I don’t know how the Camera Mama community has been so lucky to have such great contributors and moderators, but we really have been super lucky! Allison McSorley (on Instagram @allisonmcsorley) is one example of the amazing people in the Camera Mama community. She was one of the very first moderators with Camera Mama and I always look forward to her features because she has such a great eye for clean compositions and classic beauty.
I’m super excited to share with you this Q&A with Allison. If you happen to be at the Click Away Conference in Seattle that starts tomorrow look for Allison! She will be sharing her studio lighting secrets for modern children’s portraiture during the class she is teaching on Saturday at 10:30am. I sure wish I was there! If you don’t happen to be in Seattle this weekend don’t despair! You can check out Allison’s Clickin Moms breakout class here: http://store.clickinmoms.com/a-click-pro-introspective-finding-light-among-the-shadows-with-allison-mcsorley/
Thank you Allison for sharing your story with us!!
Q&A with Allison
1. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself…your family, where you grew up, what your interests outside of photography are…?
I was born and raised outside of Boston, Massachusetts but currently live in Northern Virginia with my husband and two kids, Jack (9) and Elle (6). My husband is in the military so we move around every few years. Beyond photography, I enjoy mindless television, pop music, running, and spending quality time with my family.
2. How did you first become interested in photography?
Like many new moms, I picked up a camera early on as a means to document the milestones and everyday moments in my kids’ lives. It seemed as though they were growing so fast and I wanted to record every second.
3. What was the thing that most influenced you in your photography style?
My photography style has been most influenced by the three years I spent living in a tiny NYC apartment. When I first moved to the apartment, I wasn’t experienced enough to handle low light and my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to continue to photograph my kids. It was at that point that I learned pretty quickly how to shoot in limited light and use shadows to my advantage. Clean compositions have also influenced my style over the years. I love an organized frame and have always been a fan of the “less is more” school of thought when it comes to my own personal style, regardless of whether I’m shooting everyday moments or planned portraits.
4. What photographers most inspire you currently?
I am a portrait photographer at heart. Portraits speak to me in a way that no other genre of photography can. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate many different genres of photography but portraiture is what makes me most happy. Annie Leibovitz is a huge inspiration of mine. Her use of light and composition in her portraits is unparalleled. I’m also a big fan of Richard Avedon and Mark Seliger.
5. Could you tell us a little about your gear? If you could only shoot with one lens for the next 60 days which one would it be? Do you have a favorite camera bag?
I currently shoot with a Nikon D700 and a variety of Nikon lenses, including a 28mm, 50mm, 85mm, 105mm and 24-120mm. If I had to shoot with just one lens for the next 60 days though it would be my 50mm 1.4. It’s light, fast and sharp, which is the perfect combination for a portrait lens.
6. How often do you process your images? How long do you typically spend on each image?
I usually process as I shoot, as long as time permits. Because I hand edit each of my images, it can take anywhere from 5 minutes to half an hour, depending upon how much editing I’m doing to an image.
7. How do you print and preserve your photos in physical and digital form?
I wish I was better about printing my photos. Every now and then I’ll print off a bunch in 4×6 format and add them to an existing album. I also have albums for my random iPhone snaps. Right now I’m embarrassed to admit that I still need to print all of 2015 and 2016. As far as preserving my photos in digital form, I have three external hard drives that I back up my photos to.
8. What’s the most important piece of technical photography info you have learned this year?
For a couple years now, I’ve been honing my studio lighting skills. My biggest technical challenge has been learning to make studio light look like natural light.
9. What’s the most important non-technical piece of photography info you have learned this year?
I recently started taking newborn clients this year and shooting newborns is truly a whole new ballgame. The most important non-technical piece of photography info that I’ve learned this year is to practice patience. Tons of patience. Newborns are unpredictable and each one is different. Having patience is the only way to get through each session.
10. Do you use presets and actions?
I don’t use any presets or actions on my photos. Early on when I was learning photography, I took a Photoshop class where I learned how to hand edit everything. I’m definitely not opposed to presets or actions especially since they can help speed up the workflow process but I’m a creature of habit so editing from scratch is what works for me.
11. What is your go-to f stop?
I usually don’t ever shoot completely wide open. When I first started in photography I was shooting wide open all the time because I thought that if I had a lens with the ability to open up to 1.4 than I should definitely be using it at that aperture. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that trying to shoot wiggly little kids at an aperture of 1.4 was a recipe for a lot of out of focus photos. It was at that point that I began shooting around 2.8. That aperture still produces nice bokeh but also provides enough depth of field to keep my small subjects in focus.
12. Could you tell us a little bit about your breakout session with Click photo school?
Sure! I’d love to! Yes! My breakout is called CMpro Introspective: Finding Light Among the Shadows and it’s essentially about some of the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way. It wasn’t that long ago that I was new to photography. I remember wishing I could pull back the curtain with those who came before me. I wanted just a tiny glimpse into their journeys and the successes and failures that molded them into the masters they had become. This breakout does that by giving readers a behind-the scenes look at my journey and the lessons that have had a unique impact on my growth as a photographer. I share some very specific advice and information about my approach to dramatic and low light shooting. I also talk a lot about finding my artistic style and the significant influence that unexpected circumstances can have on the path to success. Through the lens of my own journey, I cover topics such as rising above unexpected challenges, finding your purpose, embracing authenticity, appreciating your own progress, and ultimately giving back to others. (Link to class: http://store.clickinmoms.com/a-click-pro-introspective-finding-light-among-the-shadows-with-allison-mcsorley/)
13. Do you ever get frustrated or burnt out with taking photos? If so please elaborate?
There have definitely been peaks and valleys with my photography. I think if you shoot long enough it is inevitable that you’ll experience some sort of burn out or frustration. At the beginning of my journey I experienced frustration over not being able to produce the kinds of images I envisioned in my head. Nowadays though, it’s more about finding the time to photograph my kids with their busy school and sports schedules.
14. Where would you go on vacation if you could go anywhere?
Probably Hawaii. My husband and I visited before we had the kids but I’d love to go back with the whole family, unplug, and spend our days lounging on the beach.
15. If I ran into you at Target what would be in your cart?
Target is my weakness. I go in for one thing and inevitably, come out having spent at least $50. It could be anything from toothpaste and deodorant to holiday candy and random things from the dollar section that I’ve convinced myself I need solely because they’re a dollar!
Thank you so much Allison! I am so wishing I was in Seattle right now so I could come to your class! Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos and for being an important part of the Camera Mama team!