RIVERLAND STUDIOS » WEDDING & PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHERS IN CHARLESTON, SC

Priscilla Thomas {Interveiw}

PINHappy Thursday! Here at Riverland Studios we have a great team of professional photographers and we want you to get to know them a little better. We sat down with Priscilla recently and asked her few questions about her personal and professional life.

Priscilla delved into photography post graduation from the College of Charleston in 2007. With a B.A. in Religious Studies and a history of contributing to academic journalism publications through writing and photography, she searched for a career that would allow her to merge her passion for all three. She’s got great advice for new photographers and experienced photographers alike.  So listen up!  🙂

RLS: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE BUSINESS OF PHOTOGRAPHY?

Priscilla: I’ve been photographing professionally for 5+ years. However, photography has been a part of my life since middle school. I worked on the school’s yearbook and continued to do so throughout high school. In addition to being a part of the yearbooks staff, I also worked on the school newspaper which required that we take photographs to compliment are articles. During college, photography remained a hobby until after graduation. It was at the end of 2007 that I decided to begin pursuing photography professionally. I sought out a mentor, Mikayla Mackaness, and met with her privately for a year. It was through her tough critiques and guidance that I started photographing people instead of places and things. During the first couple of years, I was building my portfolio and networking, but I desired a formal education in photography. So, in 2010 I left Charleston to migrate north to Athens, OH, to attend a graduate program in visual communication for photojournalism at Ohio University. I completed the coursework in the early summer of 2012 and decided to move back to the South where saying y’all is natural lexicon, the tea is always sweet, and snow rarely decides to visit.

RLS: WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING A PHOTOGRAPHER?

Priscilla: I think the best thing about being a photographer is realizing that what I do and what I create impacts others. That my images will have meaning to another definitely gives me purpose and a sense of duty to capture people’s stories and share them in a visual way.

RLS: WHY PHOTOGRAPHY? AND WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SUBJECT TO PHOTOGRAPH?

Priscilla: Really, my first passion is storytelling. When I was eight, the number one thing I wanted for Christmas was a typewriter. I would roll mint green copy paper into the typewriter and pretend I was a reporter writing articles about people in our neighborhood. During adolescence, I joined the school newspaper. While attending College of Charleston, I wrote several op-ed pieces for the George Street Observer and when I graduated, I freelanced for some of the local publications here in Charleston. Along with journalism, I also was an avid and prolific creative writer, specializing in short stories. So, for a long time, the written word was my way to tell narratives. But then I graduated college, which is a weird liminal state to go through in and of itself, and certain experiences resulted in me falling out of love with the world. When that happened, I did what I had done so many times before, I wrote. I wrote 50,000 words. And yet there was still pain. There was still a void. Writing was no longer cathartic for me. I knew something had to change and that happened when I picked up a camera. Photography forced me to be a part of the world, to get to know others, and gradually, I found beauty in this world again. Photography saved me. It is saving me. And now it is the media I use to communicate and share stories.

RLS: WHAT IS YOUR CAMERA OF CHOICE? FAVORITE LENSES? (AND WHY?)

Priscilla: My camera of choice is basically any Nikon DSLR. When I started photographing in 2008, one of the top models was the Nikon D300. So, I debated between that camera and a Canon body for awhile, but in the end, the tech specs and images I saw from other photographers with the D300 just swayed my decision. And once you commit to a brand, it’s like a marriage, it’s for life. I think Nikon bodies produce images that are more vibrant, the sensor is great in low light situations, and the glass Nikon makes is amazing. Canon has a softer color palette and is also known for DLSR video – though Nikon is catching up on that front as well. Basically, I won’t be divorcing from Nikon. In regards to Nikon lenses, I mostly shoot with primes rather than zooms. So, I love the 35mm, the 105mm micro, and the 135mm. In saying that, I only own the 105mm micro, which is great for detail shots, but also for portraiture because of how nicely it compresses the background. A 35mm is the nice place between the standard 50mm and then going wide with a 28mm or 24mm. It also has little distortion. A 135mm is a nice telephoto because it’s smaller and lighter than the 70-200mm, and its smaller size helps maintain a less obtrusive approach to photography. It’s easier to capture candid moments when a large lens isn’t being pointed around.

RLS: WHAT INSPIRES YOU CREATIVELY?

Priscilla: I’m not sure if this counts as inspiring, but I have a drive to continuously create better images. It’s like a game with variables, many of which I can’t control, and the goal is to still create a great photo in spite of that. It’s a challenge. I like those.

What helps sustain my creativity is trying new things so I don’t get bored with it. But also stepping away from being inundated with imagery or work. Because that can cause mental exhaustion, which in turn, will negatively impact my creativity.

RLS: WHEN SHOOTING WEDDINGS, WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MOMENT? WHAT REALLY GETS TO YOU, MAKES YOU LAUGH OR PERHAPS MAKES YOU CHOKE UP?

Priscilla: Usually my favorite time is when I’m with the bride and groom photographing their portraits. During this time, I shoo away almost everyone else. I do this because a) I want the couple to have a break from everything going on and b) I want that time to really be about the two of them focused on nothing else but each other. Because the love they feel manifests in everything they say and do and it can be felt even in an image. So, I want the couple to be in that zone and stay there because that feeling is what that day is about, it’s that love that has brought everyone together and that’s what I want to capture and preserve.

RLS: WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX…THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH PHOTOGRAPHY?

Priscilla: I’m still working on finding a new hobby since my old one became my career. I love to read, though I still don’t have much time for it. Right now I’ve made it partway through Steve Martin’s novel The Pleasure of My Company.

RLS: HOW DO YOU GET YOUR CLIENTS TO BE SO COMFORTABLE IN FRONT OF YOUR CAMERA?

Priscilla: I try to keep them focused on the other person. I would rather they interact with each other more and then I call out some directions or suggestions as needed. Basically to capture natural moments is to get them to forget I’m there. Usually the first 10-15 minutes is about them getting comfortable and used to me being around, shutter bugging away and give them directions. After that, people loosen up, they start learning how to move or pose, and it becomes a much more natural process.

RLS: AND FINALLY, WHAT THREE PIECES OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE WOMEN WHO ARE TRYING TO FIND A BALANCE IN THEIR BUSINESS AND THEIR OVERALL LIVES?

Priscilla: I feel a lot of women I know who are professionals work extremely hard, more than is probably necessary or good for our being. But I think that’s because we feel we’re having to prove ourselves to others. So…advice…hmmm.

1. Stop feeling guilty when you aren’t doing work. – I still struggle with this piece of advice. Just this week I took an evening off to have dinner and go see Les Miserables with a friend and at least a dozen times I thought about the work I could be doing. I should add that before I went out for the evening, I worked for 6 hours, and then I worked 4 more hours when I got home before going to sleep at 3AM.

2. Don’t be scared to be assertive or firm. – Often times women who do become labeled with derogatory names or are considered emotional. I’ve never heard a man with these same traits be called such things, but are rather known for being business-minded.

3. Set boundaries and refuse to cross them. – This includes work-life balance because there will always be people who think we should be accessible or working 24/7. But we have to kindly and tactfully remind them that we are also human and that we also have a life to be lived. My profession is capturing photographs of other people living life, but I have as much of a right to decide when to put down the camera and embrace living my life. Not everyone will understand that, but most will. And the only way to ensure this happens is by setting boundaries and refusing to cross them.

If you would like to see more of Priscilla’s work you can visit her page here: http://riverlandstudios.com/photographers/priscilla/

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