Tuesday, September 10, 2013

BEHIND THE LENS: Darlene Hildebrandt, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

It is quite by accident that we meet some of the most interesting and talented people in our lives.  The other day someone alerted me to a photo of mine that they saw on someone's else's profile.  I could not believe it, I was incredulous. That prompted me to Google "how to create a beautiful watermark" because if I had to start watermarking my photos I wanted it to be nice.  That's when Darlene's video that I wrote about a few weeks ago popped up at the top of my search.  Her tutorial is the best one I've viewed on how to create a beautiful clear logo using Photoshop or Lightroom.  It was thorough, so well executed and I was able to create a logo that I can now use in Lightroom where I do most of my photo editing.

I contacted Darlene after my experience and told her how she helped me and what a wonderful tutorial she had on Youtube.  I found a wealth of other photography information and resources on her fantastic website. Darlene has been featured on a number of well-known photography sites.   Be sure to click on her website.  Her work is diverse, spectacular and inspiring.  It's such a pleasure for me to introduce Darlene to all of you.  Check out what she carries in her Lowepro bag, what she likes to shoot and when her favorite time of day is.  Sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and read on!

Your Name:  Darlene Hildebrandt
Your studio/business name: Her View Photography
Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Website & Blog:  www.herviewphotography.com
Other: Google Plus gplus.herviewphotography.com

Your Style

In 50 words or less, how would your clients describe your photography?  For Portrait photography: my work is casual, personal, and intimate to each person or family being photographed. For fine art photography:  photography that takes the viewer to another place either literally with travel images, or in how she transforms ordinary objects into things of beauty and art.

Are you self-taught or classroom trained?  Formally trained, diploma from two year technical program at Nait http://www.nait.ca/program_home_77272.htm

How many years have you been a professional photographer?  Graduated that program in 1988, been a photographer since then, so 25 years.

Where do you want to take your photography business in 5 years?  The current direction of my business is teaching and leading photography tours. In 5 years I see leading 4-6 tours a year, all over the world, as well as having several eBooks and video courses available to help people learn photography and improve their art.

Is there a photographer who inspires your style?  Who would that be?  I’ve been doing this a long time so I’ve been influenced by many photographers as well as painters. Some of those the influenced me the most over the years include: Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Stieglitz, Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Steve McCurry, Yousef Karsh, Richard Avedon. More recently I have followed the work of Trey Ratcliff, who got me interested in doing HDR photography and David duChemin for his philosophy of craft over gear and his method of having vision and purpose to your images. 

Favorite location to take photos?  The world! No seriously I like doing urban photos and any place away from home that’s exotic. When I travel I don’t buy things, I take photos.

Favorite vacation spot?  I’m always going to new places. I have loved many places that I wish to return to but there’s so many more I haven’t seen yet.  So I tend to pick new places every time. I’m not a lay on the beach sort of person. Instead I prefer places I can explore like markets, historic locales, places where I can mingle with the locals and experience some of their culture.

Your Business

What was the pivotal moment when you decided to become a photographer?  It was in high school actually, or just after grade 12. I went to spend a day shadowing a photography student for a day at the school where I took the photography program and I was sold – I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do.

What’s the best marketing tip that has worked for you? That’s really hard to answer because what works now didn’t exist when I started in business, and what worked then doesn’t apply any more. A simple tip I’d give would be:  to be everywhere. No matter if your business is local or online, put your name in front of people in as many places as possible. Locally that means having a website, sponsoring events, donating to charity auctions, DOING charity work (photography for them for free), networking with other businesses that have a similar market and cross promoting. Online that means website, Twitter, Facebook page, Google Plus, a blog, a podcast and other places. I’ve found that when people run into me, or my marketing efforts in many places they are more likely to pick me when they need my services. You have to get in front of your audience 7 times before they make a buying decision.

What’s the most surprising thing a customer has asked you?  During a wedding shoot the father of the bride once handed me his little instamatic camera while I was taking the family photo and asked if I could take one on his camera. I’ll always remember that moment and the complete disrespect for what I do. I said “no” of course. I’ve also been asked to photograph naked men in certain positions, and once got a phone call asking if I photographed with my shoes on or off. Other than that I can’t say I’ve really been surprised all that often. Oh in the Fine Art realm I did get asked once if my large canvas that he was about to buy was the “original”. When he learned it was a photograph not a painting he didn’t want it any more.

Favorite print lab?  I actually print some of my own fine art stuff at home up to about 13x19. For giclees and canvas prints I’ve used Canvas on Demand. For aluminum prints I’ve used Image Wizards. Locally I get prints done at Technicare and I have had prints and cards made at WHCC (White House Customo Color). 

Your Gear

Are you Canon or Nikon?   Canon but it doesn’t matter what you use, it’s just a tool. I have Canon because that’s what I bought in the 90s and I had lenses when I went to autofocus and then digital. Investing in all new glass to switch is too expensive. That and I’m so used to the buttons and functions of how Canons work I’m faster with it. But if I was given a Nikon and mine taken away I’d learn it pretty fast. Like I said – just a tool.

If you could only have one lens on a photo shoot, what would it be?  It’s really hard to answer that, impossible actually as it really depends on the kind of shoot. If it is a portrait, then probably my 85mm f1/8. Going on a photowalk – my nifty fifty 50mm f1.8 (love that lens). Travel my 24-105mm f/4.

