In this transcription of the podcast, Lisa and I talk about switching to mirrorless and exploring new technologies with your camera to keep your business fresh.
Natalie: So I'm super happy to have you here. Yeah, I would love to chat about what brought you into photography and a little bit about what you do. You're a lifestyle photographer like me. How did you end up in this place of doing photography as a job?
Lisa: Good question. I asked myself that all the time. If I go way back, I took a high school photography class loved, it was always the person that had a camera in high school and we're talking just the film, you know?
I was always documenting. So that was always something that I wanted to do, but I didn't think of it as a career choice going forward, fast forward to college, I took art classes and just absolutely fell in love with it. Went to Italy, studied in Florence and then fell in love with it even more as an art, really, you know, thinking of it more as like doing art, not really, again, portraits or anything like that.
And then I got a job out of college, working in a graphics place and still really liking just the art side of it. Then I had kids and decided I love taking photos of them and just wanted to pursue being able to stay home and keep doing photos. So it just kind of morphed into that. I think a lot of people it's kind of a classic segue into photography, but here we are. So I guess..
I'm 15 years in trying to make it a business and still learning every day.
Natalie: What's something that is working really well for you and your business that you maybe adopted gears ago or recently it could be a workflow or a process. Like what's something that you can't really live without in your business?
Lisa: I would say, well, as far as workflow, definitely light room, photo mechanic, that kind of thing for editing and Photoshop, I don't do, I'm not a heavy Photoshop edit backend. I don't make photos that are overly photo-shopped, but needing it still to clean up. So I would say just, I guess the, I love having the prime lenses.
Being able to edit right away, culling immediately afterwards. I think you told me that Natalie, to cull your sessions immediately, if you can.
Natalie: I mean, that's something that I, I didn't do right away. And some there, I mean, there's obviously an exception to everything. Like there's times where I don't, I just don't get to it that day.
But what I do try to do, and I've done this for a few years, is schedule and time around those shoots that I have, like after the shoot. So I see on my calendar, I'm going to shoot at 5:00 PM. I'll probably be home at six I'll schedule in another, whatever I need to call at least cull it as it's coming in as I'm ingesting it, because it, it just makes it so much easier to look at a desktop full of stuff that needs to be edited rather than called an edited. So yeah, you do that too.
Lisa: I do. I try to, and of course it's not a perfect system yet. I'm getting there because with kids and schedules and sometimes I'm running from here to there, but in this busy season that has kept me a little bit more sane.
I think it's so fresh in your mind, right after the session, you know, sometimes you take the photo four times in a row, for instance, and you just the same photo and you realize that you were trying for a certain aesthetic and you remember that sooner. And you're like, oh, that's why I only wanted that one.
I don't need to look at all the rest. And just, yeah. Living in that moment and then it, it's always exciting. It's like opening a present for me. I opened up, I'm all excited to look at the after, but two weeks later, like, oh, it's like work.
Natalie: That's so funny that you say that that's exactly how I feel too, is it feels more like work to dig through them later than it does when I'm excited to see the ones that I really know that I nailed or the ones that I purposely love.
Lisa: And if I can, I'd love to be able to give clients a sneak peek. That is something I think keeps their excitement going to totally, obviously this busy season that that definitely hasn't happened every time, but when I'm not as busy, that's, with PicTime that I've been trying to… it's an easier way, I think, to send a little sneak peek and the clients like it, and then they can share that immediately and it just keeps everything fresh. And, yeah. So I think right now that's definitely, as far as the workflow goes, that's something that I've just recently started.
I mean, we're talking 15 years in and I'm just implementing some of those things.
Natalie: Yeah, but you know, it's like, everything's always changing. I just started using Pictime at the beginning of 2021. So for me, it's like a whole new ballgame and like a whole new way. I've experimented with a bunch of different ways of doing stuff, which is like a completely different episode.
I think it's fun to be able to change up what you're doing and to try out different things. I think it keeps you relevant, but also it keeps the job from being really formulaic and boring. Yeah.
Lisa: Got to keep it fresh for sure. If you don't, it gets boring and again, like a job, but we're creatives. That's why it's so exciting to do this because everything is, can be new and exciting and it can also, it's comfortable too, because after all these years, I know I, I don't go into it with butterflies anymore, so I have to get excited for something and yeah.
Being able to kind of change things up, see what works, what doesn't.
Natalie: Yeah, no, totally. And it keeps it new and fresh. And, and you said that you do your culling with photomechanic?
