Cover credits: Model Winter Kelly, MUA Fox, Fawn and Fauna – Makeup art by Ruby Randall, Wardrobe Romantic Threads
Winter Kelly is the owner of WinterWolf Studios, a fine-art photography company based out of Cincinnati and Dayton, OH. Having started off in the industry as a model at age fifteen, she quickly realized that her true passion was retouching in a little editing program she found online. For Christmas that year, she asked for her first semi-professional camera. After much experimentation with both the camera and other editing programs, in 2005 she officially formed WinterWolf Studios. WinterWolf is now known for creating fantastical images that provide glimpses of unusual beauty amidst colorful fairytale worlds. Winter is obsessed with corsetry and dramatic wardrobe, and prefers shooting on-location to shooting studio. She is currently thirty years old and living in Ohio with her son and fluffball kitty.
Hi Winter, thank you for taking the time for this interview! Can you tell us a bit about your first steps in photography and how it evolved into WinterWolf Studios?
Hello! Well, I originally wasn’t very interested in photography. When I was fifteen, a modeling agency approached me in a mall and handed me a business card. I immediately got excited and pursued modeling. Very quickly, however, I learned that I was too introverted and sensitive to really enjoy casting calls or runway. But what I did love was opening those modeling photos in my little editing program and learning to retouch them. From there, I decided I wanted to take my own photos so that I’d have more photos to practice editing on. I asked my parents for my first digital camera for Christmas, and began to take self-portraits with it and post them on DeviantART. I loved it!I was obsessed with taking photos. I never expected my little fanbase on there to grow, and when it did, I knew I needed to take my passion and find a way to turn it into something I could do all the time. I met a fellow photographer and we worked together to form WinterWolf Studios. His photographic style was far different than mine, though, and he wasn’t interested in post-processing images, so when he left, I continued on as the sole owner of the company.
Is WinterWolf Studios a life dream come true?
It absolutely is. I honestly find the photography industry to be a bit more difficult to be in now than it was when I first started back in 2004, due to the sheer amount of other talented photographer these days. There’s so many great photos everywhere! Social networking is amazing, but also very time-consuming and hard for me to keep up with at times. But my passion for my art is as big as it ever was.
We often see you in front of the camera as a model. Do you pose for other photographers as well?
I do enjoy expressing myself by modeling for WinterWolf shoots at times. Or, sometimes I’ll have a model booked and they end up having to cancel, and if the wardrobe fits, I’ll fill in as the model. I don’t pose for other photographers anymore though, as I don’t fancy myself as a model in general.
Back to photography, can you give us a short description of the photoshoot process?
It depends on the project! Some shoots the focus is more on the wardrobe, and others it’s more on the model. Sometimes, it’s purely conceptual. But either way, I pick a color scheme pretty early on. Let’s say I’m shooting for a designer and she sends me a beautiful corset. I immediately try to decide if I’m going for a darker, more edgy look, or maybe a prettier, lighter fantasy feel. Once I know what feel I’m going for, I can think about the backdrop and the hair/makeup.
And what about backstage? Do you have a creative team for makeup, hair etc?
I’m the luckiest, because my main make-up and hair artist Ruby Randall is absolutely fantastic about nailing every look. She contributes so much to my shoots with her own input and visions. She isn’t at every single shoot but she is at the majority, and after many years of working together, we can practically read each other’s minds at this point. I can’t reiterate enough how happy I am to get to work with her level of talent. She’s also a wonderful model!
In order to make these fantastic images, there is a lot of work to be done and this includes retouching. Do you enjoy editing the photos and how much effort do you put into it?
As much as I love photography, I love retouching equally as much. I am definitely a fantasy photographer in that I don’t mind some heavy editing at times. I love it when photos look a little like paintings. I try to get my stock images looking the best I can out of camera, but even if I’m loving how they look, I still want to enhance them some in Photoshop.
How can someone book a session with you? Do you also travel to work with clients?
Anybody can book a session with me. I have rates that can be requested through Facebook or e-mail. I do travel for shoots, though as a mother I tend to do so less than I used to.
Do you offer specific packages to clients or can they make requests?
I do have standard packages, but I actually love it when people approach me with their own ideas they’d like to try and I can create a custom package for them.
Most of your photos are shot on-location. Why do you prefer location over studio?
That’s a really good question. I think I admire very clean, simple portraits in studio when other artists do it. But when I do it, I can get easily bored. Many people look to hire me for a fantasy feel, and I accomplish that easier on location.
Is there an outdoor location you particularly prefer to shoot on?
Hmm. I think I gravitate towards shooting in the woods the most. There’s so many different types of looks you can shoot there.
Where do you go for inspiration? Do you have an idol or someone you look up to?
I’m very inspired by gothic and avant-garde wardrobe. Also, I really am obsessed with colors. At random times I can just suddenly think to myself, “I need to do a shoot where everything is white! All white everything, in the white snow!”
Do you have a favorite photoshoot that left you with good memories?
Many years ago I got to meet an author I really admired and do a whole shoot with him. I’m a huge reader and adore books, and this was towards the beginning of my career. I couldn’t believe I got to work with him! I was so nervous. He gave me some signed copies of his book, and I still treasure those memories.
Any other passions besides photography and modeling, hobbies you really enjoy and can’t live without?
My life is kept pretty busy with WinterWolf Studios and my son. When I can find some free time, I love to read and browse the internet for talented artists (of all sorts) that I can admire.
In your photos we enjoy corsetry and dramatic wardrobe. Do you collaborate with shops to make this happen and if yes, are you still open to work with clothing, jewelry and accessories designers?
Collaborating with wardrobe designers is an awesome perk of my job. When I receive a shipment of pretty wardrobe to photograph, I’m giddy. I would love to collaborate with even more in the future.
Do you have any concepts for future shoots that you can’t wait to try out? What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I have a list of concepts I’d like to try saved on my computer! I’m hoping my style will continue to evolve and mature. One of my goals for next year is to get more book covers.
Our interview has come to an end. Thank you so much for your time Winter, it was great chatting with you. What message would you like to leave for your fans and our readers?
Thank you so much for your support of my art! I read every single comment I receive, and appreciate them all.