May 2, 2011

Interview: Melanie Martin

I met Melanie Martin last year through an ecourse* and she quickly became one of the women who I would constantly check on to see her latest photo submissions.  We have a lot in common:  we both have 1 daughter, we love to cook, and we both love photography.  Over the months we've stayed in touch and cheered each other on as we've branched out into doing photo sessions.  What I love most about Mel's approach to photography is that while she is always teaching herself the technical side, she never fails to capture the realness of a moment.

Welcome photographer:  Melanie Martin

1.  Can you remember when photography began to play a more important role in your creative life?  Could you describe that time for me, specifically when you realized that taking photos was no longer just a hobby, but something you felt a deeper passion for?

"I always liked taking pictures of people as I loved having pictures of my friends. But the passion for photography started after my daughter was born. I got an Olympus OM10 from freecycle and the fire was ignited and since then I have thought and breathed and lived photography. There has hardly been a day in the past 4 years when I haven't taken a photo. It was a slow transition from taking pictures to thinking about starting to do it professionally. Although motherhood was incredibly wonderful and full of joy, it also had knocked out quite a lot of my former self-confidence. People started commenting on my photos, my husband kept pushing me in a good way, to learn more about it and really encouraged me to take it to the next level. The thing with passions is - I am sure I am not alone in this - it is something you just got to do and it is exhilarating and frustrating, exciting and heart-breaking; it's two steps forward, one step back and it is a journey that you often feel empowered to do and yet at other times feel totally powerless."

"The thing is before there was photography for me, I never thought I was creative at all. I yearned to have an outlet for the creativity that I hoped was laying dormant somewhere in me. I guess that is why photography is always on my mind, because it took me so long to find it."

2.  When did you launch your photography business and what inspired you to take that courageous leap?

"The launching of the photography business was a gradual affair, I launched the website in January 2010. The first commissions I had were in April 2010, but for me the real start has been autumn 2010. Because that's when my head and my actions started to form more of a strategy, and since I wrote my first proper business plan, that is when I started to say out loud where I wanted this business to go.

The inspiration to take the leap really came from the internet and from all the amazing women I met online doing their own thing, following their dreams and realising that I wasn’t alone with my doubts and niggles. I think the biggest leap was to buy the domain and start building that website. Calling myself a business, after that the steps have been fairly minute fitted around my family life and my other business (I am also a translator for technical documentations). Gathering courage gets easier the more often you do it. Still, sometimes the heart pounds, the gremlins say “nay” and it feels like all the power is drained out of me, those are the moments when it is really hard to get up and go. It's a bit like walking in a stream of a wind tunnel at times."

3.  I've so admired your photo sessions.  Could you share with me a little bit of how you go about scouting locations for your clients and how you ease into your sessions?

"Oh thank you. The location bit is easy. Wherever I go these days I look for locations, snapping away places on the iPhone and cataloguing them. I live in the UK’s second largest city, Birmingham, which is surrounded by wonderful countryside, so I have the best of all worlds: urban modernism, urban decay, countryside and old world charm. When I look for locations I look for textures and interesting settings. I look at how the light falls and if there are any natural reflectors, I also take into consideration how busy any given place will be on certain days and times.

Easing people into sessions is important, let’s face it: most of us feel awkward to have photos taken once we reach a certain age. Children and babies often have to get used to a stranger. So I talk a lot, try to make people laugh, my sessions are a bit like going for a walk with me, chatting, laughing and in between I take some photos."

4.  Business aside, describe for me your "for fun" photography process.  Do you carry your camera with you at all times or do you take it with you when the mood calls for it?  How much post editing work do you do?  Can you share your software of choice if you feel comfortable doing so?

"I always have a camera on me since I’ve always got the iPhone always with me. The big camera is often with me, even when I am not on a shoot and not only when I know that I want to take photos. It's often with me when I go grocery shopping or to a cafe to do some work. So I am never without some camera, wherever I go. I am not whole if I cannot take a picture.
Looking at my pictures, people often think that I do a huge amount of post-processing work, but in fact I don’t spend that long on it at all. I hardly ever crop, I try to get the shot right in camera, so I could use the photos just like that out of camera. I use Lightroom for my photo processing and I am totally in love with that program, I very rarely use Photoshop. I have created a few presets that I apply to my photos, that boost colours or mute colours and soften skin tones. In the past I have also used some commercial presets but as time got on, I did my own ones because the presets made by others never really met my requirements."

5.  Imagine in your mind's eye the most beautiful picture you haven't yet taken.  What does it look like?

"The most beautiful picture for me is such a moving target. Today it is one thing, the next day another. However, what I want to achieve is to take pictures of my clients that could hold their own in a magazine. I want them to look at their photos and be happy."

"Also, I really want to pluck up the courage and ask people on the street to take their photos for a series I have in mind. So far courage leaves me though, so this may still take some time."

6.     Would you share any names or links to photographers you admire or to some of your favorite photos?  What about courses you've taken or books you've read that have helped improve your skills?

"My google reader is full of photographers:  Jasmine Star, Tara Witney, Christine Meintjes."

"And my personal superstars, all German based, love these ladies, they inspire me to get better and better:  Katja SchuenemannMeli Nadia PhotographyAndrea HuebnerLene PhotographyIshtar Fotographie."

"I look for my inspiration in fashion photography, so you find Vogue, Elle etc on my coffee table, plus films and TV series, my husband is a CG Artist specialising in lighting, me a photographer… you can imagine us sitting on the sofa pausing a shot to study the lighting, it’s like geek central. I cannot work by a book. I learn from mistakes, so if something doesn't work the way I want it to, I will try to figure out how to get it to work." 

Thank you, Mel for sharing a bit of yourself and your process here with us.  And thank you personally, for being such a kind friend and an encouraging supporter.  *Melanie and I met through the Unravelling I & II ecourses.

Bio:  Melanie Martin is a Birmingham Photographer (UK) specialising in wedding and lifestyle photography. Melanie’s photography tries to capture the real person, believing that everyone is full of beauty and can shine. Photos freeze a moment in time, something to be enjoyed for eternity to be looked at by generations to come.


Melanie said...

Thanks so much for having me

Anonymous said...

I remember way back when I "met" you in that Mondo Beyondo session in '09. Hope it doesn't sound trite to say how proud I am of how much you've accomplished. I'll always love yourkid/family shots, but the model sessions are always spectacular.

Susannah Conway said...

Yay Mel! yay Bella! xx

Karen D said...

loved this interview and I love how we all connected through susannah and the creative community we have out here in the blogosphere.
Group hugs.