Retouchup Blog

May ’21 – Week 2 – An Interview with Kira Derryberry

Kira Derryberry

We are thrilled that we had the chance to interview Kira Derryberry! Kira, along with the amazing Mary Fisk-Taylor, put out the The Get Your Shoot Together Photography Podcast. Kira also serves as on PPA’s Board of Directors and opened up about what the pandemic has been like for her, and also how she continues to push herself so she doesn’t grow complacent. The full audio and transcript of the interview are below. 


Full interview audio:


Links to websites and resources mentioned:

Get Your Shoot Together Photography Podcast –

Professional Photographers of America (PPA) –

Kira’s Instagram – @Shekira


Full Transcript: 

Trevor: Welcome to RetouchUp’s interview series where we get to hear from some very talented photographers and how they turned their photography business into a success. My name is Trevor Black and I’ll be your host. We’re super excited to have the chance to speak with the very lovely Kira Derryberry. Kira is originally from Huntsville, Alabama, but Tallahassee, Florida has been her home for 16 years where she enjoys music, travel, and watching shows like Ted lasso, Doom Patrol, Lovecraft Country, and Community. As a Tallahassee based photographer, Kira focuses on family and commercial portraiture. She has spent the last 11 years of her career creating beautiful portraits all over the Southeast, as well as sharing her knowledge with thousands of photographers across the country. Kira is a proud member of Professional Photographers of America and has earned Master Photographer, Master Craftsman and Certified Professional Photographer. Kira is an approved judge for International Photographic Competition, and serves as Treasurer for PPA’s Board of Directors. Kira is also cohost of the Get Your Shoot Together Photography Podcast alongside fellow photographer and friend Mary Fisk-Taylor. When not slinging a camera or volunteering for her favorite photography organizations, Kira is a wife and a mom who publicly loves karaoke jams and bad science fiction. Kira, welcome and thanks for joining me!

Kira: Yeah. Yeah, thanks for having me, very excited to be here.

Trevor: Oh, absolutely. Well, first I have to ask something that’s just slightly off topic, but it does come from your Get Your Shoot Together podcast. I was listening to some of them and I haven’t made it too far in, so maybe you do answer this later on, but since bumping into him, have you had another encounter with Woody Harrelson? And if so, did he remember that you were the one who touched his arm at the airport?

Kira: I have not. Well, you know, probably because we haven’t been traveling very much, but no, I have not run into Woody again, since our encounter at the Atlanta airport, that one time.

Trevor: Gotcha. Okay. I thought that was super neat though. I was like, I’ve never bumped into anyone nearly that famous. I was like, that’s super fun. Awesome.

Kira: He was super nice.

Trevor: That’s really cool. Well, man, so as I was kind of going through some of your bio and learning that you’ve been doing, professional photography really for like 11 years, but beyond that, you’ve been taking photos for 25 years. I was curious, at what point did you realize, you know, I want to make this thing, like, a business and just kind of go for it and become a professional?

Kira: Yeah. I, I, since I was in high school, we had a, we had a photography program and my high school was really lucky, we had a dark room. And I took photography for three years of the four years I was in high school and I decided then that I wanted to be a photographer when I grew up. I didn’t even, you use the word business, I had no idea how to do that part of it, like how to do, how to have a photography business, but I knew I wanted to be a photographer when I grew up. So, um, so the decision was made then, and then, that was ended up being my major in college and I did a lot of fun art pieces and learning the craft of it. I did not learn a whole lot about business, during that time. So, so yeah, the decision was made then, but it didn’t actually happen for a little ways after college.

Trevor: Gotcha. Okay. So majored in it. Fantastic. And then at what point though, did you, did you realize, oh man, I should, I should probably learn the business side and then what did you do in order to learn it?

