Meet Gail, a Central Indiana wedding and portrait photographer who is left handed, but shoots Canon equipment using her right eye. She shoots RAW exclusively in Manual Mode, and uses Kevin Kubota’s Artistic 1 and Production packs, the original set of TRAs, MCP Blogging actions and Nate Holoritz’s Lightroom presets.
Describe the moment you decided it was time to pursue this as a career?
I’ve always loved photography and took a few classes over the years in high school and college but it was finding my wedding photographers (Turtle Pond Photography), having them document our love and then falling in love with that process that made me think I was on to something so creatively fulfilling that I felt inspired by that desire to give other people those same memories, that same feeling. That and realizing spending 3 hours a day reading about photography, trolling other blogs and obsessing over my camera manual was NOT normal!
What is one thing you’ve learned so far that has proven most valuable?
To stop comparing myself to other photographers. There are so many wonderful photographers out there that it’s beyond intimidating. There are times I find myself looking at others’ blogs and judging myself, feeling second-rate or trying to compare my work to theirs. And then I’m reminded of this quote (ohhh, I’m a quote-lovin’ girl!): “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” — Judy Garland. Amen Judy!
What makes you different from everyone else?
I think it’s just being myself. Being YOU-nique. I’m a cheery person, sociable and easy-going, and it’s those traits that often prove the biggest arsenal in my bag. Because you’re not just a photographer on someone’s wedding day. You have to be their cheerleader, sometimes a mediator, often times the wedding planner, and always someone who can roll with the punches. Are there photographers out there more technically proficient than me? Absolutely. So I just try to do what I do with 110 percent enthusiasm and hope it helps make me 100 percent memorable in the minds of my clients.
Who is your one favorite up-and-coming photographer?
You’d be remiss if you weren’t already following Jamie Delaine. That young woman is a true trailblazer in our field. I also adore my photo BFF, Betsy King. Betsy and I started our businesses around the same time, so we’ve commiserated about a lot of the pros and cons of this venture. Folks, if you don’t have a photo BFF, work on that pronto! You don’t have to be in the same city (or even the same continent), you just need to have one another’s back. Because no matter how much support you get from a spouse or a boy/girlfriend, no one will understand what you are going through like another photographer, preferably one who’s matching pace with you in terms of experience.
One item you can’t live without?
Chapstick (seriously, I freak out if there’s not a tube nearby in every room in the house or in the car) and something to read. Books, magazines, the back of a cereal box, I’m not picky. It’s periodical central in my house, that’s for sure.
Your best bokeh image and why?
Why did you want to be included on The Bokeh Pot?
You guys do SUCH a great job with the site and it’s a great resource for photographers who still are (or still feel) new to the game (I feel like I’m always going to feel that way, even if I’m still shooting with a walker for support!) And I’m someone who always loves to read what other people have to say about our craft and to join in a network of photographers who want to be in that same supportive community that I love. (And as a former journalist, it’s nice to be the one answering the questions instead of asking them 😉
Oh, just one? I can’t do that. So here’s two: Time Traveler’s Wife and The Book Thief (both made me cry, they are soooo good!)
Little Miss Sunshine
Where do you find inspiration?
Magazines, art, nature, the work of my friends who are photojournalists. Of course I glean a lot of inspiration from other photographers’ blogs, but I’ve trained myself to focus in on photographers whose style I most admire in terms of posing and composition and who embody a creative spirit that makes me want to work harder to bring out that same spirit in my images. (Training yourself not to look at EVERY photographer’s blog is also a good way to prevent panic attacks every time you open Google Reader to realize how many posts you’re behind in following.)
What do you think is the most valuable aspect of your business?
The knowledge I’ve worked hard to accumulate over the past 2 years. I love reading about the business side of photography as much as the technical side, so that’s a huge help. Having a background in design has also been a big plus for me.
Do you use a second shooter?
No. I’d like to work on that in 2010! So far, I’ve worked with assistants, which is great, but no one who’s wielded the camera with me.
How would you recommend that someone wanting to second shoot with you go about getting the gig?
Definitely shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and share links to some of your work!
If you could second shoot with anyone, who would it be?
I got to second shoot with my own wedding photogs earlier this year and it was a dream come true. It was an Indian wedding that was over the top beautiful so I couldn’t have asked for a better set-up.
Are you a member of any organizations and have you won any awards?
Nope and nope. I’d love to work on those two areas in my business as well. But first I have to go about finding a way to add two more hours to the day!
What did you have to do to actually take the leap? Did you have any hoops to jump through?
I still work full-time, so in part, I haven’t taken the big leap. The Grand Canyon of leaps, if you will. But as for making the leap where I said, “Yes, I want to do this FOR REAL, it was a series of stages of investing in gear and equipment and second-guessing myself with every click of that mouse. I remember buying my 5D online and being SO nervous about the amount of money I spent on it. Now I can’t imagine living without it. It’s that way with any investment you make in yourself and for your business. For me, this year, it’s been investing in workshops, lighting equipment and a Web site for my business.
50mm, f/4, 1/200, ISO 320
Do you have suggestions for others trying to make the transition?
Work hard. I feel like there are photographers who, like all of us, start doing this because they take some portraits of their family or friends with their starter SLR and think it’ll be easy and fun and that other photographers will tell them all they need to know. But it’s an uphill battle of learning the ropes and I think you need to glean your knowledge from so many different places — your camera manual, books, photo magazines (Rangefinder and Popular Photo are good ones), forums (OSP!) and practicing A TON. Oh, and be prepared to learn a LOT about the business side of photography too. If that idea overwhelms you, you may want to stick with photography as a serious hobby and that’s perfectly OK too!
What is the biggest or most creative thing you do/have done to draw new clients?
I think the recent process of rebranding has made me feel more confident, which in turn, I think has drawn more prospective clients to my work.
Are you for or against advertising (paid or free)? If for, who have you had the most success with?
Not against it at all, just haven’t had to utilize it yet. From those I’ve spoken to who have made use of it, it always seems there’s little bang for the buck.
What’s your idea of the perfect photographer networking “date”?
Grabbing lunch or dinner with a group of photographers, gabbing about life, work, art, what inspires us. The times I get to make that happen, I’m on a “photographer high” for hours afterward.
Anything else you would like to share?
Just remember that everybody has days where they doubt themselves and their abilities. Even the best photographers. 🙂
And I’ll share three gems of inspiration and knowledge when I was starting out:
Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Photography — When I first bought my SLR, this book had so much great info for me. Bryan presents the basics in a way that just makes everything click. His book on shutter speed is pretty fantastic too.
Digital Photography School: I’ve subscribed to this newsletter for about 3 years now and continue to be impressed with the tips, tricks and doses of inspiration that hit my inbox each day. If you’re not subscribed, check it out!
Lynda.com: This was a great resource for me when the time came to learn more about how to use programs like Light Room, Bridge and Photoshop for editing my photos. Having taken a lot of design classes in college, I look back and wish I had this resource then!
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