Today’s interview is with Liz Labianca!
Hi, Liz! We’re so thrilled to see you as July’s CMpro of the month! We would love to hear all about you and your family.
Thank you so much! What an incredible honor to be CMpro of the month. This has been such an amazing year for me personally and professionally. I continue to feel blessed beyond measure. Running a business built on a lifelong passion is beyond any dream that I could have ever imagined. As I turn 40 in a month – I can remember asking myself at 30 – where would I want to be in 10 years. I said I wanted to have 3 kids and to be happy. That was all I had in my dreams and I am there, the business is just the cherry on top.
Congratulations on your new baby girl! How has the arrival of baby Sutton rejuvenated you as a photographer?
Sutton has been such an incredible joy and blessing to all of us that I am truly just sitting back and enjoying every moment. I think the first month she was here I felt this desperate need to document every wrinkle, every lash, every kiss – so aware of how fast the time was going to fly by and sure enough here we are 4 months later and my chunky monkey is already growing up so fast. My heart is just so full. I don’t want to miss a minute, but the reality is I just can not capture every second – so I have learned to … as Elsa once sang… “let it go”. As a photographer, I am always moved to shoot when I see a child in beautiful light, and I see light everywhere, but I am learning just to appreciate watching the moment instead of photographing it. I have enjoyed having Sutton to learn even more about light, being able to move around her as she slumbers and digesting the way the light hits her skin is teaching me something new every day.
A little over a year ago, your photography journey was featured on the CMblog. How has Liz LaBianca Photography evolved since that article was published? What goals are next for you to conquer?
Things were changing so fast as my passion was growing. The one thing that I’ve done throughout this whole journey was trust my instincts. As we struggled through in vitro fertilization I found it was becoming increasingly more difficult to shoot during such a personal struggle so I took a little break from shooting and started to teach. I had spent the previous two years teaching anyone who would listen including the mom at the park carrying a DSLR, or the Dad trying to take a picture in the bright sun on the little league field. I literally couldn’t stop sharing everything I had learned. Through my facebook page, I reached out to the photography community offering a helping hand to new photographers. So last spring I decided to offer classes to moms. Soon my 1:1 mom classes turned into the Momtering Workshop. My ultimate goal has never changed since I started my business. I never want to lose my passion. I take limited sessions so that I don’t feel stressed or overwhelmed. No amount of money is worth losing my passion or my balance as a mother.
You’ve added the role of “teacher” as well, through your Pixie Dust brand. Have you found your in-person “momtering” sessions to fulfill another side of you as a photographer? How so?
Ohhh I just love it!! I was made to teach moms and wonder if maybe I am better at teaching than photography itself. When I started, I stated ” I am going to be the cheap photographer because every mom deserves a beautiful photograph”. This statement was made when I was shooting with my Nikon D40 and did not know that editing was part of the photography process. I have since learned that I do not want to be the cheap photographer, I want to be the great photographer. BUT since I can’t be the cheap photographer, I CAN teach moms how to use their fancy cameras so that they can get those beautiful photos on their own. I currently have almost 100 moms in my private momtering facebook group and the images they are producing are just stunning. To see a mom’s passion explode because they learned how to use their fancy camera is one of the most rewarding things about teaching. I still get goosebumps the second a mom realizes that they can control their camera to get that blurry background or shoot without the flash.
One way to describe your work is “shot from the heart.” Your technicals are flawless, of course, but there’s no pretense there. How much of your personal work is envisioned and planned vs. captured as it unfolds before you?
That is funny because I think some of my favorite photos are a product of luck. I literally have 4 cameras, not including my iPhone, that are ready to shoot at all times. My heart feels like it wants to explode when I see a sweet moment. Even when I am out and about and I see other families or children that are truly happy and loving life, I just want to capture it. If it wasn’t so creepy, I would love to capture families and children who are just basking in the glow of everyday life. This is not to say that I don’t head out to fields or the beach wanting to capture something beautiful, but I never know what that beauty will be. I take it all in and then start shooting and playing with my kids. For example, the butterfly catcher photo below, she was desperate to catch butterflies and despite the cute dress she had on and colorful butterfly catcher she carried, it was the silhouette that I happened to capture when she climbed the hill. The wind blew her dress and hair just perfectly and she held the catcher right on her shoulder. I did not direct her to do so. Another example is Emerson and the inner-tube. We went to the lake, the clouds were just beautiful that day and I saw a dirt bike rider ride over this hill. It was a beautiful picture in my head that I wish I could have captured quick enough so before we left I took Em to the hill and just to make it more fun, I asked her to roll the inner tube down the hill. Which she did after she stood there in the inner-tube.
