I specialize primarily in the wonder of newborn babies and their families.
Film or digital?
The majority of my paid client commissions are digital, however I have been working more and more film into my professional work.
How long have you been shooting professionally?
Almost 5 years.
Although I do have the occasional in home session, the majority of my sessions are held in my natural light studio. I have been here for just over two years now. Previous to the studio I photographed exclusively on-location in client’s homes.
What drew you to photography initially?
I was an artist for as long as I can remember. I painted with watercolors, sketched with charcoal and always had a camera to take pictures of everything. We moved a lot when I was young; taking pictures initially was just a fun way to capture moments and to remember the people and places. I loved the magic that a photograph holds. I took a home school photography course in high school and learned the basics of my Dad’s old film SLR. Many years later, I had my first experience being photographed professionally and that was the catalyst for my love affair with the art of photography. It suited me beautifully and gave me just the medium I needed to let the art flow out of me again.
I could speak of obvious and expected influences such as Anne Geddes, someone who has influenced every newborn photographer out there with groundwork that she laid down before us. I could say my children since they have helped to form the very person that I am and how I view the world before me. In terms of who has been my greatest influence however I feel like there is no better, more truer answer than the babies themselves. They have taught me everything that I know and have guided me into my philosophies and techniques. Their innocence and pure beauty has molded me and captivated me. Each unique newborn baby has been my greatest influence to my style and approach. I learn from each and every one of them.
Who or what continues to inspire you most, personally and professionally?
Light. Love. Texture. Words. Design. Muted tones and understated elegance. A soft breeze and the hair that dances in it as it blows. I feel there is no end to the wonder – it is absolutely everywhere. Beauty is in breath and inspiration in the exhale.
What do you enjoy most about being a professional photographer? What do you enjoy least?
In short, I enjoy being the storyteller to this time in a clients life and pursuing a career of creativity the most; I enjoy bookkeeping and the endless emails the least. LOL.
My style breathes honest beauty and elegant simplicity; always promising to evolve with the heart of it’s artist. Although I would be tempted to use them, I feel the words “organic” and “pure” are much overused, so much so that it’s hard to use them to describe ones uniqueness and style properly.
Do you have any formal training or education in photography?
I took a home school course on manual camera settings and a “Art of Photography” class at the local college, but outside of that I don’t have any formal training. I have dreams of getting my BA in photography however, I also dream of getting trained in culinary arts and midwifery. LOL. Someday maybe.
What camera do you use in your work? What lens is your most used? Most fun?
My main camera body for client work is my Canon 5D (4 years old and still working great), paired with my old 50mm 1.8 and 100mm 2.8 macro. If I want to have play or just stretch doing something different, I will usually reach for my SX-70 Polaroid camera or my old Zenit E film body with the 85-210mm lens.
I suppose that I need my blankets and beanbag to photograph how I typically do, but I truly don’t feel like I need anything more than my 5D and 50mm to create something beautiful. Gum and chap stick … I talk a lot during some sessions and get dried out. LOL!
What program(s) do you use for post-processing? What is your favorite tip you can share with our readers regarding post-processing?
I use ACR for my first round of tweaks to my image, white balance, brightness, contrast, etc. If my image is going to be black and white, this is where I will convert it usually. After that I pull it into Photoshop CS4 for minor cloning and cropping if needed. I am not a post processing guru – as I’m sure many who have seen me edit can attest. That is likely why my process is so simple. Most other people could school me in Photoshop. LOL!
It’s not really a tip but, patch tool is your friend. If my little one has lots of blemishes or scratches I will take care of them with the patch tool super quick and it makes those little problem areas a breeze. Oh and one more thing that I feel is important – when in doubt, warm it up. I would always, always rather see a warm skin tone on a newborn than an overly cool one. Trust me.
Do you prefer color or black and white images? What determines how you’ll process each image (or which film you’ll use)?
These days I don’t really prefer one to the other, I just want that image to shine. The light in the image is the biggest determining factor for me. If my light is a little more head on and lacking in the tonal range that I like (highlight, midtone, shadows), than I will often prefer it in color. Black and white is a delicate thing for me, it’s really all about the light. I will choose to go black and white if baby’s color isn’t great due to a bit of jaundice, or if the moment feels a bit more intimate. My goal is to not spend much time in post processing at all so trying to “fix” color issues isn’t in my plans. In the start of my career I did prefer mainly black and white processing. It became a strength of mine due to my background in charcoal sketching. Being able to see the value and benefit of the ever important highlight, midtone and shadow gave me strength in that area.
Ruts happen all the time. I feel like I’m on a creative roller coaster sometimes. I do notice that my ruts come more frequently when I don’t allow myself time to recharge my body and mind. I have three little girls, a husband, a dog, a business and no dang time. I burn out physically and creatively. I find that the best way for me to get out of a rut is to firstly, get away from my computer. (It has the power to suck your brains and life force out, I swear). When I take care of me and my body everything else gets recharged, including my creativity. I get out into my garden and quietly pull some weeds. I do yoga. I make time for a long shower, (being sure to dry brush and alternating hot and cold water – yes ma’am that’s a must). I listen to music and I sing and dance all by myself. After paying some attention to me, I start to wake up, connect and feel creativity flowing again.
What has been the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given regarding photography?
Get off your arse and practice. LOL!
Tell us about your most favorite portrait session, most fun commercial assignment or dream wedding.
I’m not sure if I can think of a single most favorite session, but I do have a most favorite part of a session though. I love it when I am already a half hour or so into my session and a relaxed, calm rapport is starting to happen. This is where my client begins to really warm up to me and baby is getting comfortable with my touch, voice and smell. In this space the shoulders drop, natural expressions shine, client movement becomes more organic, my eye is sees everything and the air changes. That’s the zone. The groove. My favorite images are usually from the most recent session too. I like to think that I grow from every session.
Chocolate. My Mom’s birthday just passed on the 4th and I made her a Chocolate Salted Caramel Hazelnut Pie (from What Katie Ate http://bit.ly/ecdioU). So, so good.
Where is your dream getaway? And… would you take your camera with you, or leave it at home and enjoy the moment?
Right now my dream is a tie between relaxing on a beautiful beach in Byron Bay, Australia or anywhere in the countryside in the South of France. I would bring the camera but honestly, I’d probably leave it in the bag. Sometimes I just want to enjoy things as they are happening and not be the designated photographer.
Do you offer any products or services you’d like to share with our readers?
Yes! NEWBORN is an ongoing series of video and written word for photographers which explores my personal approach to capturing the wonder of newborn babies. It is unique in it’s structure combining both video and written word into “chapters”, where your comments and feedback will help to shape future chapters. It has debuted with amazing feedback and I am so amazingly grateful to each of the beautiful creatives who have explored NEWBORN with me.
You can find more information here: http://ashleyskjaveland.com/
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