Today’s interview is with Alice Che!

Congratulations on being chosen as CM Pro of the Month, Alice! Will you start by telling us a little about yourself? Career outside of photography, best childhood memory and highest item on your current lifetime bucket list?

Thank you so much! I am honestly still a little in shock. This is pretty much making my year. So outside of photography, I am a hardware engineer at Google with the self driving car team, despite having majored in Materials Science and Engineering rather than Electrical Engineering. I can’t think of a specific best childhood memory, but I know that my favorite part about my childhood is that I was blessed with the opportunity to grow up with both sets of grandparents. My grandparents on my mom’s side have lived a five minute drive away my entire life and my grandparents on my dad’s side lived with us until I was about 10. I have a lot of items on my bucket list, but I think the very highest on there is going to Europe, specifically Italy.

What first drew you to photography? How did your journey progress from there?

I got into digital scrapbooking in 2008 and by 2009 I’d realized that having good photos made layouts much better! I got my first camera (Nikon D90) in the fall and joined Clickin Moms in February 2010. I shot in Aperture mode for a good year or two, honestly. I always had my camera with me and took lots of smiling portraits with my friends that I treasure for the memories.. but I didn’t really start to focus on photography until after I graduated from college. I took the July 2014 run of Fine Art and Visual Expression and went on to take Mastering Natural Light Indoors, Art of Observation, Communicating with Color and Light, Composition and Creativity, and Find, Define and Refine Your Style as well as two workshops outside of CM. Midway through Composition and Creativity in April, I felt that I had a solid idea of who I was as an artist and that’s when I applied to CMPro!

woman sitting on a couch photo by alice che

self portrait of woman looking out window by alice che

What advice would you like to give to yourself, if you could go back in time to when you were first starting to study photography?

TAKE SHOOTING 102. Haha. No, seriously though. Certainly there are many people who are self taught and absolutely amazing… but I learn much better in more structured environment and it took me years to get comfortable with shooting in Manual. I wish I had the discipline to complete a 365, because I learn so much when I shoot daily, but unless I’m in a workshop (and even then!) I struggle with taking a photo daily.

In what ways does your day job influence your photography?

Hmm, I think the biggest way it influences my photography is that it makes me want a creative outlet. I love my work, but it is highly technical and doesn’t exactly allow for artistic expression. I have always enjoyed arts and crafts. When I was little, my mom found me crying once and when she asked why I was crying, I told her that my grandma had said that I couldn’t be an artist when I grew up, because one was enough in a family (my aunt is an artist). So here I am an engineer… who loves making paper flowers, doing calligraphy, and I am always looking for time to do the adorable Pinterest DIYs!

woman holding onto tree with pink blossoms photo by alice che

What 3 words best describe you as a person? Are those the same words that would describe you as a photographer?

Introspective, girly, caring. Certainly the introspective and girly part come through in my photography and Sarah Lalone pointed out during Find, Define, and Refine Your Style that the caring for other people comes out in my self portraiture because I don’t want to impose on other people. More than that though, I try to use my photography to make someone’s day better in some way. Perhaps it brightens their day to see something that is simply beautiful, perhaps it tugs at their heart and helps them find a bit of peace and closure over a rough period in their lives, perhaps it brings a smile because of the pure joy.

woman looking through a gate picture by alice che

You have a variety of artistic interests outside of photography, cooking and calligraphy being prominently displayed on your blog. Do you feel like those pursuits compliment your photography or play any part in the way you approach the craft of image making?

I’m not sure that my interests play a direct role in the way I approach photography, but they certainly are an aspect of my personality that shines through in my photographs as well. I love calligraphy for its graceful, elegant, classic lines, but I also love that it can be modernized and be a little more whimsical. These are all words that reflect my personality and I strive to show them in my photography as well!

Are there any gear or education purchases you’re planning to make in the next few months? What are you looking at and why?

I’m trying not to spend any money, but I’ve been wanting a Fuji mirrorless camera since last December. I adore my Mark III, but I like hiking and am hoping to start rock climbing outdoors and it would be amazing to have something lighter. As far as education purchases, I have a ton of CM workshops on the list. It seems like every time I check, there are new amazing courses I just have to take! I’m holding off any workshops other than Elements of Design with Sarah Wilkerson though (unless someone enables me, which is highly likely to happen. I’m looking at you, Felicia).

sunset over water self portrait by alice che

out of focus self portrait by alice che

Self portraiture is a common theme within your work. What value do you see to the process of creating images that feature yourself?

I love self portraiture! Part of the reason I started taking self portraits is because I wanted to practice different techniques and didn’t want to impose on friends as models. While this is still a big reason I do self portraiture, along the way I realized that I loved having another way of expressing my emotions and personality. I have always turned to my hobbies to do so. When I was younger, I used piano and writing as my medium. When I scrapbooked, I often added a lot of journaling. Now, I use photography, and specifically, self portraiture. In this past year or so, I have turned to self portraiture at the highest of the highs, the lowest of the lows, and everywhere in between.

self portrait of woman doing calligraphy by alice che

What is your number-one top-tip for a successful self portrait?

Give yourself a lot of time and take as many photos as you need to. The worst feeling is when you finally get the focus and composition you’re looking for and you realize you need to go do something else. There are certainly some days when I take 5-10 photos and get exactly what I’m looking for. The other day, however, I was out for a good hour, took 135 photos and still wasn’t completely sure I had gotten one I loved by the end of the session.

You’ve shared with the CM community in the past that you have an undying love for dresses. What is your favorite piece in your closet?

Oh man! That’s a hard question! I think my absolute favorite dress is actually the one I bought for my high school prom. It makes me sad that I almost never get to wear it because it’s so fancy (it’s black, floor-length and backless)! I’ve gotten a few self portraits in it though. My favorite day-to-day dress is probably my coral Scribble Scrabble Maxi Dress from Anthropologie (pictured below), which is unfortunately no longer available.

woman in red dress standing in a field photo by alice che

What is your go to recipe when you’re in need of comfort food?

Chicken soup is a big favorite of mine. When I was little, my mom would literally just boil a chicken and I loved soaking my rice in soup with some shreds of chicken. Now, I like to brown my chicken first and add some vegetables (that I also brown!). I use the recipe from Smitten Kitchen as a loose guide and add some wild rice instead of noodles.

Finally, you have a Breakout session coming out shortly. Would you share a little about what we can expect to see included in the materials and who this session would be a good fit for?

Yes! I am so incredibly excited about it. It focuses on self portraiture and touches on the various things I’ll consider before setting up a shot. Depending on the mood and message I’m planning on conveying, I’ll use different lighting, posing and various other techniques. I break down my approach to a self portrait and talk about four different ways to achieve good focus and other tips and tricks for setting up a shot. I also talk about how I keep my self portraits interesting, because there are only so many smiling headshots you can take! I think this session would be a good fit for anyone who has been a little hesitant about taking a self portrait or someone who needs some inspiration coming up with variety in their self portraits.

igloo in the mountains picture by alice che

environmental self portrait by alice che

self portrait of woman in a field by alice che

snow falling on woman in a pink coat pic by alice che

Thank you Alice for the fantastic interview! Make sure you head over to Alice’s website to view more of her gorgeous work and keep up with her happenings.