Featured Photographer – Summer Crook

Jan 30, 2020


Image by Summer Crook of GAIA LIOS - Art in Imagery

Image by Summer Crook of GAIA LIOS – Art in Imagery

Business Information:


Summer Crook

Name of business

GAIA LIOS – Art in Imagery

Location of business

Owens Cross Roads, AL







I have a twitter account, but never use it.

Technical Specs:

Camera used

Canon 5Dii

Lens choices

50 and 85

Processing Software (just provide the names of the one’s you use)


Do you use any actions?


Do you retouch and if so can you give me a quick rundown on if you use any plugins, etc.?

I do retouch, and love retouching! I don’t use any plugins, actions, or filters.

Image by Summer Crook of GAIA LIOS - Art in Imagery

Image by Summer Crook of GAIA LIOS – Art in Imagery


What most people want to know is how you market to your clients. Have you qualified who your is your ideal client?

A lot of it has been word of mouth for me, as I am still not great at marketing. I have noticed a good amount of people have found me through Instagram, so I plan on focusing a lot of marketing energy there…starting with hopefully finding a good social media manager who knows algorithms and all that stuff that I just don’t understand. Now I know how boomers feel about answering machines, haha!

As for my ideal client, it’s really anyone with a lot of self love or who is looking to connect more with a positive self image. Someone who values their self worth!

Do you have any inspiring client stories you can share? Also, have you had any issues with clients and how did you resolve them?

I have a client who is used to being photographed, and she has modeled for me in the past. She decided to purchase a session for herself…and when we were going over wardrobe, she kept saying “Whatever you want to shoot…whatever you think will look good…it’s up to you.”

Now, on the one hand, I completely understand why she was saying this. She was so used to being the model, there for direction from the photographer (and lord knows, I’m very attentive to detail, and am big on directing). We did create a mood board, as I always do with every client and every shoot, and she did include inspirational shots, so I knew what looks she was wanting. But when it came time to pick from her wardrobe, she wanted me to take full control. Normally, I would pull out looks I wanted and just shoot, but I knew that this had to be different. She was so used to having little to no control over decisions in her images, and although she loves all of the images she has had done, I wanted her to look back on these images and feel powerful and connected. I wanted her to feel like they were for HER! Not for me (the photographer), not for the public (although sharing them publicly was intended as well), but ultimately they were for her. I had to find a balance here that was a bit unique. With clients that don’t regularly model, they need more direction. They need to be guided through the process. With models, they still need direction, but depending on their experience, they need far less guidance. I knew she wanted images for her walls, and I knew she had to feel more connected to these images then those she shot as a model.

The end result was her loving the images from her session more than any she had ever had done and feeling more empowered than ever before! I learned a lot about myself from that as well. I learned to listen more to what the client is saying…and not saying, if that makes sense.

Do you have a “welcome” product you give the clients?

I do, but I’m in the process of creating a boudoir specific version…which isn’t done yet.

Image by Summer Crook of GAIA LIOS - Art in Imagery

Image by Summer Crook of GAIA LIOS – Art in Imagery


How do you sell to your clients? Can you provide info on your sales process and your pricing? Can you provide numbers on what you charge for a session and what products you offer?

I do in-person sales, and I offer a very wide range of products, from digitals to large scale prints, canvases, albums, etc. I have tested all of my products with many different labs and have found that certain labs do better with certain products, so everything I offer is what I have found to be the best in the market. I am probably not charging enough for my products right now, but it is where I am comfortable at the moment. Based on CODB, I am currently in a good spot. However, if I want to start really pushing my marketing to where it needs to be (which I DO), I will need to increase my prices.

I’m currently priced starting at $125 for up to 2 hours in studio or on location within 25 miles of my studio. Hair and makeup added on site is $200. Each additional hour is $125. As for my product prices, a lot of my pricing is just sort of trying to figure out what is a good seller and what to charge to both value my time and my work, but be in the sweet spot of what the client is willing to pay. It’s still a work in progress…and I am probably not doing it right, ha ha. The business side of what we do is incredibly hard for me still.

What products perform best in your studio?

Because I shoot many genres, it depends on the genre I’m shooting. For boudoir, it’s been mostly digitals and albums.

Image by Summer Crook of GAIA LIOS - Art in Imagery

Image by Summer Crook of GAIA LIOS – Art in Imagery


Best describe your workspace. Do you have a studio or work from home? How large is your space? What are the challenges with it? What works really well for you?

