I’m so excited to share with you a Q&A with Meg Loeks, known and loved by thousands on Instagram as @meg_nlo. Her beautiful photos have captured the hearts of so many, including me, and it is so fun to get to know her a little better! I just love the wonderful Camera Mama community! Thank you Meg for so generously opening up about your life and photography, you are amazing and inspiring!
Q&A with Meg
1. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself…your family, where you grew up, what your interests outside of photography are…?
Born and raised in Michigan. I grew up in a rural area just outside a small farming town. I met my husband in college about 12 years ago. We have been married for almost 7 years now and have 3 little boys: Leo (Leonidas) – Age 4, Woody (Woodrow) – Age 2, Archie (Archer) – 7 months. We purchased an old farmhouse last year and have been renovating it since. I love the character of the home, and the meadows and woods surrounding us. There’s lot of space and privacy which is what my husband and I both grew up having. In my spare time I love to bake, read… specifically anything fantasy related or historical fiction, snowboard, hike, camp and travel.
2. How did you first become interested in photography?
I became interested in photography when I was little. My dad originally inspired me. We used to go out on walks together and photograph things (mainly nature) along the way. My first big camera was a Pentax which I still have today. I’m hoping to get back into film again this year. For as long as I can remember I was always inspired by nature. My parents had a subscription to National Geographic as well which is always inspiring. I would look forward (and still do) to flipping through the magazine and studying the images every month.
3. What was the thing that most influenced you in your photography style?
It wasn’t specifically one thing. Earlier last year I remember struggling with trying to find my style… specifically in post processing. I didn’t feel like my work was a good representation of myself and what I was drawn to. I started studying photographers that inspired me and why I was drawn to their work. I studied my personal favorite images. I played around a lot with post processing and experimented. It was around this time that I found my photography style which focuses on light (specifically low light), warmth, rich tones and minimalism.
(I think this was the first photo of Meg that was featured on the Camera Mama Instagram feed many months ago. I still love it to pieces!!)
4. What photographers most inspire you currently? What things outside of photography most inspire you currently?
Caroline Jensen, Emma Wood, Megan Cieloha and Christine Keegan. They have inspired me for a very long time and continue to do so. Things that inspire me the most outside of photography are my children, my husband, music, movies, art and books.
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 am a huge fan of Sigma lenses. I currently own a Sigma Art 35mm 1.4, Sigma 85mm 1.4, Sigma Macro 105mm 2.8, Canon 24-105mm 4L and Canon 70-200mm 4L. If I had to choose a lens it would be my Sigma Art 35mm because it’s a lens I could use both indoors and outdoors. It works great in tight spaces and it’s fast and sharp. I love my National Geographic camera backpack. I’m always envious of the cute purse like camera bags I see but they are not for me. I’m outside a lot with my boys and we often go hiking. My backpack is perfect for that and it has a wonderful rainfly cover that has been really useful since weather here in Michigan is unpredictable.
6. How often do you process your images? How long do you typically spend on each image?
I typically process a few of my personal images everyday. That is about all I can get to. In regards to time spent editing, it really depends. Some images only take five minutes if that, some (but very rarely) have taken close to an hour depending on what I’m trying to accomplish but majority take about 10 minutes.
7. How do you print and preserve your photos in physical and digital form?
I will be the first to shamefully admit I am terrible at printing my own photos. I rarely get around to it. Getting better at printing is one of my goals this year. For my client work, I use a local printing company. I can do everything online and they are incredibly fast. I also love to use Artifact Uprising. In regards to digital form it has been a learning process for me. I live in a rural area so my options are very limited. I would prefer to save all of my images in a cloud based system but because I am very restricted in my internet usage I am unable to do so. I’ve been using external hard drives to back all of my files up, but because they are unreliable I have recently decided to purchase a local server to save all of my images.
8. What’s the most important piece of technical photography info you have learned this year?
Freelensing and double exposure! I’m very new to it. I dabbled in freelensing a little bit last year but only recently started practicing it… almost every day. I recently had a eureka moment (with the help of some friends who are very talented at all things including freelensing) and I have been able to focus better on my subject. My eureka freelensing moment was first of all when I realized that using a lens wider than a 50mm was much more challenging to focus. I also wasn’t setting my focus to infinity and that made a big difference. I also finally decided to sit down and learn how to do an in-camera double exposure. I’ve only tried it a couple of times so far and my first few tries were nothing even remotely exceptional, but I plan to keep practicing it because it’s fun!
