“For me it’s all about that connection,” says Allison Day of the allure of portrait photography. “It’s finding the thing that makes [someone] interesting and beautiful and really making that bold in the photograph.” Her business, Allie Skylar Photography, is just shy of five years old and attracts a steady clientele of families, couples, and brides from Pennsylvania’s Delaware County and beyond. Her portfolio holds a variety of images that capture a moment at it’s crest. It’s all in the perspective. “There’s something really special in understanding that everything is beautiful when you look at it the right way,” says Day, who isn’t afraid to shoot in an unlikely location. Some images are set perfectly in places that are overlooked. “I’ve shot engagement sessions next to dumpsters,” she says, but you won’t be able to tell. Those very images are among the array of photos that appeal to Day’s clientele.
Day, also a kindergarten teacher, studied education at Eastern University. Her first job post-graduation put her in a harrowing situation, one where she had to report an adult to the police for child abuse. Day moved home to Bloomsburg to re-group emotionally, and worked long hours at multiple, passionless retail jobs. Seeking a creative outlet, she picked up a camera that she hadn’t really used before. “I put all my extra energy, thought, and passion into learning how to use it,” and, she says, that the camera translated her inner world. “I quickly discovered that things that I saw in my head I could get out in the camera.”
Using the camera for her personal renewal led to Day taking part in someone else’s story. The subject of her first portrait session was a former classmate from high school. “This girl had been through a really rough time,” says Day. “She was getting her life back together and she was engaged.” Drawn to the story, Day offered to take engagement photos for the woman and her fiancé. This session led to Day also shooting their wedding photos. Over the next year, other couples hired Day based on those images and, at just 22, she needed to start an LLC. She was working out of her bedroom in her parent’s house as her outlet became her new career.
While Day took to photography quickly, challenge takes many forms. Learning about running a business was one step among many. Time spent finding her style, and growing to feel comfortable with infants, is what opened Day up to her range of portraits, from infant and family to weddings and boudoir. In each session, engaging the subject in their uniqueness is Day’s professional goal. When Day is asked why she chooses to specialize in portraiture, she says, “I love that moment in the camera where you can tell that somebody is finally comfortable with you and comfortable with themselves.” It can take time for a client to relax, and Day tailors her approach to each session. With families, she finds that it’s best to let children’s personality shine through and get a family laughing together. For more formal sessions Day has taken workshops on how to pose people in ways that are the most flattering for them.
One photo shoot last fall was a challenge emotionally. Day was approached by a client who didn’t want to take family portraits after her third child was stillborn. Nearly two years later, she felt ready to take holiday photos with her husband and two sons. Day worked with the family to capture them and find creative ways to honor all three of their children. Being a part of their step toward healing was intense. “I was hard on myself,” says Day. She felt that she had to “give them something to help them have a little bit of closure.” Day captured the family’s smiles and few shots of dad horsing around with the kids, but it is the images of the balloon release, and a portrait of the family’s hands holding charms with each child’s name, that capture the narrative.
The shoot was more than twice the length of the average family session and Day says “I felt very heavy afterwards emotionally…it was a different kind of intensity.” When the family received the finalized images, they were more than pleased with how the session turned out. Their relatives reached out to Day to express their gratitude for seeing images of a happy family that also told their story.
Juggling two careers with equal zeal is a challenge, but Day finds that they balance each other out. Photography can be a lonely occupation when the shoot is over and the ensuing days of editing photos require solitude and concentration. Teaching half-day kindergarten is a welcome break and a genuinely enjoyable time. These days, Day is working on furthering her videography skills and getting ready for the wedding season to pick up again, while working on her weekly self-portrait project. For now, she’s enjoying the winter calm before the wedding season starts while keeping up the social media side of her business.
When asked about why the camera is her medium of choice, Day says that photography has, “changed my outlook and how I see things.” It has opened her up to the unexpected. Spending the last four years looking at the world through new lens has helped her search for the beauty in what others might think is unpleasant or ordinary. She says, “I appreciate what it has done for me in that way.”