by Christina Lauder Published 01/11/2010
'I find it sad that in years to come all that may be left to show future generations is blurry, poorly lit imagery, often with resolutions only big enough to show on a desktop monitor.
With all the technology we have nowadays we should have better imagery to pass on to future generations.'
Brief personal background and years as a pro.
I grew up in Canada (near Toronto). While working on my business degree I firmly established my passion for photography when I joined the photography club and was taught how to use a darkroom. Spending hours in near darkness showed me that there is much more to photography than clicking a button. Photography is an art and so much of the photographer's interpretation plays a part in the final image. But film left me with too much uncertainty and the prolonged exposure to darkness was more than I could handle. So photography remained a hobby and would do so for the foreseeable future. It wasn't until finding it difficult to return to my job in IT, after being made redundant just before having my daughter that photography came back to life for me. I enjoyed taking portraits of my little girl and two step children. One day a friend told me I was really good at it and perhaps I should consider being a photographer. I have now been a professional for over five years.
First camera/ photo experience.
My first camera was some Kodak automatic 'thingy' with strange little cartridges. I was given that for Christmas when I was 8 after begging for a camera. It wasn't until university that I was given my first SLR, a Nikon 401s. The world of photography opened up to me then which is also when I found the darkroom, one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of that stage in my life.
I am a very creative person and previous jobs left me craving a creative outlet. It was always work with little reward. Photography on the other hand is doing what I love which hardly feels like work at all, apart from the business side of things, but then I enjoy some of that too. The balance between work and fun is definitely working better as a photographer.
Film/digital (both?) Is there still any place for film?
I definitely think there is a still a place for film. And if I had been a professional in the film days I think I'd still be using it at times now. There are aspects of imagery that aren't handled as well digitally. But my nerves can't handle the uncertainty. I prefer the reassurance that I've got the shot as intended right there on the spot. No anxious waiting for the developing.
Capture and output devices used
I use a Canon 5D with only pro lenses. I believe that neither Canon nor Nikon are any better than the other overall but the competition between the two are certainly making for better cameras. I just happen to choose a Canon for my first digital camera and so I will stick with it. I love my kit.
Bit of detail about your own studio set-up/staffing
I work from home. Late last year we built a studio in our back garden measuring 9m x 4.5m with fairly high ceilings. It is the perfect space for the business I run and I love working this way. At the moment I am on my own but do employ part time staff from time to time to help with the schools' work I do. I don't want the hassle of dealing with employees. I want to be a photographer, not a manager. At some point though I would love to hire a PA/Sales person to handle some of the work I don't like doing so I can be a photographer more often.
To differentiate myself from others I try my best to use quality. I am aiming to position myself as the designer portrait artist that offers the utmost in quality. If you want the best than you should want to choose a Christina Lauder portrait.
The problem with professional photographers today is.....
The problem with many professionals is that they believe that just because they own a decent bit of kit they can call themselves photographers. I see so much rubbish out there I can't believe any of them can actually earn anything, let alone make a decent living.
The worst commercial error you have made to date
Not sure if this can be classed as a commercial error but wasting money on print material that never gets used is one of my regrets.
How you rectified it.
I now do significantly smaller print runs using Loxley's Dynamo Press service. If I were to then discover a real need for a large print run then I could take it to an appropriate printer.
The lessons learnt.
Don't waste money. The easiest way to accumulate money is to not spend it. I now consider everything I purchase thoroughly before making the decision to part with that money. If it isn't going to be of good use than it isn't necessary.
Are you excited by the evolution of imaging?
I just love technology to bits. I thoroughly enjoy having a dark room on my desk with tools such as Photoshop and Lightroom. But I hate the attitudes the general public are developing towards photography. I am hearing all too often the words 'good enough'. Their mobile phones are good enough. The snaps with poor lighting that are slightly out of focus are good enough. If you look at the photos people upload to Facebook these days it's no wonder people aren't bothered about shelling out decent sums of money on professional portraiture. People are happy with their far-from-perfect images. They are free after all and if they take enough of them eventually they will get a good one.
I find it sad that in years to come all that may be left to show future generations is blurry, poorly lit imagery, often with resolutions only big enough to show on a desktop monitor. With all the technology we have nowadays we should have better imagery to pass on to future generations.
