Flagler County and the surrounding areas represent one of the most active and competitive regions of Florida for nature and lifestyle photographers. There’s no shortage of exceptionally talented members of the photography community right here in and around our county. For this feature, we reached out to five such photographers and asked them to share about their methods, their style, and their quickly accelerating careers.
Since COVID-19 took hold of American life last year, freelancers and small business owners have had to drastically adapt to keep their hobbies and income streams alive. In the photography world, some have put their businesses on hold, while others have simply modified their operation. We cover that and more with these five talented individuals:
Kylie De Deo graduated Flagler Palm Coast High School in the Class of 2017, and has been posting photos to her Instagram account (@kylieanne_photos) since 2018.
Hailee Ostapko is a student at the University of Central Florida who’s actively shared her photography on social media since 2014.
Bekah Collins shoots family and couple/engagement/wedding photos, and has been active since 2017.
Ka’Deem Wynn is a sports photographer who graduated FPCHS in 2016. Recently Ka’Deem is a contributor to the Palm Coast Observer.
Stephen Helfrich is a renowned entertainment photographer and recently, the lead photographer here at AskFlagler.
-How long have you lived in the area?
Kylie De Deo: I‘ve lived in Palm Coast my whole life and I just recently moved to Jacksonville.
Hailee Ostapko: I’ve lived in Palm Coast for about 15 years in total.
Bekah Collins: I was born and raised in the area!
Ka’Deem Wynn: I’ve lived in Palm Coast since 2011, though the last few years I’ve mostly been in North Carolina because of school. This is my first time back full-time since 2016.
Stephen Helfrich: I lived in Palm Coast for 21 years.
-How did you first become interested in photography?
Kylie: I first got interested in photography when my grandparents would buy me disposable cameras as gifts. Then my parents finally bought me the camera I have now which is much better than a disposable one.
Hailee: Laura Ostapko, my aunt, is an amazing photographer & inspired me at a young age to appreciate photography.
Bekah: My mother always made photographs an important part of our lives. It made me see how special photographs were. I found myself wanting to stop moments and relive them forever; taking photos is the closest I can get to that.
Ka’Deem: Looking back I think I’ve actually always had an interest, just never pursued it. I always preferred being behind the camera rather than being in front of it. But about three years ago is when I really stepped into it. While I was in college, there was a social media account that I created and managed to help promote student-athletes and athletic events on campus. I wanted to step up the quality of the content I was putting out (both for photo and video) so I invested in a camera.
Stephen: It was my Sophomore year in high school and I needed to take fine art class as it was requirement to graduate, so I’ve taken photography. After that class, I’ve fell in love with it.
-What subjects do you primarily photograph?
Kylie: I primarily shoot people, but I really enjoy taking photos of landscape and nature especially the beach at sunrise.
Hailee: Primarily, I like to photograph animals or people as my subjects.
Bekah: I am a portrait photographer that specializes in couples and family photographs. My style is very lifestyle based. I love to capture people in movement and as real as they are, going beyond posed photographs.
Ka’Deem: Primarily I shoot sports and portraits, though recently I’ve been doing almost sports exclusively. But I also do other things as well (family photos, proposal/engagements, events, etc.) I like to be versatile.
Stephen: Portraits, weddings, music, and now editorial for AskFlagler. Trying out commercial next.
-What do you have in your gear collection?
Kylie: I shoot with a Canon Rebel T5, the lenses I have are a prime 50, an 18-55mm, a 50-250mm, and a 35-80mm, I also have a couple of lens filters, a tripod and a reflector. I’m saving up some money so that I can buy a Canon 5D Mark III.
Hailee: My gear collection consists of my Nikon D3300 and a 50 mm lens.
Bekah: I have Canon 5D Mark IV for camera bodies. For weddings I find myself relying on my 50mm and 70-200mm lenses. For lights I use Godox AD200 and speedlights.
Ka’Deem: My main camera is a Canon M50. As a backup, I have my Canon 60D (first camera I got). As far as lenses go, I primarily use my 80-200mm f/2.8 and my 24-70mm f/2.8. I also have a 50mm f/1.4. I also have other small gadgets and things that I can use to help with whatever it is that I’m doing.
Stephen: Two Nikon Cameras, six Lens, four strobes ( lighting equipment ), three tripods, two reflectors, a background stand, and a portable background.
-Where did you first start to find opportunities in your community?
Kylie: I first found opportunities for photography through family and friends, and connections through other people.
Hailee: Roy Ostapko, my father, owns Celebrate Flagler which enabled me to publish some of my work & get my name out there.
Bekah: It started when I was babysitting. I always used to photograph, and the one family knew I did photography as a hobby. They asked if I would take a chance and do their family photos, and I am so glad I did. That one leap lead me to the business I now own. I never would have thought this is what I could do as a career if it wasn’t for that family taking a chance on me. After that, word of mouth is one of the greatest marketing tools. I soon found myself receiving many opportunities from that!