Kira: So, when I got out of college and I shot a couple of, a couple of weddings for, for friends and cause you know, out of college, that’s about the time people are starting to pair off. And, so I shot a couple of weddings and I really didn’t enjoy that aspect of it. I didn’t enjoy shooting weddings and I didn’t really know how to charge for it. You know, I’d never really thought about how to actually exchange money for, for photography. And that’s not something we even talked about in school, you know? So, I kind of was frustrated with that cause I didn’t know where to go, where to start and I didn’t have resources available to me that I knew about at the time. So I ended up falling back on, on my other, uh, craft that I did, which was web design, I was also working as a web designer in college. And so I got a job at an advertising agency out of college and I was a web designer for five years. So it wasn’t until, yeah. And then, then the housing market crash happened and the company I was working for severely cut back. And so I was moved to part time. And at that point I had a little girl, um, you know, our daughter, Lucy was probably one and a half years old then. And, and so I said, I thought to myself, well, I guess, I guess I should actually try to be a professional photographer since my actual job has gone in the tank. So, it was about that time I started really doing research to find some resources to help me get the business side of things off the ground.

Trevor: Oh wow. Okay. That’s crazy. Yeah. That, I mean the whole housing market yeah. That I’m sure that messed up a lot of people. So then at that point you were like, man, I got to figure out kind of a more of a backup plan, let’s take this photography thing to the next business. Is that, is that kind of right?

Kira: Yeah. Yeah. It was kind of like I spent all this time and money learning how to be a photographer, I should probably go back to what I originally set out to do. So, so yeah. So that’s, that’s about the time I discovered PPA – Professional Photographers of America. Yeah and I also, so they had some great resources and then I also took some workshops, on the business side of things from some photographers I looked up to and, and kind of got the ball rolling around that time.

Trevor: That’s super cool. And so at what point did you kind of think to yourself, hey, I’m, I’m a successful photographer, like I’m making this thing work!

Kira: Yeah, I, that’s a funny question cause I don’t know. I think, I think because as an entrepreneur, and as a creative, you, I questioned that all the time. You know what I mean? Like, so, so I definitively yes, I have a successful business. I am making a full-time living as a photographer and that has been going on now for probably nine or almost 10 of the 11 years that I’ve been actively working as a professional, but it, I’m always doing check, self checks on where that is. And I always experience doubt about whether or not this is moving in a direction that I would consider to be successful. But you know, currently, we’re, we’re on an uptick. We’re feeling good about it.

Trevor: That’s awesome. No, absolutely. That’s awesome. I mean, especially with just this whole last year of COVID rocking our world, it’s been absolutely insane turning everything upside down and on its head. So, I mean, what has been one of your biggest challenges this last year and how have you, you know, been able to overcome some of these, these new fields that we’re having to maneuver in?

Kira: Yeah, so, so I mean last year was challenging for everyone. I don’t know, I don’t know who didn’t find it challenging. But, you know, and, and photographers especially experience such a downfall really because, you know, we photograph people, we need to be around people, you know, I mean, even something as simple as you’re photographing a, a headshot or you’re photographing a family and you need to get in there and just adjust someone’s hair or, you know, kind of help them with the pose or, or straighten out a jacket. And you’re worried that they don’t want you in their space because, or, or that you don’t want to be in their space because of, because of COVID and how uncertain we were about it, especially early on. So, I have, I have made a lot of modifications in the studio for how we interact with people and, the, the kind of questions that we ask before and after, such as, you know, one, we always ask the clients if they, if they’ve had a fever or been diagnosed with COVID or, you know, very often, you know, this same kind of stuff that I sort of experienced when I went to the dentist, they had a checklist that we had to follow. So we always ask. Also for my corporate sessions and for group sessions, we’ve made a lot of modifications, including offering the ability to photograph the groups individually as individuals, and then, you know, put them together in post into a group photo that has been very popular with my corporate clients.

Trevor: Interesting, ok.

Kira: So, so that’s a service that kind of, I could do before. I never really pushed it, you know, but you know, prior to 2020, but during 2020, I discovered that I could offer it and it was, a lot of my corporate clients were putting big group shoots and headshot shoots on hold because they were worried they couldn’t be photographed together for their team photo, you know? So that was an adjustment that we made. Other than that, you know, family sessions, I’m just taking, I’m just being extra careful. We’re cleaning, we’re spacing out our sessions appropriately so that we have time to reset and just trying to be as careful as we can.