9. What’s the most important non-technical piece of photography info you have learned this year?
Well this year is just beginning, but I think so far one of the most important non-technical pieces of information I have learned is to try and see the beauty in the everyday and ordinary. For example, morning light illuminating a pile of dirty dishes or unmade bed. At the very beginning of the year I finished taking an online photography workshop called The Art of Observation by Caroline Jensen. The workshop has helped me slow down and discover beauty that I might have overlooked in previous years. It’s sometimes hard to do this with very young and active children, but it’s one thing I have been trying to focus and improve on.
10. (Question from an Instagram follower) What do you do during post processing to get such rich tones and colors? Do you use presets and actions?
I have found that certain types of light create more rich tones. That type of light typically is low light, and light that contains deep shadows and high contrast. Also, in post processing I love to use texture overlays (specifically by Jessica Drossin) but remove the texture in Photoshop. I love the tones of Jessica Drossin’s overlays and I think they add beautiful warmth and richness to images.
11. (Question from an Instagram follower) I would love to know how you get SO much depth to your pictures. I feel like mine can feel so flat. What is your go-to f stop?
My go to f stop when using my 85mm is typically 2.0 and go to using my 35mm is 1.6. I would love to shoot wide open but I have found I miss focus more often when I do that with moving children so I play it a little more safe. Another way I add depth to my images is by finding light that is going to provide deep shadows and lots of contrast. Also, in post processing I like to play with my black, shadow and contrast sliders.
12. Could you tell us a little bit about your break out session coming up on March 8th? How can we sign up?
My breakout will be focusing on light and the different types! I discuss how I photograph my children in ideal light as well. There are exercises focusing on studying light and pushing yourself to photograph children in unexpected places. Within the breakout there are also several editing videos… some that take you from SOOC to finish. Signup for my breakout begins March 8th. Here is the link: The Sincere Storyteller
13. Do you ever get frustrated or burnt out with taking photos? If so please elaborate?
All the time. At least several times a month but I try and push through it. This is my second year doing a 365. I missed a few days last year, and so far this year (it’s early!) I haven’t missed a day. Whenever I feel burnt out I photograph a still. Most of my work is of my boys, but there are days I just don’t feel like picking up my camera. That’s when I photograph stills. It can be very calming and therapeutic to me. I will often go for a walk and capture flowers and leaves along the way, pretty light inside my house, or dinner prep. Another thing I do when I feel burnt out is go to a new location or a place I haven’t visited in awhile. This is one way to break out of a creative rut. I also try and pull inspiration from unexpected places… a movie, book or song.
14. Where would you go on vacation if you could go anywhere?
First and foremost… Ireland and Scotland specifically with my mother. Second choice for a vacation would be Eastern Europe. Last but definitely not least, Russia. I was probably only supposed to pick one location but I have so many on my bucket list.
15. If I ran into you at Target what would be in your cart?
Without a doubt children’s clothes. Whether I go into Target with the intention to buy clothes for my boys or not, I always walk out with some. Also, I typically buy home good items at Target because we all know their home good items are adorable and inexpensive.
16. Can you tell us a little about your photography business? What’s the secret to balancing family, personal photography projects, personal development and client work?
I have been running a photography business for just over a year now. I specialize in maternity, newborn and family. My favorite sessions are maternity and newborns. I absolutely love this stage in life. It’s such a wonderful thing to be able to witness couples becoming parents for the first time. One of the things I struggled with this year is balancing my family life and running a business. I’ve learned so much this past year… specifically what I could handle and what I couldn’t. I’ve cut back a lot on client work this year so that I allow for first of all more family time, and allow for more community involvement in the photography world.
Thank you so so much Meg! I am so inspired by your photography journey and now I want to study more closely the work of photographers whom I admire and to make the time to take photography workshops that will help me learn and progress as an artist. I am looking forward to following along on your photography journey for many years to come!