Today’s interview is with Melissa Stottmann!
Hi, Melissa. I’m looking forward to getting to know more about you. To start, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into photography?
Sure, I’m so excited to be CMpro of the month! In 2008 I was due to have my daughter and wanted a camera that I could get “quick” pictures of her with a “fuzzy” background. I bought a Nikon D40 and really had no idea what I was doing. I shot on auto for about 4 months and found a small forum that pushed me to start teaching myself how to use the camera and my love affair has continued to grow since that moment.
It says on your web site that you are vegan and passionate about preserving the earth. Do you find that these two things spill over into your photography?
What my website should really say is that I’m trying my hardest to be vegan. I am about 95% there. It’s a bit of a steep learning curve and I am doing my best but get into a few tricky situations here and there! I don’t know that my heart for the Earth and veganism necessarily spills into my photography. I do love simplicity, in my work, and keeping things as simple as possible. I suppose many portions of caring for the Earth and eating vegan is quite a bit in line with a simpler life.
Would you care to share one of your current favorite images with us? Why is it a favorite?
My favorite image changes quite often, but currently, this image of my children is so incredibly close to my heart. It’s a perfect depiction of them together. Yes, they have their moments of arguing, but the way my daughter is leading my son is true to how mothering and loving she is with him. He loves to emulate her, and in this image he is doing just that and allowing her to lead him. Their simple clothing and the location all just worked together (and this was spur of the moment and just happened to be what I dressed them in).
It looks like you live in a beautiful area, and you incorporate it wonderfully into your work. Do you have a favorite lens for shooting these environmental portraits?
We really do live in a beautiful and lush area, and I am constantly searching for new areas to shoot. My favorite lens, for outdoor portraits, is the 85mm 1.8D. This lens lets me be close, but not too close to my subjects. Being a bit further away often helps in their comfort level while I’m close enough that I am still able to offer some guidance.
Besides beautiful surroundings and lovely sunshine, what other things inspire you and your photography?
Like I mentioned a bit earlier, I am so inspired by simplicity but also moments. I want my subjects to be the stars of my portraits, and love to bring the attention to them. Most of my ideas come when I’m in the thick of shooting. I have to be ‘doing’ to be creative and inspired. With that said, I like to get out often so I can be inspired, especially when it comes to location scouting. I plan my locations so carefully and know them so well that my subjects can be my focus of my shoots instead of worrying about the light and the surroundings.
How did you decide to go into business instead of keeping photography only as a hobby?
This is a loaded question, haha. Honestly, when I began putting photos on Facebook people began telling me how much they loved them and I kind of assumed that going into business was the natural order of things. I jumped in, albeit too early, and much of my photography was learned in the field and thinking on my feet.
From your blog, it appears that you shoot a lot of maternity and newborns. What is it about these sessions that you enjoy the most?
The moment between a mother and a child is without a doubt a prime draw to maternity and newborn photography for me. I love shooting maternity sessions when a mother has 1 or 2 children already – there is something about everyone waiting and expecting that truly makes my heart sing. I suppose it closely parallels my own life and loves.
In your family work, you get a nice mix of posed and more relaxed images. Do you have any good advice to help clients relax in front of the camera?
Learning to get a family to relax has been quite a bit of work, and really, so much of it is my comfort level with them. I am incredibly laid back, chatty, and often will ask them to get a bit silly. When someone feels silly they will often giggle and that’s when the most natural expression and reactions are drawn out.
You have a great handle on processing and a very consistent style. Do you have any advice to other photographers who are still searching for their style?
Thank you! I believe that so much of what I love and photograph almost FINDS me. By being open to inspiration and in the right mindset I often felt as though I stumble upon what I love. I found my love of dreamy light through shooting in one certain location. I knew I loved the images, and really studied them to find what I loved most. I continued to shoot in a way that dreamy light became more of a central feature outdoors. For newborns, I took that same process and I really feel like it’s an on-going journey. My best advice would to just be open and give yourself permission to always search.
I loved your shootout with Celeste Jones on the CMblog. Did you two meet through Clickin Moms or did you know each other before joining CM?
We did meet through Clickin Moms! We didn’t realize how close-by we both live, only about 10 minutes away! Our local Clickin Moms group met up a few months ago and we chatted there for awhile and decided we were going to need to extend our conversation to more meet-ups.
Rumor has it, you have a breakout session coming out with soon. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
I sure do! My Breakout is called “Simplicity: Planning and Preparing to Find Your Simple”. There is information about photographing your children, families, newborns and my process. Over time I have simplified my process and I share details about this as well as offering up challenges and tips for people to find who they are in order to help them move towards their own style of simplicity in their images. In the Breakout there is information about journaling, finding locations, preparing to shoot, shooting, processing – it’s basically a tell all book about my process and helping you find you while making everything easier!