Natalie: Yeah, me too. I think that, that I've, I've tried to go just straight in light room and do it and it's still just isn't doesn't do it for me.
It's not as fast as I thought.
Lisa: Yeah. And it's definitely like, the rendering is so much slower and you can fall when things are in focus, not in focus. You know, I just recently started using my old Mac book again as well. The, not Macbook, the big iMac, the big screen. And that has helped too, because I can see the images quicker and I can make those decisions based on just if it's in focus or not.
So then when I get down to working it's I can just, you know, be more mobile on the laptop and see, and I know they're in focus. I don't have to waste time zooming in.
Natalie: Yeah. Yeah. I do all my editing on my macbook Pro, my little laptop and I've done it for most of my career that way, but I, I did have an iMac for awhile and I might go back to that since I'm at home so much, I don't even foresee that I'll be traveling as much as I ever was for at least a couple of years with COVID and everything.
But I do have an external monitor that I have set up so that when I'm culling, even though the color is up with, off with the monitor, like it's definitely not the same color quality as the Mac. Like at least I can see it super big when I'm calling and I can be like not focused, focused, you know, and do that kind of stuff too.
So I think a bigger screen when choosing your images helps a ton.
Lisa: Absolutely that has been, and it's also, I back it up there, I back it up on another backup drive. And so I feel like I have everything just safely for now and I let that computer backup to the cloud so I can let everything just sit and be sluggish and slow there.
And then everything is faster on my laptop. Again, those are just things that just recently, I was like, “ah, that helps.”
Natalie: Yeah, for sure. For sure. So I host a Clubhouse room for photo business help every Monday at 2:00 PM central. And you've been joining lately and yesterday actually, because we're recording this on a Tuesday, you brought up the fact that you're thinking about exploring a different type of photography and this kind of fits into this journey piece of like trying out different things and seeing what you like to do, seeing what excites you, seeing what gives you butterflies, whatever. Do you want to talk a little bit about like that and what you're looking at testing out in terms of sports and things like that, or at least how you kind of started thinking about it?
Lisa: Definitely. So just recently, you know, my kids have always been in sports. So again, my kids drive a lot of my photography. I really like shooting people as my subject and my kids have been doing sports and so of course I like to take photos of them and I never thought of myself as a sports photographer. Action is not always my friend with my lenses, I have all portrait lens is 1 35, but I'm going to just make it work. And so I'm surprisingly get some pretty decent photos out of what I already have. And I, I just told myself, you know, it's not a big deal. I'm not making money off of it as of right now. So I just thought I would test it and turns out I love it.
So it's something I look forward to. I go and take photos during a whole game. Really documentary style. I just try to capture what's going on. I don't try to pose anybody. Of course, the kids love to come up and they want to get a photo of themselves together, but I still consider that living in the moment and just letting them be who they are.
I don't necessarily take them to the right lighting. I just let them be. And those are some of the happiest. That makes me happy. It brings joy to the parents to see their kids with really good photos. So yeah, something I'm just going to explore, you know, see if teams maybe want that as an add on something that they can have for the year and then maybe give a gift to the coaches at the end or the kids can buy them.
Natalie: Yeah. Well, I think what you said yesterday, you said a couple of things. Well, there's a couple of things that I think are important here, but you said, I think in the Clubhouse you were like, well, cause every kid at that age wants to be a star.
So they'll just jump in front of the camera.
Lisa: Absolutely. I know my kids play better when that camera's out, because they're performing for me.
Natalie: That is awesome. That's hilarious. Yeah. It's been fun. It's absolutely been fun. Well, what's cool about like you bringing this up and I, again, I've, I've known you well over 10 years now and you know, your kids are at a sports age now, you know, they're growing into their teens and stuff.
And it's something that I think is so important to remember. On this journey, if you end up sticking with it for a long time, like you and I have like being open to new stuff that you might really love. And the fact that you're like, it lights me up. I really love it. I get excited to do it. And maybe five years ago you were like now, or like it wasn't even on your radar.
Maybe it was, but like, I, I think for folks listening to just remember that, like, it might not be what you're doing forever and to try stuff. If you get the opportunity to, if someone asks you to do something totally different, you know, go out and try that food, photography gig or whatever. And if you hate it, you hate it.
And if you love it, you know, it might be a whole thing.
Lisa: I mean, I started out as a wedding photographer and no longer. That does not light me up.
