Did any of you as a child ever experience being the “new kid” in the class? Completely new to the scene and trying to figure out how exactly where you are going to fit in. What “group” would you hang out with? Thoughts of, “would anyone like me,” floating around in your head. Wondering if your style would fit in with the rest of the crowd? This is exactly how I felt being a new face within the industry of photography. That is, until I realized it’s not about fitting in. It’s about being YOU!
Ever find yourself questioning your work? It’s a huge leap putting yourself and your work out there for others. There can be some major insecurities that can arise, if you don’t take the time to understand yourself and why you do what you do.
My goal in writing this piece is to target anyone, new or seasoned, to find the basis of you. What are the fundamentals that led you to start a journey within the world of photography? Establish, or reconnect with those essentials! As Christa Meola put it “You are your own secret.” So here are a few steps that I take:
1.) The Art of Being You: In a vast sea of photographers, it can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming to find a look and feel to your work, especially if you are just getting started. When I began thinking about applying this to my own photography, three men came to my mind. Brad Paisley, Carlos Santana & Keith Urban. Anytime one of these talented individuals strikes a chord, just one chord, I know which one it is immediately. Their work is distinctive, and a reflection of them.
I immediately thought — how can I apply this to my work? About this time, I happened to watch Christa Meola’s Creative Live session, and she gave, hands down, the best advice I have ever heard on how to create your style. Are you ready for this? I still get excited thinking about this!
Christa said, pick 3-5 brands or companies you like, and focus on their tagline, mission, or overall essence. It is the combination of these brands that helps identify YOU! For example when I did this assignment, my brands were:
- Oakley Women: Performing Beautifully
- Tiffany & Co: Creating Timeless Beauty
- Nike: Just Do It & Every Damn Day
All of these brands reflect a part of me. Oakley is geared toward women who love to be active but stylish at the same time. Tiffany and Co is simply iconic and one of a kind. And Nike’s “Just Do It,” caters to the side of me that may hold back or be somewhat unsure. You have to simply, “Just Do It,” and you have to do it “Every Damn Day.”
2.) The Post-It Method: I use post-its for everything. The night before a shoot, I write down everything I need for the next day: Lenses, SD cards, charged batteries, model releases & contracts, & business cards. I check off each item once they are in my bag and ready to go. I get excited enough as it is the night before a shoot, so I know I can relax a little when my equipment is set.
3.) “The Important Thing Is Not The Camera But The Eye.” – Alfred Eisenstaedt:
How many of you turned your head’s to the side when you read “SD cards,” up above? That’s right; currently I shoot with the Canon T2i. Now don’t think I don’t drool over the 5D Mark II, because believe me, I DO! But I told myself in starting this journey, I needed to master what I had, and prove to myself, and no one else, that I have what it takes to be successful within this industry.
I have a collection of lenses, but you know what, they’re not top of the line either. None of them are L lenses. In my bag, I have:
- Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8
- Canon 50mm f/1.4
- Canon 24mm f/2.8
- Sigma 70-200 f/2.8
I make what I have work for me. Will I upgrade my equipment in the future? Of course. However, I’m the perfect example for any new photographer out there; you don’t need top of the line gear to create amazing shots. What you do need is dedication to understanding the ins and outs of your equipment. The camera is an extension of you. Bottom line.
4.) Post Processing: I love editing, I really do, but it’s not my life. And I don’t like spending hours upon hours behind my computer screen. Zach and Jody Gray are an amazing example of getting it right in camera, and making minimal adjustments after. This rock star couple really inspired me to focus on nailing the shots, and then simply using my editing time to tweak the photos to my style, as I mentioned above.
Just like when I hear Carlos Santana, Keith Urban or Brad Paisley strike a chord, I want someone to be able to look at my work, and simply by the style of my photographs, be able to say, “Kacie Q took that.” That’s my goal.
To achieve the style that I’m going for, I do use some actions & presets. That being said, I never “play” and run. I’m constantly adjusting the opacity, turning off layers, turning up and down layers, brushing on, brushing off etc.
I have both Photoshop CS5 & Lightroom 3. I started out with just Lightroom and did all of my editing in there. The horse photo was edited in Lightroom & the other two with Photoshop. I think post processing could be an entire article in itself, but I simply use that time to achieve my look and style.
Over time, and in becoming consistent with your style, it ultimately will turn into your brand. What you are known for and why people come to you. Personally I look at Photoshop & Lightroom as this: editing is not when I create, it’s simply the exclamation point on my work. Again, my personal approach.
I know I have so much more to learn, and a mountain of goals to achieve. But so far in my short time within this industry I have learned far more than I could imagine. I seek out brands and fellow artists I truly admire, such as Sue Bryce, Melissa Bring, Angelica Glass, Summer Lyn, and the list goes on. I reach out to them, I study them, and I learn from them.
I was blessed back in the fall to be contacted by a local wedding photographer, Fran Ze Photography. She was looking for a second shooter for the 2012 wedding season, and said she loved my work. Let me just say, when you find another photographer whose work you admire, you can trust, and have the opportunity to work with, cherish it. Become a sponge and soak up as much information as you can. The shear confidence Fran has in her personal work gave me strength in times when I was a little unsure. In the terms of Grey’s Anatomy, find “Your Person.”
If you’re still reading this, I thank you for hanging with me! And if you walk away with anything from this piece, remember this:
*Gear & equipment will only perform to your level of knowledge
*What do you want to be known for in your work?
* Lastly, stop focusing on being wrong, and start focusing on being you.
I love laughter. I love life. I love, love. I love the little things, and I love the luxury things. And I just so happen to create photos that are simply that, stunningly lovely.
Kacie Q is a Portrait and Lifestyle photographer based out of Bozeman, Montana.