I want in on it. It’s fun to rub elbows with my coworkers here doing really cool stuff.
Hot spot happening now for you in Kitsap?
Brittany: Hound + Bottle in Manette, a funky destination in Bremerton. The aesthetic is super cool there. The bartender is super stylish with her red lipstick, and she knows her flavors, an incredible mixologist. They also serve amazing food, anything from a hotdog to oysters on the half shell. I can respect that.
I’m also keen on Mossback in Kingston. It’s beyond local. The menu changes every week, based on what the farmer has given the chef literally the day before or day of going on your plate.
Then Butcher & Baker in Port Gamble, because it’s the best fried chicken sandwich ever, spoken by a Texan. They make awesome food. Having staffed up to 150-person restaurants in places like Los Angeles, Butcher & Baker has a very caliber management team, so the service is the best in Kitsap. Their assistant manager, Amanda, styles food for me sometimes.
What’s your motto?
Brittany: One thing to say to Hayden, and this comes from my friend Kat who died last year: “Life’s like a pie. You have to eat it one slice at a time.” I tend to get overwhelmed looking at the whole pie. I tend to worry about the whole pie. I worry about getting to “Z.” Just focus on “A through C” right now. I like the pie analogy, and I honor my friend with that memory, those words to live by. Nothing sticks like people close to you and how their example resonates.
Meet the author: Vibist Susan O'Meara is a Poulsbo-based freelance writer, editor and journalist with global experience. Back in the day, Susan did event marketing for the electrified Don King, boxing’s bad-boy biz whiz. Then she got roped into writing and producing TV spots for Love Boat: The Next Wave, the ‘90s reboot, and nonfiction programming for Showtime (e.g., Roswell: The Real Story). She's not sure which was more surreal—going with the flow of those Hollywood highs, so to speak, or navigating Nairobi’s magazine scene. Susan has worked in the US and abroad for the likes of Bloomberg Media, Deloitte, Discovery Communications, and the United Nations. She's obsessed with wrangling language and messaging that helps brands, businesses, and individuals to grow and shine. Except when it comes to Don King's hair.