What brand bag do you carry your camera in? I have several, I’m a bit of a bag hound! Most of my bags are Lowepro though. I have a large shoulder bag that fits ALL my stuff in (Lowepro Magnum 650): two bodies, 5 lenses, 2 flashes and remotes. I have 3 different backpacks; some that fit a laptop and two smaller ones that don’t. One zips opened on the backside so it’s secure when I’m traveling (Lowepro flipside). I also have smaller over-one-shoulder bags for short day outings (Lowepro passport sling), and a light-weight one that holds my iPad (Lowepro Photo Sport 200AW).

What gear would we find in your camera bag?  Canon 5D Classic (as back up now), Canon 5D MarkIII, Canon 50mm f/1.8, Canon 85mm f/1.8, Canon 24-105mm f/4, Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS, Tamron 17-35mm f3.5-5.6, ND filters, UV filters on all lenses, two Canon speedlights 550 EX, remote triggers for the flash (not pocket wizards, looking into switching what I have for Yongnuo ones), lens reversal ring to mounting the 50mm lens backwards for super macro use, timer and remote shutter release, two reflectors a 42” (5-in-1) and a 52” one (white and soft gold), light stands, a couple different tripods and a gorillapod.

Are you a natural light fan or strobe fan?  Natural light big time!  I teach a whole class on it. Wheneve possible I’m a big fan of KISS and taking less equipment. But having said that I do add flash (or strobe as you have called it) when I feel it’s necessary usually to augment or add to the natural light. I’ve also done a lot of studio work so am comfortable working with multiple light set ups and using a hand held light meter.

Are you PC or Mac?  MacBookPro but again it’s just a tool. I’ve used both and I prefer Mac for the interface and user experience. It’s just my thing, I wouldn’t convince anyone to switch.

Your Tips and Tricks

What post processing tools do you use?  Lightroom, Photoshop and Photomatix. On the odd occasion I also use a couple of the Topaz plugins. I also have several apps on my iPhone for photo processing.

Do you shoot in Raw or Jpeg?  Pretty much 100% raw all the time.

Best advice you would give your 20-year old self?   Oh man! Huh I can’t think of anything specific because I try to live with no regrets. Life has taken a certain path and who’s to say where I’d have ended up with a different path. So no, I’ll just tell my 20 year old self to go for it.  Perhaps I’d say to nurture and value my girlfriends more over the years. I built a business instead of a family and army of friends. Value the people in your life above all else would be my advice.  

Best advice you would give a new photographer?  Honestly – if photography is your passion and you love doing it, seriously think about it before you decide to turn pro. It isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s a constant struggle. It’s more business than it is photography. You have to learn to be a salesperson whether you like it or not, and MANY many photographers burn out and lose their passion for it. I’ve seen it too many times in my 25 years. Don’t get hung up on “being a pro” or think you need to make money at it to be a “real photographer”. NO! If you take photos and you love it you ARE a photographer. Forget the labels and just do it because you love it, not for anyone else. And if you do go pro, make sure you still do some photography just for you, no clients, no rules, don’t sell it – just for you. Don’t ruin a great hobby by making it a career. I’ve managed to keep my passion alive but I too have gone through burn out several times. Teaching allows me to photograph for me, and share it with others that love it too. My joy comes from seeing my students excel.

What site do you use for your photography and why?  For portfolio and client image reviews I use Zenfolio.com and have for years. Others have come and gone and it still works for me. Some appear fancier (SmugMug) but I can’t see much difference for triple the price I pay so I haven’t seen a need to switch. I can upload unlimited images, make different price list, and lock any gallery with a password for privacy. Orders are made and fulfilled and I don’t have to do a thing.

What Else Should We Know?

What was your worst photography experience?  I did weddings for 15 years and have dealt with more than a couple “bridezillas” in my time. The worst was one that was just picky beyond picky and she couldn’t be pleased no matter what we did. She returned images for redoing time and time again for reasons other people couldn’t even see. She asked for unrealistic things to be touched up (this was before digital so it was all done by hand). Finally she was given her negatives and told not to come back ever again. Most stressful job and client ever.  It was a learning experience though because my gut said not to take the job from the beginning and I didn’t listen because my bank account spoke louder. Hence the lesson above: listen to your gut! After that I never took a job I didn’t feel right about or have a good connection with the client. Rapport and connection will take you so much further and everyone will be much happier during the whole process. Life is too short to work with people that are draining and I learned to see them coming and say “no thank you”.

What would surprise people most about you, whether it is photography related or not? Perhaps two things. First, I was painfully shy in school, even high school. I had few friends, never dated and was pretty much afraid to talk to anyone, especially boys/men. People that know me know don’t believe that about me, but I had to change, to adapt if I wanted to make a go of it in this career. Second, that I have two tattoos. Got the first for my 40th and second 2 years later. Still planning the third.

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

Three things I can’t live without….   my family and friends; my iPhone; and being involved in photography in some way (doing, teaching, admiring, discussing, processing) almost every day.

I wish I had more…..   time! Hours in a day?!

The best thing about being a photographer is…  I feel privileged to see the world differently and see beauty where others walk right by. To get excited by “good light” even in a movie or eating out.

The most important lesson I ever learned was…. How much time have you got? LOL A short list: don’t do business with friends; slow down and take your time; no one ever died because their email wasn’t returned in an hour; marry someone that “gets” what you do and either participates in it, or is very patient; you don’t need the latest greatest equipment to make great images; DO back up regularly and to many places; listen to your gut; always test and check equipment before a shoot ALWAYS; bring double the # of batteries you think you’ll need; bring film to a wedding (in the days of film I DID forget to bring some once – not good!).

My favorite time of day is…  for photography, late evening and night! I’m so NOT a morning person.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for asking me to do this. I'll share it on my newsletter this week!


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