Thursday, September 29, 2011

Skai Photography - Beautiful Light

Questions for you...You Fabulous Photographer, You!
Name: Sysommay Kaiphanliam
Business Name: Skai Photography
Location: Richland, WA

I am so excited for you guys to read this interview. Sysommay, owner of Skai Photography, has been in business less than one year. I might be Skai Photography's biggest fan. Her work speaks to me in a way that I really can't perfectly explain. Every time I see her images, I am immediately so inspired. Something always draws me in. I love the whimsy-feminine style, and all of the beautiful light in her images. So now that I've gushed a little, I'll let you get to know her yourself! Thank you so much Sysommay for letting us in and sharing a little bit of yourself and your talents with us! What a grounded and aw-inspiring women you are! 
With Love, 

Meet Sysommay...She's the pretty little lady on the right. This is a family picture that she took herself!
What gear is in your camera bag?
D700 85 1.4 and 50 1.4
What is your favorite lens to use and why?
My 85 is my favorite.  It's fast, sharp and creamy…I love it!

 Do you use any actions? If so, what are your favorites?
I have found a niche in using the sun to illuminate my images to give it that soft and dreamy quality.  A lot of people warn against shooting directly into the sun—but practice has helped me create my own action to bring out the subject as well as brighten the "muddy” look that results from shooting into the sun.  At times, I use a couple of other actions to enhance the look and feel of my images (most notably, Florabella’s “color and haze set” and TRA2).  The key is to use them sparingly.  A dash of this, a sprinkle of that - it goes a long way!
How do you get your images to look so crisp and clear, yet so soft! (We are all dying to know this one)
To get things crisp and clear, I shoot manually and try my best to nail my focus.  I also shoot at a very shallow depth of field and overexpose a few clicks to soften harsh shadows.  This is probably the "softness" people are seeing.  Once I have an image with great focus and beautiful light, I'll enhance everything in post—bump up the contrast where it is needed, do a little painting here and there, and then sharpen, and sharpen some more.

Give us one sentence to describe the style of your photography.
This is more than one sentence--but, I believe for photographers--"our style" is our voice--how we want to project our art, really, ourselves to the world.  When I first began this journey--I read a lot of blogs--I mean a lot, and the number one topic discussed was always been that of "defining your style".  I realized that my first focus had to be the search for my style.  Now, 2 years into shooting while drowning myself in all things photography, I've come to realize that what I was searching for was something I already possessed.  My style is simply a reflection of who I am--soft and delightful with a bit of whimsy, infused with rich color, crisp accents, romantic dreams and that little thing we call hope.

 What caused your interest in photography?
I have always had an eye for beautiful things and have always loved expressing myself artistically.  My sister, who is my best friend,  would say that I am the type that wants to see beauty in everything—will create it if it’s not immediately available and enhance it if it is shy.  From drawing, painting, sewing to dancing; for me, photography fit right into that territory. It was something I always dreamed of trying.

What is your favorite type of shoot and why?
My favorite types of photo shoots are ones with teens and seniors.  I love being able to capture the essence of youth.  I love the energy they can’t contain that just bursts forth.  Around this age—they have some knowledge, but have not yet become as closed off and censored as adults.  I find the sheer wonder, incredible innocence, and hope that they exude to be absolutely beautiful, intriguing and poignant.  Teens have a delicate beauty that is unmistakably stamped into them.  I see it in my own daughter and I hope that she retains it for as long as possible (without completely jeopardizing reality, of course!).
Tell us a little bit about when you felt that you were ready to make your passion into a business?
I started building my portfolio by taking pictures of family and friends. As I felt I was getting stronger as a photographer, I began charging a small fee.  Once I felt my work was good enough, I turned my passion into a business.  I've been in business for almost a year now and it is an absolute journey!  I am more artist than businesswoman so it has definitely not been easy.

How long did it take you to discover your style of photography?
I think that knowing who you are and what you are drawn to artistically is the key to discovering the style you would like to portray in your images.  For me—it’s wanting to see everyone’s original beauty take center stage—whether it’s a sassy and mischievous gleam or a quiet and feminine glow.

