Behind the Lens – Deep Breaths

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | floral design by kelly lenard | gown by aire barcelona

I have a friend who tells me that my work is very different from other photographers’ work – so different that while it catches attention, it leaves people wondering what to do with it. She is right, I think – even *I* don’t know what to do with it all the time.

Much of my work is comprised of the intimate details, the pieces of things, the raw emotion found in the smallest moments. Some of this is because many of my subjects and locations over the years have required me to “shoot around” things that don’t belong in photos – and some of this is just the way I see. Whatever the explanation, I have developed a style that apparently doesn’t immediately resonate with people – and getting noticed – and hired – is becoming more of a challenge.

On the one hand, I suppose this is a victory. I am differentiating. I stand out. But I am not a “safe” photographer. I don’t look like the big names who are reaping the benefits of the trends they’ve created, and my voice is very unique. My niche is small, limited in a way to amazing people who want to be creative, who value uniqueness, and who want to feel the way I feel them through my photography.

But it is what I hold in the other hand that leaves me wondering if I should keep going with all this. The “you are worthless” feeling that shattered me this week when I faced the reality that my business can’t even compete for a *free* wedding that I want to shoot. The “is this because I am having a baby?” and the “I had more queries *before* I relaunched my brand and portfolio” and the “you are utterly dispensable” that has been my wound for more years than I can count.

My therapist/midwife tells me I need to write “affirmations” for myself. Things to say to myself that will bolster my confidence and keep me living my best life. My honesty won’t allow me not to engage the discouragement, though. I don’t process things by letting them roll off or sweeping them under the carpet with an “it will be okay” mentality. I process by saying it out loud, looking it in the eye, and breathing through it.

This spring, I thought I was building physical endurance for giving birth to my new baby, but I am realizing that *this* is the endurance I am building for her birth and for my life: a way to look at the pain and to let it be what it is instead of lashing out against it and letting bitterness and disillusionment give me my identity. I may not be organized with my breathing in the yoga-type bonding exercises that make sense to a lot of people, but I know how to exist in the rise and fall of pain, and I do know how the intensity of it will fade and I will still be coming to life on the other side.

It has been an incredible April. This photo is just a tiny preview of what is coming, amazing collaborations that are awaiting processing and publication. It is the best work I have ever done, and I am still working and waiting and taking deep breaths as I go. I do believe that my time is coming and that what I am creating *is* worth something – I am not going to let the “labor” make me quit before the life comes.

On Being His – and Being Human

exquisitrie by kelly sauer

“What should I do about the wild and the tame? The wild heart that wants to be free, and the tame heart that wants to come home. I want to be held. I don’t want you to come too close. I want you to scoop me up and bring me home at nights. I don’t want to tell you where I am. I want to keep a place among the rocks where no one can find me. I want to be with you.”

― Jeanette Winterson

NOTE: The EXQUISITRIE WEDDING GIVEAWAY is still open at Once Wed. Enter to win 10 hours of wedding photography from Kelly Sauer, and pass it on!

A Perfectionist Walks Out of A Photo Shoot

claire pettibone "devotion" | exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer

There are moments in my photography career that will always, always haunt me. They’re the moments that my nightmares are made of, the ones that can still reduce me to tears and panic attacks, the things that no amount of creativity can redo, because sometimes, even in photography, life is just life and when you blow it, you BLOW it.

I’ve been careful not to make mistakes – everyone is, I think – but being human means that they are going to happen, and you hope they happen on personal things, so that the only person they affect is you, so that you can merely re-tool your vision and move on, even if you’re disappointed.

But inevitably, there’s going to be a big one that reaches farther than you and your goals, and after my trip to California, I have a new big one to add to my panic attack list. Of course it happened on my biggest shoot. The one that brought me into contact with some of the people I admire the most in the entire wedding industry. The one that *had* to be perfect.

I remember standing in the hall once after a wedding my friend photographed, years before I ever thought I would become a photographer myself. My friend was loading the wedding images onto his computer, and he had lost over half the images he shot because of improper file handling. I felt bad for him as I waited there while he tried to recover things, but I didn’t understand how *sick* something like that makes you feel until I lost one of my own destination shoots that way early last year.

It gives you PTSD. You’ve given something of yourself, shared something with a client or a model in front of your lens, thought you had earned something beautiful to bring home and give back for the gift of themselves that they shared with you – or for the money they paid you. And here you are left empty-handed, knowing that some things just can’t ever be recreated.

But I am learning is that something is better than nothing, and while sometimes the “something” is a hard-knock lesson in how to be more careful and how to get up and keep going as a professional, putting yourself out there and being real with your humanity is still worth it.

