We are thrilled to welcome Sara Ernst to the Savvy blog!
Once upon a time, there was a girl with a camera. She started taking photos when she was young but she immediately knew this was her dream. Connecting with kids and being able to photograph them made her happy. Telling a fairy tale through photos, is what Sara Ernst does best!
Sara is a photographer in Virginia, and she brings big city, commercial style to her small town. She incorporates her loves - fashion, color, styling and shopping - into each photo shoot and puts her stamp on it with her unique ability to tell a story. Seeing these whimsical, fun photos makes me think I am flipping through a gorgeously illustrated children's book. So if you want to step into Alice's Wonderland or Take a Flight to anywhere, check out Sara's blog! You will be swept away!
I had the pleasure of interviewing Sara and here is what she had to say...
Tell me about yourself...where are you from? Are you married? Do you have kids?
ORIGINALLY A LITTLE OF EVERYWHERE, BUT I'VE BEEN IN LYNCHBURG, VA SINCE I WAS 11...SO I CALL THIS HOME! : ) I'M MARRIED TO THE MAN I MET THE FIRST WEEK OF COLLEGE DESPITE MY BEST EFFORTS TO AVOID DATING AT ALL COST DURING SCHOOL...ONE LOOK AT HIM AND I MELTED INTO A PUDDLE. 13 YEARS HAVE PASSED SINCE THEN AND I'M SO HAPPY TO BE MARRIED TO MY BESTEST FRIEND IN WORLD! NO KIDS OF OUR OWN YET...WE'LL SEE WHAT THE LORD HAS IN STORE FOR US! : )
How did you get into photography?
I STARTED SECOND SHOOTING WEDDINGS WHEN I WAS 15. MY PHOTOJOURNALISM TEACHER SHOT WEDDINGS ON THE SIDE AND WAS NICE ENOUGH TO SEE SOMETHING IN MY PHOTOGRAPHY HE APPRECIATED! I DID THAT WITH HIM FOR ABOUT 5 YEARS AND STARTED WORKING WITH KIDS AND FAMILY IN COLLEGE AND FELL IN LOVE WITH IT!
Do you have any formal training?
NO FORMAL TRAINING I'M AFRAID. OTHER THAN MY ONE PHOTOJOURNALISM CLASS IN 10TH GRADE, I'M 100% SELF TAUGHT. IT WORKS FOR ME THOUGH BECAUSE I'M SO COMPLETELY VISUAL AND HANDS ON WITH LEARNING AND I THINK IN THE LONG RUN I'D BE SHOOTING THIS VERY SAME WAY EVEN IF I'D GONE TO PHOTOGRAPHY SCHOOL.
How long have you been in business?
I'VE BEEN IN BUSINESS FOR 9 1/2 YEARS NOW! DID I JUST SAY 9 1/2? YES...HOLY MOLY THAT'S ALMOST 10 YEARS! HOW LUCKY AM I?!! MY BEGINNINGS WERE QUITE HUMBLE MAY I ADD! WITHOUT MY PARENTS FINANCIAL HELP AND MY FAITH IN GOD FOR MY BUSINESS, I NEVER WOULD'VE BEEN ABLE TO START IT FRESH OUT OF COLLEGE THE WAY I DID. IT WAS A TOTAL LEAP OF FAITH AND THE LORD BLESSED ME WITH A STUDIO, EQUIPMENT AND THE WHOLE THING IN LESS THAN A MONTH! UNFORTUNATELY, I DIDN'T GAIN BUSINESS SAVVY OR A LOAD OF CLIENTS WITHIN A MONTH! THAT'S TAKEN SOME TIME! : )
Who or what inspires you as a photographer?
THREE THINGS INSPIRE ME ENTIRELY:
1. CLOTHES!!!!!! I CAN SEE A COLOR OR A PATTERN OR PIECE AND KNOW EXACTLY WHAT KIND OF KID I'D LOVE TO SEE WEARING IT AND IN WHAT LOCATION! A PASSION FOR FASHION IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT!
