The life and personality of my subjects. It took me a long time to realize that this was actually important. I have too many images the first few years of me trying to fit my subjects into the current trend and using locations and styles that may not have matched up with who I was photographing. I have a passionate desire now to make my images filled with honesty in every detail. This requires me to go through a process of getting to truly know my subjects so that we can customize a session based on who they are. I’m currently completely inspired by everyday life and am really drawn to truth, to the imperfections of life, and the opportunity to use storytelling in my work.
Journaling, Quietness, and Books. The bulk of my inspiration comes from journaling my mornings pages! (Hooray for the book, The Artists Way…I’ve been doing morning pages consistently for a year and half now and its changed my life!). I also find inspiration in quietness. I go on long 3+ mile walks everyday pushing a stroller–and leave the ipod home. I just try to listen to my thoughts and sort things out. I have received so many amazing ideas on those walks. I also get so many great thoughts from books of all kinds. Adult books and Children’s books alike. I think books have a special way of opening our imagination in a different way than reading online or looking at blogs will do. They are also much less distracting since there are no links to click away on and you can stay focused on one idea long enough to receive inspiration.
Q. What is the best and toughest part about doing photography while being a mom and wife at the same time?
The best part is that I have awesome images of my family life and my adorable son! He’s going to have a stellar photo history! I also believe that powerful images can change our perspectives in daily life when we see them displayed in our homes. I could be having a rotten day and be tempted to make it rotten for everyone else…then glance at an image that is infused with emotion and suddenly I’m reminded of how I felt during the moments the images were taken and I have a paradigm shift. I need those paradigm shifts everyday! I have dozens of photos displayed all over my house and it makes a difference in my daily life and interaction. The toughest part is keeping everything in proper balance and perspective. The allure of having your own business and working from home is a two edged sword. It requires a lot of self discipline to run a business rather than have it run you. If you’re not careful, you can completely override any so called benefits of “working from home”. I have worked extremely hard in streamlining my workflow and business tasks to be very efficient and effective. I don’t want my son to grow up always seeing me on the computer, so instead I have to live a very organized and structured life (which is not my nature). It used to be common for me to edit into the early morning hours and neglect my husband once he got home if I was already focused on pictures. That’s not allowed anymore. I have set times I work, set times I’m not allowed to work, and thankfully I can edit an entire session in 30 minutes to an hour now. What a huge difference that has made in both business and family life!
I never wanted to be a photographer. I spent my whole life training to be a musician and composer. In early 2006 I borrowed my mom’s SLR camera and shot my sisters bridal pictures for no other reason but a fun sisterly bonding activity. I shot all in auto and copied every pose and location from a local photographer friend that I admired. Out of sheer luck, mixed with a dose of having a beautiful graceful subject who was already completely natural in front of me and the camera–the pictures turned out breathtakingly fabulous! During the wedding, the legit pro hired for the event saw my images displayed, complimented my work and offered to have me come and spend time with her at her studio (which actually never happened since I lived a few hours away.) Nonetheless, from that experience, I was infected with a bad case of false confidence! I thought surely I must be a protege or something 😉 😉 I was too naive to know how much I didn’t know. Two weeks later friends were booking me for engagement pictures and the word spread rapidly. I didn’t even own my own camera yet! I was in business after borrowing a camera for 2 hours! Do not try this at home!!! I was a frustrated music grad student at the time so having a creative outlet that was this exciting was a welcome relief and I dove right in with no thought. I will be the first to admit that I jumped into business much too soon, and took the hard road of trial and error and learn as you go. I had no experience, no technical knowledge and soon discovered there was a whole lot more to achieving consistently great images. I got a delicious taste of humble pie.
The photography world is much different now than it was even five years ago. I don’t think I would have experienced the same turn of events, were I to start now in the same fashion as I did before. Word of Mouth has always been my strongest referral. I moved two years ago to a town three hours away and had to start from scratch in building exposure and clientele. Anticipating this move, I spent a lot of time preparing for it–which is how I should have done it the first time. I took an entire year to rebuild my portfolio to represent work that was my personal vision and that I enjoyed shooting. I spent time discovering who I really was as a photographer, completely branded myself, hired a designer–who created my fantastic website and helped me establish a strong online presence, and I learned what my purpose was. This move and transition was still hard work and took time. I tried a variety of marketing ideas (networking with local businesses, magazine ads, old fashioned posters around town, referral programs, facebook ads, donating to charity auctions, setting up a booth at the local farmers market, etc.), but still … I believe that succeeding this time around was mainly a result of finally being prepared. I knew the technical side of photography inside out, and I had a very strong portfolio. As those new jobs started trickling in from a variety of marketing efforts, I was ready! And of course word of mouth started to build again.
I’m lucky enough that I didn’t have to teach myself everything! My personal education took root when I was in grad school studying music. I had a piano student (Dustin Fife) who was a pro photographer. We actually traded lessons for an entire school year, so I got one on one training and critique on a consistent basis. I know I’m blessed. I’m truly and forever grateful for that experience. It changed everything for me and is a core reason of why I now teach. I hope to give back on that piece of providence. When I decided to begin teaching photography classes, Bryan Peterson’s book “Understanding Exposure” was a break through for me in knowing how to explain all those concepts to someone else. He’s a great teacher. The art of teaching is a great teacher as well 🙂 Just like we were required to do book reports in school so we could better digest the concepts of what we had read, teaching and designing structured curriculum’s has been a huge educator for me in the same way. You want to learn photography better? Try to teach it to someone else. You’ll find out pretty quick where the gaps of your understanding may lie.
Q. What type of camera equipment did you have when you first started shooting portraits? And what have you added to your camera bag since then?
My first camera set up was a Nikon D70 with the kit lens plus the 70-200mm 2.8. Telephoto lens–an extremely high quality lens worth about three times more than the camera! The difference in quality in pictures taken with that fancy lens
compared to the kit lens was astounding and I shot nearly everything with the telephoto (which when you think about it can be a little tricky in tight spots!) I know having such a high quality lens helped my confidence and the quality of
the images. Today, I hardly ever use that luxury telephoto lens. Its still fabulous, but doesn’t quite fit my shooting style. I shoot mainly with primes now (fixed focal length lenses), the Nikon 24 mm 2.8, 35mm 2.0, 50mm 1.4, 85mm 1.8. Bonus: They’re also more affordable (wink. wink.). If I were to do it all over, I’d get a high quality camera body and a 35mm or 50mm 1.4 lens to start out. I often say that if I had to, I’d run an entire business just off that. In my opinion, you really don’t need much gear, but what you do have should help you achieve artistic vision. Those lower aperture prime lenses and my trusty camera bodies help me to do that. I currently shoot with the Nikon D700, and Nikon D7000.
I always love the advice to “be true to yourself”, but I think it needs a qualifier. Truly learning what your style is, who you are as a photographer, establishing confidence in yourself and your work, and having the courage to be yourself and not just follow the trends–takes some serious time and is an evolution. This photography journey is just that–a journey! I love what Me Ra said recently about not looking at time as the enemy, but instead we need to learn to see time as an essential source of strength. Anything that truly lasts in this world requires a proper gestation period for growth. And that growth comes through care and nourishment. Its easy to compare our little seedlings to the big tree’s in the world around us. We need to remember that time and consistent nourishment is the only way to establish deep roots, and grow into our own unique selves. Have some patience, faith and keep that perspective bright. Oh yes. And don’t be surprised if you totally change your focus, niche, style, and preferences many times a long the way!