There’s nothing like a full featured interview for a Monday morning. John has provided a lot of information so enjoy. I’ll have put up a write up of the Google+ Photowalk later on today.
Tell us a little about yourself
I currently have a full-time “regular” job but have, for about the last 5 years, spent almost every moment of free time studying the technical and artistic aspects of photography. I’ve been shooting nudes, lingerie and boudoir for approximately year-and-a-half now. Photography is a complete departure from what I studied in college and graduate school.
What inspired you to get started in photography?
I’ve been interested in photography and art of all mediums almost as far back as I can remember. When I was about ten I received an art book for Christmas, a sort of beginner’s instruction manual. Inside was filled with lots of interesting stuff but there was also a beautiful drawing of a nude woman. I had no idea why at that age, but I was utterly fascinated. I must have spent literally hours studying it. I soon got my first camera (but I didn’t shoot anybody naked at that time!)
Somewhere along the line I got stuck in the routine of getting a “normal” degree and then a “normal” job — That artistic pursuits should be done in my free time. But I always kept returning to my creative side; whether it was acting, writing, painting or drawing. I had dabbled with photography several times in the past but “life” always got in the way. About five years ago I began to really evaluate my life and happiness. It became obvious that being creative was what was truly satisfying and I made the decision to spend as much time as humanly possible learning photography. Of course the works of countless photographers have played a significant part in inspiring me.
What gear do you take to each shoot and what lens can you not live without?
Always my 5D Mk II, my 70-200mm 2.8 lens, 24-70mm 2.8 lens, 50mm 1.4 lens, 85mm 1.8 lens, Radio Popper wireless triggers, fully charged extra batteries for camera and triggers, also a cable to connect my camera to off-camera flash in case I forget a trigger or some other connecting wire (which happened recently and the cable saved my butt).
If on location I take my Canon flashes and portable modifiers of various types — I have a 24 inch softbox that I absolutely love and has served me well.
Right now I can’t live without my 24-70mm lens, it’s versatility is fantastic. However, I’m loving more and more my 50mm and 85mm lens that can go to 1.4 and 1.8.
How do you market yourself and has social media been an important part?
I use a lot of the standard things — business cards and website (which I’m rebuilding). But social media with Facebook, Twitter, Model Mayhem and now 500px have all been an integral part of marketing myself. I loathe censorship of art so each of those has its drawbacks (except for Model Mayhem, but that’s mostly for photographers, models and makeup artists). I also rely a lot on word of mouth at this point. In the past when shooting high school seniors (it’s predominantly an American thing where girls, and some guys, get a fashion-type shoot in their last year of high school to kind of celebrate leaving their younger years behind and transitioning to adulthood) I’ve used a Senior Ambassador program. I handful of girls would “represent” me by handing out business cards to their friends. In exchange they would get their photography, but not prints, for free.
What’s your favorite photo that you’ve taken and does it have any significance?
This is a really tough question, but I’ve definitely chosen this particular shot for several reasons. This is first of a series of shots (called “dapple”) that I recently shot during a photo “workshop” at a local studio. Workshops in my area are not training events — They’re an opportunity to work with several models (and sometimes other photographers) in one day. Early in the day I checked out this space and it was quite uninspiring, but I felt that it was worth watching because of its layout and the position of the sun. I checked the room throughout the day and by the time it was my turn to shoot with this model the light was brilliant (for what I wanted, anyway). My vision, the model (an art student and magnificent artist in her own right and with whom I’d worked with before) who puts everything into a shoot, the wardrobe (partially supplied by us both), the light — all came together. It really was an inspiring shoot where what I was envisioning came together through a collaborative effort. I think that’s why I love fashion — Collaborative efforts are exhilarating! I love working with other creatives to come up with something that is unique. This shot, actually the whole day of shooting, represents what I feel is a tangible turning point to my skill level.
Select a photo you’ve taken, explain how it was taken and how did you edit it?
