Friday, 28 September 2012

Friday Feature: Up and Away Studios

Today's featured photographer if super fun to write about, because not only are we friends, but I have the pleasure of calling her "family". Truth be told, we are 3rd cousins, but family is family in my books and I'm proud that Kristy-Anne Swart is a part of my family unit.

For as long as I can remember, Kristy-Anne was always amazing and super talented when it came to photography, with her creative angles, ethereal lighting, the ability to capture perfect moments, and creating beautiful art. I remember my mom coming home with a couple of Kristy-Anne's framed photos that she had purchased through a family auction, and as she hung them on the wall, I found myself mesmerized as I gazed, almost trance-like, at the photos, nay, into the photos. For that was what I was doing. There's something about Kristy-Anne's photos that transcend mere 2-dimential photography. One can easily find them-self drawn deeper into the photo and all it's layered beauty. Since that time, Kristy-Anne's photography has only continued to grow in exquisiteness and her business, Up and Away Studios, keeps her on her toes.

Based out of Calgary, Alberta, Kristy-Anne Swart created and operates "Up and Away Studios". It has literally gone "Up and Away" as her cliental grows and business exponentially increases. This is a business that is on wings and has taken flight.

As it always goes, however, Up and Away Studios was not born overnight, nor was Kristy-Anne's dream found and full-filled in that time-frame either. As in most everything in life, her's was a journey and process, to find this place she now enjoys. However, the journey continues, as so does the dreaming.

As Kristy-Anne recalls, "I have always been an artist. Whether I realized it or not, I was an artist through and through. Everyone around me probably realized it, even when I did not. When I now look back at the drawings I did in Grade School, or the detailed paintings I would spend hundreds of hours on in High School, or my hunger for music, nature and books…I see that I am an artist."

Kristy-Anne grew up in Saskatoon, SK. When she was in High School, she took as many "artsy" courses as she was able to. One of those courses that she was fortunate her school offered, was a photography course.

"Back then there was no digital (yes, I am old)…" but really, not that old, cause she's younger then me, and I'm not old :D but I digress, "…We developed our own negatives, and did our own enlargements. I was hooked. I loved magic involved with the darkroom process. I spent most of my lunch hours and free time in the dark room."

In grade 11, Kristy-Anne took a work education course, with the hopes of doing a placement with a professional photographer. "I called up the best photographer in the city, Shannon Brunner, and asked if I could do a placement with her. She agreed, and from there, my love for photography grew even more."

"Shannon was a creative genius (still is) and I felt privileged to watch and help her. She hired me after my placement was done. [Shannon] was the first one to tell me about a great photography course in Edmonton at NAIT.

Now keep in mind, photography was entirely different back then. There were way less photographers, way less photography resources. No photo blogs, no actions…no digital. It was way more of an investment, and a lot more risky…"

Remember what I said in Matthew Keoni's feature? :) I wasn't making it up!

"…I always knew that when I graduated, I wanted to do something in the arts, but I also wanted to do something that was employable. I am not a big "go getter", nor am I business minded."

Kristy-Anne's plan was to take interior design, thinking that she could easily get a job in that field. It would be slightly artistic, but also employable, both important to her. However, the more Kristy-Anne researched the photography course at NAIT, the more she realized this direction was more up her alley.

"I was really scared to apply for the course, but thankfully, with the nudging of my family, and Shannon, I did. I got into the course and spent 2 crazy years obsessed and completely immersed in photography. Again, it was all film, and almost our entire first year was spent on a large format camera. The negatives were 4x5 inches and expensive.

I spent hours and hours in the dark, and I loved it."

When Kristy-Anne started out, she wasn't interested in portrait photography or weddings at all. She wanted to do "stock" photography (which was a very new industry at that time) and documentary photography. In her second year of school, Kristy-Anne did a placement with a great commercial photographer, who was branching out into Stock photography.

"I was very lucky, and he hired me right out of school. I was doing exactly what I wanted, right out of college. I didn't get paid a lot at first, as most of my money went to pay off my $20,000 investment in gear, but I was doing what I loved and was growing everyday."

