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10 Questions with Imaging USA Speaker Luke Edmondson, M.Photog., CPP - PPA Today

10 Questions with Imaging USA Speaker Luke Edmondson, M.Photog., CPP

By Chris Homer

A third generation photographer, Luke Edmonson has the craft in his blood! He's been a
 professional photographer for nearly 20 years, starting out in commercial photography and then teaming up with his father in 2003 to create Edmonson Weddings. We chatted with Luke about defining style, his career as a photographer, what inspires him and more. Here's the recap of the interview:

1. What would you say is the biggest difficulty people usually face in defining their style?
The biggest difficulty in finding a style is finding your own voice and doing the work to discover who you are and what you want to say. It's not simply a matter of the type of photography you like or admire. It's not simply your ability to execute what you want when creating your imagery. You have to know the "Why" behind what you are communicating.

It's about understanding and knowingly pursue what is behind your vision when you are capturing a moment, your subjects, how you light, direct or pose them. So, an artistic style, at its very core, requires introspection. Something that as individuals many of us do not want to do. It requires you to become be reflect with intent.

I like this quote from Katherine Anne Porter, Pulitzer Prize winning author, who says succinctly "You do not create a style. You work, and develop yourself, and your style is an examination from your own being."

Let's examine that for a minute...

a. You don't create a style? Then what is all this talk about "finding your style" or "creating your style" that you hear bantered about? Perhaps it's just marketing speak to make it more palpable to the audience who is listening. Who wants to hear about work when the world sells us on the premise of "easy, fast and simple"? But don't for a second betray yourself to think that discovering something is easy. Especially when it involves learning about yourself. What is it that you bring to each photo shoot that shapes the direction of the imagery you capture?

b. You work and develop yourself? Yep, it's a never-ending process of growth periods, plateaus, and sometimes darker times. When things get stagnant, it's up to you to make the changes necessary to break through. When you are on top of the world it's about fighting complacency. None of us ever have it all truly figured out. However, with growth and development, some challenges as a photographer that may have taken hours to solve visually can be solved in mere minutes, once you've had that proverbial light-bulb moment.

c. Your style is an examination from your own being? Like most of us, you probably became a photographer when you fell in love with it. Perhaps, it was because of its immediacy. Perhaps it was because of how it made your feel when people complimented your early eye. But now that you have been in it for longer, what keeps you in the field? What drives you to create? When you look back on your work, what patterns and tendencies do you see? How have you transitioned from WHAT you see when you shoot but HOW you see, think and feel when you shoot? Have you had to persevere and overcome challenges in your photography? Your fingerprint is firmly implanted on every image you create. I encourage you to study it and understand it!

If you want to become a better photographer, it starts with becoming a better person. How can you pour out your life into others if there are areas in your own life that are holding you back from doing just that?
2. Define your style in five words.
Beauty, Elegance, Dramatic, Believable, Unexpected.

3. How did you discover your style?
Discovering my own style was and still is an ongoing work in-progress. I can reflect on different time periods. For instance, when I first started it was all about energy and getting my subjects excited. My father would suggest to me that someday I would need another tool in my belt because it can't always be about getting people going. As I grew as a man, husband and father, it became easier to have an intimacy with my clients. Education has also played a huge role in my style because as I grew in my posing, lighting and other technical bits and pieces, I was free to spend my time focused on vision; creativity and helping a subject manage their own hula hoop. What I mean by hula hoop is that in my formative years, if a client was nervous in front of the camera, I wasn't confident in myself enough to be able to absorb their nervous energy without it affecting my session. I spent more of my time reacting to clients' expressed needs which is different than listening. I don't find myself overshooting like I may of in the past. Typically, before I pick it up, I know how or what the shot is that I'm trying to get and have worked on doing a better job communicating that to my subjects ahead of time. 

Some other areas that my style has developed in are consistency, be it tonality, simplified backgrounds, mood and expression or even camera orientation. An example would be when shooting wedding details for an album, I no longer shoot vertical and horizontal options at a myriad of different locations. Because when you put those photographs together on a spread there can be a disconnect in either the layout or tonality. By growing in other areas, I've learned the essence of people trying to show their value and that my job is to help them be successful. It's not about being right. It's about meeting their needs and  earning their trust to then show and communicate to them my vision and how it might bring them something unexpected that delights them.

