- April 13, 2016

Wedding Photographer Shelley Elena On Chasing Light And Capturing Beauty In Austin

Considering that we just wrapped up SXSW 2016, Mayor Steve Adler is fighting hard to keep Austin’s music scene alive, Austin consistently ranks high in studies about best cities for startups, and we’ve already seen a bunch of public art pieces installed this year — including an entire-repainting of HOPE Outdoor Gallery and the new Willie Nelson mural at East 7th and Neches — there’s really no doubt that Austin is an explosively creative place.

And as KXAN reported recently, our fair city is also growing like crazy with over two million residents and counting.

Where are we going with this? Well, as ATX booms, one creative industry in particular is growing too: the wedding business. This isn’t a topic that we talk about much, so we arranged an interview with Shelley Montgomery of Shelley Elena Photography — a local wedding photographer with supreme Texas roots.

Montgomery first picked up a camera in high school as a creative outlet. Unlike anything else, her little point-and-shoot Kodak allowed her to show others the beauty she noticed in the world. “My parents encouraged creativity and modeled it,” she said. “Artistic talent runs very strongly in my dad’s family, and though I didn’t inherit the ability to draw or paint, I always loved art.”

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Shelley Montgomery with her trusty Canon 5D Mark III DSLR camera and Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens. Montgomery also loves making portraits with her Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens. Photo: Rebecca L. Bennett

During her first two years studying at Southwestern University, Montgomery took photos constantly, which ultimately sparked her first big break. In 2008, her friend asked her to photograph her wedding. “By the grace of God, I didn’t ruin it,” she joked. On the contrary, her friend was thrilled with her work, and Montgomery knew that she had found her calling.

After graduating from SU in 2011, Montgomery launched her business full-time and has photographed nearly 100 local and out-of-state destination weddings since. In her quest to celebrate the unique beauty of each person that she encounters — client or not — Montgomery strives to place integrity and honor at the forefront of everything that she does.

“Early on, I decided that my goal would be to celebrate the beauty of every person I photographed and champion the relationships of marriage, family, and friendship,” she said. “Starting with that foundation, I know that every decision I make, from responding to emails quickly, to the way I photograph weddings, to how I use social media, should serve my clients in a way that lines up with my values.”

Montgomery also specializes in creating vibrant, emotional portraits of individuals, families, and couples, and she always packs her camera along on her travels to chronicle her personal outdoor and urban adventures, but wedding photography is unquestionably her first and deepest love.

“After shooting a wedding, my feet will be killing me and my back will be begging for mercy, but my heart is saying, ‘Let’s do it again! Let’s do it again,'” she said. “It’s truly a privilege to create and share art reflecting my love for people and this beautiful, messy life we live while documenting weddings.”

Having grown up in rural Dripping Springs, Montgomery loves exploring nature and has developed a strong preference for shooting in natural light, so she often gravitates toward outdoor venues and locations. This, as well as her adventurous personality and her mastery of creative compositional techniques — such as blurring objects like leaves in the foreground, back-lighting, and shooting through glass prisms — draws in fun, nature-loving clients.

“Austin is such an amazing place to be a photographer because of its character and easy access to gorgeous outdoor spaces,” said Montgomery. “I will shoot at pretty much any park, but am consistently drawn to some of our state parks like McKinney Falls and Enchanted Rock. I’ve also been blessed to build great relationships with venues like Kindred Oaks, The Greenhouse at Driftwood, and Camp Lucy, but backyard weddings and weddings on family property are probably my favorite because they have sentimental value and are completely unique.”

“I think my photography best reflects the creativity God gave me when it’s full of fresh air and wilderness,” she added.

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