Oct 4, 2020
Having discovered her love for photography in the Big Apple while launching her own blog, Lei Lei Clavey caught our attention with her crisp, clean shots. We couldn’t resist the opportunity to work with her on our first shoot. After capturing the full cherrichella collection, we took the time to sit down with Lei Lei to get to know her story behind the lens.
When did you first pick up a camera and when did you know that photography was the career you wanted to pursue?
I first picked up a camera in high school while studying art. In 2010 mum bought a camera and I actually stole it before going on a trip to China with dad. I claimed the camera as my own and started taking photos on the trip. I then came back and moved to New York (with the camera) and enjoyed taking snaps while travelling.
While living in NY I created my own blog Lei Lady Lei and found that it was much easier to shoot my own images than dealing with copyright issues when using other people’s images. Running my own blog made me want to learn how to capture great shots and improve my photography skills. Eventually I found shooting images for the blog came easier to me than writing content, so I pursued photography. The blog became a way for me to shoot content for brands and that’s how my photography career really began.
What type of photography do you specialise in? What made you choose to pursue this subject matter?
I concentrate on a mixture of commercial editorial and I have branched into wedding photography. Through the blog I’ve shot food, cocktails, beauty, lifestyle and streetstyle and what I love is commercial photography and wedding photography. I guess that’s why I chose to focus on these 2 types of photography. Both have their challenges. Shooting commercial I need to take into consideration the brand’s style and the brief given to me. While I implement my style of photography, I still need to consider the brand’s overall aesthetic. When shooting weddings, the couple will hire me because they like my photography style but the challenge is to make sure that I get the shots on the day because you can’t really turn around and ask for those moments to be replayed.
How would you describe your style of photography?
I would say classic, elegant, sophisticated. This style really suits the work I do with weddings and I aim to add those features to all of my commercial work.
What was your first camera? (the one you stole from your mum)
It was a Canon 550D. It wasn’t an extremely expensive camera, but more than I could afford at the time. From memory it was $1,000. I shot with that old faithful for 8 years and I only just upgraded to a professional camera, to a Canon 5D. There is a massive difference in speed and the amount of shots it can take.
What equipment would you recommend for somebody just starting out as a photographer?
I would say that the lenses are just as important as the body of the camera. The body is what will make the camera fast, but the lenses are what can make a real difference to an image. My advice to people just starting out would be to get a cheap camera and just start shooting. Rather than investing in expensive equipment I would say use that money to educate yourself and learn how to use the camera first. I certainly love getting new equipment, but it’s not going to be the difference in me winning more work in the future. I would say the education I invested in is more important.
What do you enjoy most about your work and what are the challenges?
Having the two different types of work allows my network to grow and I love connecting with so many different people. Every job is so different. That’s certainly a positive of my work. Every job is approached in a different way. I am always learning from every shoot and applying those lessons to the next job. The constant change is really enjoyable.
The biggest challenge is landing the brief specific to the client’s requirements. This can often be hard if it’s not communicated clearly at the beginning.
We live in such a digital world. Do you print your own photos or are they stored in the cloud like the majority of us?
I have been pretty bad at printing my own photos until this year. Recently having a baby made all the difference. Creating a baby book made me print a lot of my images. It makes such a difference seeing them in real life.
Another reason for starting to print my own imagery came from developing my wedding photography site and convincing clients to print their photos. I will always encourage my clients to print their shots because what happens if they were to lose them one day? You can never rule that possibility out.
Don’t get me wrong, most of my shots live in the cloud, but I have made a conscious effort to begin printing them out.
You spent the day photographing our shoes and as you can tell we are wrapped with the final shots. How many heels do you personally own?
I probably own 50 pairs of shoes. (Lei Lei says this with a big smile). I have these old French pigeonhole lockers that I store all my shoes in. My plan is to label each hole so I can easily access each pair of shoes. It’s been really hard in Melbourne lockdown not to be able to wear all of my shoes.
What are the hardest shoes to generally photograph?
Black shoes are hard. Often, they will have textures or nice details which can be really difficult to pick up in camera.
Sneakers are quite easy to shoot. Boots can be hard. It can be really difficult (especially with boots), to show the shape of shoes if they aren’t shot on a foot. Sandals are much easier to shoot on the foot.
Shoes are hard to shoot in general.
What goes into capturing great shoe shots?
Capturing the details of the shoe, showing the lines, and letting the shoes be the focus. Whether it’s an on-the-foot shot or a lifestyle flat lay set-up, it’s all about making the shoe the hero of the shot.
What are you favourite cherrichella heels?
Having the exclusive look at the collection before you launched was a great way for me to choose. I love the colours of the collection and loved shooting the styles Whisper and Stack. Based on my personal style I would have to say the Stack in sky blue. Stunning.
You live in Ashburton. When you are not in Melbourne lockdown, what are your favourite local cafe/restaurants/shops?
Ashburton is not the coolest area…yet. I really like a café around the corner from me called Joe Frank. High Street Armadale is a really nice street for window shopping. The city isn’t far from us and I love going into dine at my favourite restaurant - Anada Bar & Restaurant in Gertrude Street, Fitzroy.
Do you prefer a book, tv series or movie?
It really depends on my mood. At the moment we are going through a James Bond marathon. I actually had a dream that the next Bond will be a female. Wouldn’t that be cool? (We would love that!)
I just finished a great book called Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. The book tells the story of a young black woman who is wrongly accused of kidnapping while babysitting a white child and the events that follow the incident. I’m now reading a great book about business and accounting called Profit First.
To learn more about Lei Lei’s work, follow Lei Lei: