It’s June (how?!) and we’re kicking off this month on the CMblog with an interview from CMpro of the Month, Elena Blair. We are thrilled to have Elena here sharing her beautiful work and inspiring words!
june cmpro of the month | elena blair
Congratulations on being this month’s CMpro of the Month, Elena! I’d love to start your interview with you telling us a little about yourself and how you became interested in photography.
Thank you so much, I am honored! I have always been interested in photography. About ten years ago my husband bought me a refurbished Canon FTb 35mm film camera along with a photography class. I loved everything about it but assumed I would never have a dark room of my own. After the class I put photography on the back burner. Once our son was born, my interest was sparked once again as I wanted to capture his life beautifully. I got my first DSLR in 2009 and never looked back!
You are a wife, mother and have a career outside of photography and seem to have a fabulous balance with everything. How do you find this beautiful balance?
I feel like this is something I have to be conscious of every day. My family is my number one priority. My husband and I made a firm decision that we would be the ones who cared for our children and that we would not rely on nannies or daycare. We do co-operative preschool and I only work on the weekends or in the evening when my husband is home. My career outside of photography is nursing which has very flexible hours, and I only work a small number of hours. I take on limited sessions a month and stick to my limit. I edit and work on my business early in the morning before everyone gets up for the day. Being a wife and a mom always comes first.
Your images seem so full of life and emotion. How do you plan each session to achieve this?
I am not sure this is something that I plan, per-say. I believe that I have a gift for being able to feel and see emotion, and I consider myself an intuitive person. After my sessions get going, I get a feel for my subjects. At that point, I stand back and observe, gently directing into good light, and subtly guiding their interactions. This is why I love family and newborn photography. I feel like there is innately so much emotion to be captured between loved ones.
You have been described as organic and it shows through in your images. What is your inspiration to photograph this way?
Organic is a way of life for me so it is not surprising that my work continuously gets described in that manner. I am passionate about natural parenting and living. I gave birth to our daughter at home, and I believe in extended breastfeeding and attachment parenting. We have a big garden and keep chickens,and it is just a way of life for me and my family. I live in Seattle, which is a very green and organic place to live. Seattle has a vast diversity of natural and organic locations. My photography is just an extension of the natural and organic person that I am.
You photograph a good number of newborns. Do you think your role as a nurse has helped make your newborn sessions easier or harder?
Yes, I do a lot of newborn work. I am a NICU nurse and have worked in very high risk hospitals in my career where I have seen a lot of sick babies. I think that having this background absolutely helps me with my newborn sessions. I have been trained on positioning babies so that they are comfortable and safe. I also have a deep understanding about just how precious a healthy newborn is. This makes each session that much more special and meaningful for me. I also feel like my clients trust me because they know I am a NICU nurse.
Your work on the Daily Project is always so emotive, moody and detailed. What inspires these photos?
My kids. My children, and I think most children, are intense little creatures. They have so much raw emotion just waiting to be captured. A lot of my daily project work is me getting right up close to my kids and capturing what is happening throughout their day. It is not always smiles and bright light, and is often deep and complicated and I think that is where the moodiness and emotion come from. Being with kids day in and day out is beautiful but it is hard. Photographing the intensity of childhood through a mother’s eye is all I am trying to do.
Running a business can be difficult. What have been the biggest challenges that you have found pertaining to your business and how did you overcome them?
I find the business side of photography quite fascinating and I actually enjoy it very much. I think you have to be as creative in business as you are in photography to make it in this industry. My biggest challenge (I know I am not alone here) is comparing myself and my business to others. Once I realized that my business was as unique as my photography, I really turned a corner. I stopped comparing my business to others and did what felt right for me and my family. I am proud to say that I am right where I want to be business wise, and have seen nothing but growth and success in the past year. I learned that there are many ways to run a photography business, but that my way is the best for me.
What are your favorite subjects to photograph and why?
Families, children, and newborns. I love the natural, organic emotion that is within all families. All my sessions focus on connection. While I do get some posed newborn shots, the natural connection shots are always my favorite part of the session. My children are my favorite subjects, because I know them so intimately that it is not hard to capture who they are with my camera.
We love hearing advice from others! What is some of the best advice that you have received and how has it affected your business?
I have been so fortunate to have so many wonderful friends and mentors in the photography community, many of whom I met on CM! It is hard to pinpoint the best advice I have received. A wise and trusted photographer told me to believe in myself; to stand behind my style and brand, and that the right clients would soon come my way. She was right. Because they have connected to my work, they connect to me, in turn allowing me to create emotive and natural images that they will treasure.
You’re working on a breakout for CM. Tell us about it!
Yes, over the past few months I have been working very hard on my breakout session! I am so excited about it! It is all about my approach to family portraiture. I want photographers to know that family portraiture can satisfy your clients but also be fulfilling to you as an artist. I will take my breakout participants through self-guided critique, give them my detailed approach to my family sessions, and explain how I capture authentic and emotive images. I also go into my editing style and explain how I create the organic images I have become known for. I also give tips on how I show my clients that their family can be a work of art. You could benefit from my breakout session whether you are in business or not, because there is a big emphasis on self-critique and capturing emotion. I hope to inspire and help as many photographers as I can!
Thank you Elena for the fantastic interview! Make sure you head over to Elena’s website, blog, facebook, and instagram to view the rest of her gorgeous work. If you have a question for Elena, you can ask in the comments below or visit her ‘ask a pro’ thread within the photography forum.