Trevor: Absolutely. Are you like kind of marketing yourself as like, hey, we do all this cleaning, like we’re, when you’re kind of marketing to the families and stuff or not so much?

Kira: You know, no. I’m, I mean the only, the only time I’ve, I’ve maybe used it in marketing is for, I did market the corporate sessions for socially distance group photos. We, we utilize that phrase to really explain that corporate group team photo, and what the plan was for it. We did several behind the scenes videos, showing people being photographed individually and then being put together and so they could really see that. Um, so, so in that sense, yes, I use the, I use the phrase socially distanted group photos, so that people understood it and could still think about it. But outside of that, I’m not really posting, you know, that kind of information. I do send that information out via email when we’re, when we’re having our back and forth. And of course over the phone, if anyone asks.

Trevor: No, that makes perfect sense. I mean, cause I it’s, it’s fun for other people to kind of hear what other photographers are doing, you know, what’s working, what’s not, so I mean this whole group thing with corporate where you’re taking pictures, clipping them out, putting them all together, I mean, who would’ve thought right, that that would have been such a big service?

Kira: Yeah! Yeah. I mean, you know, I, before and you know, it was this year that I really perfected that because before I, you know, it’s not something I, I pushed people to do because logistically it was just easier to photograph people all together. I mean, it just is, you know, but once I kind of built a system out for the best way to do that and to do it in a way where I’m not going to be bottlenecking, trying to get that retouching done, you know, that is, that, now it’s, now I’m not afraid anymore, you know. It’s easy to market.

Trevor: That’s great. And it’s, it’s interesting because another thing that I learned about you is that during COVID, I mean, obviously there’s, there was a lot more downtime that people had to either, you know, get better at their craft, work on other projects, and one project that you had worked on was called Stay At Home Photography Series, is that right?

Kira: Yeah! Yeah. That was when we were totally shut down. In Florida, we shut down probably like end of March and then most of April of last year. So it was about, it was about six weeks it feels like that we, that I wasn’t taking any appointments.

Trevor: Gotcha. Okay. And so then you, you kind of had this idea for the Stay At Home Photography Series, and could you talk to me a little bit about what that was and like, where that idea came from and is this also something that you’re continuing to keep up?

Kira: Yeah, yeah. So, so, um, you know, we’re spending a lot of time at home and I was spending, getting to spend a lot of really nice time with my daughter. And, and fortunately it was such a nice time of year if we were going to have to be stuck home here in Florida, it’s a great time to, to be outside. You know, I, wasn’t doing a lot of family sessions, but I was also thinking about, for myself, how this is such an important and memorable time in history and it needed to be documented. And I was thinking about all the sessions that I wasn’t documenting for people. Um, and I was photographing my daughter a lot and I wasn’t taking out my big camera to do it very much. I was mainly using my phone to do stuff as we were playing outside and doing different stuff. And so I thought because clients, family clients weren’t um, you know, coming and scheduling their family sessions, I thought it was still an important time to make sure that they were documenting their kids during this time, just for history’s sake, and so that we didn’t miss it because of COVID. And, cause you know, I have families that get photographed, you know, annually or sometimes twice a year. And if they’re missing that, then they’re missing a very important year. I mean, you know what I mean? So, we, uh, so that’s, that’s kind of how it was born is I wanted people to, to be able to make sure that they weren’t missing out on photographing their kids. From a marketing standpoint though, you know, when you’re not working and when you’re not shooting new work, as a photographer, it’s, it’s really, you know, it’s hard to advertise, especially when you don’t know if you’re going to be able to book anything or when you’re going to be able to book anything, right? So, from a marketing standpoint, I was also doing it to, to remain top of mind, you know, to have a marketing piece where I could still show that, you know, photography that I was working on and I could have interactions with my clients. You know, so I had clients tagging me on Facebook, I was assigning projects, and doing little how-tos with their phone. And then I had people tagging me once they would do those projects. And so it was a way to interact with people, my clients in Tallahassee, and remain relevant so that when we were able to come back, um, they had forgotten about me.

