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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Guest Blogger: Michael

Today's guest blogger is Michael Smith of Ash Imagrey. His website is by far the most artistic website for a professional photographer that I have ever seen. His blog is one of the first that I started following when I started thinking about venturing into professional photography myself a couple years ago, and his blog is still a favorite place to visit for a big shot of inspiration. It is a huge honor that he'd be willing to let me inerview him for my blog. Be sure to check out his blog for more AMAZING images.

How did you get into photography? Did you always want to be a professional photographer? Do you have formal training?

Ever since i can remember i've been drawn to the arts. I loved drawing and painting as a child and have played music from a very young age. I was always fond of photography, however i never picked it up until about 4 years ago when my daughter was born. I had just gotten a new digital camera and on the morning of my daughter's christening it was incredibly foggy out. On the way to pick up some items for the party later that day i stopped at several locations and took pictures. From that moment when i got home and viewed them on the computer I was hooked. I never looked back.

I never photographed people until late 2007 when i friend needed a photographer for their wedding when their photographer bailed a few weeks prior. It was a 3hr, backyard wedding so i agreed to do it - with them understanding i had never done it before. Immediately upon leaving, I called my wife and told her that this is what i wanted to do. I was in love with it - i felt so great and couldn't wait to do it again. So in January 2008 i started my photography business - part time at first. I still worked a full time job - which i did until May of 2009. Dabbling in nature photography taught me the technical aspects of photography. Everything i learned was self-taught. I never took a class or had any training. It was all trial and error. Thats the beauty of digital photography. You can practice over and over again without having any costs involved. But nature and people are different. People are challenging and always changing. I love this aspect. I love knowing that no session is ever the same and no two people are ever the same. Its challenging. Which in turn, makes it rewarding. I never thought i'd enjoy photographing people as i was always a "nature" person. Looking back, I'm glad I made the switch.

How did you begin in professional photography? What mistakes did you make during your early days that you've learned from the most?

Some of this was answered above but I made the switch into professional photography in May of 2009. Thats when i decided to leave my "safe" 9-5 job and jump into photography full time. Up until then i had only photographed a few weddings - all friends, or friends of friends. This was a HUGE moment in my life. Having a family, house, cars, and my job being the sole income - it was an enormous risk for me to leave to be a professional photographer. But i did NOT want to go through life wondering what could have been. I left my job on a good note and plunged head on into photography. It has been absolutely amazing since :) As for mistakes ... I can safely say i've been pretty darn fortunate. I seem to have made decent decisions at decent times. One thing i did learn quickly with weddings is to not focus everything on your couple. A wedding has so many components - and if you focus on one thing too much - you can easily lose sight of what else is going on. Ever since the first couple, i am constantly aware of my surroundings and all that is going on. I think this is an extremely important aspect of wedding photography.

You are married and have a couple kids, right? What do you love about being a Dad? Is there anything you love about the place you live?

(this photo is of Michael & Kathleen)

Yes, I am married (to Kathleen) and we have a daughter - Ashley. My wife had a son - Tyler who is 8 - before we met but i consider him my own :) Being a dad is insane. Its amazing how quickly it happens. I remember being 16 like it was last week. And now i'm "in charge" of 2 kids. haha. Its absolutely amazing. When my daughter was born it was the most surreal, and amazing moment in my life. Its so incredible and so hard to put into words. I only wish i was a photographer then - i have very little pics documenting it. just standard point and shoot stuff. It wasn't until about 4 months after she was born when i got into photography. None-the-less ... its amazing to literally see yourself in another human being.

We currently live in Philly. I can't say that i love it though. haha. I would probably leave if i had the chance. But all our family is here - and thats very important to my wife - and for our kids. So while i would move to many other places - i don't think we will be anytime soon. And now I'm more rooted in the area with weddings so it would be pretty hard at this time. If i had the choice i'd live somewhere with a more creative vibe like Portland, Denver, Seattle, or Maine.

How do you balance photography for work and photography for pleasure? Do you ever get burned out?

I honestly don't think about it being a balance. I shoot when i have weddings and need to for clients. And outside of that, i shoot when i want to shoot. If i feel the need to take pictures i will. Fortunately I'm busy enough where client sessions and weddings keep me occupied. And i view those like personal sessions. I don't really differentiate my "business photography" with my "personal photography." To me, its all photography and i love EVERY second of it. And no, i have not even remotely felt burned out yet. Usually when i shoot i want to keep going and have to force myself to stop. Its such a passion for me and there is nothing else in this world i'd want to be doing :)

Are there other professional photographers who's work you particularly admire?

There are many wedding photographers out there whose work i enjoy ... and who i admire as friends. As for inspirational photography - i usually find it outside of weddings. Paolo Reversi is an amazing photographer ... and I also enjoy Angela Boatwright and Anna Wolf. All 3 of those are considered fashion photographers. Within the wedding industy, i enjoy Tanja Lipperts work. I really try to develop my own style so i don't go view other photographers work very often. I have found by viewing their images i tend to keep a picture of theirs in my mind, and then i try to emmulate that same image on one of my shoots. I don't like doing that. I like having a clear mind and vision when shooting. This way i shoot for myself and not anyone else.

As an artist, what inspires you?

I would say big inspirations for me are music and magazines. On top of that there are books, architecture, people, quotes, stories ... and i have recently gotten into poetry. This world has so much to offer and so much inspiration. I am literally inspired every single day by something - and i just recently started making notes of all these things. Which is something which i suggest to anyone reading this :)

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