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Matilda Jane

I was recently interviewed by a Sophomore at Parkersburg South High School who chose the field of Photography for her Career Research Project. Just thought I would share…  This is me being completely real and open about the field of photography!

How do you decide how much your pictures are?

For a photographer, a lot goes into creating a professional image/portrait. When I sit down to figure out how to price my services, prints, and custom products, I have to factor in my time/creative talent to take the pictures and overhead such as paying a full time employee, studio rent & utilities, equipment wear/tear/upkeep, cost of travel if involved, retouching time & the software required to retouch, cost of the prints or products, shipping, packaging materials, etc. The list goes on. It is so much more than just having a nice camera.

How important is going to college for this career?

To be honest, I have met photographers who went to college for it that had zero talent and creativity for the field. Most of the successful photographers I know are self-taught. For me personally, it was a passion that was sparked while taking a photography class for my Journalism degree. I went on to finish Journalism, but never put the camera down. I discovered my calling & that was it. There are so many ways to learn the technical aspects of photography, including attending workshops, which I do from time to time. However, it all must start with a natural talent and passion. Without that, you have nothing. 

How many hours in a week do you work?

I may only actually spend 20 hours a week or less actually shooting, but I spend double that on post-processing, retouching, preparing files, backing up files, posting proofs online and to facebook, etc. 

How much money should I expect to make starting out?

That varies for each photographer. The first few years I actually began to charge money for my photography services, I made very little. It wasn’t until I opened a studio that I actually began to make a decent living and was able to quit my day job and make it my full time career. Passion, hard work, determination, marketing skills, business skills, etc. will determine how much one will make. You get out what you put in. My first year of being a full time studio photographer, I secretly lived in a small room in the back of my studio and took showers at friends’ houses just to be able to afford the space. I did what I had to do because to me, it was do or die. I wanted it so badly that I was willing to sacrifice whatever I had to in order to get my business off the ground & it payed off!

What made you decide that you wanted to become a photographer?

Like I said, I took a photography class in college and just fell in love it. After a few years of shooting everyone and everything in sight, I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do. It consumed me in a way. I once read a quote by a photographer who said they must photograph as much as they must breathe, I feel like that. 

What equipment and brand of equipment would be the best to use?

There are many options out there, especially these days. Just starting out, the equipment you use doesn’t matter as much as simply taking what you do have and learning the craft of photography. I once shot a modeling portfolio on a 4 megapixel Kodak point and shoot camera, back when digital cameras were becoming the way to go and I could not afford a DSLR at the time. I borrowed a professional camera to shoot weddings with and saved up for my own. I shot with Canon cameras for several years but have been strictly a Nikon shooter for probably 5 years now. Personal preference and the type of work you want to do will determine what type of camera and lighting equipment you will need. Research is best when trying to decide what to buy. 

What was your favorite, and least favorite photography shoot you have done and why?

My favorite type of photography is High School Senior portraits, hands down. I love photographing teenagers because they are at a time in their lives where they are discovering and expressing who they are, which allows me to get creative in telling their story. I also really enjoy photographing newborn babies within the first week of life. I’ve always been passionate about Wedding photography as well, and have shot Weddings for about 11 years now. The overcrowding of cheap and low quality shooters in the Wedding photography business, and the amount of work and time it takes has changed my direction in that I have went from shooting 20-25 Weddings a year to shooting 12 or less in the last few years. Being a full time studio owner consumes so much of my time, that I have to take on less Weddings now. 
As far as having a “least” favorite type of photography, I don’t really know that I have one. There are still many areas of the field I have yet to tap into & I love discovering new things all the time. It’s very important for a professional photographer, especially in this economy, to be well-rounded and able to perform well with any assignment or commission they are given. 

How often do you travel for shoots & what is the farthest distance that you’ve traveled?

I travel all the time! Some weeks it’s just local Parkersburg/Marietta stuff, and other weeks I might go half way across the state. I have traveled for Weddings in Springfield, IL, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Washington State, Virginia, Hilton Head, SC, and more. I love to shoot destination Weddings because I love to travel and explore new places. I also travel all over West Virginia and Ohio for portrait and commercial photography jobs. I am considering offering my high school seniors the opportunity to have their pics shot in places like Pittsburgh or Columbus, to offer a wider variety of settings. 

What advice could you give me about my dream of being a photographer?

I would say go for it. Shoot, shoot, shoot. Learn your camera inside and out, study, go to workshops, get a mentor, get your work critiqued by other professional photographers, and if you feel like you must photograph as much as you must breathe, then never give up! It’s a very rewarding career. You get to meet amazing people, hear amazing stories, touch lives, capture and create moments, be creative, be a visionary, and create art! Just don’t forget about the hard work and long hours part. :) It’s all worth it!
Alex Cheuvront 
Belpre Christian Academy Senior 
Shot on location in North Hills

Another great session with the Lazor Family this fall!
Ali gets more adorable each year!

Photographed Cole from Southern High in Racine, Ohio on October 23rd. His family are long time clients and always a pleasure to work with. Congrats on your Senior year Cole! 

Monica George 
Marietta High 
This was an awesome session! I had an equally awesome session with Monica’s sister Valerie back in 2010! Beautiful and wonderful family to have as clients! 

Monica is a world traveler, highly intelligent, and one of he sweetest gals you’ll meet.

Savannah Wade

Parkersburg High School 


Kristin Samson and George Herriott 
E-Session 10.12.12