Kelly Sweda of Santa Barbara Makes International List of ‘100 Photographers to Watch’
By Dani Cordaro for Kelly Sweda Photography
Santa Barbara-based photographer Kelly Sweda of Kelly Sweda Photography has been included on an international list of the "top 100 photographers to watch in 2015."
The list is published annually by Clickin Moms, a community of more than 16,000 professional and aspiring photographers.
According to Clickin Moms, “[Our] mentors, staff and vendor partners scoured the websites of thousands of photographers for fresh talent, powerful artistic voices and creative evolution. From the resulting list of nominees, a selection panel comprised of 29 talented photographers and image curators voted for those whose work they are most excited to follow this year.”
A working mother of three, Sweda grew up with a hobbyist photographer father and studied photojournalism in graduate school from 2000-02 at the University of Montana School of Journalism. Shortly thereafter, however — fueled by what she remembers as a “lack of direction and confidence in my work” — she abandoned the craft all together.
It wasn’t until 2013, simply by beginning to snap iPhone shots of her children and share them with friends and family on social media, that Sweda reignited her passion and endeavored to begin a career in photography. Soon her Instagram account started to amass fans and followers by the thousands, drawn by her unique use of light and candid, un-staged composition. Compelled to hone her skills, she enlisted the training of photography pros and participated in workshops to refine her work and collections.
Today Sweda specializes in on-location, natural light child lifestyle photography and children’s fashion editorial. Her images are natural, carefree and evocative of real life. She serves local communities from Goleta to Ventura; has international clients and relationships in regard to her editorial work; and offers travel sessions. She also photographs families.
“I am humbled and honored to have a place on the ‘Top 100’ list among so many of my idols and talented artists,” Sweda says. “In my sessions, I love witnessing the openness and imagination of children as they explore and engage with the world around them. I strive for strong, emotive moments that may otherwise go unnoticed. To me, those moments are magic, and that’s what I aim to capture.”
Sweda’s work has been featured by the internationally recognized children’s magazines: Babiekins (Los Angeles) and Enfants Terribles (Denmark); blog Mini Style (Los Angeles); various children’s brands including Stride Rite and Children of the Tribe; and more.
Local clients include Dani BOY Kids (Montecito) and Glop & Glam (Santa Barbara), and numerous Santa Barbara, Montecito and Goleta families.
According to Montecito resident Michelle Ebbin, "Kelly is such a talented photographer and an absolute pleasure to work with. She has a special way of making kids feel comfortable, which comes through in her photographs that truly capture the moment. Her brilliant use of light brings out the best in everything she shoots."
In addition to photography, Sweda manages the communications for the Dream Foundation, a Santa Barbara-based national nonprofit organization that serves the final dreams of adults with life-threatening illness, and is actively involved in the preschool and preschool sports programs at the Santa Barbara Family YMCA.