“One aspect that has always attracted me to photography is the ability to stop time, capture a moment. For me, the split-second decision to click the shutter, make a photograph and share that with others is powerful and rewarding.” – Haley Hensley, Photographer and Visual Storyteller

I’ve known Haley for several years now, and what inspires me about her is her willingness to work hard for the things (and the people) she loves. Seeing the way her eyes light up when she is taking pictures, or even talking about photography, tells me that she has a passion for doing so. This passion, and her unique eye for finding the best shots, are what make her photos so beautiful.

1. What made you want to start taking photographs?

I am a shy, introverted person, and was even more so when I was younger. I didn’t really have a way to fit in or any extracurricular activities that interested me. I didn’t play sports or an instrument. When I was 9, my father bought me my first camera. He had gotten a 35mm Minolta XG 1 film camera in a box full of items that he bid on at an auction. I was fascinated by it.

We took it to Ritz Camera to be looked over and repaired. I remember standing outside of the store, pointing the camera at something. As I was doing so, a gentleman walked past and asked if I was a photographer. I may not have been a photographer then, but I knew from that moment that I wanted to be one in the future. So, I started photographing everything: family, pets, nature.

When I heard about yearbook staff in middle school though it really sparked an interest in me. When I was old enough to join yearbook staff, I did. I loved taking photos of the different activities going on at school. In a way, I was fitting in by hiding behind a camera. Now, when I am behind the camera, I have so much confidence in myself. If I have my camera, I feel like I can do anything. 

Haley Hensley Photography, holding a camera up to her eye as if she's taking a picture.
Used with permission from Haley Hensley Photography

2. What are some of your favorite things to photograph?

I’ve always loved photographing nature. From mountains to beaches, I love capturing the beautiful areas that surround me. Now I am able to incorporate wedding photography into this as well. Wedding photography is definitely my passion within photography. Something about capturing a couple’s love story and preserving that day for centuries to come is so rewarding and special to me. I love to document weddings candidly, sort of like your own storybook. 

Used with permission from Haley Hensley Photography

3. Where is the craziest place you ever stood to take a photo?

After many years of photographing, this one is still easy for me to say. Although I will do just about anything to capture a shot that I have a vision for, this one experience always comes to mind.

It was November on the Nolichucky River. The Noli is already extremely cold, but in November it is REALLY cold. I had a 4×5 film project I was working on for school, and I saw the perfect shot out a little ways into the river – about knee high. I was thinking, “I have on rain boots, I’ll be fine!” The rain boots didn’t help, I was not fine, and it was COLD. I remember my legs going numb in a matter of seconds! I got the shot, found my way out and called it a day!

Used with permission from Haley Hensley Photography

4. Do you have a favorite photo, or collection of photos? 

A project that was one of the most challenging and most rewarding is my Virginia Intermont College series. This series means much more now with the buildings currently in a state of demise.

We were told 2 weeks before school ended for summer break my junior year that we would not be able to come back. We had already registered for classes and had our next year planned out. In a matter of seconds that was taken away. I was desperate to hang on to anything I could from Virginia Intermont because I knew that I would never see it again. So, I told myself, I have to photograph everything.

I walked in every room of every building. Even places that had been closed off to students previously. Areas I didn’t even know existed. I photographed places that I connected with or felt emotional about. Those are some of my favorite images and always will be because of the personal connection I have with them, and the challenge it posed for me as a person and photographer. I have also received so many kind words from fellow alumni that are able to connect with the images and the memories they had there.

5. What did you learn about photography in school that you were surprised to learn?

That even though you have a beautiful, creative idea it needs to be technically correct to actually be a good photograph. I had been photographing for years! When I started college, I was amazed by just how 

much I didn’t know technically. Learning how to shoot a camera in manual so that you can control every aspect to achieve your vision is one of the most important things. If your photograph is overexposed then it’s ruined! You can edit a digital image and correct any mistakes but printing a film negative is a bit more challenging if it is not technically correct.

6. What are a few tips, that you could give those of us who are amateurs that love to take photos, to help us?

Learn. Practice. Shoot. And keep shooting. In today’s world with YouTube, Facebook Groups and other endless internet resources it provides a whole learning field for anything and everything. Learn about your camera, composition and ways to manipulate your image and be creative. Watch videos, ask other photographers. (You can always study others’ work, but always give credit and be respectful!) Just keep shooting. Even if you mess up or make a mistake, or run out of creativity, just keep taking photos.

7. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not taking photographs?

I love being outside and in nature. Taking a hike in one of our beautiful state parks, taking my two Great Danes out for a run in the field, planting flowers and herbs, or simply sitting and listening to the birds. If I am outside, then I am happy. 

8. What are some tips that you have for people who want to find a photographer for their wedding or engagement photos?

A couple hugging and smiling for their engagement photos.
Used with permission from Haley Hensley Photography

First, look at different types of photographers and their portfolio. Photographers all have a different editing style, and whether you know it or not you have a style that your eye is drawn to more. Once you have a particular style that you are looking for, make a plan. Write down your date, venue, budget and how many hours of coverage you are looking to have on your wedding day. Then start contacting photographers.

This next part may be more time consuming, but I promise it is going to lead to the best experience and not heartbreak.

Ask your photographers the difficult questions: May I see a full day gallery? How many weddings have you shot? Do you have a 2nd or backup camera? Are you licensed and insured? Do you have a contract? What happens if you are sick on my wedding day? These questions will help you find a reliable photographer that will provide you with the absolute best service and not ghost you right before or right after your big day. Also, meeting in person multiple times before your wedding is so important. You want to have a photographer that you enjoy being around and that you are comfortable with. It makes all the difference.

Used with permission from Haley Hensley Photography

To see more of Haley’s work, visit her website – www.haleyhensleyphotography.com – and follow her on Instagram, @haleyhensleyphotography

Thank you, Haley, for sharing your passion for photography with us, and for helping people tell such beautiful stories through your photographs!