Today’s interview is with Lisa Furey!
Hello Lisa! Congrats on being the CMpro of the Month! First, will you tell us a little about you and your family? And do let us in on something random about you we would never guess!
Thanks so much! I am really honored to be May’s CMPro of the month.
I live in a suburb of Allentown, PA and am married to a wonderful, supportive husband. We have three children ranging in age from 5 to 17 years. While pregnant with my son, Nicolas, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. A year and a half later, I was diagnosed with a second cancer; this time it was ovarian. I beat cancer twice and am so grateful to still be here to tell my story. One major downfall of those illnesses was that they left me no longer available to conceive another child. We knew we wanted to grow our family, so in December 2005 my husband and I began to explore adoption. By November 2006 we adopted our first daughter, Sarah.
I am almost embarrassed to admit this, but at that time, I was the mom who never had a camera. I would often buy disposable cameras when I wanted to document birthdays, holidays, or any special occasion. When Sarah was a little over a year old, my husband went out to buy some Christmas gifts and came home with a Canon 40D. It was a gift for me and when I opened it, I looked him in the eye and said, “Are you crazy? I will never ever use this.” It sat in the box for about 5 months before I picked it up. I tinkered with it not really knowing what I was doing. I shot solely in the auto mode. In 2009 I decided I needed to learn what this camera could really do because I knew I was not using it to its full potential. From that point, there was no looking back. I totally entrenched myself into the world of photography learning everything I could about shooting and processing. Photography proved to be a great distraction for me as we waited for word from China to finally complete the adoption of our second daughter, Reagan. I couldn’t wait to travel to China to meet her and was also anxious to document her country and surroundings with my camera. It would be a piece of her history that she could always hold onto. Capturing my family and documenting our adoption journeys really were the catalysts for my love of photography.
Photography is certainly my passion however, I hold down a pretty demanding full time job which keeps me on the road quite a bit. Juggling work and family is a fine balancing act, but I always find ways to fit my love of photography in when and where I can.
Something random about me that you would never guess? Hmmm, this is difficult as I am pretty open and have shared a lot through my blog over the years, but here is a fun little tidbit I don’t think I have shared. A long time ago when I worked full time in a gym as an aerobics instructor, we had two members that were artists for Marvel Comics. They asked me to come model for them so they could create a new character trading card. My name was Alison Blaire “Dazzler”. It was a big deal for me at the time because it pushed me so far out of my comfort zone. I love being behind the camera, but have always had a difficult time in front of the camera. I have a stash of these trading cards in a box and loved seeing the look on my children’s faces when I told them that it was me. I think I earned a few cool mom points.
I understand you were once a ballerina. And now you’re a photographer. Have the arts always been a big part of your life? What was the personal draw for you to this particular art form?
Looking back at my life and my childhood, I really don’t remember a time when I was not dancing. I was pretty young when I started and much like photography, I became extremely passionate about it almost immediately. The grace, flexibility, control, and the movement at times seemed unattainable, but when I would take the floor or stage the exhilaration that would wash over me made me feel invincible. To me, ballet is such a beautiful form of art. I could get lost in the movement whether I was the performing artist or watching someone else take the stage. Back then; I loved that I could become whatever the role required. I was no longer “Lisa”, I was the character that the choreographer created. I spent countless hours working in the studio trying to challenge myself and push my personal limits. Trying to get that leg higher, get in one extra turn, or leap a little higher on the next jump. I see a lot of parallels between ballet and photography though my role has changed. I am no longer the dancer; I have become the choreographer. My photography visions are like ballets. I want to create something that will pull the viewer into the photo, to feel the movement and really connect to the subject. I want them to see something more than a snapshot; I want to create something artistic. When I look at my photographic style, I am mindful that it is often reminiscent of my days as a ballerina. I prefer muted colors and processing that has a soft ethereal feel. Photography has been an ever-changing journey for me. It took a few years to find my personal style but now that I have found it, I’m constantly trying to better myself, learn, and continue to grow. Like my dancing days, I still spend a lot of hours in the studio, just now it’s a different type of studio.
Your blog is a lovely mix of images of your daughters, client work, and macro images. What’s your favorite type of subject to capture? Where do you find inspiration for your photos?
Even though I find a lot of joy in all types of photography, my heart is really into children’s photography. I draw inspiration from all sorts of things; it could be a building or location, beautiful light, colors, textures, or clothing. I also live in area that has a lot of old antique stores and flea markets, so I find myself browsing for little pieces or props that end up inspiring a full-stylized session.
