#UglyLocationChallenge at Little Caesars

The Ugly Location Challenge is a friendly competition going around right now where a photographer picks an ugly or non-traditional location for a photo shoot. It all started several weeks ago but I was out of the country – so I'm a little late to the game but I wanted to share regardless because I am so excited about this challenge! 

I asked my Instagram and Twitter followers where they thought I should shoot, and after a couple close calls between Kroger and Little Caesars, the famous $5 pizza spot finally won. Skylar graciously agreed to be my model and Alex Carter came along to assist and take some behind the scenes videos / photos – which I turned into a vlog on my YouTube channel!

So here you go: my photo shoot in Little Caesars!

We also shot in front of their truck which was surprisingly photogenic! 

What Should I Post on Instagram: For Models

As a model, there are several reasons why you would want a well curated social media presence. Whether you are signed to your dream agency, or still waiting to be discovered; your Instagram feed matters. Here's why.

#1. Agencies are going to look at your Instagram before signing you
#2. Clients are going to look at your Instagram before booking you

That alone should convince you, but if you're still on the fence, here's Lyric Menges with a few more reasons why you should put time and effort into curating quality content for your Instagram (and some tips on how to do so)!  

Meet Lyric. She has years of experience in the modeling industry and is signed in both LA and Dallas. She's a cat lover, letter writer, and hilarious to be around. She was also kind enough to answer some questions about her Instagram experience which you can read below. 

Q: As a model, how important is Instagram for booking work?

A: Unfortunately, Instagram has evolved to becoming a major factor of how much work a model can book. In the largest market in the world, New York, there are certain castings where it is required to have a following of at least 50K to even attend the casting. The fashion market has now adapted to current social conditions and since has had a very large online presence. 

Q: Dang, that's a lot of followers just to ATTEND a casting! In what ways have you noticed Instagram effecting your life and career?

A: To me, Instagram started off as a way to get college recruiters more information about who I was as a person. I used to play volleyball for the national team which grew my following immensely. When I transitioned my life direction towards modeling, the agencies I'm represented by gave me tips on how to market myself via social media. However, I think its very important as a model to represent yourself organically. You hear a lot of people tell you to "look more expensive", "don't post too much about your personal life", or "you need to post everyday". When the reality is, Instagram is a social media platform. I'm proud of the content I post because I know it is a true representation of who I am as both a model and a human being. Clients really seem to like that and I've only had positive feedback. 

Q: With a following of almost 40K, what advice to do you have for aspiring models or models trying to grow their social media following? 

A: If I could give any tips about social media, it would be to be appropriate and unique. You don't have to only post pictures wearing designer labels with your hair and makeup done professionally. Post what your eating, funny pictures of your pets, candid photos of yourself with the people you care about, beautiful scenery you witnessed... anything that showcases who you are and why you are different from every other pretty face. Being appropriate online includes not only being respectful but also aware. Maintaining a positive self image and online presence (that's appropriate for all ages and walks of life) will help you reach a wider variety of clients and will in turn make you more marketable. 

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"[post] anything that showcases who you are and why you are different from every other pretty face." 

I could tell you all day long to find your light, post when the majority of your followers are active, share an equal amount of selfies and professional images. But that real truth is: Be yourself. Post what you like. Share your experiences and get to know your followers. Develop a style that makes you stand out from all the other aspiring models online. Instagram has been the biggest help in growing my business and it can work for models in the same way. 

The bottom line is, it's YOUR social media.  

Stop comparing yourself to others. Embrace who you are and f the rest. 

luhv you guys


How to Find and Work with Signed Models

When I was first starting out as a portrait photographer, I had no idea how to connect with models. I didn't know if you needed to work for an agency, if you needed to be repp'd by an agency, or if you just needed to be friends with the model to shoot with them.. basically I was at a loss.

If you're anything like I was, keep reading. I hope this blog will help new and established photographers alike find and work with more models in their area. 

One thing you should know before reaching out to models:

A lot of the time, you will need to go through the model's agency to set up a shoot. Some models won't respond to photographers (or any creatives for that matter) online, or they will simply respond with their agent's email. Don't let this discourage you – they aren't trying to be rude and it doesn't (necessarily) mean they don't like your work. Many agencies have their models sign a contract saying they aren't allowed to discuss shoots with anyone who hasn't first spoken with their agent. This is for the model's safety!! I promise they aren't just being rude to you. 

If the model has their agent's email address in their bio, just email the agent directly. Tell them you would like to work with "model's full name here" and link to your portfolio. It's as simple as that. Here are a couple examples below from model's who I follow. 

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Safe to say you can DM Lily since her bio specifically says "Dm's Always Open". It doesn't necessarily mean you won't also need to contact her agent, but it could be a good way to get the ball rolling or just introduce yourself. 

