-How did you first become interested in photography?

I started photography as a way to spend time with my mother and grandmother. Both were hobbyist photographers that enjoyed capturing the beauty of our family farm with their cameras. I fell in love with photography as a way to bond with the women I loved and looked up to. I started attending a local camera club to hone my craft, and by age 12/13 I had taken an image that was published by a national calendar company. This early success and support gave me the confidence that photography could be much more than a hobby.

-How did you start out professionally in the industry?

At age 15 I expressed an interest in starting a business as a portrait photographer after I had begun photographing friends and family. My mother helped me to officially set up my business and I hit the ground running. I offered my services to anyone I knew, especially pushing high school senior portraits to the students in my school. After I started to build momentum with students, their families started hiring me for family portraits, weddings, children and much more. Like any business, it really got its start with friends and word-of-mouth.

After running a successful portrait studio for several years, I took a class on fashion photography and instantly fell in love. I began to build my fashion portfolio by doing creative test shoots with artists based in New York City (3.5 hours away by bus). As I began to shoot and network, I started to come across opportunities to photograph models, singers, and professional athletes-- and get paid to do so!

-What is your post-production workflow like?

When I’m shooting for a client, I shoot tethered to my Mac Book Pro and Eizo Monitor using a TetherTools tether cable. I import the images directly into Lightroom so I can apply presets or colour adjustments on the spot for the client to preview. Once I’ve completed a shoot, I narrow down the selected images to approximately 10-25% of the images shot during the day to provide the client with a proof gallery on Photoshelter. Once the client has selected the final images, I either retouch the images myself (for special effects and creative retouching in Photoshop CC) or outsource basic skin retouching to a few of my trusted retouching partners.

-Is there any kind of a philosophy behind how you photograph?

Prepare and plan your shoots so that you can be spontaneously creative! When I’m planing a shoot I like to decide the overall feel, direction, styling, light and so-forth before the actual day of the shoot. When I am able to build mood boards to share with my creative team, then everyone can do their best to show up prepared and inspired. When everyone shows up prepared, I’m not stuck just problem solving to create a beautiful image. Instead, I’m in a perfect space to be inspired and spontaneous with the beauty I have placed in front of me!

-What is your dream project?

While I certainly encourage dreaming big, I do want to note that I get to work on dream projects often. I’m not talking about huge budgets, but instead projects that are my brain-child. I envision beauty in my head and I make it a reality-- it really is bringing a dream to life.

I have so many dream projects I hope to bring to reality. I love shooting in exotic locations abroad, and sharing these locations with my audience. I hope someday to be able to shoot a fashion editorial in the tulips of the Netherlands, and the jungles of Cambodia, or a castle in Germany, and a waterfall in Iceland.

-What inspires you to create new work?

I am constantly driven to create. Creation takes on a lot of forms for me. I can create by writing a book. I can create by crafting a new class. I can create unique marketing materials. I can create avant-garde fashion editorials. I have an inner drive to constantly create and I am inspired by so many things around me.

Sometimes I am inspired by an article of clothing, or another photographer’s image. Sometimes I am inspired by the lighting in a film, or the store design on 5th avenue. Recently I’ve been inspired by personal projects. I pick a theme and explore that theme in depth to push myself beyond my comfort zone both conceptually and technically.

Last year I had a personal project, “Seeing Red” where I explored the colour red in all its tones and emotions and glory. I hope to continue that project this year again. Currently I am working on a project called “Body Beautiful” where I explore the human form whether in dance, plus size subjects, fashion or fine art nudes.

-How has speaking and educating other photographers influenced your own creativity?

I am, without a doubt, a significantly better artist and photographer because I teach others. When I’ve prepared a class on posing, it has forced me to look closer at how the human form works and our tools available to flatter this form. When I’ve prepared a class about lighting, I’ve had to really boil down the behaviour of light and how to harness its power. When I have taught about creativity, I’ve really had to take a step back and analyse my own creative process to share with others.

Time and time again I find that when I’m asked to look at how I create my images, I learn more about myself and the art of photography, and therefore become a better artist.

Beyond the value of educating for improving my craft, being around other passionate artists really helps fuel my own drive to create. Being part of online creative communities helps me to continually want to improve my craft and push myself to become a better artist.

-What do you believe to be the single most important aspect of a portrait or fashion photograph?

Impact. Impact is the most important element of a fashion photograph. Does the image stop you in your tracks and make you look twice? Does it grab attention, and demand you look deeper? If you can do this, you’ve helped achieve one goal of commerce in the art of commerce.

-Is there a one photograph that you are most proud of?

I constantly push myself to create new work, so the images that I am most proud of are constantly changing. Right now I am very proud of some of my new hair imagery. I set a goal to create images that would be worthy of any hair ad, and I feel I was able to succeed!

-What is your top tip for someone just starting out in portrait and fashion photography?

If you want to become a great fashion photographer, it is not about owning great gear-- its about surrounding yourself with great people. In a fashion shoot there are so many individuals that go into the final image; hair, makeup, wardrobe, model and photographer all contribute to the final appearance of the image. Focus on trying to define your vision and then find others who related to this vision and can help bring it to life.

-What was the best career advice you were ever given?

Photography is only a tiny element of what is necessary to become a successful photographer. In fact, understanding core elements of business is a more valuable tool if you are looking to become successful in this field. I was told not to study photography in college, but instead to study business. I did both and graduated with degrees in business and photography. The skills I acquired were essentials to helping me understand marketing, social media, accounting, cash flow and all of the other things that seem so elusive to us creative types.