This week’s Questions with a Pro features Virginia Hamrick.
Virginia is a photographer who specializes in architecture. She loves the opportunities architectural photography provides for her to collaborate with the various people who bring architecture to life. Here, Virginia describes how the digital age has impacted her business, how she handles the unpredictability of the photography industry, and the keys to effective collaboration.
We asked: Please describe how you came to specialize in architecture. How did you know that this was your niche?
Virginia said: It was quite by accident that I came to specialize in architecture and interiors photography. After several years working in software development and then running a small business, I decided to pursue a livelihood with my camera. As I began exploring possible areas of specialization, a chance opportunity to photograph a building for an architect came along. That experience revealed several things to me: how much I was drawn to this uniquely challenging kind of photography, how much there was for me to learn, and how energized I was to pursue that learning.
So began lots of reading and self-directed assignments to build a portfolio. Eventually, showing my book to architects lead to paid commissions and I never looked back.
We asked: How has the digital age impacted your business and the way you approach photography?
Virginia said: My transition to shooting with digital cameras happened shortly before I launched my photography business. So, while the digital age didn’t impact my business per se, it certainly did shape it, especially in the areas of workflow, asset management and post-production. Coming from a film background, digital image processing was brand new territory for me, but I enjoyed learning Photoshop and in particular the ability to make composites and blend exposures are important for my work.
We asked: The photography industry tends to be very unpredictable. How do you cope with this fact and keep the work flowing?
Virginia said: By maintaining long-term relationships with clients. Since architects’ projects can take years to design and build, there may be long gaps in between assignments with a given client so I’ve learned to manage expectations knowing that more work will likely be coming when they have a need. Established clients facilitate third-party licensing connections which may come months or years after the original project has been delivered and this revenue source helps stabilize things. On a practical level, I now channel a portion of all income into a reserve fund for riding out market fluctuations due to recessions and normal seasonal ups and downs.
We asked: What are your main sources of inspiration?
Virginia said: Spending time in nature. Observing how the sun will change the way a building looks from season to season, day to day, and minute to minute. Exploring and experiencing new places, both urban and rural. I’m especially drawn to plazas, public gardens and parks where the built environment and the natural environment meet and overlap.
We asked: What are some of the keys to effective collaboration on set? Please explain.
Virginia said: Being prepared in advance with an understanding of the overall goal of the assignment. Goals can be quite different depending on the type of client commissioning the work. An architect, an interior designer, and an editorial client will each have a different vision and set of needs.
On set, good communication is important for exploring what each shot is meant to feature, evoke or communicate.
Finally, keeping things as relaxed and stress-free as possible, especially when non-professional models are involved. This is common when photographing buildings on college campuses where actual students typically populate the spaces. Once the shot is set up and the tripod is locked down, by shooting with a wireless tether, I can step away from the camera and interact with the models and then trip the shutter remotely when the moments are right. I find this approach yields more natural expressions and body language and it also allows me to capture multiple frames for compositing in post-production.
Find more of Virginia’s work on her website.