Today we feature our first young gun of photography for 2014. Melanee Kate Thomas is 16 and well on her way to having a successful photography career. I’ve spoken to her a couple of times over email and she has a drive that is sure to get her to where she wants to be. Be inspired, enjoy.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I am 16, a junior in high school, and a professional Child and Newborn Photographer. My father is in the U.S, Air Force, so I have lived all around. (Seven different places in the U.S. including Hawaii and Alaska, and also Italy, England, and Germany.)
I love the theatre, and traveling. I have what I believe to be an abnormal passion for chocolate, I cannot touch my toes, and I absolutely love my family!
What inspired you to get into photography?
To be quite honest-it definitely wasn’t my passion for art. My sister is a wedding photographer, and though I am very artistic, I never wanted to learn photography, because I found technical aspect of photography rather daunting. But one day when I was 14, I remember coming home from babysitting, and my sister, Caroline, had just photographed a photo shoot, in which she made more money than I had that week in one hour. After this, I decided that maybe learning to use a camera might not be such a dreadful idea. Since then however, as I have become more skilled, I really have fallen in love with photography. It’s a fantastic way for me to have a creative outlet that can double as a job, and I honestly don’t know what I would do without it now.
Are you self-taught or did you study photography?
A bit of both? My sister gave me the basics when I showed interest in photography, and I practiced and worked with that for about a year. So I learned, and unfortunately still learn, by trial and error. School year of 2012/2013 I took an official class, which though it helped me with my technique a bit, it really helped me experiment and photograph more than I ever would have. And now, though I’m not enrolled in any sort of class, I’m always looking for ways to increase my skill.
What gear do you take to each shoot and what lens could you not live without?
Always my camera (Nikon D7000, and my back up is a Nikon D5100), my 70-200 mm, 35 mm, and 50 mm. Sometimes I will brig my reflector, flash, and 60mm. however it depends on the shoot. I often will bring various props as well.
Though it’s not actually my favorite, I would say I couldn’t live without my 70-200. Because as a young photographer attaching something that massive to my camera prevents anyone from questioning my professionalism and has me allowed me to run with the professionals, despite my age.
Flash or Natural Light?
I use natural light 90% of the time, on occasion I will use flash, but it is not my preference.
Can you describe how you use a flash, reflector, natural light when your shooting your portraits?
I love natural light, and it totally makes or breaks a photo. I wouldn’t say I have any specific rule for what position I like to have my light. I generally just assess the situation and go with what I feel would be most striking. The only times I use flash is for Newborn shoots, and when I second shoot weddings on occasion, they often come in handy for receptions. But I am by no means a Flash Photographer. I do use my reflector, but only when I am in desperate need of better lighting, or I want to add more of a magical glow to my photos.
What’s your favourite photo that you’ve taken and does it have any significance?
I have what I like to call favorites, but never one specific favorite. And my favorite photos rarely have any sort of special meaning to them. I see them as a stranger would, only based on the content and quality of the photo.
Select a photo you have taken, explain how it was shot and how you edited it?
My photo editing is extremely simple. In general I try to capture just what I see. And then rebuild the moment in my editing. I often bring my contrast up, to provide more of a 3-Demensional look to my photos. I will also take up the color a bit, and tweak anything if it needs to be fixed. Otherwise, that’s about it.
What processing tool do you use and do you believe in the camera doing all the work?
I use both Lightroom and Photoshop. As I’ve said, I want to capture life how it is, and sometimes the camera can’t fully get what I see-so then I edit so that my photo can be a perfect reflection.
What’s your favourite photography accessory other than your camera?
I don’t think I really have one. I use many props, but I don’t think I have any signature item that I couldn’t live without.
Do you crop in camera or during post?
Definitely during post production. I prefer to be spot on all the time, but sometimes I do need to crop a bit. And I prefer to do that when I can see everything on a big screen.
How do you go about learning new techniques?
Mainly Google actually! If I want to learn something, I research it, and there’s almost always an instructional blog or two out there.
Where do you prefer to post your photos online and where?
Everywhere! My biggest following in on Facebook, but I also have an active blog, Google+, twitter, and instagram.
Do you ever get photographers block, and if so what do you do to get inspired?
Not really, I generally get inspired and then shoot. Rather than vice versa. And when I’m shooting clientele and don’t feel extremely inspired I just write down my shot list while looking at Pinterest.
How much personal work do you shoot?
About 40 percent of my work is for myself. If I have an idea, I don’t generally like to wait for clientele to come along who want to do it. I just get models and do it myself.
Do you plan on purchasing any new gear? If so what are you eyeing off?
Yes! I want to get the Nikon D800 camera body. Though, I’m waiting for a bit longer for my finances to be a bit stronger.
Which photographers inspire you and why?
Definitely my sister (Caroline Ann Photography), her work is fantastic, and I love bouncing ideas off of her. My other two favorites would be Work of Heart Photography, and LittleB Memories. Both of these photographers work with children, and are absolutely fantastic. Their images and ideas really push me to make my work better!
If you weren’t a photographer what would you be?
I’m not really sure. Obviously right now, I’d just be a normal high school student. I also love acting and working with children – so in the future I may actually pursue that along with photography.
At 16 you’re quite young to be a pro photographer, what challenges have you had to overcome?
Though you’d think one of my best challenges would be my youth, I’ve found that as long as my work backs me up, people are open for networking and hiring me. My biggest issue right now is actually school. It’s kind of hard to balance work with grades-and unfortunately the two are still connected. If I don’t make grades I’m not allowed to do photography. So it can be hard being High school student and a professional Photographer.
Can you tell us a bit about your Child Fairytales that you’re shooting?
This summer I had just moved from Germany to Virginia, and clientele wise, I had to start my business again from scratch almost. One of the ways I started advertising myself was these fairy tales. It’s given me a consistent following, and also the series helps me be memorable to potential clientele. What I do is a shoot a fairy tale once a month. I started in September of 2013, and will end August of 2014.
Each fairy tale takes on average about 20 or so hours to put together by the time I get locations, props, models, and shoot and edit. So far I have shot Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack Frost, and my next will be Rumpelstiltskin. These fairy tales have not only been away for me to be super creative, but have really taught me to think outside the box, and dream big.
Any advice for new photographers wanting to go pro?
Yes! I would say shoot what you love, put it out for the world to see, and then wait for clientele to come who want your photos, not just any photographer. It seems to me, if you’re not shooting what you love, there’s really no point.