Hi Audra, nice of you to join us...
Thank you for having me!
What is your current state of mind before we continue with the interview?
I currently have Kygo radio playing, and editing photos. So my state of mind is pensive. I like to totally zone out when I’m retouching. This is my time to think and reflect on my work, my goals, my thoughts, and even come up with poetry! haha
What sort of photography do you specialize in?
I specialize in fitness photography for personal and commercial use. I also shoot editorial and still life from time to time for the Houstonia Magazine.
What was your career path? How did you get from being an aspiring photographer to actually doing what you do for a living? Or is it something you do on the side?
This is it! Photography is my full time career and has always been. I got my BFA in Ad Design and Minor in Photography, and decided to pursue photography. I attended photography school and when I graduated landed my first photography job at a commercial photography studio shooting products.
How long have you been a photographer?
That was in 2006, so 10 years?
How would you describe your style?
Hmmm, great question. I find that it’s always difficult to talk about my own work! However, I would describe my style as colorful, vibrant, creative, stylized imagery with a touch of fantasy.
What's in your camera bag? What type of camera do you shoot with?
My camera bag is a huge backpack that weighs about 30 pounds haha! I have a Nikon D800, a 24-70mm, 70-200mm, 50mm and an 85mm in the bag. As well as batteries, 6 Pocket Wizards, battery chargers, CF cards, gaffers tape, lens cleaning stuff, and my lens filters.
What is your favorite photography accessory, other than your camera?
My ND filters.
If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
I use my 85mm 1.4A LOT. It’s probably my favorite because it’s a prime lens and when I hit the focus it’s tack sharp. The bokeh is pretty dang awesome if I’m shooting at 1.4.
What lighting equipment do you take on a shoot?
Oh GOSH. Too much? I never know exactly how I’m going to light something until I see the space, the subjects, and the “feel” it. So I tend to over pack! Typically I will bring 6 Alien Bee lights, 1 White Lightning, about 7 stands including 2 C-stands, several soft boxes, an octobox, a few different lighting reflectors and modifiers, gels, vagabond battery packs, extension cords, sand bags, and a fog machine! And then I have a huge blue IKEA bag that has a bunch of other stuff, like grids, tape, spray bottle, oil for the skin, and miscellaneous things.
Can you describe how and when you use flash, video light, or reflectors and natural light during a shoot?
99% of the time I use strobes. I love natural light but don’t ever get what I envision in my head doing it. I actually feel I'm not that great at it! So I light everything! I like to create images you wouldn’t normally see in real life with lighting and color. I like what I call “messy lighting”, for example things like lens flare, light spilling on the subject, light shooting in from the outer frame, color balls of light etc. I set up my lights with a purpose, however if these things happen I let them. I think lens flare and the way light reacts in that moment is almost like the imperfections in a piece of wood. That is what distinguishes it as an original and not something that can be copied or recreated.
What editing software do you prefer to use?
I start off with Lightroom to get the adjustments I need in RAW. And then I do everything else in Photoshop.
What is your favorite computer/editing accessory, other than your computer?
My Wacom!!! I don’t know how I would live without it.
How important is Photoshop in your final images?
EXTREMELY. I don’t rely on Photoshop to fix mistakes, I generally pay attention to detail and the best image possible in camera. However, for my style I need Photoshop to enhance everything. As I mentioned before I want to create something you wouldn’t normally see in real life, and a touch of fantasy. I add color to enhance what I’ve shot, and also play around with color overlays to make it pop even more. I also modify the body so that curves and lines are perfect. I want people to have an image that reflects how they look when they are feeling their absolute best. I am a perfectionist and want the entire image to be perfect, but not too overly done.
Are you a Mac or Pc lover?
What’s a PC?
Do you plan on buying any new equipment and if so what do you have your eyes set on?
Haha! Don’t we all? I pretend shop all the time on B&H. I think the last time I did that, I put the Nikon D5 in the cart. I want and need a few more strobes. I wouldn’t mind having a few of the Profoto D1 Air Monolights! ($1,600 a piece!)
Can you briefly describe for the readers your photographic workflow?
After a shoot I download all the RAW images onto my hard drive. Then move them into Lightroom. In Lightroom I adjust things like color, clarity, shadows, highlights, and exposure. Again I try and get everything right in camera, so that I’ll I’m doing is boosting what is already there. FromI make small low res JPGS for clients to put in a proof gallery. And I can’t help but star my own favorites and save them in a “My Faves” folder so I can use them later. After the client has picked which images they want, I go back into Lightroom and export those as high res JPGS. Those are the images I will move to PS and edit. After I finished with the client’s images I put them into Dropbox and send them the link. I save all RAW files, proof files, and final JPGS on my hard drive just in case!
What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such great imagery?
I obsess!! I am always looking for inspiration, whether it’s from another photographer, artist, or just out in the world! I look at how color exists in real life and try and mimic that only better! For instance I love how the yellow lines on a grey road compliment each other so well. I remember shooting something with these colors after noticing that. The way traffic red and green lights look at night, or the red taillights of a car at night, give me inspiration to use my colored gels. I just try and “notice” everything, and STUDY people and work that are greater than mine.
Why fitness Photography?
All my life I have been an athlete. Fitness is a huge part of my own daily life. I love the dedication, the strength, the mind state, the power, and the intensity that other athletes and competitors have. I love that people come to me after they have worked extremely hard at something and give me the opportunity to create something for them that captures that.
How do you get paid to do what you want to do with your photography? Is fitness photography a profitable gig, or is it something you love doing?
