What is your title, and can you explain what your daily responsibilities are?
I am Mom and Wife first – in my career though, my titles are CEO of CJ Wilkes Photography and Photographer. Co-Owner of Wilkerson Art & Medeek Engineering Ink. My responsibilities encompass marketing for mine and my husband’s companies, plan reviewer, site designer/graphic designer, photo editor, human resources, sales, & mentor.
What inspired you most to become a Photographer? Why did you pursue this as a career?
Ever since I was a small child, I remember having some kind of camera in my hands. I loved being able to capture what I saw in front of me, for memory. Scrapbooking also intrigued me. Never was into writing a journal, but the visual side of journalism appealed greatly to me. Documenting life’s events or moments. It only made sense that when I started my family, that I picked up a camera and went to town.
In all honesty though, I never intended for it to be a business. My thoughts were, I have 5 children and have found my way around a camera, why don’t I perfect my ability enough that I don’t have to pay someone else to take their pictures. In fact, one time we went to a photographer for one of our extended family photo sessions. I said to my husband “I would never want to be a photographer. They have to deal with posing people and I think that would be such a frustrating job!” Fast forward to now and I laugh at the irony of that statement. As the story goes, I studied hard and practiced even harder. Always had my camera on me and took pictures of everything.
Pretty soon people started calling me from all over asking for me to take their pictures. I figured, it was more practice opportunities and gladly accepted. Pretty soon though, I was getting so many calls and it was taking away from
my own family. That is when I decided to structure my business to be able to have a foot in both worlds. Business and Home.
Inspiration for my photography is two fold. My children are the biggest inspiration. Escaping my past and creating a new + better future for myself and my family is the second part. After a difficult childhood I could have easily given up on life. To be able to survive my life I needed to find a way to view the world in a positive light. I do that through my photography. Sometimes it is for me, but often times it is for whomever is in front of my camera. I would love to show my children, family, friends, clients how I view the world in my minds eye. There is nothing more rewarding than having someone break down in happy tears because I captured and displayed them in such a beautiful manner. It drives me to work harder 🙂
What do you think is the biggest obstacle to pursuing a career in the creative fields?
The fact that camera’s are so easily available, makes everyone feel they are a photographer. That title is one that needs to be earned. In one area, you can find a large handful or more of people holding the title photographer, but that does not mean they actually know what they are doing or talking about. This is not meant to be a mean statement or putdown in any way. You need to have confidence in your work and your style to be a photographer, for sure. There are plenty who will tear you apart, but you need to be able to back up the title of Photographer. I would rather see a person holding the title of aspiring photographer until they reach what I would consider an actual photographer, than have the average person duped by the title of photographer by someone who really is not. It is not fair to the general public and not fair to fellow artists who have worked so hard to deserve the title.
The general public does not see what all is involved in becoming a photographer. It is not an overnight thing. For myself, it took years. I am in it with the goal of being “Photographer” 9 years now, and only really feel that the last 4 years I truly deserve the actual title of Photographer. The first 5 I was an Aspiring for sure. Not saying I did not take good pictures – I was developing my style in the beginning. I have always made sure I had my ducks in a row. Carrying liability insurance, licenses, contracts, etc. True photographers always are learning as well. We can be learning anything from a new style, to the business end of things. I am not saying that being a Photographer means you know it all – it means you understand the technical side of it so well that you can be consistent in your art. That if you are breaking rules you know what rules you are breaking and can also do it the “correct” way if asked to.
So to answer the question – Aspiring photographers seem to be one of the largest obstacles, because there are so many that it is hard to point out who is a real photographer or not. It is even harder to help the general public to understand the difference as well because there is not a well written rule for them to follow in knowing the difference unless they are trained themselves.
With all the new versions of Photoshop and Lightroom what changes do you personally feel are the most exciting or brilliant?