 What inspires you?
Don’t laugh—but, I'm inspired by beautiful imagery, sappy love songs, lines, curves, colors, my three year old son’s laughter, my daughter's grace, my husband's touch, being madly in love, the sun, happiness, sadness—life.  I'm a keenly sensitive person - attuned to my senses and inspired by my surroundings.

On average, how long does post production typically take you for one  portrait shoot?
Unfortunately, I can never stay focused for too long!  In a span of a few weeks, I edit a little at a time.  All in all, it takes me a total of about eight hours to edit a shoot.

 Do you use any studio lighting equipment? Or are you a natural light photographer?
I'm a natural light photographer.  I love the way natural light illuminates my subjects.  It's beautiful, real and at times unexpected -  I love the challenges that comes along with it as well as discovering new ways I can use it to enhance my images.

What are you looking most forward to this year...Both professionally, and personally?
This isn't the greatest thing professionally, but I will enjoy it so much personally—my husband always says, "You live to work or you work to live!”  I will always hands-down choose the latter.  I'm looking forward to taking a long break.  Yes!  From mid-November until the end of January I will not be taking any sessions.  My holidays will be spent strictly spoiling my kids rotten with mommy love.  What does this entail?  This entails the best of the best—taking long naps together and enjoying the wonderful meals that my mom (a wonderful chef) cooks up when she visits for the holidays.  No worries though, I'll continue to put beautiful pictures up on my blog.  The holiday season is rife with opulent colors, grand traditions and, of course, the blessings of family life.  These sessions are the ones I will be doing just for me—filled with pictures of my family, my children and fun sessions I do,  just for me!
Do you ever get "bored" with your work? If so, what do you do to shake things up?
I love what I'm doing so much that luckily, boredom is short-lived and temporary.  Whenever I feel bored I let go of what I'm doing and just take a break.  Sometimes my breaks last a couple of days, and usually by then, I'm ready to get back and create beautiful images again.

What's the one thing about your work that you feel sets you apart from other photogs?
My belief is—it doesn't matter the tools used, the actions, or even the images that inspired you—either through a magazine or Pinterest, not even the pose you wanted to try; in the end, what sets you apart from other photographers, is the fact that your images were taken by you.  They were taken through your eyes and through the connection and chemistry that you had with your client.  That IS and always will be original!

Do you have an idea for a shoot, but have no clue how you are going to make it happen?
All the time!  I'm still learning to manipulate and communicate my visions and thoughts into materializing into my images.  To this day, I make an effort to go out and "shoot for me" as much as I can utilizing anything that inspires me-whether it is my children, the season, a certain prop or even an image on Pinterest - whatever it is that inspires me, I will use it as a medium to translate my visions.
How do you balance your personal life with your work life?
Taking very limited sessions, no more than four a month helps me find balance between my personal life and my work life.  It keeps me loving what I do.  Plus, my children are my favorite models and my husband the best assistant—so if I should ever miss them—I just plan a family photo shoot!  My husband and kiddos have been incredibly supportive and inspiring throughout this entire endeavor.  To be perfectly honest, I’ve been so blessed as to not have to even choose between the two!

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
The beauty, luxury and grace of Monaco!  I’ve been blessed to have traveled pretty extensively—from places as close as Vancouver, British Columbia to exotic locales like Singapore and Malaysia.  Now I only wish I had been a photographer back then!

 Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In life, I've been so blessed.  I'm married to my first and only love.  We will be celebrating our fifteenth anniversary next month (I was 19 and he was 24 when we married—when you know, you know!).  Together, we have two beautiful children.   Regardless of where life takes me in 10, 20 or 50 years, I want my home to always remain as it is today—a place where my husband and I love and respect one another, raising our kids to be genuinely kind, considerate and caring people.
What are you most proud of? Both professionally and personally?
Professionally, I'm proud of how far I've come in photography.  The amount of knowledge I've gained in such a short period of time seriously astounds me.  As an artist—you are always a little protective of your work and while you may think something is good, you never know until you get that first validation.  Personally, I'm proud of my children.  They are truly the sweetest!
Describe in one paragraph what a perfect day for you would look like.
A perfect day would be sleeping in until noon and waking up to a nice, hot, cup of coffee with extra cream and sugar.  Then, authentic Lao food prepared by my husband for lunch, proceeding to watching movies in my PJs with my kids until dinner time.  After that, off to a fine sushi restaurant with my little family, unfortunately there isn't a fine sushi restaurant where I live, but the ones we have will suffice!
What turns you on the most creatively and what turns you off?
Sunlight turns me on creatively.  I was born to bathe in the sun!  What turns me off is work?  The day that my photography becomes work, I would more than likely quit.  Simply put—I love beauty!  For me, photography is all about the art of creating and capturing that essence that person is radiating in that single moment in time.