Ka’Deem: I guess you could say the first time was over the summer during the first really big Black Lives Matter March in Flagler Beach. I wanted to go out and just document so I took photos but I also shot and put together a video. I got more noticed for the video more so than the photos but either way, the content from then turned a lot of heads. Then some months later I was able to reconnect with the Palm Coast Observer (I had a brief stint as a contributor while in high school) and now I shoot sports for them.
Stephen: Taking pictures of live music at Sarbez [in St. Augustine], meeting local bands/artists from Palm Coast like Blüm, Flo.wav, The Ned, and Chris Gollon.
-When did you know you wanted to take photography from a hobby to a lifestyle?
Kylie: I realized I wanted to make photography a lifestyle for me when I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to major in in college. I thought about it and figured it out after my freshman year and I’m happy with how everything is working out so far.
Hailee: Considering how much I enjoy photography I decided to make it a form of income.
Bekah: I originally wanted to be a teacher. I found myself at a crossroads when an amazing professor of mine suggested I do something I truly love. When photography quickly became the center of that conversation, she introduced me to Daytona State’s photography program. Almost 3 years later, I run my business full-time while still finishing my degree at UCF. The time spent here, showed me I could really do this as my career.
Ka’Deem: While I was still in college, but I guess you could say it was a lifestyle and career asset to me first and then a hobby. Yes, I enjoy it, but I had already been in the multimedia world for some years prior (started in 2014 while still in high school), so adding photography and video to the equation just made me more of a Swiss Army knife with the work that I do.
Stephen: I was in Daytona State College, totally clueless of what I wanted to major in, and the college has a photography program that was known to be one of the best photography schools in the country. So I’ve picked photography as my major and here I am: a guy with an associate’s degree in photography.
-How long do you usually spend on editing before a batch of photos is ready?
Kylie: The amount of time it takes to edit photos really depends on how many final images are wanted and how they want the photos to look.
Hailee: Typically I’ll spend a few hours on editing depending on how many photos I ended up with.
Bekah: This totally depends on the type of session! I like to spend as much time as I can and be very detailed. For portrait sessions my turnaround time is between 1-2 weeks. Weddings depending on busy season, are between 3-4 weeks. I always like to send preview photos a day or two after the shoot because sometimes weeks can feel like an eternity!
Ka’Deem: That’s honestly on a case-by-case basis. It all depends on what I’m shooting, what I have to do, how much I have to do, etc. So I can’t really give a timeframe, though I will say that I do like to be efficient with my work and the timing is part of that formula.
Stephen: It depends on how the photograph was shot and how many are selected. One images can take 30 minutes to two hours. Usually past 30 minutes, I’m doing photoshop manipulations or face retouching.
-How have you had to adjust your photography operation because of COVID-19?
Kylie: I haven’t adjusted much since Covid, I’ve just had less photo shoots.
Hailee: Since COVID really hit hard in March I haven’t been booking photo shoots, but I will be starting back up this month!
Bekah: I have moved fully to being on location. Being outside helps keeps things safe. When I have been hired to do a home session, I wear a mask and make sure everything I bring into the home is sanitized.
Ka’Deem: I don’t think I’ve really had to adjust my operations too much, though it has been different. Initially, sports weren’t going on which meant my main line of work was out of commission for a time. As far as the other things I’ve done, that was put on hold too. But as things have begun to adjust to how the times are, I’ve been able to more or less resume what I was doing prior to the shutdown.
Stephen: To be honest, I took a break from the photography business in the beginning of the pandemic. I wasn’t getting enough cliental anyways so I didn’t effect me much but when I got back into it . it’s one hell of a hustle, I only had a few portrait gigs and 1 wedding last year.
-How do you strive to separate yourself from the rest in the local photography industry?
Kylie: I strive to separate myself from the rest of the local photography community by just being myself and having fun with what I do and trying to be very personable with everyone I do work for.
Hailee: In order to separate myself from the rest as far as photographers go, I try my best to make my photos as unique as possible with a slightly vintage look.
Bekah: I work with clients to create images that they love. If they have a special vision, I love to hear them out and make that come to life. Making clients feel comfortable in front of the camera, is a major goal of mine. I do this by creating prompts for them over poses and play their favorite playlists if they like. Creating a safe environment that is fun and creative is something I strive for every photoshoot to have. I absolutely love what I do and will be your biggest hype man if you are ever in front of my camera.
Ka’Deem: I have the ability to do multiple things. Since I’ve been back in town, I’ve noticed that most people stick to one or two areas of photography, and that’s totally fine. But I like being adaptable, I don’t like saying “I can’t do that.” I prefer to have the response “Yes, I can.” But on top of that, I also do video, which (it appears) that no one else around here does. I feel like it’s a better deal to have/know someone who can do photo as well as video, occasionally at the same time if need be.
Stephen: Always learning and relearning, experimenting with lighting and new techniques, creating my own presets, and hustling.
AskFlagler thanks Stephen Helfrich, Bekah Collins, Hailee Ostapko, Kyle De Deo, and Ka’Deem Wynn for participating in this feature.