I mean, I'm not saying it won't do a few here and there, but I wouldn't want to do it every weekend. I still love seconding.
Natalie: And we've shot many weddings together over the years.
Lisa: Yes we have. And I, I really enjoy actually working with other people. So, you know, thinking about like the photography for sports, I think it would actually be more fun to have someone else there too, because you could only capture so much in one angle.
I think of that from the wedding training, though. We know that there's different angles to be had, and it's just hard by yourself. So it's definitely all of this is, has built into this and who knows how long they'll do this. This might only be a short time and then we'll go onto the next thing I am thinking, I'm getting older. I'm probably not going to be shooting as actively for as long. So it's, it's always a, um, a journey to just kind of keep figuring out what your next thing what's going to be exciting. And also what, again, what's going to be happy. I mean, I can't imagine running around with two camera bodies on me in 10 years.
I'm probably not going to be that.
Natalie: Yeah, no, I think the same thing and we're close in age and it's, it's not that I, I don't ever see myself not shooting, but it's just the type of shoots and the way my calendar looks. So it's probably gonna change for me. Obviously kids, sports, photography, but I've gotten deeper down the rabbit hole of like conceptual stuff and heavy Photoshop stuff.
So that's something that like really, really gets me excited where I'm like, “I can't wait to edit this photo,” you know? And that's the feeling right? And, and even three, four or five years ago, that was not on my radar at all. I was heavy into weddings. I'm not really doing weddings anymore. I think the evolution is really important and trying out new things and staying relevant and stuff like that.
And one of the parts of your evolution, which we're going to talk about in part two of this interview, good segue is you switching to mirrorless and just to kind of touch on that for a second before we say goodbye, has it helped your sports photography?
Lisa: You know, I just shot my first for the first time using that mirror last weekend. So yes and no, because I'm learning a little bit, there is a little learning curve, not anything that I'm super worried about, but for, you know, quick, second thinking when you're doing sports, which is, you have to think really fast. I mean, a few things, all it takes is to bump. The spot meter. And I was like, oh my gosh, I can't figure out how to, you know, but then once I figured it out, it was fine.
So it's much faster. It's going to be a better tool once I've mastered it. And I don't expect it to take that long. I mean, I literally get the camera, opened it out of the box and brought it right to the field. So I wasn't able to get all my settings in there. I also went ahead and just bought a really cheap lens, which was, you know, good and bad because it's like a $300 lens, but I thought I want to try this.
I would say even with it super cheap lens, it is producing images that are the same quality as my $2,000 lenses. Now again, when I get at some point, if I were to really up my game and buy the much better lens, there'll be a difference. As of right now when people are looking on their phone, I don't think you can tell the difference.
Natalie: Yeah. And that's always something to I've talked about this for years is if you shoot a great photo and people are looking at it generally mobile, you're not going to see a whole heck of a lot of a difference unless you're printing it, unless you're looking on a big screen, even when they are uploaded to social media, they're sized and compressed and all that stuff.
So I think that's a good point to make.
Natalie: So we were chatting about your switch to mirrorless, and I don't want to spend too much time on it, but let's talk about that because I bought a mirrorliess. The XT 100 S I don't know, I bought one of those about six years ago and used it for travel.
Cause it's so light, but I just have the one lens that it came with, a 35. I've done no further investigation into mirrorless, even though it's clearly the, the new thing. I'm still shooting my Mark IV and my primes and stuff like that, Cannon. What's going on, what made you switch or just whatever part of the story you want to start in.
And I'm just curious, because it's something that's definitely on the horizon for me and probably folks listening.
Lisa: Yeah. So I'm by no means a tech person and I'm probably going to get things wrong, but I'm shooting. I started with a Mark II Mark III, or that's what I've had this season. And I started to notice that the mark two that the shutter is going.
And so it would have like this black line across the half of the photo. Super fun if you want artsy film, but I didn't. It was also having issues with focusing and I've tried everything.
So I went and rented a lens to see if it's my lenses, if it's my camera. My camera seemed to respond better to a new lens. I thought, well, that's good. And then I started, I told, I went to west photo and I told them what was going on and they said, oh it sounds like that camera's going to go too, so in panic mode, I started researching.
So, again, kind of back to the sports thing. I wanted a lens, possibly a telephoto, because I was interested in getting a little bit further on the fields when I'm taking those photos, but they're so heavy, like make my back and neck hurt kind of heavy. So I was looking at what's the lighter lens while the lighter lenses are made for the mirror of this camera.
