I was asked to do a shoot of a very pregnant woman and I was flustered by the project! I began Googling madly when I stumbled upon Digital Photography School’s website. Not only did I find insight to make it through that photo shoot, I also discovered the witty work of photographer Natalie Norton.
I was captivated by her beautiful, lively photography and her ability to communicate how to take stunning pictures through her website and her columns on DPS. Natalie is one of my favorite photographers, and I wish I could take a class with her, but Pennsylvania is a far way from Hawaii. Instead, I asked Natalie to do a “Take 5” with Backseat Writer, and she graciously agreed.
*I’ve noticed the vast majority of your photographs are taken outside—why is that?
Well, for one thing, I live in Hawaii, thus most of my clients prefer having their sessions conducted outdoors. Can’t imagine WHY! 🙂 Since I can shoot outdoors here year-round, it works out well. When I travel for shoots, I don’t always have access to a studio or the ability to bring studio lights along, in which case, we shoot outside.
Most importantly I shoot outdoors because my style of photography is lifestyle-oriented and being outdoors as opposed to in a studio is more conducive to what I’m trying to achieve. My obsession with the look and feel of natural light is definitely a plus here as well. However, times are changing and so is the way people handle artificial light. It’s looking better and better all the time. I plan to start incorporating that into my shooting in the near future as well, but even then, I still plan to be working outdoors or on location.
*Being a photographer isn’t just about snapping photos, it’s also about personality. How do you use your dynamic personality in your job?
Personality is a huge part of this business from start to finish. It’s what sets you apart from the four zillion other photographers out there who are probably cheaper than you. 🙂 Often clients hire me largely because my they feel connected to me through the personality that comes out in my work, my Twitter account and my blog, Pics & Kicks. On a shoot I really see my job as being about a lot more than just snapping pictures. My job is to make people feel comfortable and at ease, because ultimately that has a great effect on the quality of the finished product as any posing I could do. So yes, personality is paramount.
*Do you have any advice for novice photographers who just got their very first DSLR (like me)? Like how do we use all these fancy buttons and stuff? (If we could only all fly to Hawaii for a Natalie Norton photography class….)
Study, practice, study, practice, shoot, shoot, shoot. Repeat daily. 🙂 Honestly it’s just a lot of trail and error in the beginning, but there are some really good resources out there to get you going. Digital Photography School is one such resource. I’ve been blessed to have been working as a writer for DPS for the past year. There’s a plethora of FREE information on the site geared directly toward beginners that will give you a huge push in the right direction.
Scott Kelby also has some fantastic books that really make things simple for beginners. In the mean time however, I’m a huge proponent for shooting in Automatic (see “4 Reasons Not To Write Off Shooting in Automatic“). Photography should be fun and often when people jump too quickly into the technical stuff, they lose sight of that. Should you camp out there in Auto forever? Absolutely not. But in the beginning while you’re finding your voice as a photographer, that’s not something to be ashamed of.
*One of the reasons I love your work is the emotion you capture through expressions, angles, close-ups, lighting. Is it something that you intuitively “see” or did you learn to find those glimpses of humanity that you capture so well?
That’s tricky. I definitely think it’s safe to say that a lot of what I do is intuitive. But sometimes even intuition needs a little educating. I spend a good amount of time browsing through work of photographers, mostly lifestyle, editorial and photojournalistic, who inspire me and I definitely think that influences the choices I make artistically on a shoot. Ultimately, the most important thing is being connected to your subject. You’ve got to listen to the flow of things, wait for “that moment” and be prepared technically and mentally to capture it.
*Tell me about the one of the most disastrous photo shoots you’ve had.
Oh goodness! I was once hired by another photographer for a family portrait session. They were one of the very sweetest families I have EVER photographed; however, their kids were everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. EVERYWHERE! I could not get a picture of them together for the life of me. It was amazingly intense. All smiles all the way around and luckily my client was a photographer so she totally “got it” and didn’t hold me responsible for her kids having so much energy. Funny thing is that it was probably very similar to what it would feel like to photograph my OWN family. 🙂
Another time in the VERY BEGINNING, like literally two shoots in, I got all the way to the location and realized I’d left my battery in the charger. Still when I think of that I feel like vomiting. Luckily the family was remarkably gracious and the shoot was only a 10 minute drive from my house. But bleh! Let’s stop talking about this! I’m going to throw up. . .
To see more of Natalie’s work pick up insightful photography tips, and read her musings on life in Hawaii, visit her online at natalienortonphoto.com. And then add her RSS feed to your reader!