Instructor Highlight | Chelsea Chorpenning

Starting October 15th, Chelsea Chorpenning will be teaching an 8-week Lifestyle Photography Course at madelife! We met up with Chelsea for a quick discussion about her career, process, and life as a professional photographer!  

How did you get started as a lifestyle photographer and how would you define the genre?

I was given my first film camera when I was 15 after taking an intro to photography class in high school. I was instantly hooked. However, I didn’t see it as a career yet..just a hobby or side gig. In college, I studied many art forms and became interested in how to combine 2-D, 3-D and performance art into my work. Theatre and film was a good fit for combining these interests, so I became a stage/wardrobe designer moved to New York City where I worked for many years. After a few years working in design, I was pulled toward photography again and I started working at the International Center for Photography, which introduced me to amazing photographers from around the world. Being surrounded by aspiring and established artists opened my eyes to the possibility of pursuing my own photography career. So I left NY to study photography at the San Francisco Art Institute. In San Francisco/Oakland, I learned more about the history and process of photography including theory, techniques, tools, and strategies of how to create a great body of work. This marked the first time I photographed people, which was a big transition for me and my work. Shooting with people shifted my vision significantly and introduced me to a whole new set of variables to consider. During this time, I also started assisting a wonderful lifestyle photographer, Lauren Crew, who helped me see the process of shooting portraiture as well as the business of running your own art business.

Photography by Chelsea Chorpenning


Have you identified any recent changes or fads in the field, and if so, has it caused you to adapt or shift your approach?

Art is an ever-evolving expression that requires artists to constantly adapt and shift their approach. Lifestyle photography is no different. In my work, I spend a significant amount of time researching and contemplating other people’s work, which always leads me to new ideas and creative approaches. It is very important to me to try new things in my photography and I am always challenging myself to add a new obstacle or element to my process to change up my routine. I think constant learning is the key to being a successful photographer in today’s environment.

For lifestyle work, how do you manage the variety of clients and their visual branding needs? Do you find yourself working with different clients differently?

I love working with different clients with different visions. Communication is key and it is important to have strategies for making sure you and your client are on the same page at every step of the art process. For me, sharing visual examples and inspiration (mood boards) are very helpful in achieving a successful outcome for my client.

For photographers launching their careers, do you think there’s one thing that’s most important to cultivate out of the gate?— be it technical skill, gear and studio investment, a unique style or eye, or business practices?

Start with honing in on your craft by taking tons of photos and then focus on building your business. I’m not a big “gear head” so I don’t put a lot of emphasis on technical skill per se, but it is definitely important. In my experience, you learn the technical side of photography from shooting every day, talking with other photographers, and constantly trying new things. This is a major reason I suggest assisting other photographers as much as possible. I continue to assist photographers to this day because I feel it’s such an important part of my artistic development.


Learn more about Chelsea’s Lifestyle Photography Course at madelife

You can find Chelsea’s work @

Photography by Chelsea Chorpenning


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *