Capturing Life in Art

What is your name? Holly

What is your business name? Simply Life Photographs

How long have you been doing photography?

Oh Gosh, I guess since Santa Claus brought that turquoise polaroid when I was 7 or 8. Still love film and still love polaroids.

How did you get started?

I have always been fascinated with capturing life in art, and because I cannot draw I needed a new medium, and photography made that work for me.  And bending light, or capturing it became so interesting to me when I took a snap shot while my brother was being photographed by a professional when I was a kid. I won a blue ribbon at the county fair with that very strange shot because of his studio lights and my flash.  I could not learn enough about lighting then, and I might have been 12 at the time. I took classes off and on for years but always as a hobby and for personal reasons. After my kids were born, people started asking me to photograph their kids and one thing led to another.

Why have you chosen the particular type of photography you do?

I have to laugh, because I think it chose me.  My husband’s work has taken our family all over the United States and portrait work came simply by word of mouth, but moving to Dallas Texas was not the same as other places, seems like anyone with a DSLR has a photography business and competition is high.  Although we  do have huge differences in business practices.  But I have met several people in the local industry and have started more event work and product work that I really enjoy.  Objects never complain about wrinkles or how much they weigh.

Do you have any favourite shoots you’ve done? Or perhaps you want to share on one that was a disaster?

My favourites are always photos that capture something  important to someone.  I love a parent who comments that “I really love that expression, she only does that when she is very happy”, or the parent of a child with Autism who cries because they have never had a photo of their child looking at the camera.  It is in those times that I feel the weight of the importance of the job that I have the honour of performing.  And as for disasters… I cannot shoot moon pictures… EVER. But I never stop trying.

Do you have any hints or tips you’d like to offer to budding photographers for your field?

First and foremost, learn… never stop learning and I am not talking about new equipment.  Find a good photographer that is willing to mentor you.  I have a 17 year old that works for me at my events.  She has a great eye and wants to be a photographer, but for me, she schleps gear, runs errands, changes lenses and batteries, runs the printer if we are printing onsite, and helps tear down the lights and pack it all back up.  She understands the work behind it all and why we do what we do.

Secondly, join a professional organization.  In The U.S. I cannot recommend Professional Photographers of America, enough. They have ongoing training, certification, support, and a plethora of other info just waiting to help you run the best business possible and of course make sure you are competing in photography competitions so that you keep working on your skills.

And finally, do not undercharge or give your work away.  It is your work… and you have education, skill and time involved.  Be proud!


Please provide your website address so that I can encourage readers to visit your site.

Do you recommend this vocation to our readers, as a great way to earn a living? I know that some will be interested to know whether they can consider it as a full time vocation.

I love doing what I do… and I have the luxury of choosing what work I do each month because my husband is the primary bread winner, but I could do it full time and make a good living.  I get to travel, and take my family with me, I capture people in times that they want to remember or cherish.  I have been with parents to photograph their child, who was dying from cancer; I have captured adults who returned to school graduate with a degree.  I create images of families that rarely get photographs made all together.  I would not trade it for anything in the world.

Horse photography

Another in our series of photography jobs. Hope you are enjoying these interviews.

What is your name? Judy Wood

What is your business name? Judy Wood Art/Photography

How long have you been doing photography?

Several decades, originally as reference shots (film camera) for my artwork created in other media, then seriously as an end in itself since I got my first digital SLR about ten years ago. On the art side I’ve gone from using photos as reference material for art created in other media, to creating and marketing photographs and photo-based images, now I’m evolving back to using photo elements in digitally created art images and in one of a kind artworks via image transfer and collage techniques. On the “straight photography for clients” side, I’ve been doing customer packages and individual shoots for about eight years.

How did you get started?

I was doing stained glass art and had horse owners wanting original design stained glass horse art. I was a novice rider and horse owner in those days, and began doing horse photography as the basis for my glass designs. The photography gradually became my main interest, and I stopped doing glass work about seven years ago when I got seriously into Photoshop work with my images. It’s been a long and ongoing learning curve, since I am totally self-taught when it comes to photography and Photoshop. I did start with the advantage of a basic art education, which has helped immeasurably with my “eye” for composition and design.

Why have you chosen the particular type of photography you do?

Horses have always been a passion/obsession, long before I learned to ride or owned one, which didn’t happen until I was in my mid 30s. Once I became part of “barn culture” as a rider and owner, it was logical that my art and photography would reflect and complement this great aspect of my life. As many others have said, your love for, and knowledge of, your subject matter is reflected in your work, so it makes sense to follow your heart when possible to create true and authentically felt images. To this day, it still warms my heart to have a horse person look at my equine images and say “you really know horses”.

Do you have any favourite shoots you’ve done? Or perhaps you want to share on one that was a disaster?

