Posted on October 04 2017
Kristy Copperfield is a name synonymous with family portraits here on Maui. Her artistic style is seamless and full of emotion and light. Her customers are happy, smiling and captured in those raw, sincere moments of life. She specializes in family photography and is perhaps most well known around here for her epic newborn images.
We have been lucky enough to have secured her for our professional shoots as well as family portraits--and the product of that has been a countless unending vault of adorable pictures. But her gift for photography? This wasn’t actualized until later in her working years.
Kristy grew up in Makawao in the same home she is now raising her own children in and she has transformed a corner of this spot to her very special home-based-studio. She is a self-described “product of public school” and graduated from Maui High School in 1995 as a “young single mama.” She subsequently entered the workforce and spent ten years in corporate America with companies like Gap Inc., and American Eagle Outfitters while raising her small family.
“In 2005, with a then 11 year old and an almost 4 year old, I decided I needed to slow down and be a momma. I left retail and opened a preschool out of my home.” It was during this 8 year venture that the seeds of her passion for photography were planted. “About 6 years into teaching, I started photographing the kiddos. I’d make little photo albums quarterly as documentation of the children’s progress, it was a labor of love for me since I felt so honored that so many families trusted their children in my care, it was the least I could do, to show them what their children were doing while they were away working so hard to provide for their family.”
Kristy started with a point and shoot camera, but was unsatisfied that the captured shots failed to encompass what her own eyes saw. Her boyfriend bought her a Nikon D40 with 2 lenses, “it was love at first click. I remember my first photo out of that camera was during a cooking activity that we had set up. We must have been making cookies because I remember a little girl with her chef hat and apron on and the image was taken just as she clapped her hands. What I saw in my head was frozen and on my screen, lips pursed, eyes squinty and surrounded by particles of flour a haze of backlit light (which I loved but had no idea how to back light at the time). It took me 4 years to figure out the camera.”
Kristy dived in. She took a Vitec class, spent hours self-teaching through YouTube and Google and gained some hands on experience along the way: “Eventually my camera was capturing what my heart saw with these children and I couldn’t stop. At first, my friends and family would ask me to photograph their families for their Christmas cards, so I practiced on willing subjects.”
In October 2010, a phone call with a very close friend gave her the push she needed to trust her work and take her artistry seriously and begin offering services for payment. “Photography was really an unknown and super scary venture for me. An art without any certainty. It was scary, so I decided to make goals for myself. I started the photography business with a website and a Facebook page and a very vulnerable heart. Then I worked my ass off for 2 ½ years, teaching full time, and photographing as much as I could.”
To her surprise, but not to ours, Maui loved her, and within 18 months, she had to make the hard choice to close the preschool, and gave her families 1 year notice. In summer of 2013, she rebuilt the preschool into the current home of KCP newborns and has served countless local families since. 90% of her business is Maui based clientele, a rarity for photographers on island, who typically target visitors. She has found this fact especially rewarding, “My heart and soul lives with the local families. I love watching families grow, I love seeing my clients at Costco and Target, I love photographing first, second and third babies.”
Kristy feels that her community has contributed to her style as a photographer by embracing her. With each session she finds that she has multiple friends and acquaintances in common and there’s often no ice breaking required. “The fact that I feel like I know my clients, their friends and their families is why I am able to capture them in such an authentic way.”
As with the preschool, where her clients entrusted her with the care of their children, Kristy recognizes that people are entrusting her with the privilege of archiving their lives, and the important job of a documentarian is not one that she takes lightly.
“In studio, with the babies, they are my boss. I mold them, but only in a way that they let me…. During outdoor and family sessions, the lighting is my boss. My favorite images will always be those that are focused on emotion and surrounded by light. I’d also say that being a teacher, and learning about child development has been a huge part of my art. Kids typically love me because they get that I understand them, and even if they don’t, I can figure them out. Being a teacher has helped me to pull their personality out of them in a way that is appropriate and genuine. I have zero expectations from a child and I show up to a session to play, photos are a bi-product of love and personalities that are already there.”
Well if you weren’t obsessed with this Maui mama before, you certainly are now. And that urgency to book now? Kristy takes bookings on her website which you can go to here. Newborn sessions are typically booked at the beginning of the third trimester, maternity session take place at about month 7 or 8.
Specials run during the holiday season (August to December) including mini and half sessions, which are offered to past clients and sell out in minutes. Half sessions are sometimes offered to new clients which are a good way to be added to next year’s list. Which, by the way guys, we are way too late for this year. Shucks!
Thank you Kristy for sharing your story. It is so uplifting to hear from a successful and talented artist within our community and we so appreciate the work you’ve done for us.
(Here is Kristy and her own little family)