Every interview I tell you how much I love the work of the photographer I am interviewing.
And it is true this week as well.
Sarah Robertson is one of my very favorites for certain.
I have loved Sarah’s work from the very beginning. She is one of my absolute favorites.
Prepare to be amazed!
How long have you lived in California?
Are you a California girl? I have lived in Los Angeles for 11 years. It is my home and I have grown to love it. I grew up in a New Jersey suburb of New York City, though, and that is the city that really makes my heart beat! And am I a true California Girl? No way! You can take the girl out of Jersey but never the Jersey out of the girl!
Tell me about your children. What are their names? How did you come up with those? Who likes to model for you? I have four: Daniel, Catie, Sam and Paul. My husband named them all and they love knowing that Daddy picked their names.
My children do not like to model for me. I don’t even try to make them anymore, but they are very good at completely ignoring my camera and allowing me to take the candid sort of pictures that have defined my style. I prefer these images anyway. In fact, I think my shooting style was born in shooting my children. Rather than force them to pose, I embraced their indifference and caught the candid moments that show their true personalities and character.
Tell me about your first camera. Tell me about the moment you knew you were not going to ever be able to go through life without shooting.
My first DSLR camera was a Nikon D60 and a Christmas gift from my husband. My passion for photography began almost immediately. The moment, though, when I knew that shooting and freezing time through photography would forever impact the course of my life came later that same year. My neighbor was expecting a baby that had been diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder and the baby was not expected to live long after birth. They asked me to be at the hospital with them after his birth and take pictures of his short life. That experience changed me as a photographer and as a human being. At baby Paul’s funeral, the pastor spoke about Paul’s short life affecting the lives of many, and I remember being overwhelmed with the realization that it had forever changed mine. Part of what I do in my work, is to freeze the moments in life that happen only once. Paul’s short life was my first experience with that and pointed me toward what I want to be doing; capturing those events that can not be repeated but define our lives (an engagement, a wedding, a birth, an adoption, a last family visit during terminal illness, etc.) . It is LIFE photography. You can see a slideshow of baby Paul’s images here.
Tell me about your style. Does everyone like your picture style? Have you ever had someone say, 'No, I like posed better?' Do you ever question your style and think you should do it like other people?
No, not everyone likes my style. I think that Kodak has brainwashed our culture into thinking that “smile at the camera” pictures are the only way to create good images. And when I was portfolio building, there were many people who were looking for posed portrait type images. I really believe that anyone with a nice camera can take a picture like that. What (I think!) sets me apart from other fancy DSLR camera owners is the way I artistically, candidly and “naturally” capture images of my clients being themselves, living their lives and most importantly, being REAL. I think I have gotten to a point in my business where clients know my work, know what to expect from my images and are hiring me for what I do (instead of what I do not do: those posed, traditional portraits they can find from many, many other photographers out there). In my wedding photography work, I want my style to reflect genuine photojournalism; as if a photographer from the New York Times was following you on your wedding day, capturing the news story of your event, the moments and the details that most people never know and then artistically telling the visual story of your day.
My husband is very proud of me and also my biggest (and most relied on) critic. My children, on the other hand, seem to be excited about it in different ways. They love the days when I have “weddings” because it usually means a fun day alone with daddy or a day spent at a friend’s house! Go figure…
After you shot your first wedding, what did you think of wedding photography?I was in love. Love at first shot!!!
Would you ever shoot a wedding alone?
I have a very small (15 person) wedding in Santa Barbara booked for next month that I will shoot alone. It is small enough that I can confidently cover the day on my own, without fear of missing something essential. That exception aside, though, I will always shoot with a second. Rosina Waszaj shoots with me on all of my other normally booked weddings and I absolutely rely on her ability to capture details artistically and shoot other angles during a ceremony and throughout the day. I know I can trust her eye to get what I need and her style fits and compliments mine very well. Our strengths lies in different areas and it makes us a great team. She also can read my mind and understand my incomprehensible sentences, which is a definite bonus!
Tell me about pricing for you. Was that hard for you to do? How did you determine what to charge? For wedding photography, I started off shooting inexpensively to build my portfolio and I felt I needed to offer a deal (so to speak) to earn the trust of my clients who were really taking a chance on me and my inexperience. Over time though, I have realized that I don’t want clients to book me just because I am inexpensive and then expect a traditionally shot wedding. I do not shoot a traditional wedding! I raised my prices, in part, because I want to be hired for my style. I want my work to be the defining motive in their decision to commission me for their wedding day art. And I also began seeing my work this way. I am not just taking pictures, I creating art for them that will be enjoyed forever. Art has value and is not cheap. My time and the talent needed to create that art, also has value and is not cheap.
How did you pick a printer for your prints?
I use WHCC and chose them because of their quality and accessibility. I prefer, though, to sell digital negatives packages to my clients (at a premium). I don’t really like dealing with print orders, packaging and delivery of prints and although I do make this option available (and it is more cost effective for my clients), I usually recommend that they purchase digital negatives and own their images outright.
How often do you order prints for your own home?
Uh, never. Last weekend my husband went to the store and bought 12 large frames and hung them around my house in different arrangements. When I got home, there were beautiful—but empty—frames hanging in every room. He told me to fill them. So ask me in a few weeks if I still have empty frames up on the walls…
Where is your favorite place to shoot?
Wow, that’s a hard question! I don’t think I have a favorite place; I love shooting most anywhere. If anything, I have places where shooting is difficult; beautiful scenic places (like some recent trips we took to Yosemite and Big Bear Lake) are difficult for me because I never feel like I can recreate the majesty of God’s creation and the sense of actually being there, surrounded by it. It’s more a “feeling” that I don’t know how to incorporate into landscape photography. I am used to finding the beauty in the mundane and ugly parts of everyday life—that is where I thrive-- but I go into visual overload trying to visually process and do justice to the large scale beauty all around in a place like Yosemite.
How long does it take you to edit a family session? How many pictures do you typically include for them to choose from?
I edit first for blogging and then the full session. All together editing a 1 ½ hour session typically takes another 10 hours of work that I do in the evenings after my children are asleep. I promise my clients 30 images because I know I can confidently produce that many, in a 90 minute session. Usually though, there are between 30-60 images that they can choose from.
Do you have a favorite verse that you consider to be your life verse? I have had different verses in my life that might fall into that category, but at the moment, this one seems to be on my mind most frequently: Psalm 127:1 Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. It has so many applications, both personally and professionally and a warning that I am reminded of constantly. Certainly keeps me in check.
Tell me about one of your photography inspirations.
The Parsons; hands down are my favorite photog team out there!
What advice would you share with someone who is just starting out with photography?
The best advise I can give on a practical level is to learn immediately to shoot manually (no auto, program, aperture-priority). I never bothered shooting in any other mode than manual (right from the beginning) and I know that it helped me immensely as a photographer. I learned to see how to meter light and creatively use that light to expose my images to look a certain way. On a less practical level, I think beginning photographers need to shoot what inspires them. Don’t look at the trends or the status quo and think you need to follow suit; your work will be better when you are shooting from the heart and capturing the things that inspire and charge your creativity.
Sarah’s family blog: The Animator’s Wife
Sarah’s business blog: Image Bearer’s Photography
If you have any questions you would like to ask, feel free!
I know Sarah would be delighted to answer.