Kristy-Anne was one of the very first photographers for the stock agency, Design Pics. "Design Pics was in it's own infancy at the time, but over the years they got our work represented on the top agencies around the world, including Getty and corbis."

In 2007, Kristy-Anne married the man of her dreams, who happened to be a South African musician. After their wedding, she moved to Nashville, where he was living. "We travelled all over the world for his [her husband's] gigs, and I felt I couldn't keep up with the expectations the agency had for me. So I left my full time position there and went freelance for them. I sent them work as much as I could, but my focus was definitely shifting."

In 2009, Kristy-Anne's husband's band ended and his Visa was no longer applicable, thus they decided to move back to Canada. "When we moved there, my husband couldn't legally work, so for the first year we knew that I would need to try and get work."

Kristy-Anne had been noticing the changes within the portrait photography industry, and liked that things were moving away from being so traditional (as she is anything but) and were becoming way more creative. "For the first time I thought, maybe I would like this. Without even advertising, I was crazy busy. My stock background provided me with a lot of experience photographing everyday people, but having to make them look natural and relaxed. It was actually a super easy transition. I got more and more excited about photographing people, because I felt freedom to do it in whatever way I pleased."

It was just over 3 years ago that Kristy-Anne started her own company and as is usually the case, it's been a huge learning curve. It was in 2011 that she finally made a proper website and branded her company as "Up and Away Studios" and she is loving every minute of it.

"I feel that I am more inspired then ever, and feel that as time passes, I grow and have so much more to offer people. When I shoot weddings, my husband comes with me as a second shooter. He is amazing and my rock. He calms me when I feel a bit stressed, and he owns the guys shots. I think it is his musician background, he makes them all look like rock stars."

For Kristy-Anne's other lifestyle portrait sessions (couples, families, maternity, baby etc…), she usually shoots alone.

"People often ask me what my favourite type of shoot is. I always say that my favourite thing to photograph is people in love. That can be anything from a newly engaged couple, to an old married couple of 50 years. What gets me excited is seeing true emotion, that is what truly makes a photograph timeless and priceless. I try to make my photo shoots fun, but I also try to quiet my clients and give them time to think about the love they have for one another. My hope is that people go away from my shoots feeling more in love then when they came."

"If I had a tagline, it would be "see beauty, see freedom, see fun". I think this encapsulates what I try to accomplish with my photography.

I have never felt as inspired as I do now, so this excites me for the future of my photography career. My desire is not to get hundreds of more clients, or to become some multi-person business. I like being an intimate operation, where I feel that I get to know my clients. I suppose I hope that I just keep growing as an artist, and that I will become more and more skilled at giving my photographs a voice. I also hope that someday my husband and I can do some documentary work in Africa."

I don't know about you, but I sure feel more inspired by Kristy-Anne and Up and Away Studios. Her story, like the previous 4 other photographers, show that no matter our dream, it's worth stepping out, taking the risk and seeing if you can, to coin a phrase from Disney, "make your dreams come true".

You won't be disappointed with Up and Away Studios capturing your memories. It's a piece of timelessness you can hold in your hands.

For more details on packages, pricing etc, please visit Up and Away Studio's website at From there you can access Kristy-Anne's blog and personal website.
It has been brought to Kristy-Anne's attention, however, that the website does not work on iPad's or iPhones at this time, a detail that hopefully will be remedied soon.

See Up and Away's facebook and page and "like" it here.

You can also email Up and Away Studios directly at
or phone at 403-875-6351 to book a session or for further information on packages and pricing.

For Growing Green readers, Up and Away Studios has a special incentive, just for you! Simply give the PROMO CODE: growinggreenupa when you book a session and receive a $100 rebate towards your session fee! This PROMO CODE expires November 28th, 2012, so hurry and book your session today! The actual session date can be scheduled for anytime, the session just needs to be booked before November 28th, 2012.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's featured photographer, and our last of the week: Shari + Mike Photographers

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