Magic Behind the Posts: You've Likely Seen Krissy Saleh's Work Everywhere

Culture

If you're present in social media, online, or just browsing some of your favorite brands, you've likely seen Krissy Saleh's work before.

With the perfect balance of nostalgia yet modern adventures and lighthearted fun, Krissy takes photos that are not only beautiful, but empowering.

Meet Krissy

Primarily known as “Krissy” online, she has created visual content for a number of globally recognized fashion brands, including Brandy Melville, Pacsun, Aeropostale, Forever 21, and Pull & Bear. Krissy was also published in Seventeen Magazine and named “photographer of the year”, and was interviewed by Teen Vogue.

for Brandy Melville by Krissy

Saleh started photography to help her subjects fall in love with themselves and see the beauty in themselves. She hopes everyone can fall in love with the subjects in her photos the way she has."

per krissysaleh.com

Spark of Interest

When did you first get interested in photography?

Basically, I started photography when I was about 13 years old. Growing up, my family was pretty tech-savvy—my dad was an engineer and my mom loved video games, and so I did too.

My parents had a point-and-shoot camera, and I would take selfies on it and then edit them on a super basic program, and eventually, I found out about Photoshop. I would edit all day and all night; definitely neglected my homework, definitely didn’t have any friends, because that’s literally all I did. I would take photos of everything—my sister, my dog, anything—and just edit.

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When I graduated from middle school, my parents—who by the way are super supportive and loving—bought me my first DSLR camera. All throughout high school, I was known as “the girl with the camera,” and every day I would take photos of people, edit, and then gift them. When people started changing their profile pictures to my photos, I felt so cool and accomplished.

I’m from Irvine, where people are expected to go to a four-year college, graduate, and become a doctor or a lawyer. I was like that weird kid who really wanted to be a photographer, but wasn’t sure if it was completely tangible. Instead, because I love helping people, I thought, “I want to be a therapist,” which sounded much more realistic at the time.

However, as I continued taking photos of people, I noticed that their confidence totally changed once they saw the pictures I took of them, and they’d light up and say “wow, I look beautiful in this.” That’s when I realized that photography and therapy weren’t so different after all, and I could actually be both at once.

Getting Involved

How did you first get involved with photography on a more professional level? Notably, you shot for many renowned brands- how did that process flow?

Senior year rolled around and as I was attending church, there was a photographer named Michelle Kim doing a free workshop there. So I attended, and later, she sought me out to intern for her and be her second shooter at weddings and other events. She taught me Lightroom, editing, and life lessons too. Besides my family, she was the one who made me the hard worker I am today.

After that, I started community college. Michelle taught me to post my photos on Instagram and tag brands, so I started doing that with Brandy Melville. After a while of doing that, they actually reached out and offered to hire me.

for Brandy Melville by Krissy

I remember jumping up and down in my parent’s room, super excited. Through working with them, I gained a ton of exposure, and got to work with people like Alexis Ren, Madison Beer, Jay Alvarrez, and more.

I don’t think I ever had a horrible experience with anybody during a shoot, because shooting feels like a type of high for me, making me happy and excited throughout the whole thing.

Krissy is named Seventeen's Favorite Photographer

After Brandy, it was all a crazy domino effect. PacSun contacted me and I became their first social media photographer, then interviewed by Seventeen Magazine and named “Photographer Of The Year,” then Teen Vogue interviewed me—it was so crazy.

Old School vs New School

Out of film and digital photography, which do you use the most? Which do you prefer, and why?

I love both, but I mainly do film.

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Most of my posts on Instagram are film. I like film because you never fully know what you’ll get, and it’s so exciting to wait until the photos come back. With digital, I think there’s more wiggle room for editing and other components.

In 5 Words

If you could describe your photography work in 5 words, what would they be?

Nostalgic, youthful, fun, vibrant, and feminine.

The Best Part

What aspect of photography do you love the most?

I love people—photographing them, talking to them, connecting to them—and photography allows this sort of intimacy between me and the person being photographed. I learn so much about myself from other people, and the amazing people I’ve met and the amazing conversations I’ve had have been just so inspiring.

for Juicy Couture by Krissy

My main goal with photography is to make people feel happy, empowered, and seen through my photos. I become best friends with a lot of those people, and I really hope I inspire them as much as they do me.

A Challenge & A Jump

From your journey thus far from being a fashion and celebrity photographer, what was the biggest challenge/jump for you to take?

A lot of times I found myself comparing to all the models I was photographing. I got into the fashion industry pretty young, at 18, and so I had to adapt and grow up quickly, which was hard for me. People in L.A. grow up so much faster than in Irvine or anywhere else I’ve seen. I didn’t have my own style yet, wasn’t super confident, and just didn’t have everything together. Being around these beautiful people who had gorgeous style made me a bit insecure and shy.

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Also, because I was younger, I wasn’t taken as seriously, and I think I probably got taken advantage of for rates. This was especially hard for me, because I’m a total relationship person—everyone I meet I want to build a relationship with, so it was hard for me to fight for my rates.

Sometimes, I think people underestimate how difficult my job really is. I’m often not only the photographer, I’m also the casting director, the stylist, the creative director, the location scout, and the editor. I’m like a 6-in-one.

