Today’s interview is with Jan Tyler!
Congratulations on being the CMpro of the Month, Jan! Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into photography.
Thank you! This is so exciting!!
I have actually always had an interest in visual arts. I was an avid reader from an early age and spent hours absorbing every detail of the rich illustrations in my picture books. My elementary school had a darkroom that was available for the 5th and 6th graders to use. I was really fascinated by it and would spend all of my extra recess time in there playing and experimenting with different black and white effects. I even dreamed of turning my own bedroom closet in to a darkroom! By high school and college, photography had become simply a fun way of fulfilling art credits and documenting trips. It remained that way until my son was born. By chance, I captured a few shots of him with my Canon Digital Elph that made my heart sing, and it reignited my interest in photography. Once he started moving and became too fast for my little camera, I decided I wanted to buy a dslr and really learn how to use it.
Before my son was born, I was an elementary classroom teacher and a district writing instructor. I continued working after his birth, but from home as a private educational consultant and learning specialist. This combination has been the perfect balance of working in a field I love and being home with him. Working from home has also allowed me to fervently pursue my interest in photography, on my own schedule, through the amazing online CM workshops.
What started as a hobby quickly turned in to a full-blown passion. Photography is such an engrained part of all of our lives now. My husband and son just expect to see the camera around my neck, and it accompanies us on all of our little adventures.
You’re a hobbyist photographer. Have you ever considered going into business and what helped you make that decision?
I really love the freedom of being a hobbyist. I feel like it allows me to play and explore with my work, and it offers me the opportunity to truly nurture my creative side. I started learning about photography to document my own family, and all of my work is highly personal. I haven’t really considered going in to business because I feel like it would take more time away from my family, and I would lose that “personal” edge to my work. There are so many talented lifestyle and portrait artists out there that I feel just fine making referrals to them and keeping my own work truly personal.
When it comes to editing, you have a very distinct style. How long would you guess you spend on average editing a photo?
I am slightly obsessed with the editing process. I am constantly amazed by what is possible to do to an image. “Before and Afters” inspire me and push me to learn and apply new techniques I never would have dreamed of.
I really play a lot in editing and treat each image as a blank canvas with limitless possibilities. Because of this, it is highly possible (on a good day!) to spend several hours engrossed in one image. On average, though, I try to spend only 30 minutes to one hour at a time on each image… but I may come back to it for days. This is another reason why it is much more conducive for me to be a hobbyist as opposed to being in business!
Will you share with us one of your favorite editing tools or tips?
I would really consider myself a Lightroom artist. I begin every image in Lightroom and love playing in the panels there. If an image really captures my attention, I will pull it in to Photoshop and play with adding textures. Adding textures is probably my favorite artistic tool currently. I love the artistic flair it adds to an image and I feel like it turns my image in to its own little canvas of possibility.
Your son is your primary subject in your photography. How do you keep him from getting bored or irritated with the photo process?
I think he might argue that he IS actually bored AND irritated!! Actually, we have really bonded during this process of photographic growth. We relate to each other and understand each other. We have learned how to give and receive instruction without creating barriers between us. We communicate through photography.
I really try to be as unobtrusive as possible. If we are out and about, I follow him and let him lead the way. If I happen to see a scene of interest or a pocket of beautiful light, I may direct him to it…and he may go…in his own time…and he may not go. I just have to accept that I might get the shot, and I might not. I am constantly pointing the beautiful light out to him, and he has started to recognize it on his own. So, if it is his idea, that’s even better.
If I have a “planned” shoot, he still leads. I may have everything planned and set up, but it is his own personality and his own creativity that determine whether it will be successful or not. I try to keep planned shoots short—five minutes or less. Otherwise, he loses interest and become irritable, which defeats the whole purpose of bonding. After a shoot, I will spend time playing his choice of video games with him, and it is his turn to give the directions. This balance has really allowed us to maintain a positive relationship in regards to photography.
I do try to keep things fun and never want photography to be a chore. It is our special time together and we are creating wonderful memories of our times together along the way. I want him to really consider it that way as opposed to it being a source of boredom and agitation.
With the imaginative photos of your son, I have to ask, how involved is he with coming up with the style and concept?
He is actually pretty heavily involved in a lot of the process. Even if I initiate an idea, he inevitably will make it his own…he will grab a silly hat or mask at the last minute, or make a ridiculous face, or dance. He does whatever he can to make me laugh and to break my concentration…and it always works. Sometimes he feels as if he is “playing a part in a scene”, which allows him to explore and gives him confidence to try things he may have been apprehensive to do otherwise. In editing, he will tell me what he likes and what he doesn’t like, and I often let him make the final choice in image selections. I definitely see him becoming more and more involved in this part of the process the older he gets.
You have a Breakout coming out later this month. Will you share with us what you will be teaching?
I am ridiculously excited for this Breakout. With this Breakout I was able to combine my love for storytelling through the written word with my passions for both photography and teaching. My Breakout is called In Life and Dreams: Envision Your Storybook Life. Really, that is exactly what we will be doing. By exploring and visually telling the stories in our own lives, we will create collections of personally significant moments and weave them together with art. Through this weaving, we will be creating and sharing the unique stories of our hearts in “storybook” fashion. These stories may be authentic (in life) or envisioned (in dreams) or a combination of both, as mine are. We will study the actual crafts of story building and of becoming artists as we seek the unique beauty in everyday life and use this to share our stories.
The Breakout is divided in to two main parts: “In Life” (the simple stories of your everyday) and “In Dreams” (the envisioned stories of your heart). In part one we will discuss authentically building compelling stories and study how light and composition affect our everyday storytelling. In part two, our focus will be on editing techniques and determining the choices that best support our stories and help us develop our artistic visions. I have some amazing “Before and After” images to share and some editing videos which will demonstrate specific editing techniques that can be used to achieve the artistic vision for each of our own images. I really tried to appeal to both audiences in this Breakout—those that love to capture the art of the everyday, and those interested in creating art from the everyday.
Because I have such a heart for teaching and for supporting others in their own journeys of growth, I designed the Breakout really as a “mini workshop”. It is has several assignments to work through and is full of useful technical information in addition to being heavily inspirational. I combined my love for teaching and my passion for photography into this Breakout, and I am absolutely delighted to share both. I can’t wait to meet my students and see how they weave photography and the stories of their own “life and dreams” together as they embark on the story-filled adventures of their lives.
And one of my favorite questions to ask, where would you like to see yourself and your photography in 10 years?
In 10 years…that is an interesting question. I’m sure my relationship with my son will be quite different in ten years as he grows in to his own manhood. He may not appreciate “Mommy” following him around everywhere he goes, right? Ideally, I would love to see him impassioned about photography and I would love to watch him grow as an artist in his own right…and teach ME what he knows…but I’m not entirely sure that is the direction his video-game heart is going. I think my own subject will likely shift to travel photography or street photography. I would still be telling personal stories—they just would be of places that hold significance to me. I definitely see the artistic aspect of my work continuing to grow. I would love to create digital illustrations and become more proficient in Photoshop. I sincerely hope to still be teaching and empowering others to grow in their own personal journeys. Watching others grow impassions my teacher heart, and I don’t see that shifting in the least. Regardless of what happens ten years from now, and what my subject may be, I do want photography to remain a means of communication and sharing between my son and me. Whether we use it to discuss a particular place, or a piece of technology, a particular assignment, or a work of art, it has become such a wonderful outlet and such a way of bonding, I don’t want that to diminish in the least.