Happy October friends! A new month is here, the weather is changing, and we have a new CMpro of the Month for you – the wonderful Julia Stotlar. Julia is an amazingly talented photographer and I am always mesmerized by her beautiful use of light and how she portrays her subject’s feelings in each photo. The best part of photography interviews like these is getting a little peek inside the head of these fantastic photographers that I (and you) admire so much!
october cmpro of the month | julia stotlar
Julia, would you please take a moment to tell us a little about who you are and how you got involved with photography?
I am a mother of three charasmatic and wonderful kids, an eternal optimist, and a hopeless romantic. I am extremely emotionally driven and my work comes from that place. I grew up in a family full of artists and photographers (my mom still runs her successful portrait studio out of the home I grew up in) but didn’t find my own love for the craft until my oldest son was born. I had never experienced that level of love before, and it opened up something new in me that I felt moved to try to communicate through photographs.
I’ve heard it numerous times, “I’ve always loved photography but my parents said it was a useless career so I dropped my dreams when I went off to college.” However, your family was encouraging when it came to your artistic nature. Do you think that their positive position towards the arts helped you?
Absolutely! I come from a family full of artists and the arts have always played a big part in my life and childhood. To be encouraged by those you love to be creative, to see things differently and through your own eyes is really an incredible gift.
Support systems are important in life and you are well supported by both your artistic loving family and your photographer friends. Do you feel like there’s a difference in how your family supports and encourages you as opposed to your photography friends?
I think it’s about the same, although I feel that my immediate family members are more inclined to lovingly let me know when something isn’t working, or doesn’t look quite right, in order to help me learn and grow. My photography friends are there to lift me up and bring me back to life if I’m ever in a funk – I know I can hop online and lament about feeling like I want to toss my camera out the window and I’ll be met with tremendous support and encouragment. It’s a pretty wonderful feeling.
You had a major personal life change this past year and you are now a single mom to your three beautiful kids. Has your separation changed your photography or your business in any way?
It has been a huge time of change for me but I feel truly blessed to have gone through this amicably and to remain close friends and co-parents. My kids have a really great dad. It has been hard though, certainly sad and scary, and I definitely feel a shift happening in my work; I find myself very drawn to black and white right now (I can hardly stand to see any of my work in color at the moment, which is strange for me and I know that it has something to do with the change in the way I see myself and my life right now) and I’m feeling myself wanting to run as fast as I can in the direction of strictly lifestyle shooting, and strictly shooting for myself. I am also deeply questioning how I want to change the direction of my business, or if I even want to continue taking portarit clients at all. My mood and my motivation have changed so much, I’m really having to sit and think about what is next for me, and what it is that I really love about, and want from my photography.
Being a teacher, do you feel like that career has aided you in any way with your photography and interacted with children and parents during their shoots?
I have been a “kid magnet” for most of my life so teaching really came naturally to me. While I’m sure that it helped, I think that my rapor with kids is really something that has always been there, just a part of who I am. It’s funny, when I’ve done sessions in the past, I feel so much more comfortable with the kids…it’s the grown-ups that make me nervous!
You have a magical way with light. What is going through your mind when you’re examining the light and determining how to use it?
Pure, unadulterated emotion. It’s difficult to really put into words, but I am extremely moved by light; the way it can really illuminate a person from within, or pull your eye away from the rush of the day and bring it straight to the perfect curves of your child’s face, or the single dandilion seed sprouting in your front yard. For me, light is the breath of a photograph, it’s what makes it come alive and I look for light that really brings my subject to life.
If the light isn’t great or what you’re looking for do you still choose to shoot at that moment and/or location?
If I have to, yes. If it’s for a session and we’re pressed for time, I will, but if it’s just a personal shoot, I’d probably hold off until I had the light that I really wanted. I don’t feel as moved and ispired when the light isn’t what I want but truly, I think that if you have the vision, you can absolutely make any lighting situation work, and make it beautiful.
Lets talk lensbaby; you always seem to know exactly when to break that beautiful lens out. How do you decide when to use it and when not to use it? Do you feel like it could be overused?
