Today’s interview is with Michelle Moore!

How and why did you decide to become a photographer?

It was pretty much by accident how I fell into photography.  I had an interest in photography in high school, but it was more of a hobby at the time.  When I was in college I was asked by some friends to come to a concert and photograph their band playing live.  I immediately fell in love and starting going to a lot of live shows, and shooting band promos.  Once I had done that for a few years, I started to realize I wanted to do more with photography.  I worked with a lot of actors while still in college shooting headshots, and various events, and portraits.  By the end of my time in college I knew I wanted to pursue photography as a full-time career and just went for it.  I wanted to do it because I love being around people, and I love fashion, and found that I could blend the best of both worlds through fashion photography.

When you began your photography career you started by shooting bands and have gradually moved into senior and fashion photography.  Describe for us how you switched your specialty and how it affected your business.

When I first started my career with band photography, I was still in college and just doing photography for fun.  I started taking on odd jobs (family portraits, kid portraits, weddings, etc.) and once I had decided to go for it full time I had to continue taking on any type of work.  I did anything and everything that paid to get started and keep my business going.  Eventually I moved to doing weddings full time in the first years of my business.  It wasn’t my main passion, but it kept me in business, and allowed me to continue doing the other things I wanted (fashion, and eventually high school senior portraits).

Once I found senior portraits – I knew I had found my true passion and calling.  I still shot weddings while I was breaking into senior portraits, but once I was able to go full time it completely changed my business for the better.  It was scary at first taking that leap to do only what I really wanted to do, but once I did I haven’t looked back.  I was finally able to throw all my energy and focus on doing what I really wanted and making it the best business possible.

What advice would you offer someone who wants to specialize, whether it be seniors, newborns, weddings, etc?

At first you are going to want to try everything out – you probably aren’t sure what you want to specialize in, and even if you think you do, you might hate it.  Try everything first – see what makes you stay up at night dreaming of new ideas.  Find a way to get there.  If you have to do something else for a while to support your passion than do it (even if it’s not photography yet).

When I had my senior portraits taken over ten years ago my photographer provided a make-up artist but I’ve recently discovered that it’s still relatively unheard of for a photographer to include this.  Can you tell us the importance of make-up in relation to photography?

I’ve found that working with makeup is extremely important because it can elevate your work to the next level.  When you have a great makeup artist (or team of artists) your work has consistency and looks professional no matter what.  A makeup artist will know how to do makeup for camera – and that’s not something teens are familiar with.  I go into extreme detail in my Breakout Session on how to incorporate professional makeup into your sessions, so be sure to check that out!

Do you offer any styling advice to your senior clients?

I do have a “Wardrobe Tips” section on my website that clients have access to before their session.  Mainly they look to my past work for ideas, and previous clients (that they are friends with) for help picking and choosing.  I make sure to only share work on my website that is consistent with my brand and style of clients I want to attract so the work I do now is minimal because I’m attracting my ideal client, and they all happen to be quite stylish on their own!!  Every senior client on my website is wearing their own clothes that they picked out and brought to their session.  If they brought more than the allotted number of outfits, I will help narrow down the best choices, but that’s it.

Your blog states, “Michelle loves helping high school seniors see their inner and outer beauty with her boutique-like portrait experience, and bringing awareness to healthy body image through her fashion and celebrity editorial work.”  How do you go about ‘bringing awareness to healthy body image‘ with your photography?

The biggest thing I advocate in my work is that I never over re-touch or edit my photos in way that looks over Photoshopped or fake.  I want my clients to see that they CAN look beautiful and like something out of a magazine without all that editing that goes on.  I work with a professional makeup artist so that no matter what their skin looks great, and their makeup is camera ready, and I always look for the best locations and pose them in the most flattering way.  When at my sessions I am always giving positive feedback and comments to my clients to help them feel confident and great about themselves.  I am always positive in every piece of communication with my client and about my images so that future clients come to expect that they will have a great experience as well and receive images that look natural, and beautiful.

A lot of senior photography you see on the internet is very grown up and Vogue-esque but you do a fantastic job of creating gorgeous portraits of seniors, capturing their beauty and maturity while maintaining their youthfulness.  Being a fashion photographer too, how do you keep from bringing too much fashion style photography into your senior work?  When do you know you’ve crossed ‘the line’?