As far as marketing your business goes, what would you say are the most important and beneficial things to do when you want to get your name out there?
Things really picked up for me a few months back, in March, when I joined the I Heart Faces Community entering my photos into their weekly challenges.  I have gained so much exposure through that website, at times, I am still in shock!  Social media sites like Facebook, as well as, word of mouth have also been a great source of marketing for me.
What is  the one piece of advice that you feel a person that is considering or  just starting a photography business would benefit from?
"You're only as good as you are willing to get!" Make goals for yourself, stay humble and keep practicing. If you have an insatiable appetite for learning, one that never ceases to disappear or be satisfied, trust me, you'll be better than you will ever dream of being—and that goes for everything, not just photography!

Friday, September 23, 2011

One more A-MAZING photog on our team! Yippee!

Alright, so some of you may have noticed the new "admins" on our Facebook Fanpage yesterday. So you may already know who is joining our team, but if you didn't, I'm here to tell you that we have one more awesome gal joining the Fab Photog Blog team...

Drum roll please....

Maria Alexandra with Maria Alexandra Photography! Can I get a whoop whoop! We are so excited to have this hot Mama on our team! Maria is not only talented in the images that she produces, but she's got a heart of gold and really knows her stuff! Maria is located in Medford, OR just 45 minutes away from Tonya, our other Fab Photog Blog gal! What's better, Maria and Tonya are close friends! I've grown to love these women and I know you will too!

Fun Fact: Maria just recently had the awesome opportunity to photograph the building and unveiling of the Mcphail Family's new home on Extreme Makeover Home Edition! Here's the link to the pictures: The Extreme Makeover Home Edition: McPhail Family

Be sure to head on over to Maria Alexandra's FB Fanpage and share some love! Maria Alexandra Photography

Meet Alex...
Ow! Ow!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Holli True Photography

Holli True Photography:  Modern Photographer for the Stylish Girl

Questions for you....You fabulous photographer, you!

Name:  Holli True
Business Name:  Holli True Photography
Location: Eugene, Oregon

Tell us a little about YOU, and your  journey to becoming a photographer?
  I am a High School Senior Portrait Photographer based out of Eugene, Oregon.  I decided about three years ago to specialize my business in the senior market and took it a step further and put all of my focus into senior girls specifically- and I couldn't be happier!  Growing up, I have always been drawn to the arts- sketching people with charcoals to be exact, so I came to understand shadow and light from a very early age.  I would spend hours studying pictures of models and actresses, dissecting the way their bodies were posed and how the lighting hit their body, showing the angles and curves- trying to mimic this in my drawings.  Photography wasn't really anything I considered pursuing when I was younger, though I had always been fascinated by it.  Fast-forward to today and I cannot imagine my life without it.  I still sketch from time to time, I don't ever want to lose that side of myself, but photography has become my passion.
When did you first become interested in photography and why?

  I was actually supposed to have a career as a hair stylist, ironically I utilize my color wheel knowledge when editing... funny, right?  About a week or so after graduating from Beauty School, I went to the doctor for an ultrasound, as I was five months pregnant.  That day we found out that I was carrying a baby girl, Jenna, we also found out that she was very sick.  It was a week later that we lost her and my world was turned upside down.  The things that had mattered to me, no longer did.  The life that I had planned for myself and my husband, none of it appealed to me or made sense anymore.  I checked out for awhile, trying to heal and accept our loss.  One afternoon my sister-in-law admitted to me that she felt guilty bringing my niece and nephew around, fearing it would be too painful for me to be around them.  I assured her I needed the exact opposite and knew I needed to surround myself by children, not guard myself from them.  I applied at a local children's portrait studio the next week.  It was exactly what I needed- the moment I held the camera in my hands, it just felt right.  Photography helped me heal when I was in a very dark place, it gave me back a piece of myself I feared I had lost forever.

