family biz




emerging business

Q&A with Monica Kinnaird, founder of Chosenphotography

How did you get started in your chosen field?

I began photography 7 years ago as a seasonal photographer for a nationally known studio. I love to create and enjoyed the “potential” for creativity that studio portraiture offered me.

Why did you choose the name Chosen Photography?

At the time I began to actively pursue professional photography as a career choice, I was divorcing. I remember praying that I was in need of purpose. I wanted to know what it was I was on earth to contribute because up until that point, I had never felt chosen for anything. I was a mother of two. I had responsibilities. However, I wanted more than just to work. I wanted to use any God-given talents I had to give something back.

My youngest child has autism, and I was consistently dissatisfied with the quality of product I received from other studios in his portraits. So, once I began to experience success in photography, especially with regards to special needs children, I knew that was an area where I needed to focus my gift. My experiences in studio with these beautiful children was so rewarding to me. One family in particular opened my eyes to the need for and the impact of what I was doing.

One day I photographed a little girl with cerebral palsy (whose parents had very little confidence we would get anything worthy due to past experience). We were blessed to get an incredible portrait of her, after which her mother and father, who were not dressed for portraits, joined in and made it a family session. When that child’s mother cried tears of joy, I finally felt “ Chosen”…like I had something unique to share with the world.My goal is to use photography in a way that will touch people’s lives. It is more than a career choice. I consider it my life’s purpose.

Monica shared some photographs of one of her most favorite subjects, Erin Ellis, a bright, lovely young woman with cerebral palsy. "Erin has a super personality; we had a great time. She has an interest in fashion and modeling, so when I put the music on she really engaged to the fan blowing her hair and Beyonce singing 'Crazy in Love,' " said Monica. These photographs were taken in Erin's home.

 If there is one thing that Chosen Photography does better than any other studio, what is it?

Seeing the beauty in Creation. Whether in nature, or in an individual. Nature is the focus of my Christian Symbolic line (cards, stationery and prints). All of the work is related to Biblical text. There is so much beauty in this world. The individual character of trees, the way flowers bend and the intricate differences in sunsets from different regions. I find the same beauty in individuals. We are of different cultures and backgrounds and styles…all uniquely beautiful. That is why I do not have a posing guide. There is nothing carbon copy about people so there should be nothing carbon copy about portraits. I love to recognize beauty in a person and focus in on their assets. Their jewelry, hairstyles and clothing are a combination of who they are inside and what they want to present to the world. I try to capture that and produce portraits that reflect a unique human soul.

 What do you like most about the work that you do?

The whole process of photography. Engaging with the client, capturing the moment and delivering the product. Our lives are constantly changing. Families and relationships shift. Children grow, people move away, people pass away. It is important to “document” our loves, our lives and our relationships. We photograph what is important to us. Who and what we want to remember. I consider it a Blessing to be able to create something that a family may cherish and pass down for generations.

What do you consider as some of the milestones of your business?

The major milestones have been when I finally decided to step out on my own to start my own business and also when I relocated to Oregon. Both decisions were liberating and intimidating…and the best decisions I have ever made.

 Being on my own has allowed me creative license and to be freed from time constraints and “typical” rules of what a portrait session should be. If a child needs time to become acquainted with me before we start a session, I have that time. We can blow bubbles and talk and hang out. No one is rushing me to get them out of the door because we are booked every 15 minutes. Chosenphotography is truly about doing whatever I can to get the results that we need.

Relocating to Oregon has been a very positive experience. The public has been receptive to what I have to offer and the business community has been supportive. I connected with the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs (OAME) shortly after I moved here and I can say that was a great milestone for my business. It was been wonderful to meet with an organization that immediately took an interest in helping Chosenphotography take root in Portland. Everyone needs someone to share their vision and take an interest. OAME has been that support system for me.

Click here for the ChosenPhotography website

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What makes an effective business strategy?

Clarify your values: You can't believe the messenger if you don't know what the messenger believes.

Respect for the individual: Respect the dignity and the rights of your employees, customers and business partners

Uncompromising integrity: Honor your commitments and obligations.

Customer service: Give the best and most responsive customer service of any company in the world

Excellence: Pursue all tasks with the objective of accomplishing them in a superior way.

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