Get to Know Vanguard Professional Michelle Moore
Based in Seattle and working along the West Coast, she is an award-winning photographer who is highly sought out for her high school portrait services. She uses an Alta Pro 284CT carbon fiber tripod with an SBH-250 ball head and an Xcenior 48T rolling camera bag. While an industry leader in the senior portrait realm, in 2015 Michelle is pushing her focus more towards commercial and fashion shoots. Read on to see her fashion photography and to learn more about Michelle...
How did you first get into the world of photography?
I found myself first drawn to photography as an art form when I was a sophomore in high school. I would photograph the clouds & sunsets out of my bedroom window, or get my little sister to “model” for me. I fell in love with photography my senior year of high school when I enrolled in a black & white film class. I spent most of my senior year in that darkroom, developing & printing my own photos. I was hooked.
It wasn’t until the end of my first year of college that I really thought seriously about photography as a career choice. It all started one day when a friend of mine asked me to photograph their indie band at a local venue. I started photographing live shows, and doing band promos in my spare time.
I photographed bands & musicians for almost two years until I realized there was no money in the indie band scene. I moved on to taking headshots for my friends who were actors, and doing any and all types of photography gigs.
My senior year of college I interned with a stock photographer and by graduation I had reached a point where I either had to quit my part-time job – or quit photography. I quit my job in January 2007 and have been a full-time photographer since. It wasn’t until the next year I settled on my niche market, high school senior portraiture, (with commercial work mixed in) and grew my business to what it is today.
How would you describe your style? How has it changed as your career has evolved?
I like to describe my style as very natural and colorful. I like really rich vibrant colors and beautiful light-filled scenes. I am a huge fan of flat-lighting (I hate that term), but it is flattering on every subject – giving them smooth even skin-tone and soft light. I like images that feel bright, and filled with energy, even if the subject has a serious expression.
I look at it as though I have “come into” my style, rather than it evolving. I used to try and go against my style, trying to re-create high fashion images, or other editing techniques that were not “me”. I think as soon as I accepted myself, I became my style. I am always growing as a photographer, and it reflects in my work, but underneath it is still very much “me”.
What does your creative & editing process look like?
I find I am most creative when I get a good team of people working together on a project. I (or a client) come up with an idea and start bouncing ideas off my stylist or each other and grow the project from there. I like to really dive in once I see the pieces coming together. Once I’m on location I find a huge burst of creative energy because I get so incredibly inspired by seeing everything come together.
My editing process is very simple. For my portrait work it is 90% good lighting and working with a professional makeup artist. The final 10% is spent color correcting and touching up any small blemishes. I hardly do anything, as I want to preserve the natural beauty of my teen clients.
For commercial clients, there is usually a “look” we are going for, so I may do a bit more intensive color-correcting, or creating a filter that we use to add color, light and grain to certain sets of images. I still keep my re-touching to a minimum. I’m all about natural.
What gear is essential to your work?
I like to keep it really simple. The most important thing to my work is finding good lighting. Without good light, it’s next to impossible to produce quality work. Gear wise I have my trusty Canon 1DX and either an 85mm or 50mm lens. I stick to my 85mm for senior portraits & my 50mm for fashion work. I use my Vanguard Xcenior 48T for traveling through the airport, and when I need a tripod, I use my Vanguard Alta Pro 284CT. Finally I cannot live without my Photoflex 5-in-1 reflector for any shoot. It’s essential for shaping natural light!
Between your POSING & MOORE guides and your workshops with Clickin Moms and with NAPCP, teaching seems like a big part of your life as a photographer. What draws you to teaching?
My passion for teaching is something that comes naturally to me. I rode horses for over 15 years, and when I decided it was time for me to move on from that, I taught riding lessons to students aged 5-18. I think I have a lot of experience teaching and find it extremely symbiotic to being a working photographer, as you can learn just as much from your students as they can from you.
I love teaching and while it is a huge passion of mine, it is not my number one focus. I only take on one workshop a year, and also one e-product a year, as producing and executing those projects like my posing guide are extremely huge tasks! I found over the years that people were asking me the same questions over and over – and when I felt ready to put my expertise into words, I did so with the launch of my POSING & MOORE guide in June 2012. I love to give back and share knowledge with fledgling photographers – but would never want my teaching to take me away from being a full-time photographer. Photography is still my number one passion, and I teach as much as I can.
How do you keep yourself growing and learning as a photographer?
Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone can be extremely rewarding. As humans we are creatures of habit, and in order to do something different or grow as a creative, you have to find ways to break out of your natural work environment. I really enjoy reading, and studying other styles of photography. Doing test shoots (AKA portfolio work) is a great way to work on something new, try out new techniques, and practice your craft.
It’s also good to take a break every once in a while to go on vacation, or get away from work. You need to allow time for your mind to rest and be creative again. During my busiest time of year, I always take the weekend off to get away from work and refresh for the week ahead. It keeps me alive & creative week after week!
What photo of yours is your favorite, so far?
I think it’s hard as a photographer to like your own work – ha! There are a handful of photoshoots that I fall in love with and then out with, but a few have stuck with me over the years, and it’s because I realized they are what I truly love to photograph, and really speak to me as an artist. My very favorite shoot I have ever done was a collaboration with a local boutique, Horseshoe, and The Portland Collection by Pendleton. We spent almost 10 hours that day schlepping piles of clothes and heavy blankets through the high desert in Eastern Washington. It was truly a labor of love, but something magical happened that day. It’s still one of my very favorite photoshoots.
What advice do you have for photographers just starting out in the industry?
You have to be ready to give it 150% - there are so many emerging photographers who are insanely talented and the competition is fierce as ever. The people I see make it are the ones who put in the work. They are out there shooting every single day, constantly creating work and getting it out in the world.
You also cannot forget the important of real world connections. Putting a face to a name in the real world goes a long way. Get out there, meet people and work hard. Always be shooting. Don’t get hung up on one photo, or one shoot, always be shooting new work. You have to show consistency, integrity and professionalism. Be humble, and most importantly, have fun!