Oh my gosh, I’m so in love with my Lensbaby and I have to say that, for me, I have to be “in the mood” when I use it. It has such a magical, otherworldly feel and I am more moved to use it when I’m feeling a bit sentimental, romantic, or melancholy. If there is great light (I love to use my Lensbaby when there is strong backlight – it creates the most beautifiul, brilliant, striated sunflare) and I’m in the right frame of mind, it’s like a little whisper in my ear “it’s lensbaby time…”. I suppose it could be overused, I think the conditions and mood have to be right for it. It’s a bit like fine china; I only like to take it out for special occasions.
Letters to our Daughters and Letters to our Sons are two personal projects of yours. Can you explain what they are and have the projects had any personal or photographical effect on you?
My wonderful friend Amy Lockheart invited me to be a part of Letters to Our Daughters and when I read her description of the project, I literally couldn’t type my “YES!!!” response fast enough. Letters to Our Sons is based on the same idea and came out of those of us with boys wanting to make them a part of this amazing project. Every month, we capture our children in photos and write them a letter, it can be about anything – and then the members of the group link to each other in a blog circle. Some of the letters are sentimental, some are funny, some are poingnat…all are treasures. I love these projects immensely. I look forward to my children reading them someday, and having a record of their childhood and how I saw them through my lens and through my words. This project has really helped to confirm to me my love for lifestyle photography; I want to capture my children as they really are for this project, being themselves, doing what they do, being who they are; no props, no posing, just life.
You are constantly photographing your children. How do they feel about your camera?
Ha! I wish I could say that they love it, but alas, they are my toughest subjects (ok, my middle child kind of digs it, but only for about 5 minutes and then he’s done). I have to trick them half the time and tell them that I’m not really taking picutres, just adjusting my camera – or bribe them with marshmallows. I can’t help myself though. I’m so in love with them, it’s impossible not to get my camera out when I see them in some moment that I don’t want to let slip by. For the most part, they just groan, perhaps roll their eyes, and tolerate their crazy mom. You’ll rarely see a photo of the three of them together, smiling for the camera though – they are complete stinkers when it comes to that!
You rock your iPhone. Just like when you’re using your big camera, your lighting and raw moments are captured beautifully. Do you approach your iPhoneography different than your professional shooting?
I see through my iphone the same way I see through my D700. I really don’t approach it any differently than I would with my “real” camera, the big difference is the ease of whipping my camera out of my purse at a moment’s notice and the magnificent instant gratification of e-mailing or posting my images.
What is your favorite iPhone photography tip you could offer?
PLAY!! It’s so easy to use your iPhone to take pictures and the more you do it, the more you will understand the little quirks of your own phone, the more you’ll be aware of things that would be great to capture (no longer will you walk past a dew-covered spider-web, or glance up at an incoming storm-cloud without your hand instinctively reaching for your iPhone), and the more fun you’ll have with it.
In your time spent with photography, what has been your hardest lesson to learn?
It’s been hard for me to let go of other people’s opinions of my work and to be comfortable just shooting what I want, how I want, and loving what I do despite the fact that there are going to be people out there that think it’s silly, or technically flawed (which it is…and I like it that way), or just plain bad.
Is there any advice you would offer to someone just starting out in their photography journey?
Be kind to yourself as you’re learning. It can be difficult to learn manual, to find your style, to keep from comparing yourself to others. If you love photography keep at it no matter what, learn all you can, and really be supportive and forgiving of yourself as you go.
A little birdie told me you’re going to do a CM breakout session soon. Care to tease us with some info?
Why, yes…yes I am! I’m really excited about it too. It’s really just a peek into the way my mind works, the way I view the world through my lens, and the things I do to feed and nurture my creativity and vision. I had a wonderful time putting it together and feel honored to have been asked to do it.
Thank you Julia for such a fantastic interview and for sharing your gorgeous photography! We are looking forward to your upcoming breakout session and seeing where your photography takes you over the years! Make sure you head over to Julia’s website, blog, and facebook to view the rest of her gorgeous work. You can also view one of her sources for inspiration on her Pinterest board and if you have a question for Julia please visit her ‘ask a pro’ thread within the photography forum.