Meaghan Kent is now an established local, full-time lifestyle photographer, six years after getting into photography as a hobby.
Originally, she took photos as a way of improving her travel blog, The North Junction.
“I had strong, written posts that were performing well online and getting great exposure, but I didn’t have strong, powerful photos to match the writing,” Kent told Sault This Week.
“So after I bought my first DSLR in 2015, I turned to YouTube to learn how to use that camera. By July of 2016, I launched Meaghan Kent Photography because my then full-time job was falling on uncertain times and I needed a backup in case I lost my job.”
Kent says she doesn’t think she was really ready to be a paid photographer, but she thought if she booked 10 photo shoots in her first year, it would be a success.
“I booked 99,” she said. “And word of mouth about me being a new photographer just kept spreading, and business just kept getting better and better.”
Although Kent does some landscape photography, she is primarily a lifestyle photographer, focusing on newborns, weddings, maternity, and family shoots. She said her favourites are newborn, maternity, and engagement photo sessions.
“I say I have the best job because I get to snuggle newborns and get paid for it,” she said.
Since getting started in the field, Kent has purchased a lot of equipment, and is always buying more. She said she always has two professional-level Canon cameras and at least four professional-grade lenses on the go. She has also spent a lot of money for her studio, including on lighting.
“The other big purchase – which may actually be more than my camera equipment – is my props,” said Kent. “I’m a bit of a prop addict and have a lot of props for studio photography. Being a newborn photographer and working with infants often entails the purchasing of a lot of props to safely secure babies for photos.”
Kent also recently announced what she has dubbed The Wardrobe, a specially curated assortment of high-end, high fashion dresses especially for maternity shoots.
“I got the idea for The Wardrobe from my own experience of being a pregnant mom,” said Kent. “In 2018 I was pregnant and struggling to find appropriate clothing for my own maternity photos. I purchased cheaply made gowns from Amazon that didn’t arrive on time due to the Canada Post strike, but also when they did, looked awful.
“As someone who has struggled with body image and self-esteem for as long as I remember, being pregnant was one of the only times I felt really happy with how I looked physically – I felt strong and empowered and also very proud of what my body was capable of. The dresses that I had bought from Amazon didn’t match that.”
Seeing other mothers-to-be going through the same struggle when coming to her for maternity photo shoots, Kent began collecting high-quality gowns and dresses to allow her clients to wear during their sessions at no extra charge.
She now offers the largest variety in town of high-end gowns designed specifically for photography.
No matter the type of shoot, Kent said that she has never worked a job that’s been as overwhelmingly positive as photography.
“It’s rare that I see people at their worst moments in photography,” she said. “I’m there with them for the ‘big’ momentous occasions – weddings, births, adoptions. It’s really amazing to be with them and share these experiences.”
Some moments are funny – like when newborns in what Kent calls “bum up” pose make a mess of the studio – while others are more touching. Two particularly touching moments stick out in Kent’s memory. One came about shortly after she had become pregnant, when she was involved in a family’s adoption ceremony.
“They had already adopted two other children and I got to photograph the ceremony in the courthouse,” said Kent. “It was extremely overwhelming for them and myself. I cried right along with them. It resonated even more with me since my husband and I had struggled with fertility issues and were discussing the notion of adoption if we weren’t able to have our own baby. I will never forget that ceremony.”
The other particularly special moment happened for her last fall when a newly pregnant woman asked Kent to help reveal to her partner they were pregnant.
“I will never forget Dad’s reaction to being told he was going to be a dad – it was so genuine and refreshing,” said Kent. “They’re expecting their newborn next month and I cannot wait to photograph her when she arrives.”
Every Remembrance Day, Kent offers a special veteran portraiture event, inviting any servicemen and women to her studio for free portraits taken in their uniform. This came about due to her connection to the military: in addition to having completed a master of arts in history focused on military history, her husband is an active service member with the 49th Field Artillery Regiment as a Sergeant with the artillery. He did a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2010.
Kent enjoys doing these portraits, and hearing the stories some of the servicemen and women share of their time in the Armed Forces.
“It’s a very rewarding project,” she said. “I’ve photographed many who have served in the Afghanistan wars, or work with the units locally. My most memorable to date was photographing a World War Two veteran who stormed the beaches of Normandy.
“I went into his home to take photos since accessibility was an issue. His family sat in the living room while he shared stories with me that he had never shared with them. I do these portraits to allow them the opportunity to have their stories told and never forgotten.”
Like many other businesses, Kent’s photography business has taken a hit over the last year as the lockdowns have meant photography shuts down. She said although the lockdowns are difficult, she isn’t upset about it as he does not want to risk her clients’ health, particularly since she often works with new babies. Instead, she tries to offer digital options to keep business going.
“During the first lockdown, I offered digital portraits with the Easter Bunny. At Christmas, I did the same with Santa Claus, but donated 100 per cent of the proceeds to the local NICU, since it’s a cause near and dear to my heart and so many of my clients. Together we raised $3,000. I’m doing another NICU fundraiser right now with Easter again.”
She officially made the move to full-time photographer in December leaving her other job, despite the pandemic.
“It was a scary decision to make, especially during these uncertain times, but I knew I had to try or I would forever regret it,” she said. “I haven’t looked back.”
Kent said she never imagined she’d be a photographer, but it has become a real passion for her. She credits the support of the community and her clients for her success.
“I’ve met so many families and become close with so many,” she said. “I have a community of support and that’s pretty incredible. I’ve struggled with my mental and physical health and have been very public about it, and my supporters have continued to champion me and help me get through the struggles and still come out with a successful business. I’m forever thankful for them.”