High honors, photos & videos, for Colby

From running a successful business to serving as an ambassador for Farragut West Knox Chamber of Commerce — and many volunteer efforts in between — award-wining photographer/videographer Colby McLemore makes everything look so easy while operating a downtown Knoxville studio housing Colby’s Photos & Videos.

Recently appointed president of the Professional Photographers of East Tennessee, McLemore has earned such honors as Gold and Silver advertising ADDY awards, Top Ten Commercial Photographs in 2014 internationally, Tennessee Photographer of the Year, East Tennessee Photographer of the Year and numerous Top Ten Tennessee Photographers acknowledgements in addition to industry honors.

Moreover, “Colby has been an enthusiastic ambassador for the Chamber for several years and is known for his infectiously positive and caring personality when it comes to meeting with our new and existing business members,” FWKCC president/CEO Julie Blaylock said. “As a sole owner of his own business, he is able to provide firsthand experience and encouragement to young businesses starting out which is invaluable to them and us.”

For example, McLemore said he enjoys helping people learn to better operate their camera equipment — even if all they have is a smartphone, as he demonstrated this past weekend during Pigeon Forge’s Wilderness Wildlife Week’s cellphone photography class.

“It is my charge to give back, especially within the photography community,” he said. “I feel we should help those coming up and help people get into the (field).”

McLemore caught the photography bug from his father, who picked it up as a hobby while serving in the U. S. Air Force before settling his family into Southwest Virginia.

“He gave me a camera in high school and promised to pay for all the film and developing I wanted,” McLemore recalled, noting the offer ended when he graduated and it didn’t prepare him for the true cost of photography supplies at the time.

He later moved to Upper East Tennessee and worked primarily in real estate, where he was able to further utilize his picture-taking skills until the 2008 economic downturn changed his fortunes and career.

McLemore actually had unknowingly been building his portfolio through his personal experiences with his partner of 19 years, writer/editor Katy Koontz, who during that time worked as a travel writer.

“We traveled to many countries where I took a lot of pictures,” he said, adding, “The recession really was an answer to prayer.

“I had a portfolio in real estate and architectural photography, then picked up weddings and portraits before the downturn. I had my business going by that time, but was able to transition from part time to full time.”

McLemore has spent the years since involved in every aspect of photography, including teaching at the college level and coaching.

Professionally, he earned an industry Master’s degree, a Craftsman degree, five specialty certifications and even a drone pilot license while continually attending and leading conventions, workshops and presentations.

Knoxville’s advertising community has recognized McLemore with the Big Wig award for his exceptional advertising work many times over.

“At least once a week, I have a client who tells me they did not believe they would ever have a good quality portrait shot, and they were so happy with my results,” he said.

McLemore reputation also has put him in high demand as a competitive photography judge.

Among his many roles working with FWKCC, “I had been helping some with photography and organization, but when they talked to me about being an ambassador, it seemed to be a role just made for me ... I don’t know a stranger,” McLemore said of his discussions with Blaylock.