Trevor: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s absolutely brilliant cause yeah, like you said, keeping, you know, on top of their mind while at the same time showing them, these parents, how to take some cool pictures of their kids with the tutorials that you made. So you did all that in-house yourself?

Kira: Yeah, with my daughter, you know, and you know, we talk about the tutorials, they were, I mean, you know, they’re still all up on my website at if anyone wants to check it out, but it was just, you know, using window light and using outdoor light, natural light and using phones. So it wasn’t incredibly dynamic photography. It was really just more to document kids during that time and make it easy so that they could do it, but it certainly didn’t replace the quality or the expertise of the photography that I can provide.

Trevor: Sure, sure. No, that’s super awesome. Great way to connect with people, I feel like. And so this, this is interesting because I think this kind of leads into something else I wanted to ask. Cause I was, you know, with, with someone who is very accomplished in your field, I want to know what are you doing to push yourself to greater heights to, to, you know, to keep pushing yourself, make sure you’re not just kind of coasting along. And this sounds like one thing that you’re definitely doing to, to, to push yourself, are there other things that you’re doing to stay on top of your game and just keep going, pushing yourself?

Kira: Yeah, so I, you know, I kind of feel like complacency is death when it comes to professional photography, you know. It, it was very hard for me to develop a look in a, in a field for the type of work that I do consistently with my corporate clients and with my family clients, because I always like to experiment with lighting and change things up and move things around. And that wasn’t very efficient in the studio. So I had to, I had to really pare things down so that I was shooting consistently, my specific brand and style of work. What that created, that creates is it, it kind of stopped me from playing around with lights, the way that I like to. So I typically like to shoot personal projects that have no end game and no client to please and no money to exchange, so that I can try something new, so that I can learn how to do that in the future for something. So I’ll give you an example. I, you know, I, I worked with studio lighting for quite some time. I know how to work with gel. But it’s not something that I would consider myself super proficient with, you know, as far as using gel for all kinds of different purposes. So I, you know, I watched some videos from Imaging USA this year and this one photographer, who I know named Jeff Carpenter, he was doing some creative gel lighting tutorial for an imaging class, and I watched that. And then I just did some personal projects, you know, using his techniques, that he showed in the thing. And then, a few weeks later I had a commercial client, a magazine client, contact me and they had a woman they were featuring in the magazine, who is this a personal trainer, and they wanted to do something really active and cool with her. So because I had done this personal project, I was in and I was like, oh, I can actually, now I know how to do that. I’m not going to be experimenting on a client or something. I, I was like, I have this great idea. I’m going to do this like rainbow shadow gel shoot with the girl. So she was jumping in the air and I was able to capture her using the gel lighting and like create rainbow shadows onto a white background. That is something I never tried before, and I just played around with it for my own personal growth after Imaging this year. And now I’m actually, you know, being paid to use that technique and I have this new tool in my bag, so I’m a big fan of, of finding something I don’t know how to do when I’m feeling a little bit, uh, bored, I guess, bored is the right word. And experimenting with that so that I can kind of acquire that skill. I like to level up in that way.

Trevor: That’s super awesome, way to go. And like, for me, I’m not too familiar with what gels are, is this like some kind of filter you’re putting over a light then?

Kira: So it’s like creating colored light. So it’s a little, it’s a little cellophane or, or, I, I, I’m going to butcher what they’re made out of, but they’re just little pieces of clear paper-ish and they’re colored and you put it over the light and it turns the light that color.

Trevor: Gotcha.

Kira: So, you know, you saw, there, there’s lots of creative ways to use gels. There’s, you know, you can gel your backgrounds to make the background a different color. You can do all your subjects to create different moods. You’d be familiar with the outcome of it if you saw the images made with it. Anytime you see colored lights used, that’s typically somebody who has used a colored gel over the light, and, and, shot the client with it.

Trevor: That’s super interesting. Cool. I’ll have to look into that. I mean, I love learning, so I appreciate that. And then, I mean, you’ve mentioned some of the resources that you’re using like PPA and how they have these great resources online for photographers and what, you know, to help them, um, continue to improve in their craft. What other resources would you recommend that photographers use or maybe look into that have been helpful to you on a daily, weekly, monthly basis?

