With a knack for capturing the authentic beauty of life’s most precious moments, TahJah Harmony of Quaint + Whim takes photography to the next level. After quitting her job in the corporate world, TahJah turned her gaze inward to create a business centered around intuitive inspiration, allowing her to incorporate aspects of her own personal heritage, such as calligraphy. She engages with her clients in a way that transcends artificial smiles and uncomfortable poses. Eager to gain some creative motivation, we sat down with TahJah to learn how she keeps herself inspired, as well as what is the meaning behind her “Flooded with Love” promotion.
1. What is a typical day like for you when you are preparing for a shoot? I love routine, so on days I have a session, I really like to ensure my routines are in place. The night before I will make sure all my cards are formatted, batteries are charged, and that all my gear is cleaned and packed away. In the morning, I will drink some coffee, have a good breakfast and start reading over my questionnaire and e-mails from the client I am about to photograph to get refreshed on their story and what they are wanting for the session. I spend a little time in quiet, and I even have a photo-day playlist I’ll start listening to on the drive over, to kind of get me in the zone.
2. What is your professional background? How did you decide to incorporate calligraphy into your photography business?
Calligraphy was something that my grandfather taught my mom, and she passed it on to me when I was about eight [years old]. I went to LSU for digital art and was the first AVATAR graduate (which means I took a lot of computer science classes and incorporated that into my art!). After I graduated from LSU, I worked in the video game industry and as an app developer for the state. I started my photography company in college and only continued it as a side business for an additional six years, before leaving my full-time job in the tech world to be a full-time photographer. I randomly posted something I wrote on Instagram, and ever since then, calligraphy kind of became a “happy accident” business inside of Quaint+Whim. I love offering calligraphy to my clients! I’ve designed my brides’ wedding stationery and even made prints for my clients’ nurseries.
3. What are the first things you tell clients when you start a shoot? Usually the very first thing is how to pronounce my name! I like for clients to understand my game plan, so they can see when things might wrap up. For my in-home sessions, I ask for clients to show me around their home, and I come up with a game plan on the spot depending on the lighting and what rooms they want to use. For any other locations, I will get to the location early and map out a game plan before they arrive. There is something about knowing where things might end up that kind of gives people a sense of comfort, especially for the men and the children!
4. What sets your photography apart? As a person I am extremely empathic, and I think that feeling gets imprinted into not only my photography, but how quickly I can connect with my clients. Having that connection is what is important to me in order to create beautiful portraits that are unique to that particular client’s session. Growing up, people have always told me that they feel like they have known me their entire life and feel very trusting to me, even if we only knew each other for a very short while. It truly is a God-given gift that my clients feel that way also. It allows me to get very intimate moments, and also for them to trust me if I have an idea that is a little out of the box. I feel deeply connected to my clients, I get teary at their weddings, laugh with their kids, and connect with them in a way that they can not only remember what they look like, but who they were at that time in their life.
5. What is one thing people should know about your business that they may not be aware of?
Even though I do a good amount of calligraphy work, I don’t fully advertise that it is something I do. I’ve done different lettering and illustrations for my clients’ homes, and they are always so surprised to hear that I do that. From writing their vows in calligraphy to doing an illustration of their home, illustrations and calligraphy are something that I do completely on a whim.
6. How do you keep shoots fresh and exciting? I do two things: the first thing is listening to my clients’ stories. Everyone has such a different story, and trying to figure out how to document photos that embody them keeps my sessions fresh and exciting. I try not to force poses because I realize I am forcing moments instead of just living in them. When I am constantly looking for moments, then I capture what I think the day looks like, instead of just letting things naturally unfold. The next thing is that I give myself one challenge before each session. It could be anything from trying a new lighting setup to a camera trick or a pose idea. Picking one thing to focus on helps me stay into the natural moments of the day, while trying something different.
7. Can you share a hint about the next great thing we can expect from you? I am having a huge heart for teaching and hosting workshops! I get such a fulfillment watching people learn and create calligraphy projects, make new friends and eat beautifully prepared food! I have a few big special projects to host more workshops, and have them not be limited to just calligraphy to inspire people to gather together!
8. What was your reason for starting your own business? What have you learned through the process? My reasons for starting my own business mostly stem from how I’m such a passionate person. I always feel better when my work is connected to a bigger mission in life. That was something I wasn’t getting from the corporate world. I’ve always done photography on the side, and I kind of realized that I was becoming so fulfilled working on Quaint+Whim and serving my clients. I’ve learned so many things through the process of owning my own business, and I am continually learning more things. Things are always changing–from social media algorithms and gear and software updates to even internal workflows. But I love the daily challenges of owning my own business.
9. What is your favorite place or thing to shoot? My favorite things to photograph are in-home sessions! I’ve photographed small-business bakers in their homes and couples wanting to document their last moments in their house before they move on to another. I always feel like I am hanging out with friends and just so happen to have my camera with me. Everyone is so relaxed and open, and you really get to learn a lot about people.
10. What inspired you to launch your “Flooded with Love” promotion? What has touched you the most through your shoots with these families? Seeing families lose their home really impacted me. Especially seeing clients who have previously invested in in-home sessions with me in the past lose everything, I felt so incredibly helpless. I started getting inquiries from older clients as well as newer clients saying that their homes were finally close to being done, and I know so much sweat, tears and stress went into them crafting their houses again … and an in-home session seemed to be a way that they were putting a bow on the finished product of their home, making their house into a home filled with happy moments. I felt so honored that people would think to have a photo session as their final touch, that I wanted to offer mini-sessions to other families and couples. It is crazy seeing how much the same home I went into to photograph has changed, but it’s still so sad to know that sentimental items and photos were lost. Kids are so excited to show me their new rooms, and I love listening to the stories of churches and strangers helping them get back into their homes and getting started. It has made my passion for photographing in-home sessions so much more!