Name: Erika Thornes
Occupation: Photographer, Mother to three squirmy girls
Location: San Diego
Favorite Color: Bold. (Really, making me to pick a color?)
Describe yourself in three words: Full of Verve
Hidden Talents: I don’t hide any of them, but I can polka?
Irrational Fears: I’m terrified of heights, unless I’m strapped in. (Roller coasters okay, Cliffs NOT okay).
Andrew: Erika, thank you very much for agreeing to this interview.
Erika: I’m totally excited to do this!
Andrew: For starters could you tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are and what you do?
Erika: I’m a photographer who loves to shoot. I shoot anything and everything, and I just love to be creative and try new things. If you introduce me to an area of photography that I haven’t tried, I get excited and can’t stop thinking about it until I’ve created at least one image that I love from that genre. Beyond that I’m a tinkerer, I can’t sit still (unless I’m on a computer), and I am always thinking of something to do.
Erika: I was one of those kids that picked up photography early. I loved showing the world from my perspective. From gross things I found (that made me laugh) to shooting things that were important to me. I took every single class I could in school, and ended up working in Photo Services and being our college newspaper photo editor. We won awards for our photography that year. The adviser tried to keep me shooting and editing, but by then, I really understood what photo journalism editing was. All consuming long all nighters. And at that stage of my life, I was not ready to dedicate my life to my carrier like that, and actually put my camera away when I graduated college. I picked it up again when I could get a sub thousand dollar camera that could shoot indoors without a flash. My first digital SLR was the Canon Rebel T1i, and I shot a lot of my favorite images with that little camera.
Andrew: How did you develop the underwater side of your photography?
Erika: Out of fun! When we moved to San Diego, I knew I needed a case, as we were going to be at the beach and pool a lot. A friend of mine, Carrie Mundy, http://www.
Andrew: For those unaware, myself being one, what sort of specific equipment is required to enter into the world of underwater photography?
Erika: I almost think it is harder to be a model than a photographer in underwater photography. They have the much harder job, in a lot of respects. But, we started out small. just a point and shoot. We’ve moved up to a bag, and eventually will get hard cases for our DSLRs. Right now, we’re natural light only, and love to shoot at dusk. I think you just go for it, watch your light, and have fun. it honestly isn’t too hard. The post processing is the challenge, and that is also trial and error. There is no system that works for everyone. Carrie and I both do all our own post processing, and we are able to then share two totally different styles of art from the same shoot.
Andrew: Here’s a fun one, would you rather be forced to only shoot underwater for the rest of your career or be forced to only use a point-and-shoot?
Erika: Well, since I use a point and shoot underwater for 1/2 my images, I’d have to say I’d rather be forced to use a point and shoot. My beach shots are actually my favorite (Even over my underwater), and I’m sure they will come out with a point and shoot that can go as wide as I’d like. I love underwater, but that is just a small percentage of my day. Most of my day and my world is above water, and I like to shoot what I see.
Andrew: What does your post-processing workflow look like?
Erika: Depends on what type of image. I use lightroom for 95% of my images. My silhouette shots take less than 3 minutes each. I just bring up the blacks, and check the white balance. I hardly touch the saturation, it really is that lovely here in San Diego. (Sometimes I do play with the WB). I sometimes convert to B&W in lightroom, but there isn’t much to that if you know what you’re looking for in terms of contrast and color balance in your B&W image. For my composites, they take me about an hour. The initial putting together of an image takes about 10 minutes, but I like to tweak, and get lighting and shadow details right, so that takes a while. I just tinker. The underwater shots take about 2 hours an image. I’d love to say they take less, but they are a lot of work. White balance and skin tones are just the start of it. Lots and lots of layers, lots and lots of cloning, and getting everything looking just right takes time. It is more art with a base of photography that straight photography.
Erika: Action and emotion. You have to be able to feel what they are feeling. People love my silhouettes because they tell a story. They have action, and don’t feel static. You can almost feel what they are feeling when you see the image. That is very important. Think about what emotion you’re trying to convey while you’re shooting. Not just after. It takes foresight to capture the emotion in camera, and can’t be created after.
Andrew: Your images are really creative, vivid, and fresh. Where do you look for inspiration?
Erika: I don’t look for inspiration, it is just there. Constantly. I’ve said before that God is my inspiration. I think that plays out by seeing joy, energy, love, and beauty everywhere.
I find it interesting that I don’t look to other photographers for inspiration. Even though I love seeing the world through their eyes and love viewing their work. That is their vision, not mine. They might show me a technique is possible, and then, well, I run with it. I just love to document what I see, and what I see is creative, vivid, and fresh.
Andrew: How do you see yourself developing next as a photographer?
Erika: I just hope to grow as a photographer. I love to find challenges. I find shooting new things creates a challenge for me technically and artistically.
Andrew: Lastly, what’s your top advice to photographers looking to start their own business like you have done?
Erika: Get legal. Pay taxes, get insurance. At least here in California the tax board means business. Plus, it is always in your best interest and your clients best interest to be insured. Beyond that, follow your dreams, show your work, have energy, and just be yourself. People hire you because you are you, and they want your vision. Be confident and trust your eye, the people hired you based on that eye and energy.
Andrew: Thank you very much Erika!
Erika: It was so much fun doing this! I love photography, and well, talking about photography is an extension of that passion. It was my pleasure.