You don’t have to let your mistakes be the end of you. Just take responsibility for your mistake and take your next step. It’s not always going to be pretty. Your mistakes will not always be approached with grace. But you are bigger than that moment, and the people who can’t offer grace are probably not the people you were meant to work with anyway. Don’t be afraid of the growth that comes with messing up. You don’t know where the smallest things will take you, or when you will need the lessons you learn through failure.

Monday Morning to L.A.

image source unknown |

7:32 and the whole world is moving slow -
23 miles per hour, or
16 miles per hour (depending on the flow of the
I-5 traffic heading north into the city),

when eastern light and shadows race across the

2 and 3 and 4 and 6 lane highway where
a few motorcyclists fly by
hundreds of cars at
55 miles per hour in their own secret lane -

fast things that make slow look slower.

2 passengers are required in the commuter lanes, and I am only
one, driving into Hollywood and thinking about
2 or 3 hours spent on relationship and gallons of
four-and-a-half-dollar gas as traffic

slows the racing day down and makes the light fly up
the backs of the tractor-trailers, unchecked, while

hundreds of drivers – probably
thousands of them – wait their way to work. I dream a poem in
numbers while I wait too, wondering if any
one other has noticed the slowing of time.

by Kelly Sauer, 4/7/2014


En Route – The City of Angels

Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.
― Frank Lloyd Wright

Oh what a fitting reason for me to land in Los Angeles! The perfect restless whimsy in this quote about L.A. is exactly where I am right now, flying cross-country with le bebe and a slew of camera equipment to hang out in the L.A. area with my friends Summer, Carrie, Kelly, Jen, and Laura (if I can get in to visit this busy lady!). I am also planning to visit Richard Photo Lab to FINALLY talk with them in person about my film, I have three Claire Pettibone gowns to photograph, and I have at least two incredible sessions planned, plus a little down time for baby and me (who will still be on Eastern time, OHMYWORD).

en route - the city of angels |

Here is a “Friday Favorites” visual for you to see a bit of my inspiration for all this magic. I had FUN putting this together today while cleaning my computer off to support a whole bunch of new images – I am grateful to people who have given me a little more to see of California than its fabled surfing, palm trees and traffic. I really can’t wait to discover more of this kind of beauty while I am in town!

city of Angels | by dear piper design

P.S. If you can believe it – I still have one or two session openings on Monday and Tuesday – to book one, just drop me a note anywhere (email me, facebook message me, or comment on my Instagram) with your email address! BONUS: If you book for Sunday afternoon or Monday morning, I might just have something super special to add to your session for you!


1.) Jose Villa
2.) Mecuro B Cotto
(sourced via Pinterest)
3.) Amanda Julca
4.) Elizabeth Messina &
Claire Pettibone
5.) Jose Villa
6.) L.A. City Art Print
by Anne E. McGraw

Senior Session – I Dream of Spring

springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

I was *craving* a senior session this year, and this senior whose shoot finalized in less than 24 hours last week was the PERFECT fit for what I’d been craving. Taylor is a dreamer and a horse person, the little girl growing up who never quite lost the romance of being in love with horses, even though she’s been riding since she was a little kid. After two months of shows in Florida, she wanted to put her riding clothes away and show a different side of herself through her photos.

My favorite, favorite part of this shoot was actually catching her smiling from behind my camera. I love to make people laugh when I photograph them, even if I’m putting my foot in my mouth and falling over (and her horse SirRocco actually DID knock me over during our session!). I didn’t know exactly how it was going to feel as we arrived at the farm, bringing an armful of pear blossoms I had foraged on my drive in to Charlotte. I knew I wanted a spring shoot, and the cloudy day wasn’t planning to be obliging by lighting things up. Taylor handed me her clothing options, and we went with a dress she’d never had a chance to wear for a story she is often too shy to tell about herself.

springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography
springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography
springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography
springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography
springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography


Photography & Styling: Kelly Sauer
Styling Assistance: Tracie Stier-Johnson
Location: High Standards Farm
Floral Source: Foraged
Horses: Owned by Client

Wedding Photography Giveaway

Wedding Photography Giveaway| Once Wed

I had a fun post run over the weekend, the kind of post that I have been dying to launch since Exquisitrie went live. To celebrate our rebrand and the wonderfulness that is Exquisitrie (and us getting to work together more officially for weddings), Pete and I are offering ten hours of photography for a 2015 wedding at Once Wed!

To enter, just visit Once Wed for the details (which do, of course, require that you hang out a bit at Exquisitrie so you can tell us your favorite image from our galleries) and leave a comment there with your entry. If you’re a fan of our work, we would love a chance to work with you!


Venue: Goodstone Inn & Restaurant
Set Design & Styling: Rebecca Gallop
Styling Assistant: Tia Stockton
Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Model: Rebekah Pizana
Gown: Ebrada Atelier
Flower Source: Fields of Flowers
Floral Styling: Rebecca Gallop, Kelly Sauer