Welcome Friends

I am a North Carolina conceptual portrait photographer. Look here for updates on my photography adventures. Visit www.HeatherEvansSmith.com for details on commissioned portrait shoots and fine art sales.

April 2, 2011: Q & A

Hi everyone! Hope Spring has been good to you so far. I am busy with new shoots, new ideas and enjoying spending time with family.

I receive emails from time to time inquiring about my techniques, background and overall interests. I decided to answer them all here. I plan on doing this from time to time so if you have a question, send me a email.

1. Where do you find your props?
I am always on the look out for vintage and unusual props. Sometimes I might be out looking for a particular prop and other times I might run into something at a flea market (like a uber cool vintage hat) and come up with a shoot around that. Etsy and ebay are great sources when you want to get down to business. If you have a lazy Sunday afternoon, a local flea market or antique mall will certainly provide some inspiration.

2. I love the music on your website. Who is it by?
The music on my website is Klara Kormendi's rendition of Satie's Six Gnossiennes. I believe this is some of the most beautiful music in the world. I never tire of it.

3. What kind of equipment do you use?
My camera of choice is a Nikon D300 with various lenses. This has been pretty recent though. The majority of my work up until last year was shot on a Olympus 410. It is a basic DSLR camera, but it gets the job done. It is a misconception that the camera is what makes the picture. The equipment can only take you so far. I have seen some outstanding work on just a point and shoot. So, don't be discouraged if you can't afford the big daddy camera of your dreams. A basic DSLR will be a great tool while learning and you can go really far with it before needing to upgrade.

I use all natural light. Nothing is more dramatic than the natural light seeping through windows in the morning, a beautiful sunset across a lake or a hazy foggy day. I will at times use a reflector to make the most out of the available light, but many times I prefer natural shading.

4. You use yourself as the subject in a lot of your photographs, how do you do that and still call it your picture?
When I am the subject of one of my photographs, it can mean many things. Either I had a great idea and I was the only one available to model for it immediately, or it could be that I want the photograph to be personal and express an emotion I was going through at the time. All of my self portraits are in fact shot by me. I use a tripod and a remote control. Some times I may have a friend along as a placeholder while I adjust the settings. Many times I am by myself. I take a few shots and then review on camera, adjust as needed and shoot some more.

5. Did you study photography?
Yes, I did. I hold a degree in Visual Communications and took black and white darkroom photography classes. I believe that the bones of my work came from those classes. My work looks completely different than it did back then and the processing is completely different, but the passion is still the same.

6. Will you be holding any workshops / lectures or mentoring this year?
I have received quite a few requests for workshops, which is in the works for late 2011 / early 2012. I will be making an announcement in the next few months for a speaking engagement coming up, so stay tuned to my blog and facebook for details.

7. What kind of editing software and techniques do you use?
I currently use Photoshop CS3 and Camera Raw. All of my images are shot RAW and tweaked to various degrees in Camera Raw before going into Photoshop. I have been asked before about my editing techniques and whether or not I am making actions to sell based on my look. The truth is, every picture is so different, there isn't any one technique. But, I love that about my editing process. It is extremely organic. There are certain standard processes that I always do, blemish removal, etc, but then it is a free for all. Blurring, color tweaks, light enhancement; it just all depends on what mood I want to portray.

8. I would love to know a little about your processing; in particular, how you achieve the blurred backgrounds and points of focus. It's a stunning effect.
The blurred effects are created later in Photoshop by selecting the areas you want to blur and using either the lens blur, gaussian blur or motion blur. I do this on different layers so I can change the opacity and erase certain parts to reveal the original image beneath.

9. I just love the vintage look your photos have and I was wondering how you achieve this affect.
I believe first and foremost the photo must have a timeless quality to really give it a vintage tone. I don't like to date my photos with the latest trends or with clothing that has logos on it. I want the viewer to look at the image and think it could have been taken today or 60 years ago. As far as vintage effects, I prefer a warm white balance which is adjusted in Camera Raw and slight desaturation. Other effects that you can use to create that vintage look are sepia tones and textures, if the photo lends it self to that.

10. Who works on the makeup and hair for a shoot?
It varies from shoot to shoot. I come up with the overall look and depending on the scale of the shoot, I will play Makeup / Hair Artist, or bring in a professional.

11. What music do you listen to while editing?
I love so many different kinds of music. I would say the top contenders are She & Him, Beirut, Sondre Lerche, Beatles, Paul Simon, Belle and Sebastian, Chris Thile, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Air, Herb Albert and the Tiquana Brass, The Mamas and the Papas and Mel Torme.

12. Which photographers inspire you?
I am inspired by so many people and things, not just photography. The light of an Edward Hopper painting, the fantastical fashion world of Tim Walker, an old movie, a pillbox hat, an old family photo, a song lyric. Inspiration comes from everywhere and everyone. To name other photographers, I am inspired by Sally Mann, Tim Walker, Diane Arbus, and most recently Vivian Maier.

13. If you could photograph anyone, famous or non, who would it be?
I was lucky enough to photograph my grandfather the year before he died. It was with my manual Pentax and I cherish those photos today. I would like to have had the opportunity to photograph my grandmother, but she died when I was young.


Tamara Nicole said...

I am a big fan of your photography Heather! :-) Fun reading these answers.

Karla Pitts said...

Thanks for the blog post, Heather! It is sweet getting a little peek into your world.

Allison said...

You inspire me more than you know!

Heather Evans Smith said...

Thank you guys! It was my pleasure to answer these!

The Lovely M said...

I love this post; I'm such a fan of yours. It was refreshing to read that you used the Olympus 410 for much of your work. I'm shooting with an E-620 and love it but want to upgrade and have been pondering whether to go with the E-5 or try another make. I may email you with a couple of questions about why you made the switch, if you don't mind.