An Introduction & Where I Find Inspiration
Updated: Aug 12, 2020
Hello and welcome to my website/blog/store, I am thrilled to share my pictures with you all! Hopefully I can pass on some insight into how I got started in film photography, built up my technical skills, and found my artistic style. This first blog post is mainly going to be an introduction so you can get to know me and some background behind my four main types of photography-Nature, Portraits, Live Music, and Pet Portraits.
So, where did my journey with photography start?
Well, my history with photography actually begins way before I ever picked up a camera, and I am certainly not the first photographer or artist in my family. Some of my relatives are quite eccentric. From my godmother who raises standard poodles and taught piano on TV to my restaurateur great uncle who owned a restaurant with Lady Gaga’s parents in the 80’s (or 90’s? My memory sucks), but I didn’t know anything about my other great uncle, Ronnie Davis, until my dad passed down his camera to me after using it in high school. My friends, namely Julia Quinn, costar of the Instagram @2gals2cities and femme film phenom, shot film while we hung out and it immediately caught my interest. My ever thrifty father (who also knows I can be a bit of an impulsive spender) suggested that instead of buying a camera online, I take the Mamiya/Sekor 500DTL that had then travelled from NYC, all over North Carolina, to a closet in our home in La Canada. It was a thrilling feeling, and I jumped right into the exciting old (but new to me) world of film photography.
Turns out, I got a bit too excited and sort of bypassed some simple rules before shooting multiple rolls of film with blank, underexposed, blurry, horribly framed pictures, which was so upsetting. I grew up borrowing my dad’s digital camera and taking pictures on various IPhones, so I had been spoiled by automatic features that you must be conscious of when shooting film, but this presented a new challenge I was determined to face. After countless frames, cry sessions after getting back a blank roll, and excursions all around the nation, I have now gained confidence in my stylistic choices, technical skill, and ability to creatively direct shoots. Now, after harnessing my abilities behind the camera, I want to share some of my experience and tips for getting started as a self taught film photographer. For this post, I will be sharing where I drew the inspiration for my four main styles of photography (which you can find organized in the Gallery tab).
What can I say...about half of my pictures are related to nature-some sort of flora, fauna, or just the sky. Nature, to me, will always be the most abundant source of inspiration. It’s easy for me to say that given I lived in California for most of my life, but anywhere I go I enjoy exploring the vast creative palette that the Earth provides for us. There are countless reasons for every photographer to incorporate nature into their portfolio, but here are a few:
Your canvas is endless. You can make anything your subject and you don’t necessarily have a client to base you shoot around, which provides a wonderful opportunity for photographers at any skill level to test different camera settings, try out a new kind of film, or simply find your artistic style by shooting what YOU find interesting, beautiful, etc.
If your environment allows it (you may have to venture outside your city), both the auditory and visual components of nature can be so healing. You don’t have to be a seasoned outdoorsperson to enjoy a nature walk among some lovely plants and animals (please don’t litter though and remember to always respect the environment). Some of my favorite spots are along rivers or other bodies of water. Find your happy place, where you’re comfortable, and shoot there.
If you can explore the same spots at different times of day, this is a great opportunity to play around with natural lighting. I love getting out to shoot around mid afternoon through sunset to achieve many different lighting effects (a blog post with more on this concept and natural lighting is coming soon!).
So it’s pretty obvious that nature is my happy place. But hey, if your happy place is your own backyard, indoors, or even if it’s a crusty Chuck E. Cheese bathroom, shoot there. Your familiarity with your surroundings will allow you to relax and focus on what you see through an artistic lens.
Portraits also make up a good chunk of my portfolio and are a great way to measure your growth as a photographer. Unlike landscapes and some nature shoots, you have a specific subject to focus on, and possibly someone to please. I began my portrait work with my friends and family so I wouldn’t have the pressure of returning perfect pictures that fit a specific style. By giving myself that freedom early on, I've been able to build up a technical and stylistic repertoire that could be applied to many different types of shoots. Also, even though your subject is moving, you have time to mess around with different camera settings and can communicate with them and influence the composition of the photo. Something that helped me a lot early on was taking a similar photo twice, each with different lens aperture, shutter speed, etc. so that I could better understand how that made a difference in the final result. Portraits look great in black and white as well as color, and many popular films (Kodak Gold, Portra 160, Ilford HP5) provide a wonderful result at any skill level. Once you get good at portraits, they become an incredible way to build your portfolio. There is always a market for portraiture so I think it is a very crucial skill to have if you’re interested in making money from photography. Start by photographing friends and family for just a thanks for the memories (even if they weren’t so great). If they like the pictures they can post wherever and tag you, which can ultimately lead to business or even just foot traffic on your account/website.
For those of you who don’t know me, I go to Berklee College of Music and am currently pursuing a double major in Electric Bass Performance and Jazz Composition there, so I guess you could say I dedicate a lot of my time to music. That’s why concert photography has always been so appealing to me, it really does combine my two greatest passions in life. While this is true, film can be very technically challenging when it comes to low or flashing light, constantly moving subjects, and an environment that doesn’t exactly lend itself to steady hands, so it has taken me a while to really have a handle on my photography in this realm. Like my other styles, I have found that practicing amongst friends is the best way to hone your skills and train your creative eye. Due to the fact that you can get back such a wide variety of results, film can be a great way to step outside your comfort zone into a new realm of possibility. Also, as someone with anxiety, having a camera can be such a productive way to distract yourself from the stress of crowds and loud noises. Like wow. You know when you just don’t know what to do with your hands? Boom, camera. So many fun buttons to press. I am convinced cameras are more expensive, but more useful, fidget toys. Anyways, in quarantine times, maybe see if any musicians would be down for a safe, socially distanced shoot! They get the chance to play and have some sick new pictures, you get a private concert and serotonin. It’s a win win. Concert photography is also a great way to show range in your portfolio, and can definitely be a source of revenue if you can find the gigs.
Last but not least, pet portraiture! Most certainly the type of photography I have been doing the longest, simply because it’s both an amazing way to test out new film, and I love to photograph my pets. I’d like to think my cat poses, like he can tell when it’s his time to shine and he’ll give me a blue steel and his fiercest pose. I have a lot of film photos of my pets, and some of them are definitely not usable or even keepable. But because I have been doing it for a while it’s now easier for me to take pictures of pets whose behavior I'm not familiar with. In the beginning it took me too long to choose all my settings and get my subject in focus, but with practice on my incredibly unpredictable pets, I’ve improved. Animals are wonderful subjects to build your technical skill with. It’s definitely not an easy task to get great pet portraits, so when you do you’ll definitely see yourself improve in other styles. In addition to being really fun and useful, pet portraiture is also definitely a marketable skill that you can get paying jobs from. Like all photography, start on friends for free until you can build a glowing portfolio of work you love!
Okay wow, that’s the word count of like-a high school level essay, I guess I really do enjoy babbling about photography. Well enjoy the website, buy a print if you’d like (free shipping!!), and hit the contact tab to set up a free consultation! Thanks for reading this far :) gold star for you!
Photo credit: Julia Quinn