Meet Rebecca Lippiatt-Long owner of Dragonfly Photography in Canada. Rebecca shoots a little bit of everything, from children to corporate to weddings, and strives to capture the energy and emotion between people. She shoots with her left eye (because she’s nearly blind in her right eye), she uses Canon, shoots all RAW in Manual Mode, and as for actions, she only rarely uses a few lightroom presets.
Describe the moment you decided it was time to pursue this as a career?
Probably in junior high. I sweet-talked my shop teacher into letting me do photography for the whole semester. I had no interest in woodworking or lapidary. I took what I thought were very artsy black and whites of my friends, all either looking very serious or very silly, and processed them in the darkroom.
I received a Minolta X700 for my high school graduation and did a lot of photography when I traveled, but more landscape and still life than people. I dabbled in selling that work for a while, but did not think photography was a serious enough career to pursue.
Shortly before my second son was born, my life hit one of those defining crisis points the universe throws at you to see if you’re paying attention and all my plans for a sensible life were up-ended. I had a year to figure out what I wanted to do with my life (we get a year’s paid maternity leave in Canada). I knew I did not want to go back to my government job and put my children in daycare fulltime. One day a friend, who is a great local photographer, suggested that I start shooting with him and set my house up as a studio. A light went off in my head and I thought “that’s it!”
For the next 9 months, I started building a portfolio, making an (informal) business plan, and sought out a mentor (Chris from CU Photography), who has been amazingly supportive.)
17-85 mm, 28mm, 400 ISO, 1/60, f/5.6
What is one thing you’ve learned so far that has proven most valuable?
To ask questions and ask for help. There are so many resources out there, in books, on-line and in person. My favourite part of this job is I am constantly learning – about photography, lighting, computer programs, business and marketing – the list goes on.
What makes you different from everyone else?
My ability to connect with people. I waited tables for over 10 years and often lamented that it was a waste of time while I was doing it. Now, I think what I learned in those years is my greatest asset.
50 mm, 125 ISO, 1/250, f/10
Who is your one favorite up-and-coming photographer?
I love Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir Her work is amazing.
One item you can’t live without?
This is a hard question. There really is nothing. I have great faith in the universe that I will always have what I need at any given time.
Your best bokeh image and why?
50mm, 100 ISO, 1/1000, f/2.0
I love a lot about this image. We were on a path beside the river valley, where the trees form a canopy. The light shining through the leaves looks like jewels. Caitlin’s flowers were beautiful – pink roses (my favourite) and hydrangeas. And I love the way Scott and Caitlin are looking at each other. The bokeh gives them an element of privacy and intimacy.
Too many to list. My most recent favourite is Resurrection by Tucker Malarkey.
Fried Green Tomatoes, The Princess Bride, Thelma and Louise. And of course, the original Star Wars.
17-85mm, 24mm, 200 ISO, 1/160, f/5.6
Where do you find inspiration?
I stalk other photographer’s blogs, keeping an eye on what is hot, seeing how successful photographers market themselves, and what new techniques people are using. When I watch movies now, I focus on the lighting and the framing.
What do you think is the most valuable aspect of your business?
To me or my clients?
To me – this is the best job I have ever had (and I’ve been employed for 25 years!) I value my work, and the opportunities I have to do that work, very highly. I love that I have a job where I get to be creative in many different ways and find it satisfying on many different levels. I’m also extremely grateful that the odd hours of this job allow me to stay home fulltime with my boys and still make a living.
To my clients – I think the fact that I love my job and am passionate about what I do is evident to the people I meet.
17-85 mm, 20mm, 100 ISO, 1/100, f/5.6
Do you use a second shooter?
One day I hope to. I am very good at being bossy delegating.
How would you recommend that someone wanting to second shoot with you go about getting the gig?
I’d want to see a portfolio and know that the person I was hiring could conduct themselves professionally, but I certainly do appreciate a little sass and attitude.
50 mm, 400 ISO, 1/60, f/5.0
If you could second shoot with anyone, who would it be?
Yervant, because who wouldn’t want to shoot with a master. Sofie and Paul in Cypress . I love the vividness and unique perspective of their work. And Sarah Q , who seems like she would be a load of fun.
17-85mm, 17mm, 800 ISO, 1/250, f/4.0
Are you a member of any organizations and have you won any awards?
Other than that time I accepted an Academy Award (in my head)? No, I am a terrible joiner. There are several organizations I would love to be a part of, but raising my boys and running my business fills my days and nights. I keep thinking about when they start school I will have so much more time in my day, and possibly the occasional free evening. Wow!
17-85 mm, 100 ISO, 1/250, f/4.5
What did you have to do to actually take the leap? Did you have any hoops to jump through?
Blind faith, and my back was against the wall. The idea of working a really boring desk job (even if it paid well) and not seeing my kids for 9 hours a day was too terrible to contemplate!
Do you have suggestions for others trying to make the transition?
Be willing to learn from others who have done what you are about to do. Throw yourself into it whole heartedly. Love what you do.
17-85 mm, 24mm, 200 ISO, 1/60, f/5.6
What is the biggest or most creative thing you do/have done to draw new clients?
Almost all of my business is word of mouth. The first solo wedding I did, my clients found me on Craigslist. I’ve had many clients come to me through them. Many of my family clients come to me through my midwife. Some are recommended by her, but funnily enough, I’ve had several clients who found out about our connection to her after the fact. My friends are also great at talking me up.
What’s your idea of the perfect photographer networking “date”?
Date? Date? Can we just call it a meeting so I don’t get freaked out?
I would love to go to a cool location with a small group of photographers and some models and have the photographers demonstrate what they do and how they do it, then go to a café and discuss how we put everything through post-production. I learn best through stories. I’m sure this is what many groups do (see my issues with joining above!)
17-85 mm, 28mm, 400 ISO, 1/60, f/2.8