Tag Archives: creative live

What I Learned From A Model

I never would have thought that I would know a fashion photographer. But, as I’m growing in my work, I’m meeting other photographers from various genres. Last year, while taking a Creative Live course in studio lighting, I had the opportunity to befriend Alecia Lindsey. We got together just this past month to practice what we had learned, and she coordinated work with a model, Jessica Marie Cantu.

This was a really fun opportunity and I am so glad I finally worked with a real model and got to see a fashion photographer in action…and I finally am starting to feel confident with my studio lighting work!

Jessica Cantu by Holli Margell

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My passion is to help everybody, no matter what shape or size, look and feel beautiful in photographs. While I do get inspired by images in fashion magazines, my focus is really on captivating portraits. Until last month, I have only photographed what I call “real women” – but the truth is that we are all real women. And, I realized that while I had the opportunity to work with a model. Yes, she was able to move her body in ways many of us cannot, but she is just as kind and real as all the real women I know.

I also realized this while walking through some mud in the green space while talking with another mother as our kids played. She talked about an article where a ballerina defended the wear and tear on her feet (often regarded as ugly and inhumane) as akin to the hands of a wood worker, a craftsmen. The ballerina was proud of her feet. That gave me an “aha!” moment where I thought about how we are all so different and about how art and media tries to celebrate only a fraction of the body of humanity.

This changes the way I see myself as a photographer. I used to use the phrase, “photographing real women” and I want to change that. I need to stop buying into the divisiveness that kind of language reaffirms. We’re all real. Instead, I will say I aim to capture the beauty in everyone.

Learning More Than Just Lighting

It’s funny how inspiration strikes in the most unlikely places.

When I walked into the Creative Live course, The Lighting Challenge: Natural vs. Studio, I expected to learn how to use Studio lighting in a way that wasn’t harsh or difficult. The reason I have stayed away from studio lighting all this time is that I have never really liked the way it looks. Natural light has always been my preference for it’s ability to really help a subject shine.

During the course, I went through an internal roller-coaster. I was excited to be in the same room as two of the photographers I admire most, and giddy to be surrounded by talented classmates. Then, I started to see how these industry experts are really just not afraid to experiment and play with light.

Sue Bryce and Felix Kunze are just like everyone else. But, they have made choices that help them shine. Their work is full of beauty and passion for capturing light. I left the class inspired…

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Our lovely Co-Host and the Producer.
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Sue working her magic with natural light.
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Using “Mac Gyver” lighting for a Hollywood shoot.
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The best part of sitting in the front row of class wast this perspective!
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Felix and Sue taught the course together, and here they are listening to comments from the online students.
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My fan-girl pose.
Group photo: students, instructors, behind the scenes crew.
Group photo: students, instructors, behind the scenes crew.

When I came home at the end of the class, I could not wait to play with studio light. All the following day, I was floating with creative excitement. Then, late last night, I was dropped back down into my life and the struggle that lives in our neighborhood. You see, we have a neighborhood email group. There is an anonymous person who has been posting phone-photos that complain about how broken our neighborhood is and is using them to point fingers.

And that’s when the internal light bulb went on inside of me. No matter where you are in life, your age, address or job, you have the power to choose what you focus on with your thoughts and actions. You can choose to see the dark, ugliness, and soon that is all that you will see. Or, you can choose to see the light, the beauty and the progress.

For me personally, I have sat and looked at my work with a very critical eye. I have allowed myself to feel stuck because I don’t have a studio or I’m not making a living with photography. But, no more. I am going to focus on the light. To do that, I am re-launching my Cause, and renaming it, “Seattle Shines.”

Nathan Vass is a fellow Seattle photographer, and working with him, we will now not only focus on capturing the landscape of neglected Seattle neighborhoods, but the people who are shining a light and making a difference.

I am too practical to not realize that this won’t stop people from littering, breaking into cars and vandalizing the community garden shed, but it’s something I can do to help inspire change and celebrate the people who are doing it.

. . .

Stepping off of my soap-box now, and thank you for listening.



Learning About Light

Someone once said that photography is all about light.

Today, I am sitting in the student’s seat to learn more about studio light. Photography is one part science and one part art. With my love of nature, I use natural light with ease. But, when indoors, using staged lighting or studio lighting, I get a little nervous.

Most of the time I’m lucky and know how to adjust my camera, but I want to grow my skills and become stronger as a photographer. I have looked for a class to teach me about studio lighting for a couple of years now. Sadly, most classes are about composition or style. So, when I heard about The Lighting Challenge on Creative Live, I jumped at the chance to apply to be a studio student!

The Teachers…

I have been a long-time fan of Sue Bryce‘s work. Her ability to capture women in a way that showcases how captivating they are in a classy, modern way is inspirational. Her work has influenced my portrait work as I strive to capture every person’s beauty.

It was during one of Sue Bryce’s courses with Lara Jade (a fashion photographer), that I first learned about Felix Kunze. He often works with Lara Jade as her lighting expert and assistant as well as a Commercial Photographer. His personal work has a depth and beauty that I admire.

I feel super lucky to be able to attend as a studio student. So, expect to hear more about my learning curve with light – and I can’t wait to expand my portrait business to include studio sittings for all of the most gray Seattle days.