Thank you!  I work very hard to keep my brand very light and fresh and never too “adult” or “inappropriate”.  I think the biggest thing that keeps it from being too much like a fashion shoot is that my clients are always wearing their own clothes.  I want the session to be about their personality first and so I stay focused on that.  If I find that the client has some clothes that are more mature, or want to pose and make expressions that are more serious, I will find a way to tone it down.  I heard a trick somewhere once that if one element is a bit mature – to make sure the rest is young and youthful.  For example, if the client is wearing something like a mid-baring top, or a sexy dress, I’ll have them smiling a lot and keep the poses simple and not too provocative.  This still keeps everything safe and mom-friendly, while allowing your client to still express herself.

How does the business behind fashion/editorial photography differ from senior portraiture?

When shooting fashion you are selling clothes or a product, but with portraiture you aren’t selling the same things.  With your portrait clients you are capturing their personality and their identity, and selling that to them and their families.  There are a lot of things that are similar – you are there to please your client, but I think with portrait work you are able to create something that is really true to YOU.  If you are good at marketing yourself, and your work is marketable you can in find a way to shoot for yourself AND please your clients, but with fashion and commercial photography you are always there to please your clients.  I think that in a way they are more similar than you would think – especially on the business side because you are there to sell something and make your clients happy – versus fine art photography, where you are creating something completely for yourself; and trying to sell that is more difficult because all art is subjective.

You’re obviously a fan of Pinterest, but where else do you draw your inspiration from?  Magazines, movies, nature, etc.?

Yes I’m OBSESSED with Pinterest! I also pull a lot of inspiration from movies – and live music concerts.  I love seeing the way things are lit and thinking of how I may want to use it in a fashion or photo shoot.  For seniors I am inspired by the every day – the way light falls across faces, and locations I may encounter throughout the day.  I’m always looking for light!  In terms of posing and all the rest I’m really inspired by brands I love, and lookbooks or magazines.  My favorite brands for inspiration are Anthropologie, Free People, Madewell, and tons more.

Tell us a little about Salt & Prep.

salt&prep was a side project I started in early 2010 as a way to have my own blog specifically for teens and teen photographers.  I wanted my own little space on the web for teens to spend time getting ideas for their senior portraits, and education about healthy body image.  It was also the first website dedicated to featuring senior portrait sessions from across the nation.  I haven’t had a lot of time to work on it recently because I had my busiest year yet, but I’m planning to spend time in 2012 re-vamping it and giving it a new direction.  I’m hoping to get some help running it as well because it’s a personal project very dear to me and I have big dreams for it.  You can check it out here.

What has been one of your most memorable moments in photography?

I definitely think getting to work with Jessica Lowndes for the first time in 2010 for ZOOEY magazine was one of my most memorable, stressful and rewarding experiences.  It was for my first magazine cover and it was phenomenal to get to work with such a friendly, sweet and gorgeous celebrity.

What is on the horizon for Michelle Moore?  Anything you would like to see yourself doing or achieving in 5, 10, 20 years?

In the next 5 years I’d love to be working for all of my favorite brands and companies that I am inspired by, and traveling more to LA for celebrity editorials.  I will be coming out with my first product this year (be sure to sign up for my breakout session because everyone who buys a seat to that will get a 50% off coupon for the product I’m launching in Spring!), and I’m excited to see what that takes my business in the next years as I grow that new part of my business.  More long term I hope to have an office in New York and be working on big campaigns and doing more travel.  I’d love to teach in the long long term, or have moved into something similar to the photography industry, be it working on films (cinematography) or producing.  That’s still a long way away though!!

Today your breakout session on CM opens.  What amazing things will we be able to learn from you over the next two weeks?

My breakout session is geared for “Senior Success” – full of tons of information in regards to working with a professional makeup artist, shooting on location, and getting nice clean edits!  I’m really excited about working with Clickin Moms – even though I specialize in High School Senior Portraiture there is a ton of information for Portrait Photographers of all kinds who work with natural light (or want to learn more about it!).  There are quite a few videos and a 45+ page PDF full of details about working on location with natural light (and how to find the best locations).  You’ll even get to watch me in action as I photograph a High School Senior portrait session on location!!  I’m really excited about what we have put together – so I hope you sign up and enjoy learning!!

Thank you so much for sharing so candidly with us, Michelle!  We are so beyond excited about your upcoming breakout session at CM.  You can find more of Michelle’s senior work here and her fashion work here.  You can keep up with the latest from Michelle on her blog, Facebook and Twitter

Michelle’s breakout session on CM starts TODAY.  In this breakout session, Michelle  will share the secrets of successful senior photography and help you take your work to the next level.  For more information and to register for the session click here – hurry, space is limited!


Comment #31 which is Danielle H. who left this comment:  So glad I got signed up for the breakout session! It’s fantastic! Awesome interview too!  Thanks Michelle & CM!