Many Helias students have talents outside of academics and school-sponsored sports. But with so little social time in school, it can be hard for students to get to know the unpublicized talents of their classmates. One of these talented students is Senior Leah Stiefermann. Stiefermann is known for her dance and musical abilities, but not as well-known for her skills behind the camera.
Stiefermann says she always loved taking pictures, but her passion for photography really started to take off in Mr. Balk’s photography class, junior year. Mr. Balk continuously complimented her photos, saying she had “a real eye for it,” especially for a beginner. Leah took this to heart and with every new photo captured on her Canon T5 Rebel I, her pride in her abilities grew. Even after the class was over, she found her remaining desire to photograph the world around her to be strong.
With her camera overflowing with pictures she loved, Stiefermann began to post to social media. She first started a Facebook page, called Stiefermann Photography. Soon realizing that her own age group would be more appreciative of her talent and would have a stronger want to be photographed, she also started an Instagram account. She switched the name, however, to Leah Kim Photography on her Instagram account.
“I changed it to “Leah Kim” because Kim is my middle name, and what happens when I get married, man? Stiefermann said. “I gotta change it sometime right? Might as well change it now.”
Leah doesn’t know if she wants photography to be her full-time job, but she feels lucky to have found something she loves and can also make money doing. She is very excited for her future at Missouri State next fall and plans on majoring in business with a minor in photography. Even if her career takes her other avenues besides photography, she says she will always snaps photos either as a side job or just as a hobby.
“I’m always going to take pictures because I have a camera, and I love capturing moments,” said Stiefermann.
Leah’s photos have impressed people so much, that some, such as seniors Georgia Roark and Morgan Wieberg, have even asked her to take their senior pictures. At a time when senior pictures can cost upwards of $500, Leah Kim Photography offers them at $150. The senior can request as many wardrobe changes and locations as they want, and access to all the pictures, for this set price. Senior shoots are not all she does though, she also has experience shooting babies, couples, and people who just want to capture their current stage of life. Her going rate for a shoot is $30 an hour, plus $10 for editing. Most of Leah’s sessions are in the early morning between 7-8 a.m., depending on daylight savings.
“There’s a prime time to take pictures because you don’t want the sun directly above their head, because it creates harsh lighting and doesn’t make for a very good picture,” said Stiefermann.
Though she takes a variety of pictures, she most enjoys portraits. She likes to capture the beauty in and around a central focus. She also enjoys the creativity that goes into editing the photos, though she says editing often takes her all day. This isn’t hard to imagine, considering she takes between 900-1,000 pictures per shoot. Stiefermann explains that the reason she takes so many pictures is to capture facial changes. Due to the thousands of muscles in a person’s face, the slightest movement can change the picture in its entirety. She even takes pictures when her subject is talking, because it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint the moment they may crack up laughing, and Stiefermann doesn’t want to miss it.
Setting her apart from other photographers is her desire to capture the true person in front of the camera.
“I try to capture the genuine person,” said Stiefermann. “I don’t try to search for a picture that will look good but not capture the real you. I get raw emotions, a person’s real laugh, real smile. Pictures that look genuine, not staged.”