I have an in-home studio. I have 2 rooms dedicated to shooting in. Originally, we bought this home with the intent to knock out the wall between the 2 rooms and make one large and open studio, but when I brought in a contractor, I was given the devastating news that because of the roof layout and the trusses, it wouldn’t be possible. So, I had no choice but to make 2 smaller spaces work, and I typically shoot headshots/beauty and some fashion (that I can fit) in one room, and boudoir/maternity/newborn in the other. Like Tim Gunn says, I make it work!

Do you have any plans to change and/or grow from your space in the near future.

Eventually, it would be nice to have a separate studio in a commercial space…but for now, it’s not an option.

Do you keep strict hours of operation with your clients?

Yes…although, I do make exceptions when absolutely necessary and shoot on a Sunday.

Natural Light, Studio Light, combination of styles? What’s your preference? What are your strengths and weaknesses with lighting, if any?

I shoot both, and the preference is really determined by what I’m shooting. If I’m shooting fashion or beauty in the studio, it’s almost 100% strobes. Boudoir is really 50/50.

Do you have makeup artists you work with in your studio? If so, can you give me a run down of what the rate is you pay them and how you feel about the importance of that relationship. If you don’t use them, is there a reason?

I do have a MUA that I work with, and I do find it extremely helpful with the whole process! You know you will get a camera ready look that will stand up to strobes if you use them. Plus, it gives the client time to calm their nerves, relax, feel the transformation, etc. And it can really make post processing a lot easier. She charges $75 for in studio application and $60 each additional hour for touchups.

Do you play music during sessions, and if so, what are some tracks on your playlist? Do you ask clients what music they like and if they would like certain music during their session?

I do! Again, it depends on what I am shooting. For boudoir, I have a lot of Sade, some Erykah Badu, Sam Smith, Beyonce, Usher, Troy Sivan, etc. I try to keep a good mix. I also definitely ask clients what music they like and if they have requests for certain songs during their session.

Image by Summer Crook of GAIA LIOS - Art in Imagery

Image by Summer Crook of GAIA LIOS – Art in Imagery


How long have you been in business? What were you doing before you started your photo business?

6 years. Before that time, we had been traveling a bit while my husband was in the military. I was an English teacher in Japan teaching nationals of all ages.

Did you go to school for photography or are you self taught?

I did not go to school for photography. I taught myself, but also watched A LOT of YouTube videos and online classes. Because I have such a strong artistic background, photography came fairly easy to me.

Did you always want to be a photographer or was it something that came later in life?

As I stated above, I’ve always been an artist, and had always dreamed of working in some artistic and creative capacity, but photography was an art form that definitely came to me later in life.

What is your biggest struggle in this business?

MARKETING…and using social media platforms for marketing! The overall business side of things is a very close second.

Is there a reason you shoot boudoir and do you shoot any other genre? If you’re exclusive, and/or recently went exclusive, can you give the readers some insight into why you did? If you’ve only ever done boudoir, again we’d love to hear why.

I shoot many genres, but I love shooting boudoir for what it means to the client! There is nothing more satisfying for a people-pleaser like myself than to have a client in tears over how amazing they feel when they look at themselves in their images. I feel like I play an integral part in a life-changing experience. Boudoir is definitely more intimate than other genres, so the connection the client feels to their images can be pretty intense. 

What process did you go through to find your specific style? Where do you draw inspiration from? 

I don’t remember going through a process really. I just shoot and edit how I like to. I draw inspiration from other photographers like Peter Lindberg, Mario Testino, Annie Leibovitz, Lindsay Adler, Zhang Jingna, Tim Walker, etc. I could go on and on. I also find a lot of inspiration on Pinterest…after all, isn’t that what it’s there for? Also, I can’t leave out my dreams…some crazy stuff goes on in my head at night, and a lot of it makes for some creative images! I’ve got a huge backlog of dream-inspired shoots I still want to do.

Image by Summer Crook of GAIA LIOS - Art in Imagery

Image by Summer Crook of GAIA LIOS – Art in Imagery


If you knew someone who wanted to be a photographer, and could give them one piece of important advice, what would that be?

Don’t let fear keep you from doing something. Other people will try to put fear and doubt in your head too…drown out the noise. Put in the work and you’ll be fine. It won’t be easy…lord knows I still struggle…but giving up isn’t an option if you truly want it!

Have you ever done a boudoir session yourself? Do you think it’s something that is important for boudoir photographers to do?