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For Katarina, I would jump right into emailing her agent. Her bio specifically says "Bookings:" with her agent's email address. Of course you can follow her or let her know you've inquired about setting up a shoot, but I wouldn't DM her directly. In this case, she would most likely just refer you to her agent – so save yourself both the time and go straight to the email she provided. 

Now that that is out of the way, here's a couple more tips for working with agency signed models. 

Email every agency in your city and surrounding cities.
I'm serious. Every, single, one. 

When I first wanted to shoot with signed models, I emailed every agency I could find in hopes that just one would respond. Because here's the thing – Agents are constantly receiving inquiries from photographers. They're inboxes are full of client emails, modeling inquiries, new model submissions, photographer inquiries, etc. and they don't have time to respond to everything. You have to be willing to be persistent and capable of handling rejection. Don't send one email and then never try again.

I emailed Dragonfly (who I now shoot for on a regular basis) a handful of times before ever hearing back. AND THAT'S TOTALLY OKAY. It didn't mean my portfolio sucked or that they hated me – it just meant they got busy and had more important things to do that day. As a creative, you HAVE to be able to brush yourself off and get back on the horse.

Campbell Agency told me no when I first inquired about working with their models. They told me I needed more tear sheets (aka published work), and to email them again when my portfolio was more established. Guess what? I emailed them again a year later and was approved to shoot with their models. Be persistent! 

Once you've connected with an agency (and you've proved yourself valuable to them) they will begin setting you up with their models. During your slow months, you can email the agent with you're available dates and ask them to do a "push" for you. This means they would send out your open dates to their local models and see if anyone is interested in booking with you. This doesn't always guarantee work, but it's a good way to remind the agency you want to work with them and to keep your name in the model's minds. 

Now.. if you don’t care if the model is signed and you just want to shoot, here are a few ways to find unsigned faces! 

  1. Do a “model call” across your social media platforms and ask people to shoot with you. This is a really simple and easy way to attract aspiring models. If you post your model call on Facebook, ask your friends to share it to help broaden your bubble and reach as many people as possible. I’ve found some amazing talent through model calls and still do them today.
  2. Consistently share high quality work on Instagram. Post only your absolute best images, and the models will find you! Here’s the thing: If you’re always posting quality content, people will start to remember you for that. They will see an image you took, like the style, and want to shoot with you. Depending on what I post, I can see an immediate return – just from posting one photo on Instagram! Work on growing your following, following people who inspire you, engaging with other creatives in your area, and mastering your style. Most people will browse your Instagram before ever viewing your website portfolio, so you really have to wow them. Make them WANT to click your bio link to see more. 
  3. Use Instagram hashtags and location tags to find people in your area! Whether you’re looking for curve models, unique faces, girl-next-door vibes, or something totally different.. scouring hashtags is the way to go. I like to search local hashtags like “#dentoning, #exploredenton, #wddi, #dentontx” over hashtags like “#signedmodel, #dallasmodel, #model, #instamodel”. Searching generic hashtags is going to show you every person all over the world who has used that hashtag. You don’t need the stress in your life of having to look through 3 million #cutegirl photos. Once you’ve found some good hashtags, look through them and try to pick out a few people to DM. Don’t be creepy when you message them. Don’t say things like, “you’re hot, we should shoot”. People aren’t going to feel comfortable responding to that, and it makes the photog community look bad. Don’t make us look bad. 

    When you’re ready to DM people, say something along the lines of, “Hey! My name is Kelly and I'm a photographer in Denton. I am currently building my portfolio and would love to take portraits of you – your style is so cool! Let me know if this is something you’d be down for and we can set it up. Thanks so much!”

Ta-Da! That's it. Keep it short. Keep it sweet. Wait to see if they respond.

Some people may be very photogenic, but hate having their photo taken. So no big deal if they aren’t interested. Remember, you’re just a person, talking to another person. Be yourself and be confident in your work. The pieces will fall into place if you’re consistent and persistent.


Hipcamp Assignment: Girl Scout's Cabin

I planned my latest Hipcamp Assignment around my mom's birthday and we turned it into a full-fledged girl's trip. My mom, sister, and I packed up the car and hit the road for a Girl Scout's Camp in Spicewood, Texas!

The property was just beautiful and I immediately fell in love with how peaceful it was. The cabins sat just a few hundred yards from the Colorado river and we were lucky enough to be the only guests staying those days. We had the entire 400 acres to ourselves! 

And here's the part where you aren't technically supposed to swim..

But seriously, how do you say no to the Colorado River? 


Cooking, swimming, and being immersed in nature


Blowing up the air rafts and fighting on the way home (family, amiright?) 

The next morning we woke up early and started making coffee. One of my favorite things on earth is cooking over an open fire – there's just something about it that is so rewarding. We made coffee, toast, and scrambled eggs in the leftover hamburger grease (mmmm too delicious). 

One of the best parts of the whole trip was eating our breakfast on the rocks looking out over the river. We even saw a porcupine! TRIP. MADE. 

