Spotlight On Area Photographer: Tara Draper

“Bright, clean and comfortable” are the three words Tara Draper uses to describe her photography style.

Getting her start only two years ago, it’s truly inspiring how much Tara has accomplished in that short time period. Since then, her style has grown to always capture “crisp, clean images.” Posing her subjects has become more natural as well.

“I’m more comfortable so it’s easier to make people feel comfortable and get them in poses that look good.”

Today, Tara is an incredibly well established and known photographer not only in Wisconsin Dells but the state of Wisconsin as well.

She originally went to school for communication and psychology studies. After graduation, Tara worked as a graphic designer and marketing manager for Chula Vista. During her five years there, she took classes on Photoshop where she honed her creative and editing talents.

“I love communicating with people, putting myself in their shoes. This helps with my photography career. I fell in love with photography because it combines communication with creativity and design.”

In 2010, she picked up her first camera under the supervision of her mentor, local photographer Joseph Leute. Tara learned by just shooting everything she could, including her friend’s weddings while she was a bridesmaid.

“I was in six weddings in one year, during which I would bring my camera and take a few photos while absorbing what the other photographers did. It helped to hear the feedback of the bride, groom and wedding party.”

In October of 2011, Tara shot her first wedding with the help of Joseph Leute. Soon afterwards, she found Abby Gale who has now been her second photographer for 50 or 60 weddings.

“We just work so well together now. It’s a great partnership. While photographing weddings, we use opposite lenses, which provides the couple with two different looks.”

Today, Tara photographs pretty much everything including: weddings, engagement sessions, maternity photos, newborns, family sessions, senior photos and more. While weddings are among her favorite, she also loves shooting senior girls. First, she has them over to the studio for a pre-consultation where they coordinate outfits and scenery. Tara even offers professional hair and make-up before the photo shoot!

“I love fashion, and photographing senior girls is the most similar to a stylized model shoot. I enjoy watching their confidence grow as they realize how beautiful they look and get more comfortable being in front of the camera.”

Speaking of fashion, that’s one of the things that inspires Tara, along with art and emotion. Emotion is one of the reasons weddings are in the top of her love list. In fact, she won a major award her first year of wedding photography!

“When the bride and groom are so in love and relaxed, those are some of my favorite projects. Everything is just so natural with couples like that. Weddings with special details and personalized touches are also really fun to do. It’s just huge honor be a part of the biggest day of their lives and to be trusted with capturing the moment.”

In July of 2012, Tara and her husband Justin renovated their garage into the official studio for Tara Draper Photography.

“Having a space is a big help. Meeting people beforehand establishes a connection.”

When deciding what to do for the studio design, Tara turned to Pinterest and fellow photographers. She knew she wanted a studio with big windows and lots of natural lighting. (Check out the pictures to see the end result, it couldn’t have turned out more beautifully!)

While the studio is perfect for photographing babies, children and seniors, Tara still loves to scout out locations for shoots; it’s a part of her preparation process.

“Being from The Dells, I know there’s a lot of old buildings and of course, the river. However, I’m always looking for new backgrounds for photography sessions. When scouting various locations, I look at the light and what nature gives me to work with.”

She also takes into account every finite detail, which makes her even more of a stand out photographer. She enjoys scouting on sunny days to really get a feel for the lighting certain locations provide. From parking spaces to easy navigation and walking paths, especially for brides and their gorgeous gowns, Tara leaves nothing to chance. She likes to create a sort of “location loop” planning out the order of the various scenes from start to finish. Tara is currently working on scouting locations on the river.

“We just got a pontoon, which could be a really exciting tool for getting shots you can only get if you have access to a boat.”

A typical day in the studio for Tara includes beginning each morning with coffee and her adorable sidekick Jake, Tara and Justin’s yellow lab. Next she moves to responding to emails and Facebook activity and then starts on her to-do list. The rest of the day is spent editing, which takes countless hours.

“Balance is something I’ve made a goal for 2013. I’m a big to-do list girl so that definitely helps, as well as responding to emails first thing in the morning.”

However, balance is hard to find this time of year with so many couples wanting to get married in the gorgeous colors of fall.  It’s also the starting time for senior pictures and family Christmas sessions.

To prepare for upcoming holiday photo sessions, Tara is again scouting locations with the right light and a backdrop that can easily create several scenes since these sessions are only 20 minutes.

“The fall colors are gone now so that helps. The fact that the sessions are only 20 minutes helps as well. Kids have a short attention span and no one wants to be out in the cold for long. Plus everyone can stay high energy for that amount of time, which makes these sessions extra fun.”

Tara’s Tips for a successful winter family shoot:

  1. Make sure you bring stuff to keep the kids happy such as fruit snacks or a small toy.
  2. Dress warm enough! Cute scarves, hats and jackets make an awesome shoot wardrobe and help add texture.
  3. Make sure you are comfortable in what you’re wearing.
  4. Make sure the youngest kids get a nap.
  5. Most importantly…have fun!

For the future, Tara can see her photography career going one of two very different ways. The first option would be to scale back.

“I would take on less clients and be more particular with my style and more specialized in certain types of photography. This is what’s best for my clients though, I have to keep client service up, not let it go down.”

Her second option is to expand.

“I would have to hire four or five employees in order to make this a bigger operation. I especially need someone to help with all the editing.”

(We’re hoping for the second one, Shhh.) We wish Tara all the best on her future endeavors! For more on her incredible photography talent and business head to:

“My tip to aspiring photographer is simply keep shooting. Photograph everything! Hone in on your skills and build a portfolio before putting yourself out there; and never get down on yourself!”

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