In our Behind the Lens series, we’re connecting with our favorite photographers around the globe and in our community. What we do as photographers is capturing experiences and sharing them with the world, so we wanted to provide a platform for others in our field to share a little bit about their process, experiences, and themselves.
In our second iteration, we’re pleased to introduce you to Laurken Kendall –
a photographer, farmer, mother of three, and our latest preset collaborator.
Laurken began her photography career in 2014, sort of by necessity. In her own words, she was at a point in her life where she needed to generate more income. After often being asked by Facebook friends to photograph them with their loved ones – and usually turning down the offer – she made the leap when her circumstances changed. And, luckily for all of us, she found that she loved the process of directing and photographing others. Her first few weddings were from Craigslist “wanted” ads, that she photographed for free as she gained experience in the field. Slowly, she built her portfolio on the foundation of preserving moments in time. And now, she was named one of the top wedding photographers in America for 2020.
In her editing, Laurken aims to enhance the emotion of the photograph and the feelings the viewer has when looking at it. As a result, she doesn’t like to tie her brand identity or photography style closely to her editing, as it is an ever-evolving process. She does, however, have a base edit that she uses as a starting point in her work that she developed while editing photos from a wedding in 2018 that went on to be published nationally in a major magazine. She found that none of her Lightroom presets enhanced the photos in the exact way she wanted, so she opted to create her own.
When we started the process of creating Laurken’s collaborator preset pack, we used her custom preset as a starting point before building a more stylized version, and then breaking it down into a clean and refined effect. The goal was to create something editorial, but extremely versatile across a number of locations and art directions – from moody in-home shoots to reception photos at a wedding.
Laurken had lots to say about her journey as a photographer and her life beyond photography, and we were happy to have had the opportunity to soak up her wisdom. Here’s what she had to share with us.
What did you learn from shooting your first wedding?
I wasn’t expecting to have to be so involved in the day, honestly. I thought I was just there at certain times to take photos but after my first wedding, I realized how much people would look to me for guidance on everything from where they were supposed to be schedule-wise to how they looked. I now have a bag full of “fixes” – from skin tape and sewing needles to anti-nausea medication and beef jerky. I am more of a personal assistant/human xanax/coordinator/therapist/photographer, which is a role I think every wedding photographer can relate to.
Do you have advice for photographers who are just starting out?
My advice would be to never allow your true identity to move away from your business. They should be synonymous. Don’t look around to find branding inspiration – come at it from a place of internal insight. You will find yourself working for people you actually like because at the end of the day, you are your “ideal” client.
Where do you draw your inspiration from when photographing?
I like to draw inspiration from my own life as much as possible. A lot of my favorite photographs are in homage to the relationship, in all its good and bad ways, that I have shared with my husband since I was 15. I use photographs as a way of personal expression when I am lost for words. It’s cathartic to use this symbiosis with my couples to make something that is equally meaningful to both of us. My in-home sessions are especially personal to me – they are conduits for both my fury and my love. If I am lost for intrinsic inspiration, I will let music guide me.
I don’t do anything without first tapping into myself via music that makes me feel things. I also love to listen to the soundtrack of my couples relationships, and I ask them to send me 4 or 5 songs that are meaningful to them both. When all else fails, magazines, books, and music videos can always be counted on.
What is your favorite location to shoot? Favorite subject?
I love all dark corners, dark rooms, and tight spaces. I find myself overwhelmed when there are too many options or too much wide open space. I think that’s why I have always gravitated toward in-home photography. It is definitely my passion in this photographic life. I love the imperfect, real feel of a quiet dark room that’s been well-lived in.
My favorite subjects are couples and families. Families are where I began and because I have my own brood of children, I find the act of photographing other families to be a holy experience. I like the voyeuristic act of photography and getting to see inside other people’s homes, their relationships, their souls. It’s an addiction.
Why do you love being a wedding photographer? Have you always wanted to be a photographer?
I love weddings for the documentary aspect. I like that they are never the same, and yet they have their commonalities – it’s comforting and exciting at the same time. I definitely did not want to be a wedding photographer when I started, so it’s ironic that that’s what I am primarily now. Every wedding is its own adrenaline rush and I love the never-knowing of what’s going to happen next when you have a large group of people coming together. Weddings are just plain fun.
“I never meant to have an actual career and in retrospect, it’s quite funny that things ended up the way they did because I never meant for this to be anything other than a way to bring in a few extra dollars.”
How else do you fill your time, other than photography?
I live on a 1,300 acre wheat farm that has been in my husband’s family for 160 years and I also have three sons that I homeschool. Additionally, I have more chickens than I can count. I spend all of my free time either helping on the farm, exploring the world with my little dudes, or sitting in my old bus chair in front of the chicken coop watching my hens scratch the ground. I have found a deep satisfaction in living a life of less the last year or so and try to immerse myself in things that truly matter to my life story. The pursuit of money and fame are not really in my mind at this stage of my life. I am all about no regrets when I’m 85 and looking in the rearview and that means I am all about the people I love.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I have no typical days, honestly. There is always something to be done that is different from what was required yesterday. I do a few key things everyday with flexible time blocking: 2 hours of work, reading with my kids, caring for my animals, and weight lifting in one of the outbuildings we have turned into a gym.
It’s no surprise that what Laurken has created with On Dark Sheets is truly one of a kind. These full-throated presets deepen and compliment photographs while making you feel a bit dangerous in the process. From dark seedy motel rooms and fields washed with the light of a waning sun, to a reception room full of sweaty bodies and thrumming pink DJ lights, this pack is just as versatile for a multitude of lighting conditions as it is for the gamut of human emotion in each frame. Using a brand new feature to Lightroom called a Profile Slider, each preset can be adjusted in total strength to enhance the scene to your satisfaction.
On Dark Sheets consists of 8 color presets, 3 BW presets, and 7 Creative Profile’s.
Photos by Laurken Kendall.