After a very exciting breakfast with our new friend ^^^ we trekked back to the river, this time with our tubes. They were the type that you couldn't blow up with your mouth, so we had to find a gas station to fill them with air and it literally took hours. And like, a thousand quarters. 


I love being a Field Scout for Hipcamp. It leads me to the coolest places and allows me to get outdoors and explore areas I wouldn't typically think to go. It's also free camping.. so that's pretty awesome too ;) 

If you think this looks fun, learn more about it / apply here: 


Sunrise shoots are never a bad idea. 
Especially with a team of dedicated ladies ready to kill it. 

Model: Marie Charlotte Clark
Agency: Meraki Talent
Stylist: Erin Endres
Photographer: Kelly Sparks

Working with a stylist is such an important part of test shoots. Finding a stylist you can trust is even more important, though. 

I love working with Erin (the stylist) because she always brings such fun and brightly colored pieces. Pulling from the recent Zara release, she paired a thick white belt over that gorgeous mustard yellow dress. The fishnets brought the entire outfit together and I loved that it could be a soft or fierce look depending on the pose / attitude. 


Hayley is a talented fashion designer and the owner of HAYRUD – a beautiful online shop showcasing her pieces. I recently found her on Instagram and fell in love with her style. We decided to shoot together last weekend and I'm SO excited about what we got. 

Model: Hayley Rudolph
Clothing: HAYRUD
Location: Dallas Botanical Gardens
Photography: Kelly Sparks

Hayley texted me the day before our shoot saying she had to dye her hair pink for a show. She asked if I'd prefer to reschedule since it was different than I originally expected – LOL girl you're crazy if you think I don't want to shoot a pink haired model! It was such a beautiful pastel pink and look perfect next to the flowers! 

The Dallas Botanical Gardens are one of my favorite places to shoot because of all the versatility and nature – however, it's $16/person + parking + the hour drive – so I don't shoot here often. This month, though, the entry fee is only $1 per person!! I was so happy when I found this out, so you will be seeing more Botanical Garden shoots from me this August ;) 

And finally our last outfit. All blue everything and her dad's vintage jacket? Yes please! 

The scorching heat forced us to take multiple breaks and sit in the shade, which really allowed us to get to know one another. I had so much fun shooting with Hayley – she is so sweet and you should definitely check her out on Instagram! >> @hayleyrudolph <<


McKenna is a model with First Models Houston and I couldn't be more excited to share our shoot with all of you! 

We met at Texas Women's University around 4:00pm and were able to create some stunning images despite this intense summer heat! It was 100º during our shoot but McKenna somehow managed to look flawless until the end (while I become a sweaty mess lolol) 

Model: McKenna Newell
Agency: First Models and Talent Houston
Photography + Styling: Me
Location: TWU Gardens

One of my favorite things about the TWU Gardens is how versatile they are for their size. It's a relatively small garden but it is full of new and exciting photo spots at every turn. 

If you're a photographer around the Denton area, you should definitely go check it out. It's gorgeous around this time of year and makes a great location for any type of shoot! 

Seriously this greenhouse was everything. I loveeee the overgrown flowers. 


Elizabeth is a model with Wallflower Management in Dallas and I am so excited I had the opportunity to work with her. I styled this shoot with simple, carefree clothing to encourage a youthful and playful vibe. I really wanted to focus on Elizabeth's features and show off her natural beauty.

We met at McKinney Square in Dallas on Friday morning. I already knew I wanted to use Bisous Bisous Pâtisserie's porch for the first few shots, but wasn't sure where else I wanted to go in that area. That's one of my favorite parts of shooting in a new place - just walking around aimlessly until I spot good light or a visually appealing background. I also knew that a cute lil' trolley came through that area.. but that's a story for later. 

There was a parking garage next door to Bisous Bisous and the lower deck had surprisingly cool light. I played around with the light from my phone to create some of the shots below and actually really loved the way they turned out! 

Favorite photo everrrr ^^^

After the parking garage, we walked around the shopping center until we found a sidewalk with this cool row of plants that I knew I could mask with.

Masking (or natural masking) is when you take something from the surroundings and cover part of your lens with it. When you take an image in this way, the object you're holding in the foreground blurs and can add interesting textures and visuals to your image. You can use your fingers, leaves, flowers, fabric, part of the model's clothing, etc. Anything your heart desires! 

And back to the trolley I mentioned earlier...

I had seen online that part of the trolley's route was McKinney Ave. where we were shooting, but I had no idea when it would come or where it went for that matter. Elizabeth had just changed into her final look and then, all of the sudden, THE TROLLEY ROLLED UP! 

We ran and hopped on right in the knick of time. What followed was a short ride in which some of my favorite portraits were created. 

Model: Elizabeth Majors
Agency: Wallflower Management + Explosion Model Management
Location: Dallas, Texas
Styling + Photography: Kelly Sparks