Stephanie Smith established L.S. Smith Photography in 2012 as a full-service boutique studio providing contemporary portraiture. Smith offers clients a unique and personal portrait experience in her downtown Quitman studio, including custom-designed photo sessions with hair, makeup, and wardrobe options.
Not afraid of a good challenge, Smith was intrigued when a local event planner presented the opportunity to add quinceañera portraits to her portfolio.
“She thought this was a natural overlap in our respective businesses,” says Smith, who at the time was not familiar with the quinceañera tradition. “I am nearly always up for something new and different—it’s part of being a custom portrait photographer, so I began to research.”
In many Latin American countries, a quinceañera traditionally marks a girl’s 15th birthday as a coming-of-age celebration that includes a religious ceremony and elaborate party with family and friends.
Similar to a wedding expo or a bridal show, Smith says the more she learned, the more excited she became at the possibility of participating in a quinceañera event.
Various vendors and businesses were selected to participate in the photo shoot, including a formal dress boutique, baker, florist, hairstylist, makeup artist, calligrapher, videographer, and cultural consultants.
The styled photo shoot provided Smith and vendors an opportunity to co-market and showcase their services and expertise. Each vendor contributed their time, talent, and products, at no cost, in exchange for the photos to use for marketing their businesses.
“I am nearly always up for something new and different—it’s part of being a custom portrait photographer, so I began to research.”–Stephanie Smith
Originally scheduled for August 2021, the quinceañera photo shoot was delayed one month when the event planner had to bow out due to a family issue.
After brief consideration, Smith decided to regroup and to serve as the event’s coordinator.
“I looked at the original proposed date,” she says. “No way were we going to make it.” The new date was set for September 19 at Havana Springs, a 50-acre historic estate located in the quaint town of Havana, Florida.
Though quinceañera events vary from family to family, one of the most iconic aspects of the celebration is a professional photo shoot taken in a formal evening gown.
To serve as models, Smith enlisted the assistance of Destiny Alaniz and Yalixa Carrillo for the day-long photo shoot.
Like hosting a wedding, Smith says, a quinceañera event shares many of the same elements, and she captured each aspect.
“It’s like photographing each member of a large family, and creating a collage of images that describe the whole family, rather than photographing all of the family members together in one image,” Smith says. “The models, the florals, the cake, the accessories, the venue—they’re all members of the family.”
Smith says the quinceañera style shoot was essentially the same process she offers in her Quitman studio. “Every session is about my client’s story and how they want to tell it. Then, we design every bit of it from the wardrobe, posing, mood, accessories, hair, makeup, and lighting.”
While there were some challenges, Smith is committed to future quinceañera events.
“I did have to stretch some existing skills and acquire some new ones, but not in the photography area,” she says. “Growth, for me, came in the executive sphere.”
Megan Breedlove, Breedlove and Hair