Is it getting harder or easier to make a decent living?
I've only been in this industry for 5 years and only had a studio for the past year so I am not a particularly good judge here; however, I am definitely leaning towards harder. Absolutely everyone has a camera of sorts these days and now that pro kit is hardly a stretch for the average Joe we have to prove ourselves that much more. I had a potential customer approach me hoping I'd give her a sizable discount because she couldn't afford me. Before I could even address her she concluded with 'I think I'll just buy a good camera and take the photo myself'. Trying to explain to her that there is more to it than a good camera proved a waste of time.
How do you stay ahead of the game?
I'm not sure I am ahead of the game at this point. But I am getting there. Facebook is proving useful. Within about a week of starting up a business page I managed to get a booking which brought in just under £700. And since then I've had other bookings and enquiries. It is definitely a case of 'word of mouth is best' - and Facebook goes a long way to helping out. With every client I see I gain fans to my page and often an enquiry or booking follows. It's good fun too. I highly recommend it.
How do organisations like The Societies help?
There are several things I have benefited from my time with the SWPP. They are as follows:
The Monthly Competition: I have loved entering the monthly competition. It gives me something to look forward to each month I enter. Sometimes it shows me the error of my ways but it also provides me with a great confidence boost. And there is nothing like the feeling of seeing an image shortlisted in the annual awards night and realise you are in with a chance. I've yet to win an annual award but I was still excited to know I'd come so close.
The Forum: I have spent hours browsing and chatting throughout the forum. It has provided me with a great deal of knowledge as well as entertainment while enabling me to make friends. I now have many people I can call on when I need some advice or just someone to chat to.
Mentoring: I have always taken advantage of the mentoring services available. Through this I've been able to see how to improve my imagery in ways I would never have understood without this help. This has probably been the most valuable part of the membership.
Imagemaker: This magazine is a great read. It provides so much useful information and inspiring work.
Why is The Convention such a big deal for photographers?
I have been a member of the SWPP since I went pro. I would not be where I am today without it. I attended my first convention back in 2006 but only as a free visitor. I had a look around the tradeshow and managed to see a handful of talks. The inspiration and wisdom I received during that short time, along with hearing others talk of their enjoyment of the event got me thinking that this convention was a 'must'. I see The Convention as an annual kick off meeting I get the chance to learn new things, get reminded of what I already know yet haven't put into practice, and get inspiration and motivation so necessary to start the year off right. Plus I have the time of my life too. It's like a reunion of old friends.
Who today is leading the way in creative social photography?
The Yerburys often inspire me. Their lighting is simple but very effective. And they are two very approachable people who have on a number of occasions helped me out. I am very grateful to them.
I also look to fashion photographers such as Rankin for inspiration. I love bringing some fashion into my portraits as a way of making them current and exciting for my subjects.
If you could pick just FIVE seminars to attend at the The Convention: whose workshops would you attend?
The Yerburys - very skilled and talented photographers. If you want to know how to do it right and be inspired and entertained at the same time this is where to go.
Sofie Louca - Also very skilled and talented with a very modern and unique style. Love her work.
Susan Renee - This is a woman with drive and ambition who knows what she wants and goes out and gets it. She has a way of making you think that if you just work hard enough you will get there.
Julia Boggio - Another inspiring photographer with a good grasp on the business skills needed to succeed.
Mark Ashworth - Someone who runs a similar business to my own. It's a great opportunity to see how someone else does it.
What do you think will be the next big thing in the industry?
I'm really not that interested in the next best thing, although I suspect it will have something to do with HD video or 3D imaging. But I am happy with the technology as it is today. I just enjoy working my way towards the perfect image.
Would you want your own children to take up the reins of your empire?
I want my kids to do what makes them happy. But until they know what that is I do hope they take an interest in some way as they grow up. I'd like to be able to provide them with part time employment if nothing else. And if not professionally I hope they at least learn some skills so that their family snaps are more than just 'good enough'.
Your plans for the next five years?
My plan is to just keep growing and developing as a photographer, hopefully becoming known as the best photographer in my area. I've also recently developed an interested in training again. In my IT days I was a consultant and trainer and it was something I very much enjoyed. I'll be announcing a series of dates at the next convention aimed more at the beginner in subjects such as lighting, Photoshop and Lightroom.
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