Working in a commercial studio I got paid a regular salary. However, as I worked a full time job I used to shoot fitness photography on the weekends. I didn’t start out getting paid! I didn’t have anything to show for it, and people didn’t want to pay. It’s the struggle you always hear, and I’m sure you know all too well. So I shot my friends and family to build a fitness portfolio. From there I started charging. My problem was I never felt I was good enough to charge that much, so I definitely didn’t make a profit at first! It wasn’t until I left my corporate job and started my own business that I knew I HAD to start charging more. It’s hard. I hate asking for money, but learned I had to. I still have a problem with it, but I have to remember that I have 10 years experience, about 40k invested into my business in equipment, software, computers, etc. and I’m a pretty decent photographer! ;) It is very profitable now, but did take a long time.
What motivates you to continue taking pictures economically, politically, intellectually or emotionally?
The money doesn’t necessarily motivate me, it does help, but definitely isn’t the reason I do what I do. I would say it’s more emotional. As I mentioned I love the fitness space and it truly is a passion of mine. I really enjoy meeting other like minded people, and learning about their fitness journeys. I get to meet a ton of people that I would never meet otherwise and most of them are pretty amazing! It really does give me great joy to be able to work with people and give them something that is not only an awesome image of them, but also a piece of me.
Every Photographer develops their own shooting stategy in their own unique way, be that interning, apprenticing, assisting, graduate school, on the job training, etc. How do you get the person, place or thing that is in front of your lens onto your memory card in just the way yoou want it?
At first it was really hard! By nature I’m quiet, and have always been shy. I’m an extreme introvert, so speaking to people has always been difficult. So getting people to connect with the camera and directing them was very challenging for me when I first started. What helped me the most, is when I took a job at a boudoir studio (something I had never shot before) and was forced to interact with about 5-6 clients a day. The studio had me shoot back to back which was exhausting, but it really did force me to get over my shyness! I had to provide excellent customer service and an experience, as well as great photos. I soon left that job just because it was so taxing, but I learned my strengths of interacting with people which I use now. I learned that it’s okay to be more reserved and introverted, you just have to apply your strengths like listening, and understanding the client. I think with this comes trust, and with trust I get people to move the way I want, naturally and comfortably.
Photography has a long and fascinating history. Most photographers happily admit which of their predecessors inflenced them and their work. How about you...Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photography, and career path?
I studied all the greats in photography school and of course was influenced by them. But the people who have helped me develop my style are the more modern and current photographers. I studied David laChapelle for his creativity and color. I have always loved Maya Guez. Recently I have been looking at the work of Jake Hicks because of his use of gels. I also draw inspiration from other fitness photographers like Christopher Bailey, Eva Simon, James Patrick, Jason Falasco, and Brett Seeley. And of course I love the inspiration I get from your work!
Different photographers have different end goals for their work. The most successful ones are those who can consistently get their work to say what it is they want, even if they cannot articulate what that is or how that happens. What is it exactly you want to say with your photographs, and how do you actually get your photographs to do that?
I want to create the best version of someone. If they are coming to me for photographs, it means they are in a good place mentally, emotionally, and physically. I want to capture moment and time in their life for them so they may have it to look back on a remember what that felt like. To accompany this feeling, I want the image to make people say “wow”. I feel like I get my photographs to say this by using lots of color, and other special effects, as well as the expression, the pose, the mood, the lighting and the overall intensity.
What has been your most memorable assignment and why?
I shot Victor Espinoza last year out at the Del Mar Race Track in California. It was the most memorable not only because he’s a celebrity athlete but because it was so hectic! We had only about 20 minutes to get several shots of him before his race. My assistant and I set everything up in advance to be ready for him. Just as we were finishing the last shots, the horses started coming out to get ready for the race, and we had to get everything out immediately. I have never shot so fast in my life!
Do you have an assistant? If so why?
If I can have one I will! If it’s on location or a big production then yes I always have one. However my studio work is just me and the client.
Where would be your dream destination assignment?
What do you think of the photography industry at the moment and where do you see it in 5 years from now?
Sometimes I become very frustrated with the photography industry, just because there are so many people that don’t understand the value. I also get frustrated with photographers that don’t understand the industry and by doing so don’t help the general public get any closer to understanding that value! I have to remember that instead of getting frustrated that I need help educate people and clients what it is they are paying for, why it costs what it does, and the difference between a professional and an non-professioanal photographer.
Any websites or blogs you visit often?
www.theproexposure.com www.photoshelter.com www.creativelive.com
The first photographer that comes to your mind and why?
James Patrick. He started out as someone I was inspired by just on Instagram. However I had the opportunity to meet and work with him recently and he has been a friend and mentor to me ever since.
Name one way you market your photography?
How important is an awesome website for your business?
It’s important to have a clean and well functioning site. Your website is a reflection of your brand.
Is there anybody or anything you would love to photograph?
Rory Mcilroy or the Rock!
What advice do you have for somebody who wants to pursue photography?
Run the other way! No, I would say if it’s something you have a talent and passion for, then go for it! Don’t expect to get rich. There is money to be made, however it’s a constant hustle. You have to be willing to put yourself out there, work long hours, market like crazy, research, and never stop learning about the business and how to get better. The best way to learn other than school, is by assisting and working with advanced photographers. Ask questions! You’ll often find that other photographers are willing to help and share their knowledge, because most likely they had someone share it with them.
If you could be invisible for one day with your camera, what or who would you shoot?
I would be a total creeper and hang out at a ballet studio and shoot dancers. I wouldn’t use strobes or lights and maybe use film.
What talent would you love to have most?
I wish I was good at public speaking! I would love to be able to speak and educate people about photography. But I turn into a sweaty mess! haha
Anything you're still learning?
I’m always learning!! Main thing right now is how to network, market myself, and more so the business side.
Something you're saving up for?
Perhaps that D5? Or my trip to Dubai? haha I’m a saver, so I’m always saving. When I do decide to spend it it will be on travel, photography equipment, or nikes. haha