And so here we are, after two months of kind of researching them, I went and rented one at West photo as well. And it was like night and day. My lenses work better. My, my work– talk about workflow. I only have to take two photos and know that they are in focus like dead on. 1.2 on a 50 millimeter lens that has never been in focus like that with my Mark.
Yeah, I wouldn't do, I wouldn't shoot that all the time, but I was just testing to see. So it just seemed like a really, for my work flow, for everything that I do, it's a better fit for me. Some of the other things that I can think of why it's been great, you know, when you're taking photos of kids and you, sometimes you have them lay down on a blanket for instance, and you can set your camera up above them.
Well, the has the, uh, LCD screen where you can see it. You don't have to have your eyes through that eyepiece. And again, I don't know if another camera is already doing that. Maybe they are, but for me, this was a transition because Mark III is you have to look through the eye piece to even see anything. And so you're able to just get the shot that you want and you can compose it.
And I was like, that's such freedom. I wasn't even thinking of those types of things. When I was getting the camera, you can, you know, look at the levels and see if you're level by just holding the camera up. So those are just some of the main things. Again, just that focus is the real is the main thing.
Talk about joy. It's bringing me joy again because I was getting really frustrated. Having 7, 8, 9 captures in a row that were out of focus.
Natalie: What model did you get?
Lisa: I got the R6, I think is what it's called.
Yeah. Yeah. So it's not, it doesn't have the biggest mega pixel. It's the two, the 20 mega pixel.
Natalie: This is something that I've had come up, maybe with you, but also with a couple other people, Audrey brought it up, even though she has the Nikon mirrorless version that like the newest iteration of mirrorless, the sensor is so massive that the files are so massive that folks have been recommending not to do that.
Lisa: Yep. At theyWest recommended that as well. It was really good to hear from, you know, quote-unquote pros that like, you don't need that. And I asked why you wouldn't want that. And they, they couldn't actually give me an answer. They, they said that the R6 was actually even better with like low light situations.
And I, that doesn't, that didn't make sense to me at first, but they said, well, you have the pixels are better at that range for lower light. It's smaller for your computers, hard drives. And you know, again, unless you're blowing up to billboard size, which most of us aren't, I mean, I'm happy to get a client to blow up anything to 11×14.
Natalie: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So that was advice from West Photo, shout out to West Photo in Minneapolis. Yes.
Lisa: West photo, they are very helpful. They're a wealth of knowledge. I go on there and I am always asking them a million questions. So, um, and you can rent something there from Friday to Monday at two o'clock.
So if you know, really you can really get a feel for something for one price is what I'm getting at.
Natalie: So I've always been a big advocate of renting stuff. Particularly if you're looking to upgrade to really expensive gear, you know, top level stuff, like as you said, $2,000 lenses, whatever, before purchasing something that expensive, I always recommend renting it, but I used to go to West back in the day. It's been years since I've rented from them, but I loved the weekend deal because it was a ton of time to practice with whatever it was I was practicing with. And then, uh, usually I'd have a good idea. For example, I was trying to figure out if I should buy an 85 millimeter prime or a 1 35, and I bought the 1 35 first, just for different reasons. But I mean, it was like something that, unless I had tested it, I wouldn't have known.
Lisa: Absolutely. Yep. It's so worthwhile to do that. If you can. I mean, it's such a big investment, you know, these cameras aren't cheap. So before I bought them and I'm so glad I did that because again, going at that, well, get a new camera and you're like, oh, there's three different bodies. And what is going to be the one that fits me well. The other thing is from my Mark III to this, the profiles are almost the same.
So as far as editing, you know, better quality. I do have to go in and actually kind of fix my old settings a little bit, but it's so close that I feel confident holding both bodies, you know, sometimes when you have bodies from different- I had like the mark II in the mark III- the editing couldn't be together. So again, more time and I want something that, talk about that workflow again, to be efficient. I want to be able to be, get in and get out. And this is a little bit closer. It will be even closer once I get my settings kind of mirrored together. I was doing a session last night.
I was so excited to edit the ones with the mirrorless, because it was so much faster. Ah, I have to go back to the mark III. I'm like, okay. These are going to be a minute.
Natalie: Yeah. Yeah. Well, that's cool to hear that the profile is similar. I know I've gone on about this before, but I'm going to just say it again.
