This is a guest article by our talented client and friend – Elisabetta Redaelli, also known as Lilly Red. Elisabetta is an award-winning, destination editorial wedding photographer based in Italy, and traveling all around the world. You’ve surely come across her magnificent, straight-out-of-Vogue bridal work – that forces you to pause, take in all the details, and daydream about the beautiful locations portrayed in the photo.
We’re all wondering: where does Lilly Red draw her inspiration and ideas from? And most importantly how can the rest of us level up to her mastery. According to Lilly, there is no secret formula, just lots of practice in a safe environment that allows you to create freely, with zero pressure, expectations, or judgement. A lot of practice. Especially if you’re still discovering your own style and artistic voice.
Ready to dive into the beautiful art of Lilly Red? Let’s go!
“Imagine going back in time to the Renaissance period, when Michelangelo Buonarroti lived his life and created Pietà. He was just a sculptor back then, his fame was only beginning to pick up. Now imagine if he stopped there – just at being a great sculptor, how many things would he be missing in this life?
This is just one example of many that prove the need to keep your creative flow alive. When you turn your passion into a career, it’s fairly easy to let your dream become a job (a chore), and have that fire from your soul fade away.
Most people decide that they’ve reached their final destination once they hit their goals! “Yessssss! I’m finally doing it. I get to create my own schedule and do the things I love!”. True, that’s a great feeling, yet it can put you in a vicious cycle that ends up stealing your joy.
I have a bad habit. I set a goal, I reach it, then immediately set a new goal and dive into attaining that one. Sometimes I get stuck, and in that moment I ask myself why didn’t I stop before? Why wasn’t I satisfied with the previous goal?
Because I’m creative, that’s why.
My soul is never satisfied unless I’m constantly in a state of doing and producing.
Why creativity is beneficial for the soul?
Don’t be afraid to do personal projects that have nothing to do with your “job.” Those are the projects that will keep your creative fuels alive. Again, the simple act of doing something keeps your mind active. For instance, I don’t always pick up a camera when I feel the itch to do something. I go horse riding, I bake, using recipes, or inventing my own. I have a podcast where I talk about the way my mindset shifted from an Italian to an American, and how that shift impacted my life. Those are all personal projects. They’re the things that keep my mind full of energy and excitement. They give me new ideas and inspiration that I later apply to my work.
Our mind is powerful, but if you don’t use it, if you stop pushing it to new limits – it will lose its flexibility. Don’t be afraid to cross your boundaries, it will make you stronger and help you discover new things about yourself. Limits are a matter of perception. Listen to that little voice inside your head that guides and inspires you. Don’t be afraid to do something new and different, that’s how you’ll grow! The act of creating is a process of discovery and exploration. It’s in those moments that we uncover something new and innovative – and that’s how we level up!
Embrace who you are, and the client you want to work with will find you
How do we build a wedding photography business (or any other type of business) based on the values that are important to us? How do we attract clients for destination weddings? How about adventure? Or luxury? How do we get clients who share similar principles and are inspired by the same things as us? The answer is so simple, yet most of us miss it. The answer is YOU!
We tend to attract people who are similar to us. Depending on what you do, and what type of work you put out there, a certain type of people will relate and connect to it.
In 2017, I was in a great business scenario – I finished my first fully booked wedding season, with over 30 weddings. I was increasing my prices and actually getting paid to photograph weddings. I was super busy with my bookings. I would take any and all clients that came my way, without choosing the ones that were best fitted for me.
I should have been happy, right? But I was missing something and my business didn’t feel right. Why did I decide to invest money, time, energy into something that I wasn’t sure was worth pursuing?
I could easily stay home and enjoy the early success of my work. But I had to be honest with myself – I wasn’t satisfied with my work and with the direction I was heading. Looking through my photos, I saw photographs that could have been taken by anyone. Deep down, I knew that I wanted to be something more than just another wedding photographer.
I realized that I needed to create work that truly inspired me. So I started planning a styled shoot, a “mock up” wedding. I knew I could use that content to attract couples I really wanted to work with.
Creating my own styled photoshoots helped me to practice my creativity. I didn’t know who I wanted to become, or what I needed to change in my work. But I was sure that by embracing photography and the things I love – it would take me where I needed to go. That meant bringing elements of fashion, travel, and emotions into my photoshoots. It also meant a lot of practice, which was key to defining my style and mastering my skill. It meant experimenting with my equipment and adapting to different situations, which ultimately brought more confidence and clarity over how I wanted to grow and evolve.
With styled shoots, there was no pressure and expectations from the couple, the wedding planner, the timeline, or family members. It was just me creating the work I love. It allowed me to open my mind and push the boundaries I’ve set for myself.
I needed to create something that I was really proud of.
I had to be more careful in choosing my clients and not take every inquiry that came my way, just the ones that were a good fit. I needed to work with my people. It didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of time, energy, and money – but the result paid back. I could finally push myself to the next level. I planned as much as I could and chose the direction for my work. And now, I’m excited about the unknown, about a new job, a different path to follow, different people, and the rush from pushing my own body and mind, to feel alive.
Build a community that supports you and becomes your evangelists
Now, the best part – build your community!! I mean, actual relationships with people that you want to work with. There are so many different people that I met over the years, through social media and various creative projects. I don’t connect with everyone. But the ones that I do connect with, understand who I am as an artist, and I’m able to understand them as well. We may not always agree on everything, but we trust, support, and bring each other forward.
I was born and grew up in Italy. Here, the word “community” didn’t really exist, especially when I first started my wedding photography career. I remember artists being very secretive about their work and tactics, so nobody would steal them and put them out of business. The mindset is very scarcity-driven here. As if there isn’t enough work to go around for everyone. When in reality, there are thousands of couples getting married every year, which is more than enough for all photographers out there.
I grew up with this mindset. I was thinking like that too. It was normal. But I was totally wrong. While living in the USA, I learned the greatest lesson of my entire life – SHARING IS CARING. I learned that by sharing and learning together, we could all thrive and bring our industry forward, collectively.
When I shared my lessons and connected with other creatives, I received love and trust in return. People are social creatures. We need to be part of a community where we can share our experiences, receive and offer support. And this is just the beginning, because the more energy you put into building a community, the more people want to hang out with you and get to know you. And the larger your community becomes, the more visibility you and your work get. Your community and friends will spread the word about you because they genuinely believe in you.
This is how I got where I am now. I can travel the world with my husband, who quit his job and works with me full-time. We shoot international weddings in the most epic locations. I finally found a way to connect with clients that resonate with me, and I’m able to use my photography as a way to create art with my camera. It doesn’t hurt that I get paid top dollar for my work. And the best part is that I finally love what I do.
While you look at those stunning images from my photoshoots, you need to know that getting here wasn’t easy. I had to completely rethink my approach to my work and my business strategy. Yes, it is fundamental to have bookings and get paid for our work. But don’t forget that it’s equally important to work with clients you connect with and remain excited about photography.”