Q. Welcome, Dawn! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
A. Let’s see, I am 38 yrs old, married for 12 years and have a beautiful son named Jamie (who just happened to become a teenager a few months ago!) It seems they just grow when you’re not looking. I live in Louisville, Ky (where all the derby festivities are in full swing right now) and have lived here my entire life. Louisville is a wonderful city.
Q. How and when did you get into photography?
A. Photography was something that just sort of fell into my lap one day. Unlike many others who had a lifelong passion for it, this was not really the case with me (although I did snap many, many pics of my son just like any other mom). My husband gave me a little Canon Elph film camera when our son was just a baby. I pretty much wore that camera out, but never even had a digital camera until my son was 8 years old. My husband bought me a little 4 megapixel Pentax digital P&S for Christmas (December 2007) and that is where it all began. I spent the next year taking pics of anyone who would sit still long enough for it- OH, and I found Flickr! I also found a couple of free online editing programs….and away I went-lol. I created some truly horrible “masterpieces” in that first year and a half, that is for sure.
I got my first DSLR (A Nikon D60 w/ kit lens) in mid 2009.…and still I snapped away and still I created a lot of horrible images, but slowly it started to sink in that I was missing something, until that light bulb went off.
Q. How long have you been in business and what do you specialize in?
A. I officially started in the business in fall of 2009 (taking my first paying client in October that year.)
I specialize in children (older children & babies 6 months & up) and high school seniors. Right now I am marketing heavily towards seniors as that is probably my favorite type of session next to children. However, I also do engagements and weddings as well. I DO NOT do newborns, but have many friends on Flickr and FB who are super talented and just blow me away with their beautiful newborn work.
Q. Natural light v. studio light?
A. I am mainly a natural light shooter, but do own and use flash equipment. It is very necessary when shooting weddings, but I almost never use flash with regular outdoor sessions.
Q. Tell us about your camera gear. Any gear on your wish list?
A. My current camera is a Nikon D700. I have all Nikon lenses- 24-70 2.8, 50 1.4G, and the 85 1.4G. The 85 is my favorite lens for portrait sessions right now.
On my wish list is the Nikon D3S (NO- not the D800!) and the 135 F2 (you can never have too many primes in my opinion.) I am looking at adding the 70 -200 for weddings though….. Still have to think practical sometimes.
Q. How would you describe your style of shooting; your style of editing?
A. My style of shooting is definitely well thought out. I always try to plan my shoots around nice weather, and as close to the golden hour as possible. I pick my locations with this same thing in mind…where can I get the best light? Once I start shooting, I find that I get into a “zone” and I move smoothly from one shot to the next. Of course this not always the case since we can’t control weather, and I just did a session a few weeks ago while it poured rain most of the time. Luckily, we had a big barn there to help us out but the lighting was very much less than ideal. My style of editing is bold, bright, vibrant and colorful yet clean. I am not into a lot of vintage tones & textures, but will on occasion play with a few ’whimsical’ edits or add a texture if it suits the image.
Q. I know you’re a LR guru, when and how did you learn it?
A. I’m not sure if I am actually a Light room “guru,” but I do know my way around LR pretty well and can use it for just about ALL of my editing needs. I believe I downloaded my first LR trial in 2009 and been hooked ever since. I have converted many others over to LR and have taught over 40 LR classes with photographers in every phase- from those just starting out to seasoned pros looking to use LR to improve their workflow. I have helped each and every one in a different way and always had great feedback on my teaching methods.
Q. What I find most fascinating about your work is the connection you make with the subject, be it a child or a high school senior, and I feel like you can see into their souls through the camera; their eyes are always so intense. Any insight on how you accomplish this?
A. I believe that connecting with our subjects is the most important part of our job as photographers. After all, if you are not connecting with them, then your camera will not connect either…and I truly believe that. This is especially true with young children that you are meeting for the first time. Some may be outgoing and love the attention, while others are more quiet and shy. I will do whatever it takes to pull them out of that shell and gain their trust. Usually with the shy types it just takes a bit of talking, coaxing, and finding something you have in common. Find out what they are interested in and let them tell you all about it, and act like it is the most interesting thing you have ever heard. It may be soccer, a favorite TV show, a trip they took to Disney World, etc., just LISTEN and say ‘Wow, really!? That sounds so cool, I hope I can do that one day, and how did that make you feel?” All children love to have a grown up hang on their every word.
I use these same methods with teens. They simply love to talk about them and what is going on in their lives, their interests, college choices, etc. I have yet to have a teen that was hard to work with. The girls are always up for anything and excited to be there. That is why I simply love doing senior sessions.
Q. How do you approach each session? Any tips on how you communicate with the client, pick out a location, etc.?
A. My first initial contact with the client is always through email (as I am sure it is with most photographers.) I first thank them for inquiring about my services, tell them a bit about my shooting style, and then link them directly to my pricing and session info page. I feel this is so very important because I hear so many stories about clients not knowing fully what they are getting into when they book sessions as far as session fees, print pricing, etc. and I want to avoid that as much as possible. Manage expectations! I know that some photographers choose not to put all of their pricing, session information on their sites, but for me I feel like it helps avoid any confusion. It is all there for them- from clothing suggestions, cancellation and no show policies, right down to individual print and package costs, as well as how many proofs they should expect to see as final images.
I have several locations that I use all the time. We have great urban areas downtown and just a short drive on the expressway will take you to some beautiful rural areas and state parks. I do location scouting a couple of times per year and always manage to find a couple of new gems out there. Things I look for in a location are: Urban- colors, textures, graffiti, old buildings & warehouses. Rural- blooming trees and flowers, old barns, flower fields, and lots of greenery. Of course, great LIGHT is the most important ingredient in any location.
Q. Who or what are your photography inspirations?
A. Photography inspirations? Wow, this will be a tough one (just because I could name so many!) But here it goes-
Audrey Woulard, Mika Beth Edwards, Jaki Good, Brooke Beasley, and Krystle Ipsen and Alicia Marie Mick (Mick Luvin Photography)
Like I said, I could add many more names, but these were the first to come to mind. I look at their work a lot and have found inspiration through each of them in some way.
Q. Any parting words of inspiration or tips for those starting out?
A. The best tips/advice I can offer to new photographers is to not be in a hurry. Take the time to hone your skills. If you truly are in this to be a professional one day, then you will understand that nothing worth having ever comes easy or happens overnight. Take pride in your work and set the bar high.
Always remember that a great image comes out of your camera…NOT Photoshop or Lightroom. Last bit of advice? If in doubt, toss it out. Don’t show blurry, underexposed, or out of focus images, even if you just adore it and it’s the only one you got like that. Shots like that may be fine for snapshots of your own child for the family photo album, but not for someone who is PAYING you to give them professional results.