Can you share a current favorite image and tell us why you love it so?
Choosing a favorite image is never an easy task and it is one of those things that change from week to week. Right now, I would say this is the image is at the top of that list. My youngest seems to get the most camera time, as she is the most accessible. On this particular day she was playing dress up, which isn’t uncommon in our house. She was in ballerina mode and spinning herself silly. She lost her balance and caught herself on the ledge of the window. In looking at the photo, you would never know that she was dizzy or that one of her feet is tucked up underneath her. I also love that she is looking directly at me, which is rare for her. If you saw the SOOC photo, you would see some distraction in the background. In post processing I was able to get rid of that distraction and really channel the light to enhance the leading lines of the window and draw the viewer directly to Reagan’s face and slight reflection. In the end, I took a simple snapshot that did not look like much SOOC and turned it into something a little more artistic and interesting.
The essence of your little girls and their relationship to each other is a predominant theme in your work. They seem so willing to be in front of your camera… lucky you! How have you been able to keep them clear of the dreaded Photographer’s Child Syndrome?
We definitely have our moments, and I’ve learned how to take cues from them. If they are not in the mood or I’m sensing reluctance, I know it is time to put the camera away and try another day. That being said, I like to try to incorporate them when we are doing something planned. If I stylize, I let them help to choose clothes, props, etc. It goes a long way if they like what they are doing or what they are wearing. Also, I am not real big on posing them. I will guide them to the light or area where I want to shoot. They do have a very strong bond with one another and that relationship just unfolds in my images. I set the scene with them and then take a step back and with a bit of patience on my part, I get to capture that bond and let their personalities shine as life unfolds on the other side of my lens unscripted.
The use of light in your work is especially memorable. Can you share what you’re looking for when assessing available light?
Early on in my journey, light scared me.
I know that sounds crazy because where would we be in photography without light? But gone are the days where I would only shoot in open shade or what is considered to be flat light. Today I am a light lover and am intrigued by finding slivers or slices of light among shadows for a great low light effect. I’m also a big fan of back and sidelight.
I crave locations that can give me this kind of beautiful light, and while we all love to shoot at golden hour, it’s not always feasible. Do I shoot on hazy, overcast days where the light looks to be somewhat flat? Yes I do, but when that happens I try to channel or create light in my post processing to give the image more interest.
Let’s talk gear. What’s currently in your bag? Do you have a go-to lens that you just can’t imagine living without?
I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III and have the Canon 35mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.2, 85mm f/1.2, 100mm Macro, 135mm f/2.0, 70-200mm f/2.8, Lensbaby Composer Pro Sweet 35 and Sweet 50. It’s really hard to choose which lens I could not live without because I love them all for different reasons or situations. If I had to pick one or two that I use the most, I would say the 85mm and the 135mm. I love the buttery bokeh both lenses produce while still giving you tack sharp focus and isolating the subject. That being said, during the winter months or when I am doing a lot of indoor shooting, I tend to gravitate more towards my 35mm and 50mm.
Your editing is beautifully soft and ethereal. Do you accomplish this in Lightroom, Photoshop, or both? What’s your approach for executing the vision of an image?
I use both Lightroom and Photoshop for my post processing. The majority of my color processing is done in Photoshop, but I prefer to do my black and white conversions in Lightroom. I also use Lightroom for minor tweaks and white balance adjustments.
My approach will vary depending upon what I am shooting. When shooting indoors or more documentary style, I really prefer a film/matte feel, and I like to eliminate distraction from the background to really pull the viewer to what is important in the photo. My editing is more simplistic, but not necessarily clean. When I plan or do something more stylized, I try to make my processing mimic the look and feel of the set up or genre. If I stylize something that is more urban and retro or shoot downtown, you might see a little more contrast or color in the processing of those images. If I stylize something vintage or delicate in terms of attire or location, I’m going to make sure that my processing follows suit.
Time is always an issue, so I do incorporate the use of actions, textures, and overlays to help enhance my photos. I’ve learned how to tweak them and really make them work for me personally to cut down on the time I spend at the computer editing.
What advice would you give to a brand new photographer trying to find her way in this art?
Pick up your camera as often as possible and shoot something. It can be anything: a person, place or thing. Just shoot and get really familiar with your camera’s manual settings. It takes a lot of time and practice before those fingers start to know those buttons and dials. Once you get your fingers moving and you are nailing your focus and exposure on images, start to play and experiment with composition and light. You will also want to make sure you learn how to process and at least make small basic enhancements to your images. Post processing can really be a game changer. While we all strive to get it right in camera, we can create some real magic in post. Spend some time here on the CM site and forum. There is a plethora of information and tutorials that are extremely useful and helpful. Last, try not to compare yourself or your work to others. Shoot from the heart: shoot what makes you happy and what has meaning to you.
