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Alumni Spotlight: Ellie Koleen

Alumni+Spotlight%3A+Ellie+Koleen

Accomplished photographer shares her story.

The Feather offers a glimpse into Alumni from Fresno Christian Schools who are continuing to give back to the Fresno / Clovis community. This Alumni spotlight shares the world of renowned wedding photographer Ellie Kollen, Class of 2009. 

Since its opening in 1977, Fresno Christian has impacted many people’s lives. Students have gone on to start their own businesses, join established companies and become masters of their craft.  Alumni Ellie Koleen (Mullins), ’09, attended FCS 4th- 12th grade. Koleen’s educational experience and role on The Feather journalism team prepared her to go straight into building her photography business after high school.

One of the ways Fresno Christian prepared Koleen for photography was through The Feather. Her interest in photography first sparked when adviser Greg Stobbe asked her to be on the photojournalist team her junior year.

[/media-credit] Ellie Koleen captured photos as a journalist for the Feather Online.

“The Feather taught me how to be social, outgoing, and make people feel comfortable in front of the camera,” Koleen said. “You want to approach it in a way that you don’t feel obtrusive, being a friendly face to everyone around you.”

Advisor Stobbe taught and led the Feather for 30 years and has watched countless students grow their interest in photography and videography throughout the years.

“I have the joy of advising Ellie for two years on the Feather. My daughter Brittany and her were friends at the time and it was so cool to watch them discover and mature,” Stobbe said. “I knew Ellie from church and her parents as well, it was so fun to see Elie discover her own niche of photography even while her dad’s business was successful.”

In addition to Stobbe, her father Paul Mullins largely influenced her career choice. 

Mullins was excellent at his occupation and has been recognized previously in a The Feather archive.

Right out of high school, Koleen decided she wanted to pursue a career in photography instead of attending college. Before starting her own business, she worked for her dad’s company, Paul Mullins Photo, for two to three years. 

From her dad she learned the technical side of photography and the skill-building process, advancing creatively from basic photography. She has always looked up to her dad and enjoys working with him on special projects.  Koleen loves that her dad focuses on God through all that he does. 

“My dad always uses his photography to glorify God because that’s his main purpose with it,” Koleen said. “He is displaying God’s glory and capturing what he’s created and sharing that with other people. That has always been a huge encouragement to me, to have a purpose behind what I am doing and not just doing it for myself.”

[/media-credit] Koleen gradutes from Fresno Christian in 2009, pursuing photography right out of high school.

Koleen has many goals she wants to accomplish in her photography career. One long-term goals is to own a studio with a dedicated photography space where she can take family photos. Another one of her goals is to get into education and teach other photographers. 

She hopes to get into mentoring and coaching new local photographers who are trying to start a business in photography. 

“I love helping people and believe that anyone can be a photographer,” Koleen said. “If you have a creative eye, the motivation, and the drive to do it then you can learn how to be a photographer.”

Koleen may not be a teacher yet but is always open to give advice to fellow photographers. Her advice for Feather photographers who want to pursue a career in photography is to always do what they love. 

“If you want to get started the best way is to organize shoots that inspire you creatively. That shows what type of photography you want to be shooting more of,” Koleen said. “The more you show of that certain thing in your portfolio, that’s what you are going to attract. Do what you like and what excites you.” 

[/media-credit] Ellie Koleen, her husband Spenser Koleen and daughter Margot.

She enjoys travel photography because of the places it’s taken her and the things that she has been able to capture. She has traveled to Italy, Ireland, Hawaii and Mexico. 

Koleen also loves photographing weddings on the Central Coast because each wedding is different. She always reminds herself to keep the attitude of it being her client’s first wedding but her 500th, to ensure the event is special. She usually is the main shooter that captures big moments but occasionally is the second shooter where she can be the fly on the wall. 

While her focus is on weddings, she also does portraits and commercial photography. She has worked with many companies like CVLux and Fresno Philharmonic. 

The most important trait to have as a photographer is self-confidence and belief in your skills with your clients and your camera.

“As a photographer, you also have to be a people person, because you have to make the person comfortable in front of the camera,” Koleen said. “Oftentimes the photographers who struggle aren’t confident in their abilities. It takes a little while to build your confidence behind a camera, but then it will come naturally.”

Fresno Christian impacted her not only by opening her eyes and giving her an opportunity to pursue photography but by also leading her closer to God. She grew her relationship deeper with Christ and people around her while at FCS. Fresno Christian will always have a special place in her heart.

Check out more of Koleen’s work on her website, Ellie Koleen Photography

To read previous alumni spotlights check out Alumni Spotlight: Juli Amodei.

To read more from The Feather, go to Senior Lifer – Summer Foshee or Noah Feldman speaks at San Joaquin Valley Town Hall.

If you know any FCS alumni that we can feature, please email [email protected].

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  • L

    Lola FullerMar 15, 2023 at 10:51 am

    I love the quotes! Great job!

    Reply
  • E

    Ellie KoleenMar 8, 2023 at 10:17 pm

    Thanks for featuring me! I’m so honored and thankful for the impact FCS had on me and my career!

    Reply
  • E

    Emma CalderonMar 6, 2023 at 5:55 pm

    Great article Natalie!

    Reply
  • S

    Silva EmerianMar 6, 2023 at 5:11 pm

    What a fantastic feature, Natalie! Keep up the great work!

    Reply