Interview with a Photography Student

I was recently interviewed by a student from High Point University in North Carolina about my photography and experiences. I thought it would be fun to share the interview with you.

Q: I mainly wanted to focus on your photography involving animals. What decision led you to photographing them?
A: I've always loved animals. I think it's important to photograph who or what you are passionate about. For me, photographing animals
is the perfect combination–I have the opportunity to spend time with animals and have a career creating meaningful photographs. There
also seemed to be a good niche for pet photography in Santa Fe when I first moved there almost ten years ago.
I also wanted to ask you about the non-profit work you do. What made you become involved in non-profit work?
There are always amazing opportunities to use your talents to benefit others in need. This includes animals! For me, non-profit animal organizations and shelters are a way to get involved and use
my photography to help animals find homes and raise funding for animal welfare organizations. I learn a lot about photographing dogs and cats with varied temperaments
and value the community that forms around these important causes. I volunteer my creative services often and sometimes I work on larger marketing projects where I receive some compensation. I love volunteering my time and services but I still have a business to support. I don't know of any photographer who gets into photography for the money. Generating income to pay for education, equipment, cameras, computers, software, back up storage, etc. is imperative to running a business. Since I can't afford to say "yes" to everything, I try to evaluate each project individually and decide how I am able to commit in the most effective way for myself as well as the non-profit organization.
Q: How was your experience in doing the photographs for the Austin Humane society?
A: I am new to the Austin community and having the opportunity to photograph for the Austin Humane Society Alumni calendar this year was truly valuable. Community is important to me and contributing to this project was a fun way to start getting to know the animal welfare community in Austin. I also met a couple of unique animals and people in the process.  I scheduled Athena the cat's session at her home and photographed Einstein the dog in a local park.
Q: When you're taking pictures of animals how are you able to get them to pay attention and behave so well?
A: I have discovered many tactics over the years while working with and photographing animals. There is not one trick that works for every animal by any means. I've learned that having patience and determination are two qualities that I have to bring with me on any session with pets. I have a "bag o' tricks" that I always bring with me that is comprised of squeaky toys, pieces of noise making materials, treats, etc. that can help. I also make lots of noises with my mouth. This works great because it leaves my hands free to hold the camera! Not all pets have the same temperament so I need to adjust my techniques for each pet.

Q: What Is one memorable experience you have from a shoot?

A: Each session is memorable in its own way. I remember one dog I thought was a hummingbird because he would NOT sit still for more than a millisecond! I had a sense of humor about it but it was a challenge. I photographed until I got what I thought would make the owner happy. Fortunately, he was very pleased! I also recently photographed an elderly woman with her young dog. I loved the connection love between the two of them and photographing this connection was extremely heart warming for me.

Q: When photographing animals do you prefer black and white photography or color? why?
A: If you look at my images you'll see that I love color. Black and white images have a completely different feel to them and sometimes I think an image is just "asking" to be viewed in black and white.
When I started photographing I used black and white film and printing and I loved it. When I was in college I started photographing and printing color images and I loved it even more. I started to "see" in color. It can be a challenge to consider all of the elements that a successful color photograph requires, but when done well it can be as timeless as any black and white photograph.
Q: Although I am in love with your pet photography, what is your favorite thing/subject to photograph? why?
A: I love creating portraits, specifically of children and pets. It is extremely challenging and perhaps that's why when I feel the images are successful it is so rewarding. I love the process of creating portraits–spending time with the subject and really making them feel comfortable in front of the camera. Children and pets are always honest in front of the camera and I value that authenticity. There are also elements during sessions with pets and children that are surprising, and that keeps things fresh!
I'll always photograph a gorgeous landscape, but portraits are my love.

Q: How did you begin your career?

A: I started photographing in high school and earned a degree in photography in college from Drexel University in Philadelphia. After college I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where I worked part-time in a custom photo lab at the front desk,  became a color printer and later worked at a digital lab where I learned some photoshop skills. I started a portrait business simultaneously and then eventually became busy enough to quit my part time job and focus on my business. I had an incredible experience in college but I continue to learn about running a business through experience and by hiring consultants.

Q: Do you have any future plans or goals with your photography?

A: I am new to the market in Austin, Texas and my immediate goals are to get my portrait business going. Most of my business comes from word of mouth and that takes some time to develop. I am still traveling to photograph for clients in Santa Fe, New Mexico and I enjoy that very much because Santa Fe was my home and community for 9 years. I am currently working on a project for a non-profit animal welfare organization here in Austin that involves combining painting and photography. I love the element of "hands-on" craft and I miss that aspect of working in the darkroom. I'm loving this project and I have no idea where it will take me next.
I taught my first week-long workshop class last summer at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops entitled, "The Creative Pet Portrait" and I LOVED it. It was a lot of work but well worth it. I'm scheduled to teach the course again this July and I am very excited about it. Teaching photography is a new and challenging direction for me.

Q: As an inspiring photographer myself do you have any advice?

A: I suggest photographing what you love most because that is where you'll be successful. In the beginning this might take some time to discover, but play around! Assisting other photographers is a great way to learn and explore the many genres of photography. If you're looking to make a business in photography I highly suggest taking business and marketing courses and talking to as many people as possible about what it means to make a career in photography. Involve yourself in groups and organizations and build community for yourself with other photographers and artists. Use your photography to support a cause that is important to you.