Hello, Working Girl: Michaella Jelin of Yellow Bird Visuals

PhotobyZacTill.jpg                                   Photo by Zac Till

We're excited to introduce Michaella, the founder and creative lens behind Yellow Bird Visuals, an Atlanta-based photography and design company. There are so many reasons that we admire Michaella – for her upbeat demeanor, creative talent and her forward-thinking ways. If you're looking to pursue a career in the creative field, don't miss out on reading her incredible journey below.

Q: When did you take an interest in photography, and how did you hone your skills before launching Yellow Bird Visuals? A: My sophomore year of high school, I signed up for a digital imaging course on a whim, and completely fell in love with it.  I took pictures of everything and anything.  In high school I was always the girl taking pictures.  When I would get together with friends, or go to a party, it was just assumed that I would take pictures for everyone.  I didn’t think much of it then, but looking back, even if I had no idea what I was doing, the memories will forever live on in the photos I took & I think that was the biggest thing that inspired my photography. I never really thought about pursuing a career in photography until last summer.  When I got to college, I was really into graphic design, and put my photography on the back burner until last summer.  I was looking up graphic design internships to apply for, and instead stumbled upon a photography internship through Leah & Mark & Co. and decided to go for it.  The internship really forced me to get out and shoot almost every day.  It was the push I needed to get back into it and remind myself why I fell in love with photography to begin with.  It also helped me look at the business side of photography, and realize that it was actually something I could make a career of.  I spent last summer really honing in on my skills, and learning the ins and outs of business, and dreamt up the idea to start my own!

Q: Is there a story behind the name of your brand? We love it! A: Yes there is! I spent a long time making lists and lists of possible names when I was in the process of creating my business, but nothing felt right.  I was laying on my bed thinking of names one day and looked over at a poster I had hung up on my wall.  It was from one of my favorite records, I’m Wide Awake it’s Morning by Bright Eyes.  It has a little yellow bird on it, which is where my initial inspiration for the name came from.  It was the first name I felt really stuck, and I couldn’t get it out of my head.  I looked up what the meaning of a yellow bird was, and discovered yellow birds represent love, warmth, happiness and good fortune, which were all things I hoped my photography and design would bring to people.  Shortly after initially coming up with the name, I was having a conversation with someone I had just recently met, who had no idea about my intent to start a business, and they told me I reminded them of a yellow bird.  It was completely out of the blue, and I knew then I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect name.

Q: What is your favorite part about shooting engagements, weddings or events? A: My favorite part is definitely the people!  I love being able to meet new people, and hear their stories.  People and their stories inspire me more than anything, so being able to document important moments in peoples’ lives, and create stories in the form of photographs that people can cherish forever is the reason I love what I do so much.  It’s the most rewarding feeling delivering the finished photos to my clients and seeing how happy the photos make them.  I’ve had so many clients come to me telling me they’ve never had a good experience getting their picture taken before.  That challenge to change the way they think of photography, and turn it into a great, memorable experience for them is so rewarding.

Q: For other Working Girls pursuing a career in the creative realm, what are your top three pieces of advice for success? A: 1) Network, network, network!  Meet as many people as possible, and take advantage of social media! Don’t just “follow people” but make it a point to engage with your followers. Don’t be afraid to show off your skills either!  Post pictures of things you’re working on. It not only helps engage your followers in your creative process, but it shows people what you can do. I can’t even tell you the amount of times I have simply posted a photo I took or design I created and had someone message me telling me they saw it on Instagram or Facebook and they want something similar! Social media can be an amazing tool, especially as a creative, so don’t be afraid to use it.

2) Collaborate! The creative community is full of so many talented, amazing people, who truly are so supportive of each other.  One of the best ways to put yourself out there is to team up with others.  Trade skills for skills, and help each other pursue your dreams!  As much as you may want to do everything yourself, everyone has different things they can bring to the table, and everyone sees things differently. It’s amazing the things that can happen when creatives work together, and the friendships that can come out of it are irreplaceable.

3) Dream big, keep creating, and push yourself!  It can be very intimidating trying to break into the creative world and pursue a creative career.  It’s definitely a roller coaster ride; one day you feel completely confident with your work, and the next you have no idea what you’re doing.  It can be easy to want to give up, but don’t ever stop creating.  Don’t be afraid to dream big, and take risks.  It definitely isn’t the easiest of paths in life to choose, but I believe that if you truly love to create, it’s one of the most rewarding.  Even on your off days, you’ll still love what you do, and nothing can replace that.    

Q: How do you keep up with the industry and keep your inspiration fresh on shoots? A: There are so many photographers I look up to, and following other photographers’ blogs is an amazing way to see what others are doing in the industry.  There are also a ton of photography workshops all over the country and world.  I haven’t had a chance to attend one yet, but have it in my plans sometime soon.  Workshops are an amazing way to network, see what other photographers in the industry are doing, and learn from other talented creatives.  I am constantly pushing myself to try new things, and think of new ideas.  As a photographer, or any creative, it is a constant growing and learning experience.  There will always be new ways to look at things, and it’s important to keep pushing yourself.  I keep an ongoing list of ideas and dreams I have, so that if I ever don’t know where to go next, I have things I can strive for.  And sometimes, if you’re really in a creative rut, the best thing to do is step away from your comfort zone.  Drive somewhere new, go on a trip, or try something you’ve always been scared to try.  Meeting new people, hearing new stories, and seeing new places can inspire things you didn’t even know you had in you!

Q: Where do you see Yellow Bird Visuals in 5 years? A: Since YBV is still so young, every day is a new adventure, and I still never know what to expect!  5 years from now, my goal is for YBV to not just be me.  My boyfriend, Zac, has been hugely involved with YBV on the backside since it started.  He is currently living in Michigan, so it’s been hard to truly make him a full part of YBV. This summer he will be second shooting for a few of my weddings as well as doing some video for me.  My hope is that in 5 years, he will be a full time part of the business so that it can grow even more.  Although currently I mainly shoot solely around the metro Atlanta area, in 5 years I definitely see YBV expanding all over the country.  Once I’m out of school, it will be much easier to travel, and it’s my hope that I’ll be able to meet, photograph, and tell peoples’ stories all over the country and even world! I have also slowly been adding graphic design as a part of the business, which I had in mind from the very beginning, hence why I named it visuals as opposed to just photography.  Design is just as much a passion of mine as photography.  They are so intertwined, and I love the thought of being able to do both photography and design work for the same client.  I am so thankful for all of the support I’ve had and for how much YBV has grown in only the 6 months it’s been alive.  I’m so excited to see where it actually ends up in 5 years and how much it grows!

Be sure to follow Michaella and her creative endeavors on Twitter, @YBVisuals and like Yellow Bird Visuals on Facebook! In the Atlanta area and want to set up a shoot? Get in touch at hello@yellowbirdvisuals.com.