A couple of weeks back, I was searching for some more photographers in regions that I hadn't encountered, yet. I put out a Tweet to ask photo-lovers who some of their favorites were and Leslie was one that was recommended right away. She is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Florida in the Destin and Pensacola area...and let me tell you, she's got some GREAT secret beach locations!!!
I did some
- 1. At what point did you realize you were ready to move from amateur photographer to pro? Okay... to really understand “where I started” and when I went from amateur to pro you need a little background information. By my second year of college I had been a waitress for at least 5 or six years. (I started at a family restaurant when I was 13.) Don’t get me wrong I loved meeting knew people and seeing everyone I knew in town everyday but I was studying to be a teacher and I was ready for a change. About that same time I was looking for a photographer to take portraits of my then boyfriend and me. In the midst of looking at a local photographer’s website I saw that she was hiring an assistant because her old one was leaving. My first thought was, “How cool would that be?! I want to work for a photographer!” It made it even easier because I actually used to attend the same church as she did, so we knew one another! I started working for her in February of 2005.
Within six months of working with her I was fascinated! I loved EVERYTHING photography. My boyfriend proposed towards the end of 2005 and we started talking more and more about our future. He asked me if I was serious enough to one day start my own business. If so he would buy me a camera. Even though my mindset was 5-10 years down the road until I would ever start this business I said yes and he bought me my first camera, a Canon 20D. I continued to play and take pictures for friends and family. No fee of course. I was just practicing. My fiancé and I were married April 27, 2006 and the following June I found out we were expecting a surprise! This threw me for a loop because we always said I would stay home with our children for at least the first year. How on earth was I supposed to do that?! Then my husband pointed out that it was time to make a decision to either put our newborn in daycare or start my business. Two weeks after Kaydence was born (February of 2007), I finally decided that I could not go back to work for someone else. That May, a little over two years after I started working as a photographer’s assistant, Leslie Roark Photography was born. So truthfully, I was never really “sure” that I was ready to move from amateur to pro. I knew I had to in order to help provide for my family!
2. What's your favorite "can't live without it" piece of equipment? What do you shoot with? I now shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II. I’m SO in love with this camera! While this might sound crazy.. I actually can’t live without my 100mm macro! I LOVE this lens. I LOVE detail shots and this lens makes it even more fun to shoot them! However, my 24-70L is the lens that I love to shoot with the most and if I could only choose one lens to shoot everything with it would be my first choice!
3. How would you define your style? What inspires you artistically? How do you stage your shoots? I would define my style as bright, fun and fresh! I’m inspired most by emotions. I absolutely love watch a groom nuzzle his new wife’s neck or to look down at her with that expression that says, “this is the woman I get to spend the rest of my life with!” Seriously.. it makes my heart swell just watching them. I’m also inspired by color. I’ve always been drawn to anything that is bright and cheerful. I really try not to “stage” my shots. I like to give guidance but I always encourage my couples to do what feels and what is natural for them. If I tell them to sit on the ground.. I tell them to sit comfortably, not how to sit. I’ll often recommend that they sit as they would if they were on the floor in the living room cuddling to watch a movie. That allows me to capture them as the truly are. It took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t a “fashion” photographer even though I love it when I get couples that are natural at fashion!! For me, it’s the emotions that tell the story of a wedding day and if I try to stage things then their story really isn’t being told properly.
4. Have you ever completely flubbed a shoot? How did you handle it? Hmmm.. flubbed a shoot. That’s a tough one. I can’t really think of a shoot that was “flubbed” but I have one that was ALMOST flubbed. I was taking some updated portraits for a client and I asked her if she would be willing to do some night shots in the water. I had my camera and flash on my tripod in the sand down where the water would come up to us but we were not actually in the water. Well, about ten minutes in to this part of the shoot I leaned down and had to take my hand off the tripod to reach for a new card. At that exact moment a large wave came up and my tripod.. camera and all… went straight into the Gulf! I grabbed the camera out as quickly as I could and got the CF card out. Then I grabbed the pieces of my flash that were floating that I could find. My first priority was her pictures and because of that I saved them. However the rest of my equipment was not so lucky!!
5. What's the best piece of advice you were given when you were just starting out? When I first started I was still in a very traditional mind frame. Stand here, pose like this and smile! It was about five months in that I was given the opportunity to shoot with an amazing photographer from California and he told me to “capture the moment.” From then on I worked on perfecting that and realized how inspired I was by natural emotion!! It makes all the difference to be able to connect with your clients so that they are comfortable with you and your camera. For me especially, emotion is key! While it’s so great to get advice and learn what other photographers do, in the end you truly must find what works for you!
AND NOW, ONTO THE PICS!!!