How has your photography evolved since you started?
  When I started I worked with studio lighting and backdrops, I also shot film.  When I decided to make a go at starting my own photography company, I first had to teach myself digital, natural light photography and shooting in the real world, outside of the studio walls.  I practiced on my two children until they couldn't stand the sight of camera any longer.  I started out photographing everything.  Everything seemed to fall together perfectly when I took the leap and decided to brand my business fully and specialize in one field of photography.

What challenges or struggles did you face early on in your career?  Currently?
  I lacked confidence in my abilities early on.  I was intimidated by the successful photographers in my area, never feeling up to par.  I actually had a bad experience when I met a photographer I looked up to from my own town, which really rattled me.  I questioned whether or not I belonged in the industry and considered throwing in the towel.  I am so grateful to David Jay, who I had the opportunity to meet the following day.  I thank God for that fateful day because meeting him changed everything for me.  His passion and his heart awakened something inside of me, meeting him not only changed my perspective, it changed my life.  Who knows what would have happened, if not for him.
  My current challenges are trying to meet all of the demands that I am now faced with.  I have been toying with the idea of bringing on an assistant or intern to help alleviate some of the workload, but I am a bit of a control freak, so I am dragging my feet.  Haha!

Describe you style?
  Modern.  Stylish.  Fashion.  Authentic.  Unique.  

Do you have any rituals or mantras that you use to prepare for a shoot?
  Well, the only ritual I really have before a shoot is getting really nervous about it.  My husband always laughs at me because of this.  I can't explain it, I just get super anxious and scared that I am going to let my client's down- but I don't want them to see this in me, so I force a smile and push that fear down deep inside.  The moment the shoot starts, my fears go away and I fall into a groove.  This happens every single time.  I know, it's odd.  Haha!

What inspires YOU? What turns you off Creatively?
  Let me tell you, I am a girl who is all about inspiration!  My muse is Kristen Stewart- seriously can't get enough of that girl!  I love her awkwardness, I think it's so refreshing!  She's real and she makes no apologies for it- I love that!  Music is another huge inspiration for me- I always say that music is my poetry.  I write, edit and live my life with music.  My personal daily playlist includes John Mayer, Angus & Julia Stone, Peter Bjorn, Betty and the Boy, Mat Kearney and Paramore.  Other inspirations include magazines like Rolling Stone, Seventeen, W, Harper's Bazaar & Vanity Fair.
 I can't think of anything that turns me off creatively...

What tips or suggestions do you offer to your subject to get them to relax during a shoot? 

  I think it is so important to prepare your clients for a successful shoot by making suggestions on what to bring and having an honest discussion with them about who they are the vision they have for their shoot.  During the shoot, I spend time talking to my clients, making them laugh and just getting to know them better.  I demonstrate how I want them to pose, which I believe really helps them understand what I am looking for and how I want them to move.  I also show them previews right off the back of my camera, this lets them see how amazing they look and increases their trust and confidence in me.   

Who inspires you artistically?
  Kristen Stewart, of course.  My amazing clients.  My fabulous hubby, who is also a photographer- his unique eye pushes me to look at my clients from different angles and to try new things.
What do you prefer to shoot with, zoom or prime lenses and why?
  Prime.  I am all about clarity and crisp, clean lines.  Prime lenses just make me happy.
While editing, what, for you, determines a photo to be black and white vs. color?
  I actually know what images I want to convert to black & white when I am shooting, the location, lighting & pose are how I decide.

How do you pull yourself out of a creativity rut?
  A good book or movie can pull me out of a creativity rut.  Taking a day or two away from photography to clear my mind and wipe the slate clean usually does the trick.  I will also resort to a concept shoot sometimes when I feel like I need a creativity boost- nothing fuels creativity more than doing a shoot just for you.

What does a typical work day look like for you?  Where do you edit and what is the “set up” of your work space?