Oh wow! When you put Photoshop and Lightroom together, my mind goes to all the many features – there are so so many. The one that stands out though, above all others, is the content aware. Content aware is quite the feature. Funny thing though, I am so used to my way of doing things that I still edit with CS3 and LR3. I have CS6 and LR5 on my other computer, but just have not made that switch. I love being able to say – I can do it this way, but am quickly learning that I am just making more work for myself by not taking advantage of the technology.
Another feature that I find has really become much nicer in the newer versions of Photoshop and Lightroom is the chromatic abberation fix tool. It has been fine tuned so well – that it kills me that I am not using the newer technology yet.
What Photographers & Photoshop artists do you follow, and why do they stand out from others in your opinion?
I am a strange duck in this. I don’t really “follow” anyone. Let me explain myself. There are so many talented photographers out there. Some I think are brilliant. I don’t follow people though, because I don’t want their work to influence my work. When someone looks at what I do I would like them to say – That piece belongs to Cindy of CJ Wilkes Photography.
There are people who do stand out in my mind though and who I think have a following because they are brilliant at what they do. Some of those people are:
Joe Edelman – He has some amazing workshops. His play with lighting in his nude work is spectacular. I really enjoy his work because of how he utilizes the lighting. Babak CA – Babak is hilarious in person and so much fun to work with. Watching him set up is fascinating. His use in digital backgrounds, his way of editing, his way of shooting, all are very intriguing to watch. Babak is one that is not opposed to helping others in the industry to grow either. Looking at his work I really learned that you can make it your own easily, all in how you edit. Pat Lee – The human body is brilliant. I feel Pat has found a way to elevate the body builder to another level. He does it with the way he composes and edits. For example his coloring in his edits I would not have imagined with his subject. That combined with the lighting. William Long – is able to transform one to another world or dream world in his style of editing. His ability to make anything look as if it was a painting. Simply brilliant. Stacey Hamilton of Times 3 Photography – I have worked side by side with Stacey. If a person has ever had a chance to work with other photographers they should. It is great for seeing another perspective. What I love though about her work is her work with photographing real estate. She has a knack for making a room look so inviting. The way a room is set up. She also does amazing work with Boudoir. I have learned so much through being a client of hers to watching her work. Her poses / composition. I actually really began to love and understand conversion to bw through Stacey. Both of ours are completely different – I know. But I did not understand what made a successful conversion until I studied her more in depth. Nic Wells – style is so simple yet complex. I don’t know how to explain it. Part of it is the subjects and how they are dressed or posed. I love that she can take her subjects, dress them up, and with the lighting and coloring she chooses to edit with she makes me feel as if I am looking into another era. Lisa Holloway – edits are vibrant and hold a bit of a romantic dreaminess to them. I am a romantic so that would always appeal to me. Tracy Williams – style of art combines photography and dream worlds. Her work is ART and always fascinating to me. Robert Boyd – intrigues me because he takes pictures of magnificent temples and then turns them into art pieces. It is fun to walk in his home and see it looks like an art gallery because all of his work is that – ART. Mark Lynham – his lighting and his composition is what intrigues me with his work. Jane Long – Jane’s work combines old photo’s, restoration, and fanaticism. Watching her break down each part of the process is awe – inspiring. Her attention to detail makes me feel as if I have so much to learn. Pauly Pholwises – I am amazed at how perfect his subjects appear. He is consistent in his style and feel. I love how he uses tone to do this with his work. Mirella Santana – Her work melts reality into fantasy. She is able to graphically create images that are so realistic – it is unbelievable to me. I love her ability to enhance and create different lighting with her subjects as well. Amanda Diaz – Amanda’s work is so fun and brilliant to me. She creates obnoxiously perfect creatures and then brings out the makeup and compliments it with her stylization of the clothing and area. Her editing creates drama. Drama will always suck one in to look. But she does it in such a dark and romantic way. Julia Hart – Her ability to create out of virtually nothing is amazing. She uses blending, mirroring, colors. The subject can be as simple as just a shell or a broken light bulb. Jennifer Boggett – she excels in lifestyle. The moments are natural and endearing. Her