When did you first become interested in art, in general?
I’ve always been interested in art, it was always my favorite subject in school. In high school I took ceramics, and a general art class where I found out I could actually draw anything I looked at. I draw for fun and to challenge myself now.
When did you first become interested in photography, specifically?
When I had my old point & shoots as a kid I was always envious of the folks with the nice big SLRs. I wanted so bad to have a camera with a lens I could manually focus! So I saved up and finally got my first one after college. I started taking pictures while I was out doing archaeology projects across the US. Had no idea what I was doing with it, and most of the photos I look back at now are just horrible, but I thought it was brilliant at the time! From then on I became a photo junkie, but slowly upgrading my kit.
In what other forms of art do you also work, if any?
When the mood strikes I’ll pick up some charcoal or some watercolors, but just for the fun of it.
On which style(s) of photography do you specialise
I’m not sure I really have a style – I shoot all manner of subjects, and no one “style” could really work for all of it. I like to keep subjects such as my birds or other wildlife fairly natural without much processing, but push an HDR effect on my landscapes, architectural or still lifes.
Has your style changed from when you first began?
I’ve definitely gotten better at taking a nice photograph! As for style, I’m still not entirely sure what that all means. I shoot what I think is interesting, gorgeous, and/or want to put on my walls and think other people might too. I’ve been told by other photographers and artists that my composition is my forte. I do aim for a very strong composition with every shot – I never really have to do much cropping or straightening with the images. Everything after composition is secondary for me.
What kind of equipment do you use?
Currently I have a Nikon D5100, an 18-55mm, 50mm 1.8G, and 70-300mm VR lenses. The 50mm is almost permanently attacted to my camera body though, I use it so much. I bring out the 300mm when I need to photograph wildlife, especially birds, or children – its fantastic for capturing candid shots of kids during a photo shoot.
What made you choose that equipment?
I did a lot of research – read about a million reviews, and it fit in my budget. The 50mm lens came nearly 2 years after getting the other equipment. I wanted on so badly after reading up about how great it was for the price. At $200 you get a lot of bang for your buck! I can shoot most everything with it. Even if I want a big landscape, instead of using a wide angle lens, I’ll just take multiple shots with the 50mm and stitch them together. Can’t say enough good things about this lens. End commercial…
Are you a specialist photographer?
I am not – I kind of have the attention span of a gnat. I can’t stand being boxed in to one thing. As well as the fine art photography of every subject under the sun, I also do people sessions of mostly families and kids.
Do you have favourite times of the days to take shots in?
I think any photographer is going to say the golden hour, when the light is amazing. Which probably is my favorite, but rarely do I get to choose when I taken pictures. I just have to make any time and light work for me. When I have my human photo sessions I try to shoot as late in the day as possible since I shoot entirely outdoors, but really I can work around most light/environment situations.
Are you a patient photographer, waiting for the right moment, or do you tend to just shoot and hope for the best?
I am patient – to a point. I don’t like people in my photographs, and cloning them out can be tedious, impossible or just plain annoying. So I have been known to wait for a while for a section of street to clear, or other area. I waited at Mesa Verde for quite a while years ago as a tour group passed through and I could get a clean shot of the ruins.
Lately I’ve been photographing a lot of birds, and I’ll sit out on the back porch being very still waiting for them to come back after I’ve scared them off making a racket setting up a chair and my camera. After many years of trying to get a bluebird, one finally appeared and my patience paid off!
Someone contacted me wanting images of a market in London, so I went down there at a time when it isn’t fully open, hoping that not many people would be around. I probably stood in the street a good hour or so snapping on and off as people came around the corners or walked by just as I was going to click the shutter. It took a while, but I finally managed to get a few “clean” shots for my customer to choose from.
How often do you go out just to photograph or, do you have your camera ready at all times, even shopping?
I pretty much bring it with me at all times – another reason I love my 50mm lens, its light and small – I put it in my shoulder bag and take it wherever I go. I never know when I’ll be headed to the shop, but then take the scenic route home. Or take an impromtu trip to the local park. And I know if I don’t bring it, I’ll be kicking myself later when I see something I MUST have a photo of!
Do you edit in photoshop or another programme? Or do you outsource to someone else?
I edit in Photoshop CS6, and use Topaz as well. If I outsourced, I couldn’t really call it my work anymore.
How much time (on average) does it take to edit a work?
If I’m spending more than 30 minutes or so on an image, it should probably be scrapped. Or at least saved for a later time when I can look at it with fresh eyes. Some of the panoramic images I create can take a bit longer, depending on how many photos are being stitched together.
For most images though, as soon as its on my screen in PS, I pretty much know how I’m going to process it and what I’d like the end result to be. Sometimes it ends up looking completely different than what I envisioned if I try something else and end up loving it, but in general I have an image in my end of what I hope the end product with look like.
