Did you go to school to study photography?
Yes and no. Growing up my Dad was always taking photos with his Minolta 35mm camera. So I became interested in taking photos as well. Then in high school I took Photography as an elective my Freshman year. We shot with these borrowed Nikon FM2 cameras and I fell in love. Shooting with film and developing myself in the darkroom was my favorite part of school. I took Photography for all 4 years of high school. There were actually only 3 classes though, so they created another class specifically for myself and 2 other students that wanted more. Then I had my son at 18 and put the camera down for 4 years. Once I get the itch to start shooting again everything had made a sharp transition to digital, so I took a community college class as a refresher and to get familiar with digital photography.
How long have you been a professional photographer?
8 years as a professional, 4 years specializing.
How would you describe your style?
Documentary, for sure. I primarily shooting births, so I am standing back and watching the process unfold wile documenting it entirely. My focus is on details and connections. Even with my maternity and newborn sessions I focus on interactions and connections between parents, babies, siblings, etc. These are the photos that speak to my soul and these are the photos I want to have of my own family. When I shoot a session I am going on a journey with my clients, not just posing them and taking the photo.
How many sessions(types) do you average per year?
Last year I shot 15 births and 28 sessions along with 3 mini session events.
On-Location or Studio or Both?
On location, 100%
What gear do you use?
I shoot with a Nikon D750 as my primary and the D700 as my backup. My current lens collection includes the 24mm 2.8D, 35mm 1.8G, 50mm 1.4G, 60mm 2.8G macro, and the 35-70mm 2.8 beast. Just added a Sony A6000 mirrorless to the mix as well.
How important is Photoshop in your final images?
Not at all. I do 99% of my processing in Lightroom.
Are you a MAC or PC lover?
Mac all the way.
What has been your career path?
In my early 20s I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I was frustrated with my own lack of direction and vision. After giving birth to my 2nd child, 9 years ago, I had a little meltdown about the uncertainty of my career path. My husband asked me a simple question: “What could you see yourself doing for the rest of your life?” That sparked in me the desire to get back into photography and make a real go of it. I love to learn new things and photography is one career that I am ALWAYS learning. There’s always a new technique, new lens, new program, or new project that I can work on to challenge myself. I started shooting a little bit of everything. Weddings, seniors, families, and then I shot my first newborn session and fell in love. I spent the next few years specializing in newborn photography until I was approached with the challenge of documenting a client’s birth. One little baby boy born in the early hours of the morning in the family living room totally changed my life. From that point on I was determined to be a birth photographer. Since making that change about 5 years ago I have fallen more and more in love with documentary photography and am now 100% documentary style for all my sessions. It’s a struggle to educate the community on the value of this style of photography, but it’s so worth it.
How did you make the transition from aspiring photographer to professional photographer (making a living)?
It was a slow and kind of painful process at times, but my turning point was really narrowing down my niche and going after that. I really believe that distraction from my target market is what held me back in the beginning. Once I stopped trying to book any and every potential client that reached out to me and started saying no and referring out the inquiries that weren’t in line with my focus, I began to grow. I feel like trying to do too much really diluted my message, once I figured that out things improved so much.
What are the ingredients for a successful photography career?
Skill and talent are important, but they’re only a small part of the whole thing. If you’re not business minded then find someone that is to help you do it right from the start. I sort of jumped in with both feet and no idea what I was getting into with running a business. I wish I had been better about setting it up right from the beginning. That would have saved a ton of time. Also important is focus. What do you love to shoot? Can you find a niche and fill it? Since narrowing my focus from “a little bit of everything” to “bellies, birth, babies” has made my business grow so much. Of course, the desire to constantly learn and grow, to get better, to seem constructive criticism from those that are in a similar field….all of these things are important.
Have you seen any changes to your clientele as a result of the saturation in the market? What have you done to deal with those changes?
I haven’t seen a lot of change personally because I specialize. I believe being in a small, specialized niche helps me keep a consistent stream of clients that really value what I do. I feel like letting go of the idea that I have to be the “right” photographer for everyone and just taking on the clients that are truly in my target market has helped me so much. Not everyone is going to see the value in what I do, some people will be totally fine with a more inexpensive option, and that’s totally okay. I really think the saturation of the photography market has actually gone a long way to help separate the photographers that are really serious about building a business and finding the right clients from the photographers that just want to have a hobby where they make a little money. My view is this: There is a market for every type of photographer. The high volume, low cost photographers don’t really bother me because they are serving a completely different set of clients than I do.
What are some elements by which you would consider an image great photography?
This has evolved for me over time. If you had asked me a few years ago I would have said beautiful lighting, natural yet refined posing, and clean, crisp processing. My view on this is very different now. I still value perfectly exposed, crisp, well composed images, but my standard of a great images surrounds the kinds of feelings that the image evokes. If a client can look at a photo I’ve taken and feel something, then I consider that a great image. Even if it’s not perfect on a technical level. If a stranger can look at an image of mine and somehow relate that to their own experiences, then even better! I really want people to feel something deep in their soul when they look at my images.
What is your favorite photography accessory, other than your camera?
My fanny pack! Yep, I absolutely rock a fanny pack during my birth stories. I shoot almost exclusively with prime lenses, so there are times during a birth that I have to quickly change lenses. This can be problematic when I’m trapped behind the bed or separated from my camera bag by doctors and nurses that care caring for my client. With my fanny pack I can just pop my alternate lens in there and have it easily accessible. And thankfully you can find some rather fashionable options on amazon!
What lighting equipment do you use?
The vast majority of the time I use available light. On rare occasion I will use my speedlight, bounced off the ceiling, with the “black foamie thing” to add a little bit of light to the scene.
How do you ensure you remain inspired?
Shooting for myself. Hands down the best way for me to become re-inspired is to shoot for myself. Documenting my family, learning a fun new technique, experimenting with a new gadget or idea – these are all ways I keep my creative juices flowing when the pressures of running a business start to zap my creativity.
If you could have one super hero power what would it be?
Is photographic memory a super power? If so I would LOVE that. If not, flying would be at the top of the list. It would be just wonderful to be able to see the world from that view and just think of how much time I would save traveling!!