Kira: Well, you know, number, number one resource is, is PPA. Not just for tutorials, because they have a huge library that’s available to all members or for tutorials on how to do just about any type of shooting, any type of, any type of question you might have there is a video about it on PPA’s website. But they also have business resources. So when I need a contract, or a commercial model release, or a copyright release of some kind, or, you know what I mean, PPA has these templates available so that you can, you know, get the language that you need and, and brand it for yourself and use it. They have tons of business resources to get you set up the right way. They have resources that you can check on what your overhead needs, or how much money you actually need to make so that you can cover your overhead, you know, so that you know how to charge appropriately. So on the business side of things, in addition to the, you know, tutorials and stuff, PPA has wonderful resources. On the, on the other side of things, I found YouTube to be a wonderful resource. You know, there’s been a lot of times where I, I just wanted to learn a new retouching technique or something like that, or, or just learn how to do something with my cameras that I don’t know how to do, and I find YouTube, there are so many great content creators on YouTube that, that put out videos that show you how to do just about everything.

Trevor: I agree. I think, maybe with a couple more hours, I will have earned my bachelor’s in the, from the YouTube of university, University of YouTube. I can’t say it right.

Kira: I know right?

Trevor: It’s phenomenal. They need to start giving those out. I think that would be a hit. Well, man, we, we appreciate your time and want to respect it. And so just, just to wrap things up, couple of last questions here. What, what has been your proudest moment as a photographer up to this point? This is, this is something I find so interesting to learn from and hear.

Kira: As a photographer. Hmm. I, you know, a few years ago, probably four years ago, maybe, I got a email from the editor of Professional Photographer Magazine, and she told me that one of my images that I had put into the international photographic competition had been selected to be the cover of the magazine.

Trevor: Wow.

Kira: And, and that was such a big, I never had a cover in a, in a peer-driven magazine. You know what I mean? Like this was, you know, Professional Photographer Magazine is for photographers. I’ve had covers for client work for, you know, like Tallahassee Woman Magazine things like that, but it’s a peer-driven magazine. So that, that feels so, so great, you know? And then the other thing about it was is that the subject that, that was in the photo was my brother, is my brother. And, so not only is it I get to get a cover, but it’s of my brother. So I was, I was very proud on multiple levels of that. And, and, uh, yeah, that, that would be it probably

Trevor: Fantastic. That’s super cool! Your brother. Yeah. What are the chances, you know, that’s awesome to learn about. And then, you know, just lastly, if people are interested in connecting with you, Kira, what would be the best way for them to do so?

Kira: So I am very active on Instagram, so they can follow me on Instagram @Shekira, and that is spelled S H E K I R A and you can follow me there. And I do a lot of behind the scenes posting. I do, I post a lot of my new work and I try to get on Instagram stories as much as possible to share what I can about the shoots that I’m doing.

Trevor: Awesome. Best way. That’s great. And then, yeah, lastly, just, Hey, if you are listening to this, go and check out Get Your Shoot Together for the photography podcast. It’s awesome. And no, Kira isn’t paying me to say this. I legitly think that. Okay. It’s awesome. Go check it out. Is there anything that you would want to say about the, get your shoot together podcast?

Kira: Oh gosh, we’ve been doing the podcast now for a couple of years. Me and my friend, Mary Fisk-Taylor. Mary’s also on the board with me at PPA, she’s the current president. We, our podcast has really developed itself into a photographer business podcast. So, you know, if you are looking for advice and tips regarding the business of photography or just photographer life, you know, so you feel like you have friends who, can commiserate with you. We, that’s what we do every single week and they can check it out at

Trevor: Fantastic. Kira, you’re amazing. Thank you so, so much for your time. This has been great. We look forward to hearing comments from other people and continuing to follow you and see how big you’re gonna, you know, be in the industry and continue to listen to the Get Your Shoot Together podcast. It’s a lot of fun.

Kira: Oh, well, thank you so much for having me. It’s been great.

Trevor: Thanks so much Kira, you have a great day!

Kira: All right, you too!

Trevor: Thanks so much. Bye-bye.

Kira: Bye-bye.