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Meet Katie Bickerstaff of Katie Bickerstaff Photography in Seal Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katie Bickerstaff.

Katie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I had my first photography class my freshman year of high school in a black and white film class. I was an outgoing and athletic kid, and I loved connecting with people.

Photography quickly became something I excelled at, particularly portraiture, because it gave me the ability to showcase the love I had for my friends and family through my eyes. I loved seeing people’s reactions when they would see the photos I would take of them, and being so excited hearing that they loved the way I captured them. I’ve always believed that the better you can get to know someone and their circumstances, the more you grow as a person. Photography has always been the perfect way to expand my horizons and see the world as others see it.

I went on to study photography at California State University, Sacramento, where I spent a year and a half of my college career. After a year and a half there, I transferred to California State University, Long Beach to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Photography. The art program at Long Beach State gave me a multitude of perspectives and opened my eyes to the art world. Through practicing other art techniques and studying some world renown portrait photographers, I continued to grow my skills with portraiture. I learned how I could use lighting, set design, and different camera techniques to continue achieving my ultimate goal: showing my subjects in the most genuine way possible. I assisted a ton of different photographers in college as well which gave me incredible field experience and connections. I knew then that in order to get where I wanted to be in my career, I would need to kill it at every shoot I ever assisted with in order to make sure that those people remembered me, and would recommend me to others.

My love of sports has always factored into my photography, in fact I created a series of athlete portraits my senior year of college. Doing that project inspired a goal I saw for myself in the future, to be an editorial portrait photographer for the best athletes in the world, like Mike Trout, Kobe Bryant, Serena Williams, you name it. I graduated from Long Beach State in December of 2015, and have been working as a portrait photographer for individuals, couples, and families ever since. I truly have the kindest clients ever; I consider my clients my family.

In 2016 and this year as well, some of my dreams came true. After lots of hard work and obtaining great connections through my awesome clients, I’ve had the honor of photographing some incredible celebrity athletes: Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade, Caroline Wozniacki, Sam Querrey, and the Great One, WAYNE GRETZKY. I’ve also had the pleasure of photographing other celebrities as well, including John Stamos, Josh Peck, Annie Lennox, and Katy Perry. This year, I’ve also been photographing lifestyle and studio content for some awesome clothing brands in LA and Orange County such as EEZY Supplies, Freewaters Footwear, and Stevie Sister. Working with these brands has further increased my photography skills as well as lead me to connecting with even more great people.

I’m stoked about the success I’ve had so far, but I’m well aware that this career will continue to be a grind. However, nothing excites me more than the adventure that will continue to come with being a photographer. I love what I do, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for my career.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
There have definitely been obstacles along the way. As all photographers know, this career has its slow months, and those months can be hard as a freelancer. I’ve worked numerous jobs while continuing to grow my own business in order get the bills paid. I’ve even had all of my gear stolen out of my car, right outside of my apartment. By the grace of God, my insurance company paid for the equipment that was stolen. It was the biggest blessing I think I’ve ever received as a starving photographer.

This year in particular, I’ve been solely freelance since February. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve been able to make a living off of my freelance work since then. For example, I put up flyers at all of the college campuses in Orange County and LA during graduation season, offering a discount for interested clients during that time. I got more calls to do photo shoots than I ever expected and once the word was out, I started obtaining work through client referrals as well as my professional Instagram and Facebook accounts… I had anywhere form 3-5 shoots every week during that time. I was amazed at how little I had to spend marketing myself in order to obtain work.

I know that the road ahead will never be perfectly smooth, but I also know that I will do whatever it takes to have as much work as possible year-round. That’s what being a successful freelance photographer is all about.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
At Katie Bickerstaff Photography, I specialize in family, engagement, and individual portraiture. I also do event photography, as well as create and edit lifestyle brand content for social media and web usage.

I’m most proud that I’ve been able to build a large clientele starting at just 18 years old, and that I’ve been able to grow my celebrity athlete clientele as a one man show. I’m also very proud that I’m able to cover a wide range of markets in the photography world, while still maintaining my passion for portraiture through my work.

I believe that what sets me apart from other photographers is my ability to get to know my clients on a personal level, thus understanding what their exact goals are for their shoot. Everybody is different in the most beautiful way, and when I tell someone that I’m going to do my absolute best to give them what they want, I mean it. I feel that the best way to do that is to get to know my clients as best I can. If a client tells me that they’re nervous about being photographed, sometimes we’ll get coffee or lunch the day before so we can get to know each other better, and to ensure that they are as comfortable as possible once it is time for their shoot.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was a happy and curious kid. It was my parents, my brother, and I in my house, and there were always lots of people in and out of my house between my brother’s friends and mine. I’ve always been fun-loving, a little loud, and compassionate, but was never afraid to express my opinion.

We lived in a tight knit community in Los Alamitos, California, so I was blessed to have a lot of people around me supporting me. Many of the friends I have today have been friends of mine since I was 5 years old. I’ve always loved living in a small town.

Sports were always a part of my life as well, and I loved being in a competitive atmosphere. I started playing volleyball when I was 12 and went on to play competitively in high school. I started falling in love with writing, music, and art in middle school, and then found my love for photography my freshman year of high school. While I loved playing volleyball and considered playing competitively in college, I knew that pursuing photography would be the right path for me. It fit my personality well.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Personal Photo: Jennifer Oh
Photos: Katie Bickerstaff Photography

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Ellen Shapiro

    July 3, 2017 at 22:20

    Congratulations!!! Your talent speaks volumes!!!! Exciting to see young people such as yourself pursuing your passion!!!! Mazel tov and many years of success to you always!!!!!!

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