Thursday, November 15, 2012

BEHIND THE LENS: Vivienne McMaster, Vancouver, BC, Canada

I am so excited to introduce you to today's featured photographer, Vivienne McMaster.  I had the pleasure of meeting Vivienne at Shutter Sister Oasis last month and was immediately struck by her warmth and fun sense of style.  As you can see by Vivienne's images below, she has a playful approach to her photography and uses light so very artistically.  

Not only is Vivienne a talented portrait photographer but she has also created several e-courses on topics such as light, self-portraiture, and creative expression (I think I may be signing up for her Light Hunters course very soon).  

Please take a few minutes to learn about Vivienne's photography journey and find out what she would tell her 20 year old self (it is something we all need to be reminded of) and what she dreams of (I love that she spoke that dream aloud).  I know you will love her soulful nature and beautiful images and be sure to check out her website and wonderful class offerings.    

Thank you Vivienne, for taking the time to share your story with us and I can't wait to see you again!

Your Name: Vivienne McMaster
Your studio/business name:  Vivienne McMaster Photography and You are Your Own Muse Workshops
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Twitter: @viviennemcm

Your Style:

In 50 words or less, how would your clients describe your photography?  My approach is playful and adventurous, be it teaching a class, within a portrait session or just going for a photo walk.  I love to see things in a new light and help people see themselves in a new light either through getting their portrait taken or turning the camera on themselves.

Are you self-taught or classroom trained?  I’m mostly self-taught with a few classes here and there.  I came to photography in my late 20’s with no interest in it what so ever before then.  I went through a rough patch (aka a depression) and photography became my friend, a way I could explore the world as I searched to find a place of happiness and joy again in my life.  I had no intention of it ever being a business (but am so glad it did) and I still retain that original obsession in just making it a daily act of finding beauty and joy for self-care.

How many years have you been a professional photographer?  I have been working full time as a photographer for the last 2 years.  My business is kind of two fold.  I teach online Photography courses and also shoot portraits.  My primary clientele are artists,  musicians, poets and other creative folk seeking photos that tell the story of them for their website, book cover or promotional material.  It feels like a great balance of content creation, connecting with people from around the world and the energy of doing photo shoots.

Where do you want to take your photography business in 5 years?  I would love for my business to grow slowly, truly to still be exactly what I’m doing now but helping more people!  I hope to still be teaching e-courses as it truly feels like what I’m meant to do but I hope in 5 years I’ll also be doing plenty of in person teaching as well.

I also have some big dreams of writing a book.  So I’ll have to speak that dream aloud since I’d love it to happen within the next 5 years.

Is there a photographer who inspires your style?  Who would that be?  I really adore the work of both Tara Whitney as well as Jen Downer of She Saw Things Photography who both really have a knack for family photography that show the families as their unique selves without trying to fit them into a box.  I love that about them and crave to do that in my work, to let people’s uniqueness, quirkiness, what makes them truly special shine out.

Favorite location to take photos?  One of my favourite places to take photos is on the Oregon Coast.  Gorgeous dunes, wide open beaches, moody weather and just the way it makes me feel.

Your Business:

What was the pivotal moment when you decided to become a photographer?  I mentioned this a bit earlier, but it wasn’t really a conscious decision for me.  I found photography during a tough stage in my life and it was a guide for me as I found my way back to happiness.   It was a slow evolution of healing through looking through the lens that led me to start doing portrait sessions and teaching online classes. 

What’s the best marketing tip that has worked for you?  Be yourself and share your story.  The best marketing I’ve found is to let people get to know you.  Write a guest post, share a story of truth.  People will be drawn to you through who you truly are.

Your Gear:

Are you Canon or Nikon (or –other):   Canon.  I only upgraded gear last year from a pretty basic DSLR.  I encourage everyone to shoot with what they have until it feels limiting and then upgrade when you can.  It will make you a better photographer to trust your vision, not just your gear.

If you could only have one lens on a photo shoot, what would it be?  Right now it is the Canon 24-70 2.8 as it is such a versatile lens.  It allows for gorgeous wide angle shots but also amazing portraits.  It is by far my favourite.

What brand bag do you carry your camera in?  I use an ephipanie Lyric bag for everyday or on a shoot and their Paris bag for traveling.  I’m a big fan of them.   I truly was one of those folks who had their camera wrapped in a scarf in their purse for years so I’m so glad there are bags out there now that are both super lovely and allow me to keep my gear safe!

What gear would we find in your camera bag?  You’d find my Canon DSLR (5D MarkII) as well as a 24-70 lens , a 50mm 1.4 portrait lens.   Likely also a Polaroid SX70 for sunny days and a remote for the moment when an opportunity for self-portraits arises.

Are you a natural light fan or strobe fan?  I deeply love natural light.  That is such a big part of my love for photography and the way I feel like it helps me slow down and be present in my life. 

Are you PC or Mac?  Totally smitten with Macs

Your Tips and Tricks:

What post processing tools do you use?  I mainly use Lightroom and love it big time for the way it allows you to organize your photos and makes the process really fluid and intuitive.

Do you shoot in Raw or Jpeg?  I love shooting in raw for the way that you can have more leeway in adjusting your photo.  

Best advice you would give your 20-year old self?  Oh my 20 year old self.  I would tell her to trust that she is already enough.  That she is so full of potential and if she believes in herself and lets go of the stories that she is not enough, that she isn’t worthy, that there is a goldmine to be found.  I’d also tell her that everything will unfold when the time is right. 

Best advice you would give a new photographer?  Embrace playfulness and experiment as much as possible.  Break rules and shoot outside the box and there you will find your own way of seeing the world.

What site do you use for your photography and why?  I use a Prophoto website.  I love experimenting with the design of my website so it allowed me a beautiful template but a lot of room to make it my own.

And just because we want to know you better, fill in the blanks:

The best thing about being a photographer is…the way it helps me to slow down and savour life.

The most important lesson I ever learned was….To be my own muse.  That your story is worth telling and that it is important to put yourself in the visual story of your life.

My favorite time of day is…Late afternoon, just before magic hour when the light is pouring through the trees leaving rays of light on the ground. I adore shooting self-portraits in these rays of light and what makes them even more special to me is that at that time of the day they move quickly.  It reminds me of the impermanence of the moment.  To really live in it and go for it.


  1. I can't believe Vivienne has only been in business for two years. I'm taking her Montage class now and I figured she'd been around for a long time (I mean that in a nice way). She's an awesome teacher!!!

  2. Thanks so much Barb! I've been into photography for longer than 2 but in business teaching e-courses for only 2!
    You're so sweet and I'm so glad you're a part of Montage!

  3. Love Vivienne's esthetic and quirkiness. Great interview!


Thank you for your kind words. We appreciate and read each and every one.