There are some great, simple, to the point tips in this interview with Vanessa Paxton to get you heading in the right direction. Vanessa’s marketing is simple, her must have gear is simple but her photos are amazing. Think about simplicity, and how you can make some changes to whatever you are doing.
Tell us a little about yourself?
Well, I was born and raised in Jamaica. I moved to Canada when I was 12 and took up with photography at 14. I started to get really passionate about it in Grade 11. At Marshall McLuhan C.S.S. I had a great photography teacher that inspired me to pursue it on a professional level.
What inspired you to get started in photography?
I’m not quite sure anymore what inspired me to take up with photography. Digital photography was something that was very new for me at the time and I think it just intrigued me.
What gear do you take to each shoot and what lens can you not live without?
I shoot with the Canon 5D Mark II, so taking that is a given. I also take my 50mm, which I can’t live without, and my 24mm.
How do you market yourself and has social media been an important part?
Social media is huge. I market myself wherever I can. I started off with Flickr and I’ve since branched out to Facebook, Tumblr, Talenthouse, and most recently 500px. I’ve also tried some Facebook Advertising, and I still post to craigslist every few days.
What’s your favourite photo that you’ve taken and does it have any significance?
I do indeed have a favourite, and it’s this one right here:
It’s an image that was stuck in my head for about six months before I had a chance to execute it. Alice was the perfect model and I’m so happy with the way it turned out. It’s exactly what I envisioned. There is no particular significance; I just find it hauntingly beautiful.
Select a photo you have taken, explain how it was taken and how did you edit it?
This image was shot the same way you would typically shoot a panoramic scene; only each image was shot vertically rather than horizontally. Everything was stitched together in Photoshop and blended using layer masks and a dodge & burn technique.
I loaded all files into Photoshop, dragged them into one file (being the main file with the subjects trekking up the hill). I then highlighted all files and aligned them by going to “edit>align-layers>auto-align.” When shooting panos you’ll get darkening around the edges of each image so what I did was I created a dodge & burn layer to spot treat the dark areas. That is done by creating a transparent layer, choosing the soft-light blend mode in your layer panel and painting the areas you want to dodge with white.
The sky was created with a cloud stock image I had and the flames were created with stock images from the internet. What I usually do is search an image with a black background that way I can blend using the “screen” mode and I don’t have to worry about cutting anything out because the screen mode just eliminated the black.
The smoke was created using fog stock images and blended with soft-light.
A lot of what I do is really just align, mask, blend, dodge, burn.
What processing tool do you use and do you believe in the camera doing all the work or in post?
I use Photoshop CS5 like most photographers out there. I prefer to do things in camera if I can. However, most of my ideas require the help of Photoshop in some way or another.
What’s your favourite photography accessory other than your camera?
My favourite photo accessory would be the Nik Software. I use it a lot for client work. It’s a quick way to spruce up an image. I’m a fan of the “Tonal Contrast” and “Cross Processing” filters.
Where do you prefer to post your photos online and why there?
Flickr is still my favourite place to post images. It’s a community I’ve been with for so long and I know most of the people who follow my work so it’s nice to hear their feedback. It feels more personal. However, recently I’ve been quite fond of 500px. The quality of work on that site is really outstanding and because of that it is always an honor to receive affection from the people who post there.
Do you ever get photographers block and if so what do you do to get inspired again?
Oh my, yes, all the time. I usually do self-portraits until something inspires me. It’s the sitting around and waiting that kills me. I rather be doing something, even if it’s unoriginal, rather than sitting around waiting for something to hit me. I find most of my best work comes out of just getting up and “trying something.”
Is there anything you wish you had done when you first started in photography that would of made a difference?
I wish I had blogged more. I think people are more likely to share your work with others and follow you long-term when they have a personal connection with you.
Any advice for new photographers wanting to go pro?
Read a manual? Take a business course? There are so many technically good photographers out there that can charge money for their work but the ones that really stand out for me are the ones that got into the business not wanting to make money, but rather wanted to say something with their work.