4. What would you say is usually the most common weakness for a photographer who is just starting out in the business?
Insecurity. Confidence is contagious and we've all heard "fake it until you make it." Wise people know that means fake your confidence not your qualifications. There is no substitute for experience, no workshop, DVD or online learning opportunity that will help you gain confidence like doing something. However, one of the biggest strengths of someone new to the business is their passion or excitement. 

So my encouragement would be for newcomers to introduce themselves, connect and start growing with other fellow photographers. And when you think you are ready for lessons, find a mentor, attend a workshop and get yourself to Imaging USA!

5. What was your biggest failure or mistake when you first started?
My biggest failure was in thinking that once I'd have achieved a certain level of success that all my problems would be over. Momentum is a never-ending process and everyone new and old has a ball to push to keep their business going. Of course, certain things do get easier but the interesting thing is that as my business grows so do my problems and often exponentially. So if you thought that having to edit one or two sessions a month was tough while working a second job, just because you now are focusing solely on photography doesn't mean that editing 10 or 20 session became any easier... unless you have learned how to manage your time. As the business owner 20% of my time is spent working for my business and 80% of the time working ON my business. Reverse that formula for your employees. And please keep your family a priority.

6. What's your biggest accomplishment?
Becoming a husband and a father. It's that whole death to self-thing. Just when I thought I had done a good job growing and making my world focused on others along came this beautiful new life that is completely dependent on me. Nothing is as humbling as marriage to hold a mirror to all the rough edges I might have as a person that never was an issue when I was single. I am thankful for both my lovely wife and our beautiful daughter and the adventures that lie before us!

7. Who are some people you draw inspiration from?
It's a myriad of talent from Joseph Beuys, Francis Bacon and Cy Twombly. When I was studying Life Drawing I had a huge mental hang-up because my drawings weren't very realistic to reality. Twombly was a great example that writing is a system of mark-making and if you can write you can draw. In music, Frank Black, Isaac Brock and Doug Martsch are big influences from the premise of arrangements. The idea of using loud, quiet and then loud for effect still resonates with me. 

Philosophically, the work of Jacques Derrida and Deconstructionism still permeates within my core and helps me photographically distill mine and other's work allowing me to understand it from the inside out. Finally, I draw inspiration from my family. It's a family that isn't afraid of failure and disappointment because we've lived through it and continue to move forward!

8. Why did you decide that photography was the best form of expression for you?
Photography for me was the family business. It wasn't something that I decided upon as my preferred form of expression until I matured enough to work with my father. Up until then, I still needed to differentiate myself from him which is why I got my degree in filmmaking. The fact that my pictures moved and his were still was important to the younger version of me. At 19, I wanted to explore the artistic world and the greatest gift my father gave me was permission to venture into it. Photography became the best form of expression for me once I no longer felt like I had to be separate from my father and could work with him instead of trying to accommodate working for him. It became my favorite form of expression when I integrated that we could both use our individual gifts and talents to push ourselves and create something greater than us. That's when things really started getting special.

9. What should people expect to take away from your class?
I think the core of my class, "Be Known by Sight", is that countless photographers are searching for their style, looking outside for answers. In this class I focus on the intentionality and search for your own voice, as much as what it is trying to say. My goal is to show how you can turn your weaknesses into strengths which is part of the self-discovery needed to develop a visual trademark and will drive how you communicate it to others. That's why you know it when you are in front of an Edmonson!

10. Elvis, Johnny Cash, or Jack White?
You want me to choose from three legendary male rock and roll figures who all redefined their musical segments? That's next to impossible. It's not like you asked me Blondie, Digital Underground or the Ramones - three vastly different personas. So my answer is my record collection consists of all three.

If you asked me Pepsi or Coke...I could answer that...they are commodities. If you ask me to choose between 3 legendary musical icons that have shaped entire generations...I couldn't imagine a world without any one of their voices.

If you want to learn how to develop your style, don't miss Luke's "Be Known By Sight" program at Imaging USA on February 3. See you in Nashville!

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About the author:
Chris Homer is PPA's SEO & Web Specialist, which basically makes Google Analytics his best friend. A graduate of the University of Georgia, Chris cheers passionately (and obnoxiously) for the Bulldogs in all things from football to checkers. When he's not hard at work on PPA's websites, you'll find Chris at auto racing events around the southeast, where he's known as a master architect of tent villages. 

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This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on January 23, 2015 7:25 PM.

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Imaging USA, Donations, and Petitions: Our Top 10 Favorite Blog Posts from 1/ 18-23 is the next entry in this blog.

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