You have such a gift for capturing the personalities of the children you are hired to photograph. What tips and tricks do you have for interacting with kids to elicit those genuine expressions?
I think the key to working with kids is to not treat them like kids. I get on their level. I share with them the images I am taking. I let them use my camera to take pictures. I know that mom and dad are stressed at the beginning of the shoot so it is my job to get them to relax and the best way to get mom and dad to relax is to show them how much fun their child is having. I do a TON of hugs, kisses and praise – letting the child know how proud I am of them. I also know when to take a break. If I need to put the camera down, I do. I let the child direct the shoot when need be. We take turns being silly. Photo shoots don’t have to be so serious. I also shoot from the hip so that I can visually interact with the child and stay engaged with them. This helps a ton with getting real smiles.
Photographer’s Child Syndrome does not seem to be an issue at your house. Tell us how you approach photographing each of your children. Is it the same for all three?
I recognize that as they get older my role and their role changes. For instance, I started when my son was in kindergarten and after a few months of shooting him and his friends I realized I was becoming the weird camera toting mom and was probably embarrassing him so I started to ask his permission. Now that he is older it is hard to capture his everyday since he is in school or at soccer or with friends so we agree that I get him back at summer time. So summer is my time to show him something new in the world. We have hailed taxis together, walked the streets of NYC, gone fishing, and learned to surf (him not me). Respecting your child’s space is important when you are a clickin mom. Emerson is now entering the same stage so she is the boss. If my camera is invading her space she will tell me and I will put it down. Like I tell my children, YOU are in charge of YOU. As I start to photograph, Sutton I am very aware of her needs. When she was born it felt wrong to be posing her. I was her mom not her photographer. So I didn’t do it. I hired the amazing Leah Cook to do it and I just got to be mom. It still feels wrong to place her in a posed type situation so I really don’t take her to fields or anything. In the end, the photo that means the most to me is the photo that is attached to a memory.
When shooting for yourself, what is it that inspires you to pick up your camera? Moment? Light? Location?
Yes, yes, yes… all three. Since I don’t live near the beach, when we go on vacation I feel guilty if I don’t have my camera with me at all times. Vacations are the best inspiration for me. Spending every second with my kids while they enjoy their time off from the routine of school is my favorite time of the year. But after reading this question I spent the day thinking about what inspired me to grab my camera that day and here is what I came up with:
- My daughter, Emerson, sitting on the garbage can and the light hitting her morning bed head.
- Emerson climbing into her sister’s new pack and play and teaching Sutton how to suck her thumb.
- Climbing into the car to take Emerson to gymnastics and the kids playing in the driveway and the light highlighting them just perfectly.
- Suttons 4 month doctor appointment.
- Hayden and his buddy waiting for me to buy tickets at the movies.
- Hayden walking up to me in the middle of the movie to hold Sutton.
- The boys waiting for their food to arrive.
- Sutton nursing in the middle of the movie.
- Emerson’s devious smile when she wanted to push her brother into the pool.
- My son’s freckles and lashes.
I see Sutton’s not the only new baby at your house. You also have a new camera! How has this point-and-shoot changed your shooting habits? When do you prefer your Sony to your Nikon?
I LOVE my P&S. It is my storytelling camera and my world is in storytelling mode so it is the perfect fit for where I am in my life. I will bring it with me when I head to birthday parties, museums, the movies, doctor appointments and if I do feel like bringing my big dSLR with me, I will pair that with a portrait lens and still bring my P&S so that I can go wide and get more of the story if I need it.
Recently you teased your Facebook fans, “my head’s been buried underwater working on a fun new project I cannot wait to share with you all.” Are you ready to spill??