Scarborough photographer Charity Smith’s career developed after playing second fiddle at a few weddings. 

Q: Where did you get your start in photography?

A: It was always a hobby for me. My friends saw my work and encouraged me to (pursue it professionally). I started out as a back-up photographer at the weddings of a few friends who had received the services of another photographer as a wedding gift but wanted me to also shoot their wedding. I posted the work on Facebook and got a lot of favorable responses from people who really liked what they saw. That was in July of 2008 and things have gotten really busy since then. 

Q: What are the biggest factors in securing a good photo?

A: Weather and lighting. I don’t have a studio. So, most of the work is shot outdoors, like at the beach, at someone’s home or the site of an event. So weather can be a challenge. But lighting is the biggest factor in taking a good photo. I’m always considering the best lighting and angles when I’m shooting. 

Q: Do you shoot with film or digital photography?

A: I solely use digital photography. You can get some really amazing images using film but I’ve heard some of the horror stories of photographers who did not properly load film in their cameras when shooting a wedding — only to find out later that none of the images came out. 

Q: What kinds of photo sessions do you do?

A: Weddings, family and senior portraits are the biggest portion of my work. And I’ve also done children’s and infant photography, which is fun. It can be more challenging but it gives back to much. Children are so innocent and natural. You are not getting a posed finished product. I’ve also done some pet photography and business photography. But, probably, my favorite is maternity photography. 

Q: Maternity photography? When I was pregnant, 30 years ago, we hid to avoid the camera lens.

A: Yeah. (Professional photography sessions) wasn’t something traditionally done in the past. But there is something really beautiful about capturing the image of a pregnant woman. It’s a special moment for the mother — to look back and remember one of the most important times of her life. So, to capture that in an artistic way is very special. 

Q: What sets your images apart?

A: Hmm … that’s challenging to define. I guess I’m more of a candid photographer. For instance, if I’m shooting a wedding, I’m always looking around to capture the most exciting things going on rather than taking traditional poses. I try to be invisible, to get the most candid and personal shots — those natural and intimate moments between the couple, the wedding party or the guests. I don’t go around saying, “look over here” or “smile.” My biggest compliment comes when my customers see the work later and say, “I didn’t even know you where there.” 

Q: What advice do you give clients on taking that perfect shot?

A: Be natural. And, for intimate shoots, like an engagement shot, I tell the couple to focus on each other, talk and have fun because that’s going to really come across in the photos. I encourage them to get creative and bring along props, like signs that read “In Love” or items special to their relationship — tokens like movie stubs from their first date. It’s the same thing at weddings. I like to go off with couples and have them play it up for those lighthearted, intimate shots. The day is all about them and I want that to show. 

Q: Is the work done via hourly fee or package deal?

A: Most of it is by hourly rate, like for the senior or family portraits. But I offer package deals for weddings and also a la carte options. All the sessions come with a CD of high-resolution images. After the shoot, I edit to keep the best photos. Those all come with a release form so customers can copy the images themselves with no copyright problems. 

Q: Can they also order photo prints from you?

A: Yes. I have a private section set up for clients on my website to make the images available. Clients can view and order their images directly from there if they want. It’s private and password protected. I work with a company that does a beautiful job with image color and sizing. I usually have the images back within a week or two. For wedding packages, I work with a business that prints the photos onto pages that are made of a canvas-like material. The pages are then hand-sewn into a binding. The albums take about six weeks to make, are one of a kind and not cheap but they look amazing. 

Q: Do you also take Christmas and holiday portraits?

A: I do but I don’t process the images on Christmas cards. The customers get their CD of images and do that themselves. 

Q: Do you charge for mileage?

A: I do charge a travel fee for jobs outside a 25-mile radius (of Scarborough). For extreme distances, like for destination weddings, I budget travel expenses, like airfare and hotel accommodations, as part of my overall fee. And, I will go anywhere. 

Q: Where can folks view your work?

A: I have a Facebook photo page where I post constant updates and sneak peeks of my work.