How did you start doing what you’re doing?
Coming to the States, I knew I was going into the creative direction. The Art Institute of Philadelphia accepted me into their graphic design program, and while working on projects and looking at different stock photography sites, becoming aware of how expensive some images can be, I decided to pick up a cheap camera and snap some images myself (in no way do I mean to offend any professional who provides stock photography). Photography was not as easy as I thought it would be but with the internet right at my fingertips, I googled, read blogs, watched tutorials, and was able to find tons and tons of inspiration. Horses were always a passion of mine, and they were also beings whom I didn’t have to tell what they had to do. I just sat in a pasture and clicked away. I moved on to different animals, and when the Cancer Society had an opening for a graphic designer, I not only applied as such but also added that I do photography. It very quickly dawned on me that I would certainly have to go out to events and take pictures of people. At the office, I was asked if I took head shots, which I had never done before. Challenge accepted and inspiration in hand, I would now start taking head shots, which I have started to love doing. A beautiful head shot makes my entire day.
In the beginning of April, my sister gave birth to the most perfect baby girl. I had already taken advantage of my sister when she was still pregnant and taken some pictures of her. Now was my chance to see how I could capture the first few weeks of this tiny, fragile, and completely dependent new life whom I can call my niece. With my sister living in Germany, it’s not that easy, but I went over for a week and shot away. It was such a joy, and uploading the pictures, going through them one by one, was inspiring to a point where I concluded I need to do more of this.
Name one or two struggles of doing the craft you do and how did you overcome them?
Oh, struggles… A mom hired me after seeing my photos from a horse show, and she wanted me to take pictures of her daughter and her horse… or so I thought. Meeting her at the barn where she kept her horse, another car rolled up and out came two more daughters, a dad, and a dog. So now, and this was very early in my ‘career,’ I was faced with having to do a family session, which I had not prepared so whatsoever. After taking a few deep breaths though, I quickly looked up a few shots on my phone and we went ahead. Needless to say, the pictures with just one girl and a horse came out better than the whole family session but, oh well…
How do you deal with creative block? What would you advise others?
Very often I find myself not inspired whatsoever. We are overwhelmed with images and inspiration on all social media accounts. That’s when I just have to take a step back. I grab my dog, and we go out on the trail with the camera. You sometimes just need to go back to the basics and click away. Those are usually the days where I take the best pictures. Click what is in front of you instead of wasting time trying to find THE perfect object or moment to capture. Very often they are right in front of you.
Do you feel like you have support for your craft, and how important is that support to you?
Yes. I have a great network around me, and the person who first took me to his studio with him is my best friend Joe. In my first big-girl job as a graphic designer, I mentioned I was interested in photography, and he took me under his wing by showing me all kinds of different camera settings, studio lighting, etc. He also took me to my first Photoshop World workshop, which catapulted my interest onto a whole new level.
Any regrets on doing art for a living? Why?
Oh, no. I have met multiple great people through networking at art and photography meet-ups. Some of my best friends I met through design or photography jobs.
What’s one thing you would’ve done differently back then, since you know more now?
Website design is something I would have never started doing. I have a client who after 2 years has still not provided finalized copy for his website. A contract would have helped, but he is a friend of a friend, and he sounded serious at the time. So yes, a simple contract helps! Whether it’s a friend or not, but that project is hanging over me like a dark cloud.
How do you plan on expanding and where do you see yourself with business?
My business needs to move from design more into the photography direction. It’s just easier and brings me a lot more joy. I’m planning on pushing smaller sessions more and more. I’d love to advertise headshot sessions more, and dog photography is also something I might pick up more of.
More about Elena and her work:
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