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Daily Inspiration: Meet Michelle Schmidt

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Schmidt.

Hi Michelle, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
Hey there! My name is Michelle and I grew up in a little white house on the other side of the world. No, really. I guess, officially, I’m called a TCK – Third Culture Kid. I was born and raised in the tropics of Indonesia, moved to the snowy mountains of Colorado, went back to Indonesia for high school, flew to Texas for college, then finally settled in Lawrence, KS to marry my best friend Evan back in August 2019.

My dad bought me my first DSLR in middle school, but I’ve taken photos long before that. Whenever I could get my hands on any cell phone (my mom’s, dad’s, cousin’s, you name it) – I was always taking what seems to be a billion photos of everything, but most people and food.

I loved the ability to capture fleeting moments, and I was hooked on photography long before I knew it could be a career. It was an amazing creative outlet that allowed me to slow down, connect, and create! Photography allowed me to relish moments throughout all the different moves in my life. While moving was not always easy, photographs became a sweet constant, a gentle reminder that beauty and depth exist in new places and old memories.

When I started college in 2015, I started taking photography more seriously. I watched every Youtube video there was on techniques, I taught myself how to shoot fully manual, and I saved nickels and dimes to buy new lenses when my friends bought trendy Kendra Scott necklaces. But it was worth it. On weekends, I would ask my friends to go to a field of bluebonnets and take photos. Then slowly, people started reaching out to me – I was shocked!

My first thoughts were “wait, people actually want to pay me to do something I love??” So I started doing senior photos, then one after another, I started doing family photos, lifestyle photos, and finally – a dream come true: weddings.

Even now as I’ve established this as a career and photographed countless weddings and personal sessions, I am always so humbled when someone reaches out and invites me to be part of their story.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
You know, it was a difficult road getting here, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Growing up in a third-world country, my family didn’t have a ton of money. So anything we wanted to do or have, we had to work hard for it.

These days, I’m blessed to say that I get to own a growing food blog and photography business. But it wasn’t always that way.

In my spare time all through school, I worked part-time to save money (and at $7.50 an hour!) so I can help my parents pay rent, buy (used) camera equipment, batteries, laptop, my first domain, website hosting, and a Lightroom subscription. I Google’d everything, from ‘how to build a website from scratch to ‘tips on editing photos’ because I didn’t have the luxury of hiring someone to do it or teach me privately. On weekends, I would volunteer at non-profit organizations to help photograph events to give back and at the same time, get practice photographing large events.

At times, I found myself exhausted physically, but also so incredibly excited because I was doing exactly what I loved! But man oh man did I make a lot of mistakes too in the process in those early days. But you know, looking back at that time in my life, I can honestly say allowing myself to make those mistakes (like that one time a seller on eBay sent me a fake Canon lens in high school!), allowed me to learn about running my business, grow in my skills as a photographer and business owner, and become better and better in who I am and what I do every day. The key was learning to use mistakes as platforms to learn from.

My parents were entrepreneurs, so I learned a lot from them about hard work ethic, creative problem solving, and grit. I’ve grown so much as a person because I had to work to make my dreams happen – and I’m glad that I allowed myself the space to make mistakes and learn from them so I can actually be good at it! And that kind of character-building and growth is priceless!

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Most people in the Lawrence and KCMO area know me as a professional photographer specializing in weddings and family portraits. In my work, I bring a delicate balance between modern photography and photojournalism, which means that you get both the classic, frame-worthy photos, but also snapshots of the in-between, unposed, raw moments too (my absolute favorite!)

People say my “superpower” is being able to make anyone feel at ease and comfortable – even when it’s their first-ever photoshoot (which happens more often than you think!)

When a client works with me, they’re not just hiring a photographer – they also get a bonus friend!

Now, a lesser-known fact about me is that I’m also a recipe developer, food blogger, and product photographer! Through my blog ‘DWELL’, I share vibrant recipes from my kitchen with over 60,000 monthly readers. Being in the kitchen is my second-favorite thing after photography.

Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with both local restaurants here in town and national well-known brands (like Doordash, Buitoni, Avon, Annie’s Homegrown, Kettle & Fire, Epic Snacks, SmartSweets, and so much more). While the details of each project vary, the main goal for each of these partnerships is to help them capture their brands and product offerings through photography in a way that is authentic and relatable. And happy clients make happy me!

Where do you see things going in the next 5-10 years?
Personally, I think we’ll be seeing lots of shifts in the photography industry in the next few years. I think that with the advancement in technology of smartphone cameras, the photography industry will shift to offer a more boutique experience. It won’t be enough to offer a beautiful product, it has to be the whole client experience from planning all the way to post-production – and honestly, I’m all about that!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Michelle Laviona Photography

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