2. TEXTURES ARE SO AMAZING TO ME WHETHER IT'S RUST, WOOD, FARM HOUSES, WHATEVER. I THINK JUST ABOUT ANY TEXTURE CAN BE USED TO MAKE AN AWESOME IMAGE IF IT'S USED THE RIGHT WAY!
3. KIDS THEMSELVES INSPIRE ME. I HAVE A HORRIBLE HABIT OF STARING AT PEOPLE'S CHILDREN WHENEVER I'M OUT AND I'M VERY AWARE OF THAT FLAW, BUT IT'S HARD NOT TO! I'M NOT THE PERSON WHO GOES UP TO PARENTS, HANDS THEM A CARD AND TELLS THEM HOW MUCH I'D LOVE TO PHOTOGRAPH THEIR KID...BUT I SURE WANT TO! I NEVER WANT TO COME OFF LIKE A CRAZY, CREEPER THAT'S JUST TRYING TO MAKE A SALE, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN? I JUST LOVE FACES AND I LOVE HOW KIDS HAVE SUCH A UNIQUE SPIRIT ABOUT THEM AND OF COURSE, I LOVE WARDROBING THEM OUT FOR A SHOOT! ANYTHING UNIQUE STANDS OUT TO ME LIKE FRECKLES, RED HAIR, CURLY OR LONG HAIR, BRIGHT EYES. WHATEVER IT IS THAT MAKES THAT CHILD STAND OUT PHYSICALLY, I USUALLY ZERO IN ON BECAUSE THAT'S ALSO WHAT WILL USUALLY STAND OUT THE MOST IN AN IMAGE.
How would you describe your photography style?
I USUALLY DESCRIBE MY STYLE AS MODERN AND WHIMSICAL AND SUCH, BUT HONESTLY I THINK IT'S JUST ME! EVERYTHING I LOVE PERSONALLY (FASHION, COLOR, URBAN, SHABBY CHIC) I'VE GRADUALLY FOUND WAYS TO WRAP INTO MY PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE AND THAT WAS THE BEST THING I EVER REALIZED...TAKING MY OWN LOVES AND INCORPORATING THEM INTO MY PHOTOGRAPHY. IT TOTALLY WORKS BECAUSE I NEVER GET TIRED OF STYLING OR WARDROBING!
What has been your proudest moment as a photographer so far?
WELL, I HAVE TWO OF THEM FOR DIFFERENT REASONS:
1. (REWARDING) ONCE, I HAD A MOM AND DAD COME WITH THE GRANDMOTHER TO VIEW THE CHILD'S SESSION...ALL THREE OF THEM WERE BALLING LIKE BABIES BECAUSE THEY LOVED IT SO MUCH! I'VE HAD TONS OF FOLKS CRY WITH JOY WHICH IS AWESOME, BUT I'LL ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT WITH THE DAD CRYING RIGHT ALONG SIDE THE WOMEN! BEST LINE OF THE DAY TOO, "I HATE YOU AND LOVE YOU SARA ERNST". HE HATED THAT IT MADE HIM CRY, BUT WAS SO IN LOVE WITH THE IMAGES! : ) MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
2. (ACCOMPLISHMENT) MY ALICE IN WONDERLAND INSPIRED SHOOT WAS A VERY PROUD MOMENT FOR ME TOO. ALICE IS KIND OF THE EPITOME OF ALL THINGS WHIMSICAL AND MIXED UP WHICH I LOVE, SO I'D WANTED TO DO AN " ALICE INSPIRED" SHOOT FOR A VERY LONG TIME. IT WAS 8 MONTHS IN THE MAKING ONCE I DECIDED TO DO IT AND IT WAS SOOOOO MUCH WORK, BUT SO WORTH IT! I HAD AN AMAZING LOCAL CAKE DESIGNER (WENDY COFFEY OF WWW.COFFEYCAKES.COM) WHO MADE THIS INCREDIBLE SPREAD OF TARTS, MINI CAKES, COOKIES AND A FULL 3 TIERED CAKE FOR THE TABLE SCENE...IT WAS AWESOME! SOME OF THE CLOTHING WAS CUSTOM MADE AND THE PINS AND MOST HEADPIECES WERE CREATED SPECIFICALLY FOR THE SHOOT BY AVA GIRL COLLECTION (YOU CAN FIND IT ON FACEBOOK)!
What has been your most successful marketing technique?
HONESTLY, WORD OF MOUTH. MY CLIENTS ARE MY BEST ADVERTISING ALL DAY LONG AND I KNOW THAT IF THEY LOVE WHAT I'VE BEEN ABLE TO GIVE THEM THEN THEY'RE GOING TO SHOW IT OFF...AND THEY DO! FACEBOOK HAS BEEN AN AMAZING TOOL AS WELL AND A GREAT WAY TO SHOW MY WORK OFF TO SO MANY NEW PEOPLE WHO WOULDN'T HAVE SEEN IT LOCALLY!
What is the biggest piece of advice you could share with someone starting out in this business?
IF POSSIBLE, LEARN AS MUCH ABOUT THE BUSINESS SIDE OF THINGS FROM THE GET GO! IT'S SO IMPORTANT TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS IN THE BEGINNING. ALSO, KNOW WHO YOU ARE. IF YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU LIKE OR LOVE THEN IT'S GOING TO MAKE FINDING YOUR NICHE AND STYLE MORE CONFUSING.
Your shoots are perfectly styled! How do you create these themed shoots and how involved are you with the fashion/clothing choices for these shoots?
THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH!!! HOW DO I CREATE THEM? IN MY HEAD AND THEN I STARTED SKETCHING OUT MY IDEAS ON PAPER AND THEN I FINALLY HITTIN' THE WEBSITES FOR CLOTHING AND SUCH! I AM 100% INVOLVED IN EVERY SINGLE SHOOT. I HAVE A STYLE AND PLANNING SESSION WITH MY CLIENTS FIRST AND WE LOOK AND DISCUSS WARDROBE AND ACCESSORIES. I'D SAY I PERSONALLY SHOP FOR THE OUTFITS FOR MY SESSIONS ABOUT 99% OF THE TIME...MAYBE 99.5% : )
Where do you find the ideas/inspiration behind these styled shoots?
AGAIN, THE KIDS, THE CLOTHING, THE LOCATION...ALL OF IT PLAYS A KEY ROLE OF INSPIRATION IN THE OUTCOME OF THE SHOOT AND I FORTUNATELY, HAVE THE GIFT OF SEEING AND CREATING A WHOLE LOOK IN MY HEAD....THAT MAKES IT REALLY EASY!
What is your advice for incorporating props into a photo shoot?
IT DEPENDS ON YOUR PERSONAL TASTE. WHETHER IT'S HEIRLOOM AND FORMAL, RUSTIC OR TEA PARTIES, MY ONLY REAL ADVICE IS TO NOT OVER USE PROPS IN THE HOPE THAT IT WILL MAKE THE IMAGE. ASK YOURSELF WHAT YOU WANT TO STAND OUT FIRST AND FOREMOST IN THE IMAGE...THE SUBJECT OR THE PROP?
I love the "taking flight" and the "alice in wonderland" photo shoots! Were these for clients or commercial shoots?
THANKS SO VERY MUCH! THESE WERE ACTUALLY PERSONAL CREATIVE PROJECTS THAT HAVE TURNED INTO SOMETHING MORE COMMERCIAL. I PERSONALLY WANTED TO SHOW PEOPLE HOW DIFFERENT AND UNIQUE A KID'S PHOTO SHOOT CAN BE AND THAT I CAN BRING A "BIG CITY" MAGAZINE, PHOTO SHOOT FEEL TO A SMALLER AREA LIKE OURS.
