Annette Keeter was pleasantly surprised when she saw her photo on the cover of Missouri Times. She’d entered the photo in a contest but wasn’t informed her photo was selected. The photo, rich with red, sunset tones, is only one example of her photography, a craft she’s spent several passionate years honing.

Keeter caught the photography bug as an exchange student to Independence’s sister city of Higashimurayama, Japan, taking photos of the environment.

“When I came back, I took my film to a lab. They kept commenting on the pictures I had taken,” Keeter said. “That became my first job, working at that same lab here in Independence.”

Learning while digital photography had yet to be invented, Keeter internalized the back end of photography, how to process film, while at the same time learning more about the art of taking photos.

“Being at that lab taught me the back end of it, so I learned the processing, more about light … then got into a little bit of portraiture,” she said. From there, Keeter earned a second job with a local photographer who acted as a mentor.

Keeter said she’s been self-taught for many years, although she took a few classes online and uses photography as her “safe space” that allows her to express herself and share the world around her as she sees it. Keeter said when she’s stressed, she simply grabs her camera and goes.

“I love to find old things area that aren’t going to be around much longer, I like to capture them,” she said. “I like to see things differently. Anything I think I can take a picture of in a different way, maybe make someone see it differently, that’s what I really like.”

This frame of mind often leads her to capture landscapes like the one shown on the cover of The Missouri Times.

Keeter said she’s been fortunate enough to travel with her job, leading her to different locations to immortalize, but also makes a point to highlight local aspects, especially those not readily known or obvious to the public.

“I pretty much carry my camera with me constantly,” she said. “You never know what you’re going to see or what captures your eye, and I want to be there and have that moment.”

Having started learning on film-based cameras, Keeter said she’s still true to her “old roots,” focusing less on post-production editing and more on setting up the shot so it’s perfect in-camera.

“When I go out, I look for light, location, layout of my photo, I get my exposure right,” she said. “I do all that and try not to do a lot of post-production now. I see so much overly post productive (photos) now. To me, that’s not my style.”

Keeter added there are some advantages to the digital photography age, such as seeing how your photo turns out without requiring any developing, allowing photographers to instantly see their work.

For new photographers who are also teaching themselves the craft, Keeter advises taking their camera everywhere and potentially finding a local photographer to take them on a shoot. The most important piece of advice, however, is to simply keep shooting.

“People just are afraid to take that picture, they’re afraid to step out of their comfort zone,” she said. “Find what you like, and don’t fall into what everyone else is doing. I feel like you should just be yourself. Shoot as much as you can and you’ll learn. You’ll learn by shooting, that’s the joy of the digital age.”