You’re a crazy busy mom with 3 kids, a full time career, and a photography business. AND you just wrote a breakout for Clickin Moms! My head is swirling just thinking of your enormous to-do list! What are some of your secrets to getting everything done each day? Can you share any tips on how you keep your life balanced?
The one thing that I think has always pulled me through and allowed me to keep my head above water is my ability to organize. I am a detail oriented person, so I try to prioritize and give myself to-do lists that are attainable and broken down by day or week. If I don’t do that I become completely overwhelmed and stressed out. I have been there more times than I would like to admit, but have really tried to change my ways to ensure that no longer happens. I like to wake up early and get work done while everyone is sleeping and my house is quiet. You would be amazed at how much you can get done in just a few quiet hours each day. I try to make the most of my weekends too! I do a lot of cooking on Saturdays and Sundays so that we have some leftovers to get us started during the workweek. The less I have to do when I come home after a long day allows me more time to spend with my family. Recently I realized that my busy schedule was not allowing me to take time for myself so I incorporated something new to my routine and it has made a world of difference mentally and physically. It had been years since I snuck away to a gym to work out, take a yoga class, or go for a run. Having a little Zen time for my mind and body was something that I had been desperately missing. So recently I started taking barre classes and I walk out of there with a clear head and feel completely re-energized ready to take on the world. It makes me a better mom, wife, employee, and photographer. Another lesson I have learned is to know my limitations. I try not to take on more than I can handle. I was always a “yes” person, a people pleaser, but I learned that as difficult as it can be, sometimes you have to politely say “no” and not feel guilty about it. I would be completely remiss if I didn’t give credit to the one person who has to deal with my crazy schedule more than anyone else…my super supportive husband. Having him by my side definitely helps to make that to-do list disappear.
Have any photography goals for the next year? Where do you see yourself as a photographer in 5 years?
It has been an incredible journey so far and I am anxious to see where photography takes me next. Because of my full time job, I don’t shoot a lot of true client sessions, and I’m not sure that will ever change. I would love to continue to work on some personal projects as well as have some work published. I also really enjoy teaching others who are eager to learn and grow in their photography so I would like to do something on a bigger level to help others who are looking to become better photographers.
I love following you on IG! You give us such a great blend of personal photos, snaps and DSLR shares. Practically speaking, how do you incorporate photography into your every day? Any tips for shooting as consistently as you do?
Thanks so much! IG is my favorite form of social media because really it is all about the pictures. There is so much inspiration and camaraderie over there…. especially within the CMGlimpse project. During the week I find it difficult to pick up my DSLR, so I try to feed my passion by shooting with my phone since it’s always with me. It is also so unassuming and unobtrusive. Most of the time my children don’t realize I am photographing them when I have my phone in my hand, which in turn leads to real life moments captured. Since I also travel quite a bit with my job, I’m grateful to have my phone as I’m always exploring new places. It’s fun to capture tall or unique buildings, city life, or wide open spaces in the country. I would say if you are looking to start shooting consistently pick up your smart phone or camera of choice as much as possible. Join in something like the CMGlimpse project where you will get daily prompts, ideas, and inspiration. Be prepared to watch your photography skyrocket. You will be amazed at what you will capture and the added benefit is that you will immerse yourself into a super friendly, supportive, and encouraging community.
As already hinted at, you have a breakout coming out in July! Can you give us a peek into what you’ll be sharing?
I am so thrilled to introduce my upcoming breakout, Unleashing Your Inner Artist that is set to launch on July 21st. In this breakout I will be sharing how I found and evolved my style into the work you see today. I will be providing techniques to help you look inward and find what motivates you as a photographer. There will be a creativity project and a road map to help you create and bring your own visions to life while staying true to your own personal style. Included will be some tips on stylizing, maximizing great light at any time of the day, as well as my favorite perspectives and go to shooting techniques. My breakout will include 2 PDFs that will be packed with pictures, descriptions, and details. There will be 4 full image-editing videos and a bonus mobile phone photography video for capturing and editing photos of your daily life in an artistic and eye catching way. Photographers who purchase this breakout will learn to push their artistic abilities to the limit and look through their lens in a new and creative way.