This is from another very recent super fun shoot with an absolutely stunning young woman. It was only semiplanned beforehand. When she showed up with her pink shoes I knew I had an outfit that could compliment them perfectly. I also happened to buy a bag of pink balloons the night before, planning to use them somehow but not sure how. I recently painted this shooting space (in my apartment where a shoot a lot!) from a deep blue to an all white. The room has a large window so it’s perfect for bouncing natural light all over the place. I shot it at 2.8 for the DOF I wanted. I stared editing with some corrections to white balance, highlight recovery and exposure in Apple’s Aperture. Then in Photoshop CS5 I performed some minor healing and cloning of skin, a bit of sharpening, and a touch of skin smoothing in Nik’s ColorEfex without loosing detail. Lastly, it was back to Aperture to add some vibrancy to the pinks and a final bit of sharpening. I love this shot — It has an innocence and sexiness all at once.
What processing tool do you use and do you believe in the camera doing all the work or in post?
I love this question. I always attempt to get as much “right” in the camera so that I can spend as little time in post as possible. I’m not a photojournalist so work after the fact is usually a big part of the process and some shots, depending on what the photographer is going for, are artistically perfect right out of the camera. However, manipulation of photographs has been going on since
photography was invented — Change the lens and the picture is different, change the settings on the camera and the shot changes, use a certain type of film because it has a certain type of “look”.
Things today are just more sophisticated. I use Apple’s Aperture, Adobe’s Photoshop, Nik’s Silver Efex and Color Efex to enhance the feel or mood I’m going for (and I love them all!!).
What’s your favorite photography accessory other than your camera?
It has to be my Macs, including my iPhone, Apple TV and now the new iPad. I absolutely love how each piece of equipment integrates so easily with each other and how smoothly everything (usually) works. Instead of fighting with my machines I can sit down and get right to work on what I want to do without the headaches. (I know that might sound like a commercial, but it’s so true)
Where do you prefer to post your photos online and why there?
Right now, and for the past 5 months or so, it’s been 500px. The creators of that site are genius’s and the recent improvements they’ve made are gorgeous. I’ve connected with some really fantastic artists and received an amazing amount of feedback that I wouldn’t have dreamed possible — Not just from other photographers, but also from people who just enjoy what I post. I absolutely love 99.7% of it. Overall, their rating system works as it should, everyday giving newly posted photographs and photographers an opportunity at visibility. I, like many others, have certain issues with their “dislike” option, but overall the experience has been overwhelmingly positive.
Do you ever get photographers block and if so what do you do to get inspired again?
Oh yes, indeed. However, I have stacks of photography and fashion magazines and often go through them when I’m feeling uninspired or less than creative. 500px is great for inspiration — No matter how good I might think I’m getting, a quick browse through the site puts me right back in my place like a swift kick to the butt. It might sting a little but it helps me to keep trying to improve. Also, I like watching lots of movies, always checking out fashion, lighting, makeup and camera angles. I can sometimes watch a movie and have no idea what it was about at the end because I’ve been concentrating on everything but the story. Another big source of inspiration is the relatively new site/organization called CreativeLIVE — They host live, worldwide, 3-day workshops over the internet with some of the best photographers in the world. Fantastic instruction and inspiration. And when it’s live it’s free to watch! You can also purchase and download the workshops for later viewing. Brilliant!
Is there anything you wish you had done when you first started photography that would of made a difference?
Yikes! If I could go back and do it all over again I’m afraid that I would make a lot of changes. I would have stuck with it when I was younger, perhaps gone to art school. This is tough, almost philosophical for me — Yes, I wish I had started seriously pursuing photography when I was younger. Then again, everything I’ve experienced up to this point in my life has shaped who I am and shows one way or another in my work. I’ll never know what might have been, all I can concentrate on is today while trying to build a solid foundation for tomorrow.
Any advice for new photographers wanting to go pro?
This is something I’m still struggling with myself, but I definitely have some practical advice — If you’re in debt financially get out if it. If you have no debt, don’t start! If photography is truly your passion DO NOT listen to all the people (family, friends, other photographers) who will tell you that you can’t do it. Be prepared for when you let people know what your aspirations are because you’re likely to be assaulted with so much negativity that it’ll make your head spin. Do your best to push out the negative energy, it saps your soul. Most of all, learn everything you can artistically, technically and business-wise. And never sit back and stop learning. Experiment and push your creativity…and be nice to people.