For Photographers – An Interview with Photo Mojo

Below is an excerpt from a Question and Answer session I did for a photography e-course with the wonderful Katie Swanson of Photo Mojo. I hope it gives you some insight as to my style, approach and basically what makes me tick as a photographer!

When did you first begin taking pictures, and what was your first camera?

I have always had an eye for art, but never the ability to create it myself…that is until I found myself behind the lens of my camera. I started out just shooting pictures of my family and friends back in 2008 with my Nikon D80 and things grew like a wildfire from there.

What kind of camera gear do you have/use most today?

My philosophy on equipment is that a good image comes from the eye of the photographer and their skills, not what brand of camera they shoot with. That being said, I am a Nikon girl with a love of prime lenses. Here’s my current gear list:

D3s
D700
SB-800
SB-600 (2)
Pocket Wizard TT1s & AC3 Zone Controller
1k constant lights (2)
150w pro lights (2)
Einstein studio strobes (2)
Switchtronix TorchLED (2)
Escort ice light
Nikkor 70 – 200 VR f/2.8
Nikkor 17-35 f/2.8
Nikkor 135 f/1.4
Nikkor 85 f/1.4G
Nikkor 50 f/1.4G
Nikkor 35 f/1.4G
Nikkor 24 f/1.4G

Has mobile photography changed the way you take pictures?

I LOVE taking images with my iPhone and even have an Instagram account dedicated to iPhone images.  I believe that the best camera is the one you have with you.

What is your philosophy on post-processing?

I seriously think that less is more; I want my images to be timeless. I put a lot of effort into getting it right in camera and capturing things as naturally as possible. That being said, I do have my own personal “secret recipe” for processing my images and spend time on each individual image I deliver to my clients!

What is your signature shot? You know, that picture you always seem to take?

For me the best shot, the one I always strive for, is one that shows emotion and tells a story. Now if you can nail that with great light and composition then you’ve really done something amazing.

What compels you to pick up your camera?

One of my greatest joys, besides my loving husband and two children, comes when I deliver images to a friend or a client (hopefully those two are the same at the end of the day). It is their reaction and knowing that I’ve delivered a piece of history and art that will last a lifetime that motivates me.

What goes through your mind before taking a picture?

Emotion, story, light, composition…is it there?

What is one secret you use to take great pictures?

Form a relationship with your clients and make them comfortable to be themselves in front of your camera. Don’t be afraid to laugh or be silly sometimes.

Do you use flash when taking pictures or do you mostly focus on using the natural light available?

I think you can really separate the true professionals by the way they handle not only natural/available light, but also by the way they approach their craft when the lights go down! The key to being a good photographer is being able to adapt to ANY lighting situation and still make an amazing image. If there is beautiful available light, I use it.  If I need to use artificial light, I do!  The key is capturing images that are authentic, natural, and honest without feeling too contrived.

What are your three favorite pictures you’ve taken and why are they special to you?

As much as I love what I create for my clients, my favorite images are of my children. I know they won’t be small forever, and being able to capture these moments in their lives to look back on and remember is pretty cool.

What are 3 tips you would pass along to other photographers?

Don’t jump into wedding photography until you have mastered the technical aspects of your craft. There are no do-overs with someone’s wedding day.

Shoot, shoot, shoot…then go shoot some more. Seriously, practice makes perfect. The more you use your camera the better you will get.

Get inspired to do things outside of the box. Don’t just look at other photographers for your inspiration, look at all art (including nature) and let it help shape your voice as a photographer.