We are so thrilled to welcome Julie Aktabowski to the Rock the Shot Blog today! Take a moment to learn more about Julie and visit her website This Little Piggy Photography . Thank you so much Julie for taking the time to share your work with us today!
Where did your inspiration for photography begin?
I first dabbled in photography back in high school as one of my school’s art electives. This was back when darkrooms were the norm and digital photography was still years in the future. I think I may still have the hand-coloring and double exposure print projects from back then in my storage somewhere!
How would you describe your photography style?
I guess I would call it narrative, and magical. I like to develop a little story and make props for a lot of my sessions, especially when the subject is old enough to stay engaged. I try very hard to add a little magic to my sessions, not just for the sake of the images themselves, but to see the delight on my little subjects’ faces. I live for that! My favorite memory from when I was young, is of the day my Grandpa taped my favorite candies all over the trees along paths between our houses, and came to tell me that they were “in bloom”. There’s nothing like seeing that kind of wonder and amazement in a child’s face, and I always hope to leave my families with more than just images.
Did you study photography in school or are you self taught?
The photography end of it, was formal education. I studied photography after high school at a private college. At that point, digital was just barely in its beginning stages, and there were only a few electives that weren’t traditional film photography. After a few years, I took a hiatus from photography due to feeling ill-prepared and frustrated with the business end of it. When I went back to it, there was a whole new (digital) world to learn. That part has been self-taught, and I’m so thankful to have so many resources to turn to online when I’m stuck. I’m not the more technologically-savvy person, and I still feel like I’m always learning.
Do you shoot Canon or Nikon, and what is your favorite lens?
I shoot Canon. My favorite lens is the 85 1.2L. I find the autofocus a bit tricky, but when the focus is spot-on, the detail and sharpness is amazing.
Do you have any tips for photographers on how to find the light?
The hardest thing for me is not to find the light, but to work quickly enough in the short time frame in which the light is ideal. This is especially challenging when my model is young and easily distracted. I generally start my sessions about an hour and a half before sunset, facing west so that the sun is behind my subject, ideally with a tall line of trees behind in the distance. But it isn’t until about forty-five minutes before sunset that I really get the absolute best light, when the sky gets red and golden, and the trees filter out much of the haze, just barely lighting my subject’s hair. Working this quickly can be a bit nerve-wracking, though, so I’ve been known to breathe a sigh of relief when, on a session day, I wake up to a bright, but overcast day!
What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing children?
The most difficult thing for me when photographing children, is when I know the parents are hoping for, or expecting more “smiley”, posed, images. I find that children are really less cooperative when given too much direction. Capturing them naturally in play always yields better images for me.
How important is pricing when starting a new business?
This is a tough subject for a lot of photographers. People don’t want to hire a photographer without seeing a portfolio, but that’s not all to consider. The portrait photography business is made up of a lot of word-of-mouth referrals, from my experience. If you set your prices too low, people will always expect it. You’ll find yourself trying to appeal to a whole new market every time you raise your prices, essentially starting over all the time. If I were to do it over again, I’d have started my print prices and creative fee higher, making concessions only for portfolio sessions in which I styled the session and chose my model.
How do you sell value to your customer when the price tag may be higher then they expect?
I really don’t. I understand that not everyone puts the value on photography as an art that I do. I put a lot of effort into my sessions: planning locations, developing a concept, making or buying props, meticulous editing, and I expect to be compensated fairly for it. If someone doesn’t see the value in it, that’s okay. They just aren’t the client for me.
What is a good lesson you have learned this year in photography or in your business?
I’ve learned that it’s very easy to take on too much! I got so busy at one point that I was overwhelmed and not enjoying photography as I should. I really believe that you can’t be creative in something you aren’t enjoying. I can’t give my all to a session when I’m overworked. I try to stay conscious of that when scheduling sessions now.
If you could encourage a new photographer in one area, what would it be?
I hear so many photographers tell people not to compare themselves to others, and to some extent I have to disagree. Before I started getting online to blogs like this and others, I never realized how many incredible, amazing images are out there. It really inspired me to get more creative, and showed me that my technical ability could use some improvement *blush*. While I don’t condone copying another person’s work, I do think comparing can be a good thing, in this sense.
What do you love most about being a photographer?
I love that it makes me feel like a super hero. Who else can take something intangible, like a moment, or feeling, and transform it into permanent, tangible proof of that memory?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Well, I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of gal, so business-wise who knows where I’ll be. But I plan to continue to photograph for as long as it makes me happy, and I suspect that will be for a long time to come!
About Julie: My name is Julie Aktabowski and I am the creative talent behind This Little Piggy Photography. I am a portrait photographer based in Chicago, IL. I am a mother to three amazing little people. I believe that a person’s happiness is entirely dependent upon their perspective. I have a serious cheese addiction and a precarious grip on fashion. I am a little flighty and inclined to act on whim. I fancy myself a city girl but would give it up in a minute to pick up my family and go live on a boat. I’m a dreamer, through and through.