I haven’t. I don’t necessarily think it is important for boudoir photographers to do. I think it’s important to have empathy and to understand vulnerability. You have to be able to connect with your subject and your audience in any genre that you shoot. I don’t think you necessarily have to be the subject yourself to do that. Some do, some don’t. Although, knowing how amazing of an experience it is for clients, I am sure at some point I will.

How do you feel about the male / female debate regarding boudoir photographers?

I think both experiences are likely different, but I don’t think one is better or worse.

What do you do to avoid burn-out? Is there ever a time when you just want to throw your camera out the window?

I definitely have moments of frustration. I just take a beat and move on. A lot of times, I just take my time putting together a conceptual shoot just for myself to allow my creative side to take over. That helps a lot.

What do you love about the business?

Strictly business?? Making money.

What do you hate about the business?

Ha ha, that I’m bad at it! I have zero social media savvy, and I don’t know how to effectively market. I also have a horrible business structure because for a lot of it, I feel like I am just treading water….just being honest.

Are you a member of any professional photo organizations like PPA, WPPI? What benefit do you feel you get by being a member?

I am not. I’ve heard pros and cons for them, but ultimately I guess I just haven’t been sold on them.

Do you compete and do you have any opinions on it? AIBP runs contests regularly. Do you participate? If not, is there a reason you don’t?

No, not really. Occasionally I do, but not often. I have entered AIBP contests in the past. They are always fun. There’s a ton of amazing talent in this group! A lot of the time, I don’t enter contests because, at the time, I don’t have a lot of new work to share.

How long have you been a part of the AIBP family? Tell us a little bit about why you joined and what benefits and/or things you particularly love about the AIBP community?

I have been an AIBP member for about 5 years I think. I actually was introduced and joined from Craig LaMere’s group. He was running a contest in his group and among a couple prizes was a subscription to the AIBP group. I won the prize and was added. I was truly impressed with how loving the community is this group is, and when I say it is a family, it REALLY mean that! There is so much love, acceptance, and positive reinforcement in this group of amazing photographers. Sometimes I am amazed that I am allowed to be a part of it! I really don’t think there is another group quite like it. I am constantly amazed and impressed at the lack of drama in this community…it’s so refreshing!

Also, the contests are always so well thought out and offer so much to the contributors! I think that is why you get so many amazing and gorgeous photos entered. The prizes really match the caliber of work that is entered.

Image by Summer Crook of GAIA LIOS - Art in Imagery

Image by Summer Crook of GAIA LIOS – Art in Imagery


Favorite food?

Depends on the day, haha. I do love Thai coconut curry!

One guilty pleasure in life?


What is your favorite piece of clothing?

My oversized sweaters

What’s one song on your playlist?

One that’s been on my play list since my early 20’s is INOJ “Love You Down.” I will forever love that song. There’s a lot of old school rap and hip hop on my play list too.

What’s your favorite movie genre? Example?

Horror….but good horror! It’s hard to scare me. I really love the recent “IT” remakes. They did it justice for sure. Oh, and “A Quiet Place” was AMAZING!

Favorite shoes to wear?

My mukluk boots

What are you currently reading?

I recently finished “The Handmaid’s Tale” so I’m ready for a new book.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be? 

It changes now and then…currently my ideal destination is Greece.

If you could go back and do over anything in your life, what would that be?

I prefer to not look back…except to cherish memories. Even though there’s a lot of pain back there, it is a part of who I am, so I take the good and the bad and just try to be the best version of myself I can be each day moving forward.

If you could meet and photograph someone famous, who would that be and why?

Henry Caville…because I’m obsessed with him, haha. He’s just so beautiful! Okay, maybe he’d be a bad choice because I’d probably be fangirling way too hard and totally unprofessional, haha…Nah, I don’t care, he’s still my choice!

What do you struggle with the most in life? (not photo related)

Parenting! I always feel like I’m botching it up.

Are you married, single, have kids, husband? Is life a juggling act for you?

I am married with one daughter who just turned 10, God help me! HA HA! Life is definitely a juggling act. My daughter is a trip!

Who inspires you the most in life? Work?

My husband and my cousin whom I’m very close to inspire me the most in life. In work, I draw A LOT of inspiration from some amazing photographers of the past and present. My all time favorite photographer, Peter Lindbergh just passed away last year. A HUGE loss to our community!

If you could provide one single piece of advice to influence a young person’s direction in life, what would that be?

Don’t worry so much about what everyone else thinks! Love yourself first, it will help you love and appreciate others more.


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