How do you know when a piece is finished? Is it easy to walk away?
I am my own worst critic, so I end up tossing a lot out, or maybe saving for another time because it’s just not working for me. It is easy for me to walk away though. I am pretty good as figuring out what I like and when to put the pencil down so to speak.
What do you do to overcome a ‘block’?
I go somewhere else. If I can afford it, I roadtrip. I find another environment, other things and places to look at. Lately I’ve been on a vintage objects kick, so I’ll google some antique shops and go for a drive to find some old stuff to photograph. Along the way I can usually find other things I hadn’t seen before. Or I’ll look at some old work and if possible go back to the location and see if I can improve with some new work.
How well do you take criticism and how do you make use of it?
I don’t think anyone can be harsher on my work than myself. So long as someone offers up some constructive criticism I’m definitely going to have a look and see if I can improve or even see what they see.
Random analogy – I have a Master’s degree in Paleopathology – basically I was a doctor for very very dead people, and I analysed skeletons for a living. When diagnosing disease, it ALWAYS helped to have a second pair of eyes have a look at what you were trying to figure out since they may see something you missed completely or offer up a differential diagnosis you hadn’t thought of or even known about. Not only do you get to make your analysis more complete, but you may have also learned something in the process.
Same goes for an image – sometimes I’ve been staring at it so long, I just need someone elses eyes to look at it for 2 seconds to see something I’ve been missing.
Who is your favourite photographer?
To be honest I don’t really have one. Since I’m entirely self taught, I never really studied any particular photographers or artists and probably couldn’t name any besides Ansel Adams and some other photographers that use the same websites as I do to sell their work! Horrible, I know.
I do have a favorite children’s photographer I’ve been following and learning from. She works magic with natural light, and I’ve gone in the non-studio direction because of her awe inspiring work. Her name is Annie Manning and she runs Paint the Moon. Anyone looking to get into family, children or newborn photography should really have a look at her work, it’s absolutely beautiful.
Which one of your photographs is your favourite?
That’s like asking what my favorite show or movie is. I maybe have a top five, but picking a number one might depend on the time of day. I think if I had to choose one right now it would be the one titled “Eleven and a Half” of two doorways in London. I love the color and quirkiness of it.
Have you exhibited any of your work in galleries?
I could have and should have, but haven’t yet. Lack of confidence holds me back, and now location of where I’m currently living is pretty lacking in galleries. I will be doing a lot more fairs starting this year, and we’ll see if that leads to some space on a gallery wall.
Will your work be included at any upcoming contests or galleries? If so, where and when?
I may enter into a local juried show in April 2013, in Jonesborough, TN. My next event where I’ll be displaying and selling work will be at the Women’s Expo at the Johnson City Mall in Tennessee March 23rd and 24th, 2013.
What are your plans for the future?
I’ve got plans to create a little studio out of my apartment, so I can offer more choice to clients. I live on my family’s old farm, with a huge tobacco barn and 18th century log house. These make great backdrops for photos, but I’d like to expand into a studio space filled with natural light.
I am planning two big roadtrips, one in the fall 2013 to the south – New Orleans and Austin namely. And the second in the spring 2014 in the southwest and up to Yellowstone National Park. So I’ll be adding a lot of new work in the coming year to my website.
What advice do you have for budding photographers?
Experiment. Change your settings, pick different apertures, shutter speeds, exposures… go nuts. The beauty of digital is that you can shoot as much as your little heart desires, and see all the results as you go. You can see what works, what doesn’t, and learn by doing.
Also, Google and YouTube can be your best buddies – use them! If you want to learn some techniques of how to shoot in a certain situation or subject, look it up! There are so many free tutorials out there.
Have you done any courses to help you?
No, I’m entirely self taught.
What do you do to market your work?
The regular social media sites – Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, and I just recently started a Tumblr after much debate.
I carry business cards at all times. Even if I’m not handing them out to people, there are many places to pin them up, a lot of businesses around town have public notice boards you can advertise on. I also use Craigslist or any other free advertising space I can find, such as a Yelp page, and GoogleMaps.
Do you enter your work in contests?
Only if they are free! Its hard to find legitimate ones sometimes as there are many many scam contest sites.
Do you use social networking in your day to day life?
Are you available for work (commissions)?
I have photographed places on request (the market in London example from above). I also do commissions for anthropomorphic marshmallow scenes, which I have a gallery of on my website.
Have you got hobbies?
I knit, not very well. I cook, luckily better than I knit.
Where are you based?
Johnson City, Tennessee – but that could change by next year. I tend to be highly nomadic!
© 2013, Isabella Francesca Abigail Shores. All rights reserved.