Q&A With A West Park Photographer

West Park is rife with talent! We were recently fortunate enough to learn a little more about Shiny Penny Studio Owner and Photographer Keli Schimelpfenig. Check out our Q&A below. If you’re getting married, graduating, or are looking for a professional photographer, keep this local name in mind!

Q: When did you start taking photographs and what were some of the first things you enjoyed taking photos of? 

My parents had a very good SLR Pentax that I would often snap photos on and I got my first camera at a very young age from my parents or my aunt. I think it was one of the very first versions of the Fisher Price cameras with actual film. I remember taking vacation photos and photos around the holidays since film and developing was expensive. Really just playing with framing and composition. But I think I have always been drawn to people in their environment. I think that’s why I love portrait work. People at play, work, in love, changing, staying the same.. .each with their own unique life story. 

Q: You started the idea for dad bods back in 2020 after a conversation about how bad the dating selfies of men can be… Have they improved, in your opinion, at all since? What are some tips you came up with after the shoot? Or maybe had beforehand? 

Oh lord no. Dating sites and profiles are generally a hellscape. But my advice would be to a.) angle the cell phone above you when you are taking a self portrait so you are not shooting up your nose b.) smile (you look like a serial killer if you don’t smile in any photos) and c.) consider hiring a pro for a couple of decent headshots. Most of us need a respectable profile photo for LinkedIn and other social media and they are tax deductible as a job search expense. 

Q: Are you planning on doing another dad bod calendar? 

YES! In fact my business partner Hannah and I have been brainstorming session ideas for the last few weeks and solidifying the concepts. When I did the calendar in 2020 it was a last minute “pandemic project” that I could execute safely outside. We skipped last year due to the USPS headache from year one, however, we have some really great ideas for concepts using more Cleveland landmarks for the 2023 calendar.  Some of our planned 2023 scenes include a Lake Erie Merman, Dad’s at a skatepark, a chef scene at a local restaurant, and so many other fun surprises. 

Q: Your calendar benefited Meals on Wheels. Do you plan on doing something similar to this (not dad bods) in the future? 

We are a very community-centric business and Hannah and I met performing in a community theater production.  We do a number of fundraisers every year as well as having non-profit rates and a number of pro-bono projects we do for various organizations. We also partner with other local small businesses for fundraising sessions or events. Our Santa sessions this year featured a local santa, local baker and a portion of the session fees were donated to two community theater spaces in the neighborhoods where the sessions happened. 

Q: Do you work with a lot of people in the neighborhood? 

 I do and that is constantly growing. I end up covering a lot of photo sessions of seniors at St. Joes, headshots for realtors at Lokal and Howard Hanna, and an ever growing list of families for sessions of all kinds and weddings. 

Q: How long have you lived in West Park? 

I moved here in 2017 and then bought my first home here in 2018 after deciding this was the neighborhood where I wanted to buy. 

Q: Do you take a lot of photos in West Park? Where are some of your favorite places to use? Or, maybe even favorites for those having their photo taken? (I thought I noticed one of the Bethany Lutheran Church on your site). 

Since most of our sessions happen outside, West Park often has a guest role in a lot of photo sessions. I will use Bethany English Lutheran Church for some sessions because I’m a member and sing in choir there most Sunday mornings. People just wave and smile rather than shooing us off of the property. (That has happened to me before! Once while I was taking anniversary photos for a couple outside of the church where they got married and we got quite the gruff “greeting” by the groundskeepers.) We can also be spotted down in the metroparks –  that is a visual playground we take full advantage of. Tyler Barn and the nearby pine trees are always a popular spot for family sessions in the fall. 

Q: Along the lines of the last question, do you shoot a lot of corporate branding sessions or weddings, etc. in West Park or the area? 

We have worked with a number of local couples for wedding day coverage. It’s fun because we know this area so well we can manage almost any scenario that may be thrown at us on a wedding day. Rain in the forecast? No problem, we know a cute bridge and path area with tons of fall foliage near a shelter large enough for your wedding party. That kind of thing. And our branding sessions are a growing part of our business and we are seeing more and more local realtors, small business owners, and we covered corporate headshots in the past couple of months for the entire Heartland Financial Services team on Aerospace Parkway. 

Q: Can you elaborate a little more on your corporate branding sessions and why a West Parker might be interested or how they might benefit from this? 

Branding photos quite simply are just a step beyond a profile/headshot photo. They feature you doing what you do to serve your customers. They are sneak peeks into the behind the scenes work at a business. I’m working on a session right now for a local artist who is launching a couple of lines for wholesale sticker distribution. Some of the photos will be of her at work creating her art, working on her ipad and laptop or on the phone with a client. A lot of those photos are use for social media posts, linked-In profile photos, and websites. As consumers are becoming more conscious of purchases, having a real face behind a product or service can really help establish who you are in the community. 

Q: Do you have tips for other photographers out there? 

 Always be shooting. Always be playing. Always be exploring.  Really it’s just like anything else – the more time you invest in something generally the better you become. As we grow and get bigger I find myself learning and picking up new skills at a faster rate simply because I am getting more practice. 

Q: What do you think are some of the most important qualities a photographer can have? Do you feel it’s important to make people feel at ease, comfortable, etc. 

My number one lesson to anyone who works with me is that our number one goal is to leave a session with our client feeling confident, relaxed and hopefully happy. This is more important than any of the photos you may have snapped, or camera settings, or any of the technical aspects. Getting a portrait taken can be really intimidating and the number one thing I hear before going into a session is “I hate having my photo taken.” So our first job is to make clients not hate the process. Why do people hate it? Probably because the results of having your husband or child snap photos of you at unflattering angles and in sweats is not all that great. So we set you up for success by providing flattering lighting, clothing advice and finding locations that are perfect for what you want to express visually. 

Q: What’s the best way for people to reach you?

Our website is shinypennystudios.com for anyone who wants to see more of what we do. You can also email me at keli@shinypennystudios.com or call at 216-338-9162. 

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