Christi Kraft Talks the Talk With 1stAngel

Christi Kraft
Christi Kraft

When did you first become interested in art, in general?

I performed in my very first musical, Oliver!, in the first grade. Story has it that I was so excited to participate that I ran down the hall to sign up before the announcement was even finished. I consistently sang in one vocal ensemble or another for the next 17 years. I also became a writer at a very young age, authoring both poetry and prose. I can draw a bit, but only for myself.

When did you first become interested in photography, specifically?
I come from a family of camera carriers, so I caught the photo bug very early on. It was not uncommon for me to turn in 10 to 12 rolls of film at a time for processing, a very expensive hobby for a young person. I’m still a fairly prolific photographer, and digital has made that so much nicer.

In what other forms of art do you also work, if any?

I still write; these days, my work revolves around blog posts and personal insights. I have not sung in public (except for car rides, of course) or performed any theatre in a very long time.

On which style(s) of photography do you specialize?

My photography focuses on details in the world around us, those bits of humor, interest, and beauty that we might otherwise overlook. Nature and travel photography have been fantastic outlets for this. I love to find interesting doors and windows just as much as I enjoy photographing waterscapes and floral close-ups.

Simple Elegance by Christi Kraft - Copying from this site is illegal
Simple Elegance by Christi Kraft – Copying from this site is illegal

Has your style changed from when you first began? If so, why?

I’ve always been very detail-oriented in general; that started very early. As I have grown artistically and professionally, I have been able to fine-tune my style with constant practice and better tools.

What kind of equipment do you use?

My film cameras are old, heavy Canon models, AL-1 and FT. The lenses that I have those include a couple of 50mm lenses, a 200mm telephoto, and a 35-105mm macro. My digital SLR cameras are Nikon; my favorite lenses are my 55-200mm VR (great for shots from the air!), the very versatile 50mm walkabout lens, and my 60mm macro, which I adore. My digital darkroom is comprised of Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5.

Baby Bear by Christi Kraft - Copying is illegal
Baby Bear by Christi Kraft – Copying is illegal

What made you choose that equipment?

I grew up in a Canon family, and I can’t bear to part with my old film cameras, but when it came time to purchase my first dSLR, I flipped to Nikon for two main reasons: lens interchangeability, and the feel in my hand. Everyone’s got to find their own perfect fit. I initially purchased Lightroom 3 because of its noise reduction capabilities; while it had a steep learning curve, the program quickly became one of my favorites. 95% of my processing is done with LR3.

How do you choose what you’re going to photograph?

I capture whatever grabs my attention. Occasionally, I’ll set out with a goal in mind (“try to find orange wherever you can”) for inspiration, but more often than not, I’m shooting for my own pleasure and to thoroughly enjoy the finer points of the world around me.

What kind of editing do you perform on your photographs, if any?

I shoot RAW, so all of my images require at least a small amount of post-processing. I love colors, and I’m not afraid to let them shine through as vibrantly as they can. While I have spent a great deal of time in the traditional darkroom creating black and white photographs, they are a bit of a rarity in my digital portfolio. It’s always a special treat to put out a black and white image.

Reflections of the Capitol by Christi Kraft - Copying from this site is illegal
Reflections of the Capitol by Christi Kraft – Copying from this site is illegal

How much time (on average) does it take to complete a work?

I’m very meticulous and certainly a perfectionist, so it definitely takes me longer than it should. Fortunately, I find photo processing very relaxing; I can easily spend hours working on a piece or two. A lot of love and care goes into each image, so I’m happy to take whatever time is necessary.

How do you know when a piece is finished? Is it easy to walk away?

Some photographs come straight out of the camera with very few adjustments needed; others need more attention. The most complicated are inevitably the ones where I didn’t hit the mark with my in-camera settings, always a good reminder to slow down and get the ducks in a row before shooting. Most of the time, I can walk away once I’ve declared I’m done with a photograph, but occasionally, I’ll go back to a specific image or set because I’ve learned a new trick or really feel like something important is missing.

What do you do to overcome a ‘block’?

I take one of two approaches when I’m blocked: I walk away and focus my energies on anything but photography, or I pick up my camera and give myself an arbitrary challenge, a theme or pattern that will get me photographing something, anything, regardless of interest or outcome. When I’m tired of the photo folder I’m processing, I’ll frequently hop back to older collections to see what’s there to play around with.

How well do you take criticism and how do you make use of it?

I have studied with some very talented and very blunt photographers, so I’ve definitely learned to find the value in constructive criticism and channel it back to my work. I consider myself a lifelong learner, and I want to continually grow as a photographer, so I do take others’ input, positive or otherwise, into consideration.

Who is your favourite photographer?

Edward Weston is one of my favorites. From an eggplant to a toilet, he could show the beauty in anything.

Which one of your photographs is your favourite?

“Green Windows”, a photograph I took in London in 2008, is my all-time favorite.

Green Windows by Christi Kraft - Copying from this site is illegal
Green Windows by Christi Kraft – Copying from this site is illegal

Have you exhibited any of your work in galleries?

At the moment, I have five pieces available exclusively through the 1stAngel Arts Gallery.

Will your work be included at any upcoming contests or galleries? If so, where and when?

My work has recently been selected for the 1stAngel Arts Gallery, an online gallery based in the United Kingdom. The gallery will also feature painters, sculptors, and digital artists, each chosen personally by the founder of 1stAngel Arts Magazine.

What are your plans for the future?

I am excited for upcoming travel to the east coast as well as a return trip to the United Kingdom. Beyond that, I look forward to taking some additional courses as I am able, adding select pieces of equipment to my collection, and stretching the existing limits of my capabilities. I’m a teacher at heart, so I would also like to continue to share what I have learned with others around me, however that works out.

What advice do you have for budding photographers?

Jump in, and practice! It’s easier than ever to shoot hundreds and thousands of images (and much, much cheaper than film); there’s no reason not to grab the camera and just play for a while, to see what the camera can do, to see what you can do. Shoot what you love because you love it. Have fun with photography–it is hard work, but it’s so rewarding, especially if you allow yourself to occasionally break “the rules”. Find other photographers’ work that you love, and study it. Ask yourself why you love it, and try to infuse that into your own pieces. Become part of the photo community. There are so many friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and TALENTED folks out there; learn from them.

Lava Shore by Christi Kraft - Copying is illegal
Lava Shore by Christi Kraft – Copying is illegal

Have you done any courses to help you?

I have had some formal training, but I also believe in continual learning and growth. I read a lot of great photo books, take courses on topics such as post-processing, and also participate in some peer groups with other photographers.

What do you do to market your work?

My photographs are sold online, so the majority of my marketing involves the Internet and social media. I do have a blog, which is in the midst of some changes, and I also attend a lot of networking events for artists and small business owners, both virtual and in-person.

Do you use social networking in your day to day life?

I am an extroverted sole-proprietor, so social networking is one of my favorite parts of my job. Please stop by and say hi!

Are you available for work (commissions)?

It’s rare that I do project or commission work; however, I’m always open to hearing new ideas.

In the Pink by Christi Kraft - Copying is illegal
In the Pink by Christi Kraft – Copying is illegal

Have you got hobbies?

When I’m not working, I love to read, write, travel, and spend time with my wonderful family. I have also been known to scrapbook and crochet an afghan or two.

Where are you based?

I live in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin.

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