Take it from Commercial Portrait photographer Heather McLaughlin …
I confess: photographers aren’t always my favorite people. I know, I know. That sounds sacrilegious. But I can explain. Like with any highly over-saturated profession or artist circle or peer group in general, there can be that small percentage who spoil the pot. You know the ones. The ones who forget that there is (in fact) enough work to go around; that we needn’t create a world of lack where competitive, ruthless, narcissistic behavior is the only way to breed success. Nonetheless – Heather McLaughlin is not that type of photographer. The world she lives in, and the artistry she creates, thrive off the idea of shared expertise and inspiration. So rather than ducking for cover from this seasoned Commercial Portrait photographer, I had all I could do not to beg her to come humor me with her words of wisdom. A pure delight, with a quiet confidence, Heather is an uber professional and a peer I’m proud to call my friend.
CHECK OUT MY Q&A WITH HEATHER MCLAUGHLIN BELOW:
1. How did you come to be a photographer? What called you to be behind the lens? Who are your clients?
I wasn’t a good student in high school and my academic interests were slim. Photography was pretty much the only thing I was interested it. After I graduated high school I attended an accredited 10-month photography school and began assisting after I finished the program. My clients include World Wrestling Entertainment, Disney and Wine Enthusiast to name a few.
2. Who are your mentors and how did you find them?
Many of my mentors are the photographers I assisted. They essentially taught me everything there is to know about photography, from running the business to interacting with subjects to dealing with clients. They have continued to be an invaluable source of information and inspiration even today.
3. How would you describe your style?
Editorial style portraits. I enjoy photographing people in both the studio and on location. It’s important to me to evoke an emotional connection with my subject and with my audience.
4. What’s your favorite lens? Camera? Light set up?
My favorite lens is the 70-200, my favorite camera is the Canon 5D mark II and I prefer shooting available light when possible, it’s softer and prettier that way.
5. Who are your favorite photographers? What do you love about their work?
I took a workshop by Chris Buck last summer and it really blew me away.
Although, I don’t aspire to shoot in the same style he does it was really cool learning from someone so talented. I was able to take what I learned from him and make it work for my own style.
6. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
I used to work for a guy who told me that photography is only 10% of the job the rest is just moving furniture.
7. Talk about the business side of things: How do you make a profitable career as a photographer? Describe your experience as a woman in the field.
The business side, making a profitable career in photography. I think networking and making connections is a big part of it. Many of my current clients have come from word of mouth so I think it’s important to always make a good impression with anyone you work with. Trying to find that delicate balance of personable but professional.In terms of being a woman in this business I think it’s had its pluses and minuses. There are some instances where I’ve had to learn how to navigate through some heavily male dominated environments with some old fashioned views but I’m a resilient gal and great at interacting with people of all kinds.
8. What was your biggest lesson learned, personally and professionally? Are they one in the same?
Biggest lesson learned.. don’t be afraid to go after what you want, for me this was a lesson learned both personally and professionally. In a profession that depends so heavily on constantly selling yourself I had to really break down some personal barriers to be a better professional.
9. Knowing what you know now, would you do anything differently?
I probably would not have assisted for so long. After a while I wasn’t learning as much and feeling frustrated, but at the time I was too scared to make the leap to be a photographer. Everyone moves at their own pace, I guess.
10. What’s your biggest source of inspiration? What makes you come alive?
There are so many amazingly talented photographers out there. It’s tough not to feel inspired when I see their work. Last year I went to PA to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s, Falling Water. I was really inspired by his innovative ideas and fearlessness to create and execute them. I thought, I want to be more like that.
11. If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?
I always thought it would be cool to be a jazz singer in a smoky lounge breaking boundaries and belting out a soulful tune, but my vocals aren’t that good and I’m a morning person, so…
12. What advice can you give to young women photographers breaking into commercial portraiture?
Don’t take no for an answer, don’t let people tell you who you are and what you are capable of and not capable of, persistence, perseverance and hard work will get you where you need to go. Don’t get discouraged.