People have heard this probably a few times, but the best color profile I have ever had has been my Mark II with my 51.2. And I still can't like, I still will sometimes pull that out and use it at many sessions or whatever. It's so amazing, but it's nice. Uh, it's it's always a little jarring when you have to readjust all your settings and presets and Lightroom things to a new profile.
So that's cool.
Lisa: Yeah, I agree. I, in fact, that's why I was still using the Mark II. It's one of my favorites and I still love to bring it for my own family photos because I get to be a little bit more, I don't know. I always change up my editing style from my own stuff. I don't know why. And that was my favorites closer to film, maybe because that's where I start.
Any many moons ago, um, with film and it gives that quality. But I think in this day and age, I'm trying to stay current and trying to compete with what's out there. Nothing is going to come close to the mirrorless as far as what's in focus. And it does have an eye tracking, which can be really, really nice.
And you have kids that are running towards you. It'll track them the whole way. I think I only got one image that was blurry. And I think that was more user error. Again just learning how to use it better. You can go in between that and then having it be a spot meter, um, you can toggle it really quick and easy.
Those are, there's a bunch of YouTube videos on how to get these things set up. So I would highly recommend doing that just to get the most out of it. I still, I mean, there's things I haven't figured out that I'd be happy to after I work with the camera for a couple of weeks I bet, there's a lot more.
Or if anyone even is using one now, I'm sure they know a lot more than I do. There's so many settings.
Natalie: The Mark IV was the first time in my career that I didn't take the time to learn every single setting because I didn't need it for my workflow, but there's always a million things that can be done for sure.
Before we jump off, I always like to ask folks a version of this question, but if you were to speak to either yourself 15 years ago, or someone who's just getting started, that's listening right now. What's something that you would offer up as a piece of advice in this, career/journey as a photographer.
Lisa: Well, I would definitely say I think two things. This is part of it. What we're doing right here. Get in a community with other photographers, because there's so much knowledge out there. They're not your competition, they're your best friends. I think we all support each other so much.
So that would be the first thing, but also to turn off looking at other people's work. At certain points. I do think, you know, sometimes it's good to do that for inspiration, but I know all of us can become our worst critics and I think we need to just own our own creativity and style for a time, especially in the beginning and just let that be what it is.
And if you're not happy with it, that's one thing. But if you're happy doing what you're doing, don't let what everybody else out there is doing influence what you're doing. There's definitely days I look at at other people's work. And I think it's just beautiful, but it's so different from my style that if I were to just switch gears in the middle, I don't know if it represents who I really am as an artist and that's at the end of the day, what we all are. I don't think many people do this job if you're just trying to make money, because it has that artistic sense sensibility to it that you have to have in order to. At least for, for most of these, the things that we're doing, families and things like that.
Natalie: I think that's awesome advice. I think that's really good. One of the things I recommend to folks that I work with as well is in addition to not looking at what other photographers are doing in your genre. It can be really helpful to look at genres that are completely different from your own for inspiration.
So I like to look back through the archives that like folks like Gordon Parks or Diane Arbus or whatever, and really look at stuff that's like, not what I'm doing. I mean, it's still portraiture and it still tells a story, but I think getting your head out of, out of the space, because if you jump on Facebook or you jump on sort of anywhere and look at lifestyle photography or family photography, it just is very same-y.
I think there was a period of time when like the preset world started happening and like everybody's photos looked like sun blasted and orange-ish.
Lisa: I may have purchased a few of those.
Natalie: Trends are cool, I'm not knocking any of that. Cause we all went through it. But I do think what you are offering up to people is super smart. Just, just ignore it, you know? And then just for awhile, shoot, what feels good to you.
Lisa: Absolutely. Or even if you just do your own personal projects and let yourself just have that freedom to be what you really are. And see if it works for your style. I know when I shoot sports, it's a totally different image quality, or I edit that different than I do family portraiture. So I'm experimenting, you know, and then maybe, maybe I'll switch one or the other, I don't know.
But I think again, just, don't be too hard on yourself and allow yourself freedom to create. Come back to what is really you and see where it goes. So I guess that's, that's what I would tell myself, because I think there's sometimes if, when, if the doubt creeps in, it can become, that's not a good day.
Natalie: Yeah. And we all have the doubt and I think that's great advice. I appreciate you bringing that up. Where can people find you if they want to connect with you? What's the best spot. I am Gray Duck Studios. That's my business name. And so you can find there's a website, grayduckstudios.com. I'm on Instagram and Facebook.