How Failure Plays Into Success: A Q&A With Kiyah Crittendon

Join us for an interview where we talk entrepreneurship with one of the best American wedding photographers, Kiyah Crittendon.

Photo credit: Victoria Heer (

Last summer, I had the pleasure to work with the incredible Kiyah Crittendon, an Atlanta and DC-based photographer. Recently named one of the best wedding photographers in the United States by Brides, this rockstar photographer is an expert at celebrating connection. If you were to take a quick trip through Kiyah’s website you’d not only stumble upon light-filled photos of brides but lose yourself in her ability to capture both love and life. I personally have a soft-spot for Kiyah’s black and white images, especially this one from one of the weddings she shot in Atlanta.

After working with Kiyah on a shoot for Do Well Department, I was blown away by her genuine kindness and her ability to make me feel at ease when in front of the camera. So when I was looking for a business owner to feature in one of our interviews, I really wanted to sit down with Kiyah and learn the secret to her success. If you keep reading you’ll learn Kiyah’s “favorite failure” and one of her most emotional experiences as a photographer.

Calli: Let’s start off with a little vulnerability. Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours? Has this failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success?

Kiyah: My “favorite failure” was getting let go from my corporate job in 2016. I was working a 9-5 in the commercial construction industry as a project manager in Atlanta using my college degree while building my photography business as a side hustle. Balancing both commitments left me stressed and overworked, but my passion for photography and entrepreneurship kept me going. When I lost my job, I suddenly felt so relieved and happy! While it seemed like a failure to be unemployed, I finally had the time to focus 100% on my photography career and a year later I was making more in my business than as a project manager, I was more satisfied with my work, and I had the freedom to do what I wanted with my time.

Calli: That is so awesome. Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Kiyah: I didn’t always know I wanted to be an entrepreneur because I didn’t know any successful entrepreneurs in my field, my family, or my friend groups. I grew up thinking I had to go to college, get a good degree, and then work in a stable job forever. Once I learned about photographers building successful and profitable companies that gave them the flexibility of time and a great income, I realized that’s what I wanted for my own life too.

Calli: It’s pretty incredible you went on to start a business without knowing any successful entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship can be scary enough even when you do have a little bit of guidance. So glad you went for it and now get to wow the world with your work. In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

Kiyah: In the last five years, what has helped me most improve my life is my trust and faith in God and His timing and guidance for me. I tend to get very impatient regarding where I want to be or what I want to accomplish and easily forget where God has brought me and how many prayers He’s answered in my past to get me where I am today. I constantly remind myself to give Him control, thank Him for all He’s done, and do my best in whatever I’m dealing with in the present moment, knowing He has it all figured out!

Calli: This is such a good reminder for any believers out there. I’m definitely guilty of wanting doors opened as soon as I knock on them, but knowing things are already figured out for you is pretty great. Speaking of having it all figured out, what are 3 things that you consider key to your business’ success?

Kiyah: Three things I consider key to my business’ success are first, God. I wouldn’t have my skills, talents, or achievements without Him! Then, Integrity and warmth. A lot of the opportunities I’ve had, the clients I’ve worked with, the places I’ve been have come from just genuinely befriending others, doing what I say I’m going to do when/how I say I’m going to do it, and never burning bridges. I’ve learned that you just never know who’s listening or watching and it can go a long way to simply be a kind person! Patience. As I mentioned, I tend to get very impatient in life! But each year of entrepreneurship has built on itself and I wouldn’t be where I am today if I gave up years ago when it felt like nothing was moving along in my ideal timeline.

Calli: I have to say, during our photoshoot for Do Well Department, I really felt like it was so easy to work with you. You took all of my missteps in stride (including me locking us both out of the studio) and were just so genuinely kind about the whole thing. Do you have a favorite memory from when you were on the job?

Kiyah: Gosh, there are so many amazing memories that have come with being a photographer over the past 6 years. A favorite that comes to mind was in 2016 when I got to photograph a friend give birth to her son. I felt extremely honored and humbled that she even allowed me to be there with my camera during such an intimate, vulnerable, and emotional time. I had never witnessed a birth, so I didn’t know what to expect, but after 14 hours at the hospital with her and her family, her son was born, I cried behind my camera, and even got to be one of the first few to hold him. I’ve loved watching him grow up over the years and it’s crazy to think that my job allowed me to be there for that.

Calli: That sounds so incredible. I read in your interview in Brides that you love capturing emotion. I’m sure that was an experience filled with so many different emotions. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of my questions. And congratulations on being named one of the best wedding photographers in the United States. It makes me so happy we got to work together.

Want to learn from other successful business owners? Learn more about Do Well Department here.

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Do Well Department is a holistic business community that helps business owners succeed without the burnout by supporting the business owner and the business in tandem.

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