If there was only one moment you could photograph for the rest of your days, what would it be?
The moments after a bride and groom leave the wedding ceremony are priceless. They are the most beautiful, authentic moments that I’ve ever experienced when shooting. The pressure is off and folks let their guards down. It’s organic and real. I probably shoot a fifth of my wedding day photos during that hour after the ceremony.
Making a connection with your subject is one of the most important parts to a great portrait. How do you make lasting connections with your clients?
Make a lasting connection with a client starts years in advance. My marketing plan is the “long game” in that I want to plant many small seeds of trust throughout many different platforms in consistent ways. This type of approach to marketing brings me clients that already have some sort of connection with me. When it comes time to shoot with them then they already know me, trust me in some way and have a basic connection with me.
On the day of shoots I work very hard to make sure that my client’s are comfortable with me. Sometimes I’ll start a session at a coffee shop or a bar to go over how the session will run, what my expectations are and will sometimes buy them a quick drink. This communicates to my clients that I see them as my friends and that I value them.
We all go through periods of mental blocks. How do you push past times of not finding inspiration?
I go through many “mental blocks.” I often struggle with perfectionism, low self-esteem and self doubt. These diminish my ability to be creative and feel inspired. The strategies that I use during these times vary but I have a few “go-to” techniques that I’ve developed.
I meditate and exercise almost everyday. This is extremely important to the sustainability of my inspiration. Another thing I do when I’m caught up in the hustle of editing, blogging, emails, etc., is I will intentionally create “unproductive time.” This is where I put myself in a position where I couldn’t possibly work nor would I want to work. Going out into to nature, chilling with friends or watching my favorite show are some examples. Probably the most effective strategies to stay inspired is to go out and shoot just for me. There’s few better experiences than when I pick up my camera and just walk around and shoot.
A lot of mentors will tell their students to find one style and stay true to it. Do you think this is important?
I agree and disagree. I mentor many types of photographers, at many different levels, and I think this depends on what level someone is at.
For beginners, I believe it’s important to continually experiment with different styles, forms, and techniques. This is the quickest way to learn but is also assists in figuring out what your passion fairly fast.
For photographers who are intermediate or advanced then they might want to go ahead and find a “base” style and stick with that. This means that these photographers should probably have a general look and feel to their photos. With that said, I think changing, evolving and developing your style is a natural progression of all artists whether you’re a beginner or advanced.
Everyone has a different shoot style. Do you do anything ‘funny’ while you shoot?
I do a lot of ‘funny’ things while I shoot. I’m a bit obsessed with thoughtful, interesting composition so I’ll basically do anything to get that. I’ve been know to stretch out in yoga poses, lay down on the ground, climb onto random objects or even stand in the street. For example, I will intentionally shoot clients across streets just so I can wait for cars to drive by and catch them in my frame.
Another thing I do that people find strange is ‘live view.’ I almost always have it on during portrait sessions and use manual focus while doing so. During workshops, I get weird looks from other photographers because they’ve been told that you’re battery won’t last and it’s not efficient to shoot in live view. That all makes sense but for me it’s increased my “keep” rate during culling by 50% and I spend much less time ‘testing light.’
Mark Maya, of Mark Maya Photography, is a wedding photographer and seasoned educator from Durham, North Carolina. Mark has a Master’s of Fine Arts in Educational Media Production, with an emphasis on photography and documentary film. Mark values the importance of time, community, reflection and believes that being a life-long learner is the key to being a successful, happy and thriving photographer.