Don’t get me wrong, I like being pushed and challenged, I just wish everyone knew that photography isn’t just taking a few pics on Instagram and then moving on with life.

The Unexpected

What was something you didn’t expect during your professional career? If there wasn’t any, what about being a photographer shocked you the most?

To be completely honest, I didn’t expect my whole professional career to even happen.

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Something specific I didn’t expect was how competitive the industry is. Back when I first started, it was just me and a couple other photographers, and we would be known as the “go-to” people.

Now, especially with TikTok, there are so many photographers, so much content, and so much competition. It’s really cool to see those young photographers killing it though.

The Greatest Achievement

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement as a photographer?

In 2019, I photographed a campaign for Forever 21 in Kodak film, a collaboration between the two.

Forever 21 x Kodak

It was me and 3 other photographers, but I was the only female one. We got to host an event in L.A. and my family was able to come, which was incredible because they got to experience what I got to experience. They got people to watch, and see my work hung up, and there was even a billboard in Times Square with my work.

We flew out and went to look at the billboard, and that was like a wake-up call for us, a solidifying moment that represented how far I’d come. We were like, “Krissy, you did it. Your photos are on a billboard in Times Square!”

In The Future

You’ve done amazing photography, amazing work, and amazing things-- what do you see coming next? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Ahh! I’d hate to be that person, but I can’t say much except there’s a lot of exciting things in store. Back in August, I worked on a women empowerment project with girls from all over the world, and that should be coming out soon.

I talk a lot, so I think it would be cool to also start a podcast.

for Seventeen Mexico featuring Lana Condor by Krissy Saleh

A year or two ago, I got to photograph Lana Condor for this cover for Seventeen Mexico, and I would love to do more shoots like that. Ultimately, I want to inspire people, like I’m forever blessed and grateful for my platform, and I want to do more good with that.

Advice For You, From Krissy

What is the advice you would give regarding photography? What advice would you give to anyone and everyone?

My biggest advice is to not give up. I know, it sounds cliché, but I would never be who I am today without that mindset. There were so many days when I wanted to quit, but then something amazing would happen and I would remember why I chose this path in the first place.

Loren by Krissy

I’m extremely fortunate to have a wonderful family support system, and I know not everyone has that, so I just want people to know that I will be that support system, I will believe in them. Make sure your intentions are genuine—this isn’t a way to get rich and famous, this is an art form, a blessing and a gift.

It’s a lot of work, but I promise you it’s worth it.

10 Quick Q’s With Krissy

1. What was one of your favorite shoots ever? If you can’t name a favorite, what was the most memorable?

Krissy: I love all my shoots, but that Forever 21 x Kodak one is definitely the most memorable.

Forever 21 x Kodak

2. Your zodiac sign? Do you feel that you align with it?

Krissy: Honestly, I don’t know that much about astrology. I do know I’m an Aries, which are supposed to be intimidating and fiery? I don’t relate to that though. At least, I hope I’m not intimidating—I try really hard not to be.

3. If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?

Krissy: Definitely a therapist.

4. Dream vacation place you would love to visit:

Krissy: I’ve traveled to New York, Mexico, Florida, and more for my shoots, but I’ve always wanted to go to Tokyo since I was a little girl.

5. What are your favorite hobby/hobbies aside from photography?

Krissy: Is working out a hobby? I love working out. I’ve taken hip hop classes, and I love it, it’s so much fun.

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6. If your life was a movie, what would it be titled?

Krissy: Maybe "On My Side Of The Camera"

7. What would be a dream brand of yours to shoot for?

Krissy: Aerie, because of how body-positive and inclusive they are. If we’re dreaming really big, I would love to shoot for Gucci, Chanel, Coach, or Marc Jacobs. Crossing my fingers!

8. Editing trends in photography you vibe with and don’t vibe with:

Krissy: I love clean, crisp, studio photos that are filled with personality. You know, magazine cover-worthy photos—easily understood, perfect colors, perfect lighting, the works. For example, Devon Carlson, her personality shines so clear through every photo, all of them cute and fun.

For a trend I don’t vibe with: y2k collage pics. I don’t necessarily hate this trend, and I love the 2000s, I just wouldn’t participate in it because it’s not my style.

9. What is a random fact about you that people don’t know?

Krissy: I’m kind of an open book, but something pretty interesting about me is that I used to do background work. I’ve been an extra on Victorious a couple times, and a stand-in for Cobra Kai, just because I was in Georgia with Peyton List and they needed someone real quick.

for Glitter featuring Peyton List by Krissy

10. What is your favorite feel-good movie/TV show?

Krissy: 10 Things I Hate About You is phenomenal, or Mean Girls or Clueless. Oh, Gossip Girl! I love Gossip Girl, and Dance Moms too.

Keep Up With Krissy

To keep up with Krissy, be sure to follow her on Instagram @krissy.

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A big thank you to Krissy for this amazing interview!

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Sophia Zhang
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Sophia Zhang is currently a high-school sophomore residing in Chicago, fifteen in age but five at heart. Besides writing, Sophia spends her days playing piano, volleyball, or her favorite TV show on Netflix.

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Kate is the Marketing Director of The Teen Magazine.