Writer and photographer Nina Brady sat down with Tay Daliese, a Kansas City wedding photographer, about how she got started in the industry, and what it is like planning your own wedding as a wedding photographer.
Nina: Hey, Tay! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me. First, I would love for you to tell me a bit about yourself. Where’d you grow up?
Tay: I grew up between two towns. I was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and then my mom moved to Warrensburg (a tiny Missouri town) for college; we lived in Warrensburg until I was 10. Then we moved back to Kansas City and I lived there until I ended up back in Warrensburg for college. The University of Central Missouri was one of the only colleges that offered a bachelor of science degree in photography. So I got my degree and now here I am in Kansas City again!
Nina: That’s awesome! I’ve never even heard of getting a B.S. in photography! When and how did your interest in photography begin? After college, what did you do? Did you establish your business immediately?
Tay: It really started in college because I was obsessed with Corinne Alexandra — a.k.a “Stuck with Pins” — on MySpace. I also had a friend who took a lot of creative self portraits; I tried my hand at that and sucked at it, so I started taking photos of other people. I won a few awards in high school, and my family told me I shouldn’t ever be a teacher because I’d just be poor my whole life — they were all teachers when I was growing up — so I decided to see if I could make something out of photography. After college I interned with an established wedding photographer and then I started slowly building my own clientele until I got to where I am now.
Nina: So how many years have you been in business now? And what made you decide to go into wedding photography, specifically?
Tay: I started as "Tay Daliese Photo" right out of college, which was hard because no one can spell my name. Then in 2018 it evolved as I hopped the state line and re-established myself as "Hey Tay,” and my body-positive boudoir counterpart "Hey Boudie.” I've been shooting officially for 4 years. Prior to that, I was doing the second-shooting thing, and not really making money, but just trying to absorb everything I could before I actually established my business.
I chose wedding photography because I knew my place was with people. I'm an ambivert, which is stuck up talk for “I interact with people super enthusiastically but on my own terms,” [laughs]. At my university you had to get passing grades in all the big genres — i.e. commercial photography, food photography, & portraiture. From there you had to specialize. I couldn't color correct cookies for the life of me, and I loved the science and math behind lighting ratios for commercial photography, but it was a lot less freeing. I still do some of that in my free time, but it's not my passion. As the wedding industry evolved into something more unique and special, depending on the couple, it definitely made me fall in love. It was a slow process because it's an intimidating thing — you don't want to ruin someone's big day. I've grown so much, though, and every year I try to push myself more, and I can't see myself doing anything else, honestly.
Nina: That’s wonderful! I’m so glad you found your passion! So you are currently planning your own wedding, right?
Tay: Yes and it is eye opening, stressful, and super humbling.
Nina: I can imagine! Has it affected the way you see your job as a wedding photographer?
Tay: Not specifically in my role as a wedding photographer, but as a vendor, definitely. There is such a disconnect in hiring these people and first impressions are really everything. I'm bisexual, so one of my priorities has been only hiring people for our day that I know would have taken the job if fate had led me to marry someone other than a heterosexual white man. Even approaching that from my side has been precarious, because my feelings have been hurt finding out a vendor wasn't inclusive and having to go another direction, because I loved what they brought to the table otherwise. I don’t mean to get preachy about that, though. It's just a small piece of what has been at the forefront of my mind this whole time.
Nina: Yeah, that is so tough. How does your identity as a Black bisexual woman inform the way you approach your job and the way you run your business?
Tay: I think it makes it a little easier to show people the human side of the business because it's so deeply engrained in everything I do. I feel like I have always been a super empathetic person, but as someone who feels like they have a platform to change things, it gives me purpose. I want to photograph people from all walks of life, and give them a voice and a chance to be seen in places they normally wouldn't. It's truly important to me that no one feels left behind.
Nina: I love that. So what is your favorite part about being a wedding photographer?
Tay: Learning! I go into each wedding seeing it as an experience to learn or do something new. School always came easily to me, but I hated it, so falling into something I love and viewing it at as an opportunity to constantly improve is awesome to me. I meet amazing people and end up as friends with a majority of my couples, and I am continually learning something either unique to wedding photography or to being a good human being.
Nina: Totally! So what makes Hey Tay special? What do you find your couples love most about you and your work?
Tay: I tend to run into a lot of couples who like me because I stay away from the trendier editing styles. I describe my work as “true to life” in color, as I'm not exactly “light and airy” or “dark and moody.” It does mean I get passed over sometimes because things are trendy for a reason, but I've tried turning my work in that direction and it's just not me.
I also have gotten a few compliments like “professional but still sassy as hell,” and I had someone a few months ago tell me they booked me because in all their searching I was the only one who showed couples that looked like them. That made me really happy, obviously, since that's what I'm all about.
Nina: That is awesome. I love seeing examples that show why representation is so important. Since you’re planning your own wedding, I have to ask — do you have any particular advice for folks who are planning theirs?
Tay: Yes! I have been writing a ton of blog posts, so if you get bored feel free to peruse those, but I think the biggest thing is that once I prioritized, I felt better. Plenty of people can tell you what they think you should do but only you can figure out what you truly care about. I think flowers are beautiful, but they die and they are so expensive, so we're doing mostly Costco greenery and some ad hoc bouquets from a small local shop. My dress is coming from an online store. I know I want my photos to be beautiful, obviously, so I got the photographer of my dreams, and we also prioritized having a beautiful venue that wouldn't need as much decorating
Nina: Great advice! That definitely makes sense to me. Is there anything else you want to tell the readers?
Tay: I love meeting like-minded business professionals and find myself easily going stir crazy, so please drop a line if you ever find yourself wanting to connect with someone who gets it. I'm traveling a little more lately and would love to meet some people on my journeys as well!
*Note from Tay: I recently started a blog post of LGBTQ+ "safe" vendors for people in the Kansas City area, so if anyone else is from Misery, feel free to take a look and hopefully it'll help you find someone you love!