Professional Photography Interview with Mary Bea Photographyfor Christopher High School Advanced Photography

Be honest: Do you avoid self-care and reflection in your business practices because you don’t know where to start? Are you so overwhelmed by the idea of thinking about who you are that you’ve accepted you may never really know?

If you answered ‘yes’ to either of those questions, you’re in luck. Recently, I was contacted by a high school junior who sent me an interview for their advanced photography class. This student listed some quite introspective questions for me — including asking the hard questions, literally! Below, you can read through my perspective and learn a bit about me. Then, whatever your occupation, answer the questions for yourself as they relate to your career.

black and white image of young child and adultblack and white image of father and sons

How and when did you become interested in photography, and how did you end up making it your career? Is it difficult?
I became interested in photography at an early age. I always took photos on family vacation and racked up a bill, with the dozens of rolls of film I needed developed.  Later, I took photography classes in high school. Then, throughout college. Next, photography was a small part of my first job. But when I moved to California, I took a break for a couple years. Finally, I went back to photography when I was 26, in 2013.

Is photography your only job?
Yes.

Who inspired you to become the photographer that you are today?
So many people helped shape who I am today as a photographer, and continue to influence me in different ways. These people challenge me to grow and dig in artistically.  Various teachers throughout the years and my family specifically my mom and my son have been major inspirations for me.

In your personal opinion, what makes a good photograph and how do you get the picture to come out perfectly?
I think what makes a good photograph is how it makes a person feel and think. That being said, while knowing the rules and having the technical skill to make a ‘perfect’ photograph is all well and good, it’s also really important (in my opinion) to break those rules and push the boundaries in order to keep yourself and your audience invested.  As a mainly portrait photographer, I work really hard to engage with my subjects and put them at ease so I can capture their authentic self or their
relationship(s) with others.

What are some advantages and disadvantages to having photography as a career?
A huge advantage is that it makes me supremely happy. I love what I do and I get to have some flexibility and control over my own schedule. However, one of the disadvantages is that it is a very highly saturated field these days. Therefore, you have to work extra hard in a lot of ways to make yourself stand out from the crowd.

kids with bubbles on their headslittle boy at top of slide

What advice would you give to people just starting to learn photography?
I’d advise someone just starting to learn photography to shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot; to try different creative challenges and to seek feedback from others.  (You don’t always have to like what they say but don’t take it personally. Put it in your toolbox and keep on keeping on!)

What kind of camera, editing program, and other equipment do you use?
I shoot with 2 Canon 5d Mark iiis, an array of zoom and prime lenses, Lensbaby lenses for fun, and Ikelite underwater housing.  I edit in both Lightroom and Photoshop.

What is your favorite thing to photograph?
People, and the places I visit.

three generations in one image

Do you do photography only as a job or also as a hobby? How are your styles similar or different?
I do photography as both a job and a hobby. When I am taking photos for personal use I try to push myself further creatively, but I always hope in the end that it will elevate my craft for my business as well.

What does photography mean to you?
To me, photography is my version of a diary. I learn visually and I think, as a result, I often ‘speak’ visually as well.

little boy running, with fighter jet in background

What has been your personal favorite shoot that you have done and why?
I don’t have one specific favorite shoot. But, looking back over the years, all the times I’ve documented my family will be what mean the most to me. From my mom (who’s no longer with us), to my sister’s kids and my own.  Most of all, I love watching them all grow, or being transported back to a memory. Additionally, it’s fun to see how I have evolved in my craft.

How would you describe your style?
I try really hard to stay timeless in my edits, so that I don’t fall into any trendy presets trends or whatnot. Therefore, I’d say my style is about capturing people as they are.

Did you study photography professionally or are you self taught?
A little bit of both.

family silhouettes at aquariumfamily looking up at camera

What is the hardest part of being a photographer? What’s the best?
For me, the hardest part about being a photographer is the self doubt that can creep in. There are a LOT of photographers out there and it can get really hard not to compare yourself to others. Stay on course and stay true to yourself. Remember, no one else is you and no one else sees the world the exact same way you do!  The best part about being a photographer is being able to capture emotion and moments for others in a really beautiful way.  

“No one is you and that is your power.”
– Dave Grohl

underwater image of child swimming