Any day out in the field with horses is by definition a good one. My favourites are when I get a shoot with good backgrounds (always a bonus), decent or dramatic light, and a nice herd in action. One I particularly remember was at the farm of a Friesian and Drum Horse breeder about an hour or so from where I live. They had only recently purchased their farm and didn’t have all their cross-fencing yet installed, so I had a lovely big open prairie field with a huge sky as the backdrop. The owner was happy to get the herd moving for action shots, and the sight of a mixed herd of galloping Friesian and Clyde mares, accompanied by the little Gypsy cob stallion, is a memory that still makes me smile. The main “disaster” scenarios are when I’m doing shots for clients in the pouring rain or the muddy aftermath at outdoor shows. That said, one of my favourite images came about when I had pretty well given up getting decent over-fences shots at a mud-fest, and decided that “you work with what’s in front of you”, which in this case was water and mud. I have a wonderful tight crop image of a pair of muddy legs splashing through the slop as a result of that change of focus on my part.

Do you have any hints or tips you’d like to other to budding photographers for your field?

Never stop working and learning. These days there are so many ways to do that with with photographer’s forums online, access to tutorials on any subject you might want to learn about, and with digital cameras allowing for endless experimentation and instant feedback. You can plug in to your “tribe” wherever you live, and learn from a variety of people with different worlds of experience. None of us is born knowing these things, and it can all be learned, but you have to be dedicated to the process and be willing to hang in there for the long haul. I’ve never been a traditional style show photographer, having evolved my own way of working with my show clients, but I understand that there is a big shift going on in that world with all the “Mom-tographers” out there now, so it is imperative that aspiring pros stay flexible in their approaches and be willing to adapt their ways of working to the changing times.

Please provide your website address so that I can encourage readers to visit your site.

Do you recommend this vocation to our readers, as a great way to earn a living?

Making a fulltime career out of horse photography is a tough job, but it can be done. I have been fortunate in that I have not needed to rely on my income as a photographer/artist in order to keep the roof over my (and my horse’s) head. I believe that with a lot of lateral thinking, creative approaches to business, and working the niche aspects of the market, it is possible to build a career out of horse photography. You do have to have an intimate working knowledge of the horse end of things as well as the photography and business aspects. You can be an excellent photographer, but if you don’t know the riding discipline you are shooting, and what the ideal moment is to capture the horse and rider, you are going to be out of luck. I still struggle with aspects of this myself, as often the artist in me will really like an image, but the rider in me knows it is one that no horse person would want to pay for, and vice versa. For me it’s always a balancing act trying to capture the shot that will work to satisfy both parts of my life as a photographer/artist.

Selling photos online

A recent photo of mine had a lot of interest shown in it by many people, with some asking if they could buy it.  Up till recently I hadn’t done a lot about selling photos from this site and I have spent some time exploring options. I have sold quite a few photos via a stock photo site.  And I announced a few days ago that photos can now be purchased online here at this site but I have decided to take it further and set up with a third party site.  Why? Because, when you really look into it, they have already done all the hard work and made the connections.  It means photos can be bought as digital downloads, as prints in many formats, and also on products such as calendars, mugs, tshirts, mousepads and all sorts of other things.  The additional thing is that these sites already have the traffic and while my own site is developing nicely and the traffic is growing, it still doesn’t match what is already available out there.  So, I thought I’d share my research with you.

To date I’ve looked at Smugmug, Zenfolio. Photoshelter, Photomerchant, Shutterfly, Fotomoto

Smugmug has the best Google Page and Alexa ranking, which to me means they probably get more hits and have more incoming links to the other sites. If traffic is important, then that’s a plus. Zenfolio isn’t far behind though. Pricing structure reasonable with both when you consider it’s a monthly or annual fee and includes everything. Paying for your own hosting and then getting the structure in place to provide what they provide would be difficult.

Photomerchant appears to be the most expensive (which is a shame since it appears to be Australian and, therefore, local to me and in our currency) and doesn’t have the products available that other sites have. All of the other sites have great offerings – digital downloads, prints, products including mugs, mousepads, calendars, photobooks and clothing items.

Photoshelter also appears more expensive than some of the others but does have similar offerings.

Fotomoto appears to be an add-on for your website where you can link to it to sell your own photos.  A shopping cart you can build in.  I could not find any reference to a cost but there is probably a fee per sale.   They have a decent PR as well.

Photoboxgallery is another I came across. Has a reasonable Google Page Rank (4) and quite high Alexa ranking. So it’s been around for awhile and gets a lot of traffic. It also has quite a line up of products available too, to have your photos put on and sold. This one is free to set up and they take 10% of all sales from your site. They’re based in the UK I think as their pricing examples are in pounds.

So I’ve decided to take the plunge and get a third party site to encourage sales of my images as I’ve been getting enquiries.  It has taken time to source the right services to provide what the enquirer wants, and I’m afraid I may have lost some sales because the momentum is lost.  But no more delays, the deed is done and the site is set up.  Click on the image below to have a look. I’m sure I will gradually change how the site looks and will definitely upload more images over time.  If you have seen an image you’d like to buy but can’t find it at that site, please contact me so I can organise to get it up there for you.