  I have my office setup at home with a workspace dedicated to photography.  I am surrounded by images of my amazing clients, as well as inspiration boards to keep the creative energy flowing around me.  I have recently decided to write out a schedule for myself to help me make better use of my time and be more efficient.  I want to work while my kids are in school and take time to be with them when they get home in the afternoon.  A typical workday includes blogging, editing and answering emails- pretty simple. 
What are your favorite subjects to photograph? and why?
  High School Senior Girls.  Sessions with my girls are so much fun- we honestly have such a great time!  I love their excitement and their unique style.  Typically they are a little unsure of themselves, not knowing how to pose or anything- as I pose and encourage them, they transform before my very eyes.  Their confidence boosts and they own it- I love that!!  I feel so fortunate to work with my amazing girls, I have the best job in the world!

What advice would you give an aspiring photographer?
  Find your niche and run with it.  Be your brand.  Reach out to photographers who inspire you.  Allow yourself the freedom to fail and succeed.  Set goals and boundaries for your business.  Welcome change.  Do what makes you happy.

What has been your most memorable assignment and why?
  I had the honor of filming an instructional video for Lensbaby recently, which was surreal!  I got to work with an amazing girl named Elizabeth in a killer warehouse, talking through how I do what I do, what I use, when I use it, and why.  It was a little daunting having a production crew documenting my every move, but it was such an awesome experience and a lot of fun- I loved it!

Did you ever have anything go wrong or unexpected during a shoot and if so, how did you handle it?
 So far- knock on wood- this hasn't happened yet.  Eek!

What are your photography "goods"?
  My hubby and I each shoot with Canon 5D Mark II's.  Our lenses are also Canon, they include 70-200mm 2.8L IS, 100mm 2.8 Macro, 85mm 1.8, 50mm 1.4, 28mm 1.8.  We also have a Lensbaby Composer Pro with the Double Glass and Sweet 35 Optics.
Do you plan on buying any new equipment and if so, what do you have your eyes on?
  Our next purchase is going to be the 50mm 1.2- I am dying to get my hands on one!  

Where do you hope to be in 10 years in your business?
  I hope to still be working with senior girls.  I am in the process of getting into more styled shoots, we have some really awesome concepts that I would love see come to life.  One of my more lofty goals is to be a photographer for Seventeen Magazine... in 10 years... we'll just have to wait and see.  :)  Wherever this crazy/amazing/exciting road leads me, that's where I'll go.  


Favorite room in your house?
My bedroom.

Favorite quote?
“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.” ~ Judy Garland

Hidden talent?
I don't know that is so much hidden, but I am an aspiring writer.  I dream of being a Young Adult author.

Favorite website or blog (photography or non photography related)?  
I am totally addicted to Pinterest right now.  I love to read Lisa and Laura Write- those girls are absolutely hilarious- love them!  I also spend a lot of time on Deisgn Aglow.  

Which five words would your friends use to describe you?
Loyal.  Creative.  Funny.  Witty.  Passionate.

Your greatest fear?
Spiders.  Ugh.  So gross.

Something that is overrated?  
E-Books.  I'm sorry, but there is nothing more romantic than turning the pages of a real book with paper pages.

Something that you're still learning?  
Everything.  I always want to be learning, growing, changing, evolving.

What ambition have you not yet achieved?  
Being a published author.  But it will happen.  I am determined to make this dream a reality!

What is your favorite photography accessory, other than your camera?  
My hubby.  He is my best photography accessory.  I love that he and I share a passion for photography.

You've learned the most from.....?  
Allowing myself to fail.  Pursuing my dreams.  Not allowing fear to stand in my way. Setting goals and always pushing myself to go beyond what I think I am capable of.

And lastly.....if you had one wish?
I could get all deep here, but I am going to keep it simple and light.  :)  One wish- which is actually three- I would love to meet John Mayer, Robert Pattinson & Kristen Stewart.  Not necessarily in that order.  To take it a step further- I would LOVE to photograph each of them/all of them.  Talk about awesome!!  And yes, for the record, I am a Twilight junkie.  I can't get enough of it- and I'm proud.  And John Mayer is my boyfriend.  {Yes, my hubby has accepted this fact.}  ;)

Thank you, Holli for your honesty and transparency.  You are such an inspiration and I will be looking for your work in the coming issues of Seventeen, as I have no doubt your work will be there someday!  I LOVE your advice you give aspiring photographers, and the fact that your hubby is your favorite "non camera related" accessory says it ALL!  You are a shining example of what today's photographer represents and we are so honored that you shared a little of you with us!  
Tonya Poitevint

Posted with LOVE by Tonya