Happy February friends! Let’s start this month off with a huge congratulations to February’s CMpro of the Month, the fabulous Lissa Chandler! And now for an enlightening interview with Lissa.
february cmpro of the month | lissa chandler
A warm congratulations to you on Pro of the Month, Lissa! We’d love to hear a little about what brought you to this point in your photography journey. How did you get started and how did you end up where you are today?
Thank you! I am super excited about being Pro of the Month and crazy excited about my Breakout! I grew up with a camera in my back pocket. I have always loved everything about photography- there is something so personal and emotional about photography and I have always loved how, whenever I view a photograph, I feel connected to the subject and the moment, regardless of whether I was there or whether the subject is a stranger or my best friend. I love it. But! Honestly, if it were not for my husband, I would not be where I am right now. My husband saw a creative spark in me that I could not see for myself and, because of this, he has absolutely been the most supportive partner a photographer could ask for. He pushes me artistically and creatively and also isn’t afraid to tell me when my photographs turn out bad. It’s been so amazing and refreshing to have him by my side during the last five years of my photography journey.
Your photography is so vibrant and full of life. How do you stay motivated to create fresh, engaging imagery?
Oh, wow! That is such a nice thing to say. Thank you! I wish I had a good answer for this but my answer is just to keep pushing. I am inspired by life and people and my own unique tastes and preferences and I strongly believe that everyone can keep their images fresh and engaging by staying true to themselves. If you want to photograph a child wearing hipster glasses, photograph them. If you don’t, don’t. To me, it really is that simple.
If you could go back in time, what one piece of advice would you give your brand-new photographer self?
I would tell myself that the road I had ahead of me was going to be extremely difficult and often extremely lonely but that, even a few years later, it would be so worth it that I would do it five times over.
What has been your #1 most rewarding moment as a photographer?
There are so many. SO many. There’s nothing better than photographing a bride as she gets ready on her wedding day. There’s nothing better than photographing a starry-eyed, crazy-in-love couple and there is nothing better than photographing a newborn baby in their new home and there is absolutely nothing better than photographing a super excited, giggly high school senior and there’s definitely nothing better than sneaking a photograph of your parents snuggling on the couch or a photograph of your husband sitting across from you at dinner. Really, for me, there is nothing better than photographing people. Nothing. But, for me, the most rewarding moment was this:
I had my second son, Huck, in October 2012. The photos above were taken the very first second that my oldest, Max, met his baby brother. He was so excited and so thrilled and also super excited to come in and see me and my husband since he hadn’t seen us all morning. I have C-Sections and still could not feel the lower half of my body when this was taken but, because I had studied so much, I was able to have my mom hand me my camera, quickly take four or five photographs, hand the camera back to my mom, and then snuggle my babies. Huck is nearly sixteen months now and I still tear up every time I look at this set of photographs.
We see such honest and genuine emotion in your imagery. How do you balance infusing yourself- your artistic eye and photographic voice- into your imagery with capturing the spirit and personalities of your clients?
Oh, I could write a novel about this! If it’s not already obvious from the title (The Hue of You), my entire Breakout focuses on putting yourself in your photographs. That’s where it starts! If you do not know yourself, your photographs aren’t going to show yourself, either. Photography is so personal and, even when we do not mean to, we leave traces of ourselves in our photographs. I think that this is absolutely amazing and I am constantly blown away by photographers who are so confident that, by looking at their photographs, you get to know them. I want that in my photographs. I think all of us do. However, at the same time, my photography is not all about me. Sure, there are times that it is but, if I am working with a client, my photography is definitely not all about me- it’s about them. When I photograph a wedding, I have an awesome time. I laugh with the bridal party. I leak a tear or two during the ceremony. I really live that day but, at the same time, it’s definitely not my day y’know? It’s theirs. And it’s not just like that with wedding photography- it’s like that with all of my photography. It took me a while to realize this but, a year and a half ago, I realized that the more personality my photographs had, the happier I was with them. Because, yes, my photographs are mine but, at the end of the day, my grandkids most likely are not going to be looking at the photographs I took of a high school senior. But! My client’s grandchildren will look through those photographs to find traces of my client. They won’t care about me- why would they?- but they will really care about those photographs. It is my ultimate goal for all of my clients to have a friend view their photograph and say “This is SO you!!”. That’s what I want. I genuinely care about the subjects of my photographs and I want more than anything for their personality to come through. To pull that personality out, I genuinely, honestly care about each of my clients and, at the session (and before and after, too), I talk to them and really get to know them the best I can. Sometimes this can be challenging but it is always rewarding.
What are the top 3 items on your photography bucket list? Things you want to shoot, places you want to shoot, gear you’d like to try?
I would love to photograph a wedding in Paris, photograph Iceland, and try out underwater housing.
Photographically speaking: always follow the rules, know the rules and then purposefully break them, or ignore them altogether?
I think it is SO important to know the rules. I’m sure there are photographers who would disagree with me (I used to be one of them!) but, really, if you don’t know the rules, you don’t completely understand what you are doing (and that’s okay when you are learning!). If you break a rule and can explain why you’re breaking that rule, then I say break it and break it good. If you’re breaking rules and unable to explain how you are breaking them, I think it’s time to step back and study a bit. I have lots of rules I break, lots of rules I always follow, and lots of rules that I am willing to sacrifice for my overall vision. Every photographer is different and I think it’s amazing when people embrace who they are and pick and choose the rules that apply to them but, really, you need to know the rules to do this. Definitely don’t ignore them!
What is your favorite outfit to wear on a photoshoot? Care to share any links?
Well. I love me some clothes. I love dressing cute for sessions but I also think it is super important to wear inexpensive clothes that can be thrown out if damaged (I ruin clothes all the time at sessions). At weddings, I dress like a wedding guest. And yes! I’d love to share some links!
Beyond the miraculous foot bending talent you mention on your About Me page, what is one thing about you that most people would be surprised to know?
Ha! It’s true- I can turn my feet backwards. Such a weird talent! But! Aside from that, I think that people would be surprised to know that I changed the spelling of my name after high school. My full name is Elisabeth and, growing up I went by the nickname Elisa. Elisa was pronounced “Elyssa” and, more often than not, people dropped the E and called me “Lyssa”. So, when I transferred universities after my freshman year, I switched the spelling to Lissa. There are times when I really miss the old spelling of my nickname but, at the same time, Lissa is mispronounced less than Elisa and it is so nice to not have to constantly correct people on the pronunciation of my name. Other than that, I married my husband 5 months and 2 days after the first day we spoke. That one still surprises me!
Your city is on fire and they can only save the Target or the Panera. Which one do you choose?
Ooooh… is Mellow Mushroom safe? I would definitely pick Target! I love Panera, though. Tough choice!
Congratulations on your upcoming Breakout Session, Lissa! Who do you think would be the ideal participant for your session and what should they hope to learn?
Thank you so much! The ideal participant for my session is someone who loves photography and someone who really, truly wants their photographs to be unique.
Thank you Lissa for the fantastic interview! Make sure you head over to Lissa’s website, blog, and facebook to view more of her gorgeous work. If you have a question for Lissa, you can ask in the comments below or in her ask the pros thread on the forum.