lighting always have a natural feel to it even when she uses OCF (off camera flash) Her understanding of light and moments are one of the most intriguing aspects to her work that I love. Amber Anderson – I love to see back lighting images done well. When I see Amber’s work, she is able to create an unforced feel to the moments and incorporates excellent lighting. Her back lighting always adding to such moments. Aimee M. Reynolds – work is special because her editing makes me feel as if she combined the future and the past. She has a way of creating timeless images. She does this with her choices of color/tone. She is great at creating moments in her work. Moments stand out in my mind always. Aimea S. Reynolds – Her macro work and water droplets + nature are spectacular. I guess I love seeing her work because I am a girl… what girl does not like the beauty of flowers? Then combine that with water drops and their reflection. Brilliant. Danielle Stahl – I noticed she uses whites in almost all her images. There is white everywhere. But what caught my eye with her work was the detailed silver effect images of infants. Who would have thought of the combination? It is spectacular. Narrelle Joy of NJoy the Moment – Quirky is always good. In my mind quirky is different and different is very good when talking art or photography. She brings an element of fun. She does that by her posing and editing. There is a bit of a retro feel and it rocks. Brooke Shaden – Her underwater work is what drew me to her work. Brooke’s work can be dark and different – but she is able to compose images that make me think “What was she thinking here” or “How?”
I know it is a large list and there are so many more I have missed but the list has to stop somewhere. The important point I want to make with this list and the people I pointed out above is that they all have brilliance in their work. When I am looking at work – those brilliant things about their pieces make me reflect on my own work helping me to think on how I can improve on my own work. It drives me to understand my craft that much better. I will often find myself searching out certain techniques after looking at another person’s work. Understanding the process that one does to achieve a look just opens more possibilities in my own work.
What social networks do you like most? Which present good examples of Photography the best?
You know – I am still learning what is the best social network for me. Personally, I think having a place to showcase your work is vital. Knowing what is the best can be difficult. I have had quite a lot of success with Facebook. I find that I usually pick up 1-5 new clients per session or even image I share there. However, I do think that how one socializes on there can make or break a person. I am not a fan of how FB has changed visibility though. It has made things a whole lot more difficult. For myself, I would not mind investing to have a fan page if I could be guaranteed that my page would not be limited. If a fan is a fan then they should be allowed to view your images in their feed.
Twitter – it has been a great way to also share and network but I never really got into it as much as FB, and others. 500 is a very interesting concept that I do enjoy. I am not sure how the numbers work for me with it – but I have seen how it can help with growing exposure. Flickr has been a great place too. I know there are many who are not fans, but I have had great success with showing my images through them. I think that so far – the best presentation of images has been Flickr and 500. Having a website or blog & fan page have all been so very important. Unless people can look at the work they will not get to know you. Both have been very vital to my business.
What is your prediction of the evolution of social networks? How do you think these networks will showcase artists and Photographers better in the future?
There are always going to be new networks claiming to be the best. I don’t think that it is important to joint them all. However, it is important to keep your ears open and listen to what others find to be useful and why. Then think of your marketing and how those venues can benefit your business or not. If the people attracted to that network then hop on board – but if not, then don’t waste your time. What is your goal down the road? Do you want other artists to find you? Do you want the elderly to find you? Do you want the young to find you? Are you looking to socialize with? Where are they gathering? That is what you want to know and where you should go.
What predictions do you have for the future of Photoshop and Lightroom?
I don’t know if I have a prediction – but I do have a desire. I would love them to combine the 2 into one big program. That would be my dream. With my workflow – it would be so much more efficient to have the 2 in one big program so that I don’t have to export into another program to complete my work. I get so frustrated with having to move from one to the other for my needs to be met. Time is money and it is something we all wish we had (both time and money). Having the 2 programs in one would free so much time up if done right.