When was the moment you first considered yourself a photographer and how did it feel?
"Great question. It definitely took a while. After I quite my corporate job people would ask me what I do, and I kept hearing myself say, “I used to work at State Farm and I guess I’m kind of a photographer.” That’s how I was feeling…no confidence. Aaaaand after a while, that answer didn’t work because well, it’s been 4 years people. ;) Ha! No, in all seriousness, I think it was when I started meeting people in the industry and all they knew me as was a photographer (about 2 years into shooting professionally). That was probably when I really began to own that title. How did I feel? Like a fraud. Haha!! How’s this interview going so far hu? Geesh. No, but that’s the truth…I remember thinking “If people knew how little I knew, and how heavily I relied on fixing my images in Photoshop, they’d tar and feather me”…’cause I’m not dramatic at all. I do remember the moment when I made the conscious decision to outsource my editing for a year because I wanted the accountability of other professionals seeing my RAW work and it forced me to become a better photographer. I don’t cringe at the thought of others seeing my images straight out of the camera anymore, and THAT was when I felt like a photographer."
You've worked as a celebrated wedding photographer for quite a few years now, what's your future look like?
Is there someone special that has encouraged your work?
"I could name sooooo many people here. But this isn’t an Oscar speech…although, should someone ever want to give me an Oscar, I’ve got a speech prepared! :)
There’s my family who are my greatest encouragers and keep everything in perspective for me. The people that come to mind outside of them are my blog readers…I’ve blogged for about 8 years now, and there’s a core group that have kind of been with me since the beginning. They can’t possibly know how I’ve relied on them. When people “confess” to me that they read my blog, I’m always thinking, “You have no idea how much that means to me!!” No confessions needed…I love it so much.
I’ve also made some really wonderful friends in the industry…and they’re all over the world! There’s a special bond in this industry if you choose to be generous in your support rather than competitive. I consider many of these people friends even though we’ve never met face to face."
“Celebrated photographer”…that’s going on my resume! ;)
I always have this itch to try new things. In my foreseeable future, wedding photography will be the core of what I do…but I love to play with and study other types of photography. Right now, I’m really interested in food photography and learning studio lighting. I have this love for editorial photography and want to really make space for that in my portfolio this coming year.
I also LOVE writing and talking to people…a little obsessed actually. Because of that, I’m in the works of developing some kind of podcast or video series where I’ll be interviewing people because there are so many great lives and stories that need to be shared…and it will be worked into my blog. Basically, I’m obsessed with a good story in all forms."
What words would you use to describe yourself?
"Quirky. I used to say “weird or nerdy” but friends gave it a sweeter word by calling me quirky. ;) I get compared to Jessica Day from New Girl a lot. I say I’m her without the professional writers and great wardrobe…which is just scary.
Thinker…a friend said to me once, “Your wheels are always turning”.
I’m not sure what the word is but someone who always likes to have fun. My brother-in-law thinks it runs in our family. Always up for a party! He’s right. Even if it’s cleaning or doing something mundane, if it can become something fun, I’ll do my best to make it that."
Where is the most memorable place you've shot?
"I would say, an elopement on the cliffs in Seattle, WA…it was stunning!!! And the entire country of Ireland because I love that place. I have a dream of shooting in Japan some day, and I think that will rank right up there."
What inspired your love of fashion and editorial photography?
"I’ve loved it ever since I was little. I remember tearing out JCPenny pictures!! Haha!! Yikes. Although, that may have been a crush I had on the model wearing the black wolf t-shirt. Yes, I did in fact, just share that fact! ;)
I think what I like about fashion and editorial photography is that the rules are mine. Don’t get me wrong, I love rules. Loren Michaels (creator of SNL) once said that rules foster creativity…and I couldn’t agree more. What I love about wedding photography is that it’s about documenting the beauty of a day…but because of time constraints and wanting to deliver what the bride expects, I take less risks. I am more focused on creating emotion. Whereas, editorial is telling a different story, it’s capturing a different feeling, a curve, a shadow, a concept…and I have time to really think it through and the freedom to make mistakes (because I’m not getting paid at this point!) makes me try things I wouldn’t otherwise."
You've had the opportunity to travel and shoot with some extremely talented people… what has left the greatest impression on you?
"Yes, I have…and sometimes I pinch myself thinking how fortunate I’ve been to meet the people I have. The greatest impression I have is how it’s the smallest details that separate the good from the great. It’s where the good shoot for “good enough” and the great will switch out a lens, or add in fill light, or will try for one more location…because they know it could be better. The great are very intentional.
I think it’s also how brides remember the feeling of their day as much as their pictures…and how someone can deliver beautiful pictures, but if the photographer takes their finger off the pulse of the day…how the bride is feeling in that moment, it can change everything. I’ve seen photographers pull brides from a cocktail hour to get a shot the bride doesn’t care about, or scolding the bride for “not having fun” when she’s clearly just self conscious or stressed and just needs to laugh or given a moment to breathe. It’s learning to know when to push and when to let go."
What's your favorite feeling to capture with a lens?
"Anything that reads as genuine. On a wedding day, I love shooting the Groom/Mother and Bride/Dad dances, because they are some of the sweetest emotions shown all day. I really love those images.
I’ve also been given the HUGE honor to shoot about 3 family sessions where the father was dying of a terminal illness. I can hardly describe how I feel on those shoots…the emotions are so profound to me. They’re some of my favorite shoots because I find that they’re really generous with their emotions…they love beautifully and a look can say more about how they feel and love than anything I could ever write. Close to that is shooting in a hospital room after a delivery. The bookends of life are some of the most profound and my favorite to capture."
Favorite place in Chicago to hangout?
"This is like picking my favorite niece or nephew…I can’t do it. But, this past year, I discovered the most amazing library at the University of Chicago. It made me feel like I was a character in Harry Potter, and I loved it. I go there to really hunker down and work."
Your biggest fear?
"Looking back with regret. I don’t like regret but I allow myself to feel it because it motivates me to not do something or to do something. Tied to that, I have a fear of, “What if I miss out on something in my future because of something I’m doing or not doing now?” I get asked about taking risks a lot…which is funny ‘cause growing up, I wouldn’t say I was a risk taker. Even now, I’d say that maybe I have a different definition of risk. Like, to me, taking a trip to Europe by myself doesn’t feel like a huge risk. Getting married young and having kids, that felt like the huge risk. So it’s how you define consequences and reward. I look at my sisters, brothers and friends as the real heroes and brave ones because to me, being a parent to young kids is one of the most difficult jobs I can think of because it never ends…it’s wonderful, but also a huge risk in my mind. :)"
Who are some of your greatest influences in the photo world?
"Photography: Vivian Maier, Annie Lebowitz, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Joey Lawrence, Elizabeth Messina, Jasmine Star, Oddur Thorisson"
Lipstick or heels?
"I’d love to say both…I’m always all about a good accessory…but if I had to choose, heels."
Tami and I became fast friends when I moved to Chicago two years ago. We've shared countless cups of coffee and the ups and downs of this industry we are so lucky to be apart of.
We both are looking forward to creating a new photo series together early in 2015 influenced by our love of style, beauty and editorial photography.
To our faithful blog followers we'll be dishing out an eye full of beauty so stick around.
And don't forget to give Tami some love right here on her blog.