If commercial, can you share advice on how photographers can get into the commercial side of things?
I DO DEFINITELY OFFER THE COMMERCIAL KID SHOOTS FOR THOSE LOOKING TO LAUNCH THEIR KIDS INTO THE MODELING OR COMMERCIAL INDUSTRY. IF THAT'S SOMETHING YOU'RE INTERESTED IN, JUST MAKE SURE THAT YOU ARE KNOWLEDGABLE ENOUGH TO UNDERSTAND WHAT AGENCIES WILL WANT TO SEE AND ALSO WHAT THE CLIENT WILL NEED TO HAVE FROM YOU AS FAR AS PRINTS, ETC.
What is in your camera bag?
MY NIKON D200 (MY BABY AND OLD FRIEND).
NIKON 28-70 2.8 LENS
NIKON 50 1.8
SIGMA 15MM 2.8 FISHEYE
A NOTE MY HUSBAND LEFT IN MY BAG FOR ME YEARS AND YEARS AGO WHEN WE DATED THAT SAYS " SARA, I DON'T KNOW WHEN YOU WILL FIND THIS, BUT WHEN YOU DO, KNOW THAT I AM HAPPY TO BE WITH YOU! I LOVE YOU." I'VE KEPT IN THERE EVER SINCE! : )
DEFINITELY MY 28-70. I THINK EVERYONE HAS A LENS THAT IS JUST SECOND NATURE TO THEM WHEN THEY USE IT...THAT ONE IS MINE.
Studio or on-location?
I DO HAVE A STUDIO, BUT I ONLY PHOTOGRAPH NEWBORNS IN-STUDIO...EVERYTHING ELSE IS OUTSIDE SINCE I SHOOT 100% NATURAL LIGHT ON LOCATION...EVEN IN THE WINTER!
If you weren't a photographer, what would you be?
PROBABLY EITHER A DANCER OR FASHION DIRECTOR OR INTERIOR DESIGNER... I'M ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE THAT WOULD LOVE TO DO ABOUT 1000 THINGS IN ONE LIFETIME.
What is your savvy indulgence?
HI, MY NAME IS SARA AND I'M A STARBUCKS GRANDE VANILLA LATTE WITH WHIP! NOTICE HOW I SAID I AM ONE? THAT'S HOW BAD IT CAN BE. I'VE BEEN WORKING ON HARNASSING MY ADDICTION OVER THIS YEAR AND I'M PROUD TO SAY THAT I'VE BEEN REALLY GOOD (LIKE ONLY ONCE A MONTH NOW WHICH IS HUGE)! TALKING ABOUT IT THOUGH IS KIND OF MAKING ME WANT ONE...BE RIGHT BACK!
What is your favorite thing about being a photographer?
I NEVER GET TIRED OF THE LAUGHING, CRYING AND SMILING FROM SHEER JOY AS A PARENT IS VIEWING THEIR CHILD'S SESSION. THAT IS SO REWARDING TO ME TO HAVE GIVEN SOMETHING THAT EVOKES SO MUCH EMOTION IN A POSITIVE WAY. ALSO, WHENEVER A PARENT TELLS ME THAT THEIR 4YR OLD, 6 YR OLD, 8 YR OLD, COULDN'T STOP TALKING ABOUT THE SHOOT AFTER THEY LEFT OR THAT THEIR KIDS NOW WANT ME AS A BABY SITTER OR THAT THEY WANT TO DO ANOTHER SHOOT...THAT IS THE ULTIMATE!!!! I NEVER WANT A CHILD TO FEEL DRAGGED INTO A PHOTO SHOOT WITH ME...I LOVE WHEN THEY HAD AN AMAZING TIME AND CONNECTED WITH ME!
Visit the site of Sara Ernst Photography
interview by LESLIE KERRIGAN