I have been stalking Meghan's work for a while now. If you don't know who Meghan is, you should hurry up and go check her out. Her work resonates life, beauty and timeless. When I look at a photograph from Meghan, I feel as if I can see the soul of her subject. Needless to say, I am in AWE of her!! Naturally, when she agreed to do this interview with me, I was ecstatic! Let's get to it, shall we?
Joyce: First, tell us about yourself: How did you first get into photography? Do you have a formal education in photography or self-taught?
Meghan: I first got into photography after my first son was stillborn in 2009. I had a new DSLR that I planned to use often when we brought the baby home and because I desperately needed something to distract myself from my sad new reality, I jumped in and became obsessed with learning the camera. Photography and that camera became the baby I spent so much time with. I am completely self taught and I used my maternity leave after we lost Henry to learn how everything I could. I would read something online, and go outside and practice it that day. I gave myself assignments and learned how to shoot in manual and what all the elements were that made up a properly exposed photograph. And I'm still learning all the time.
Joyce: Have you always shoot on film, why or why not? Are you 100% film (besides phone), why or why not? What is it about film that keeps you coming back for more?
Meghan: I didn't start shooting film until 2011 when a friends mom gave me an old Minolta x-700 she found at an estate sale. I already had the Film Is Not Dead PDF (before the book came out) and was already reading about why people loved film and about different film stocks so I figured I would just give it a go. There was a roll still in the Minolta when I got it which I rewound and sent in with my first 2 rolls. My rolls were pretty terrible, and the roll that was left had only 4 images on it and they were all of a gorgeous sunset with powerful clouds. I felt as though it was my Henry letting me know that I was on the right track shooting film and as the goose bumps covered my skin I was hooked.
Learning how to shoot film made me a better photographer. It made me feel "legit". I didn't want to be looked at as another "mom with a camera". We all know the stereotype. And I never felt I started that way, but I always felt judged. Maybe (probably) it was my own insecurity about not feeling good enough, but learning and shooting film lead me to feel more confident. I began to feel as though I was MAKING a photograph rather than just pressing a shutter with multiple frames per second and TAKING a photograph (or a hundred photographs). And thats part of the magic of film. I'm creating. And then when I get scans back that look even better than I imagined them being when I was shooting, it just confirms it for me EVERY TIME!
I'm not 100% film, although I don't think thats too far in my future. I do shoot hybrid right now though. Maybe it's a crutch, maybe it's the expense, and every time I get my scans and compare my digital shots, I ask myself why I even bothered shooting the digital. At weddings it's a necessity for me to have digital as a back up, but for family shoots I can see myself in the next year being 100% film.
Joyce: Looking through your website and blog, I fell in love particularly with your work on babies, newborns and their families! I often find it's much easier to photograph the baby or newborn without the "helicopter" parents in the room. Do you set an expectation before the shoot? How do you get parents to relax and let you take over the control during the session?
Meghan: Thanks! I really love shooting young families. I agree that sometimes it's easier (and always quicker) to do a shoot with a parent in the distance. But it's not often I run into a problem. I talk to the parents during our shoots and when I feel we are at a point where I need to step in, we'll just have the conversation quickly that, especially with newborns, when they smell Mommy, they can go crazy! So it's best if I soothe the baby or handle them. I feel as though my clients trust me and it's rare for me to have a problem.
Joyce: I see that many of the sessions featured on your blogs are shot indoors, what are some of your favorite film to use indoors? How do you tackle the lighting situation when you shoot in a client's home? Do you use flash, strobe or off camera lighting?
Meghan: I don't use any additional lighting. I almost always, indoor or outdoor, shoot Kodak Portra 400. It's my absolute favorite. It can handle so many lighting situations beautifully. If I have a good amount of light but need the extra ISO range, I might shoot Portra 800 sometimes. If I'm not shooting in my studio and I'm in a client's home, I look around the home when I get there for the best light. I might move some furniture around or shoot in a seemingly random place in the house if there is better light somewhere. It's all about looking around and searching for the light. And not being afraid to rearrange :)
Joyce: Can you share some tips for photographing newborns and/or babies and their families on film? I am sure people are very curious to know if you use manual focus for all of your babies and families sessions (I know I am!).
Meghan: The best thing I did to get used to shooting film with manual focus with families is PRACTICE! When I got my first Medium Format camera almost 3 years ago (at the time a mamiya 645 proTL) I would shoot a roll of film at every session, with the pretense that they would all be bad! But I wanted to practice focusing and metering and everything else. Once I got a little more comfortable I did some all film portfolio building sessions to see if I could do it.
With newborns, I find it's much easier (they don't move!) and with toddlers you have to be patient and sometimes use a zone focus or focus ahead and wait for them to come in frame. It's all patience and practice. Also starting out shooting at an f/4 or even f/5.6 if you have the light is a good idea. If you expect to nail focus at an f/2 from the get go, you will be disappointed!
Joyce: If you have one advice you can give to those who are just starting out on film photography, what would it be and why?
Meghan: Don't beat yourself up. There are so many things that can go screwy when you are first starting. You might underexpose a few because you didn't meter correctly. You might bump your aperture ring by accident. You might forget what film you loaded and have to wing it. Your diopeter might be off and the entire roll might be out of focus. All of these things I did by the way. It's all a process. Give yourself time. Because if you get ONE shot off of your first 3 rolls that is exposed correctly and in focus. . . you'll be hooked.
Joyce: If you can spend one day with one person (present or past), who will it be and what would you talk about?
Meghan: Hmm, that a tough one. Probably the Dalai Lama. I would talk about whatever came to mind, which could be anything and everything. I just think spending the day in his presence would do my soul some good.
Joyce: What are some of your favorite cameras and equipment that you can't do without on a client session? Do the setups change for personal work? If yes, can you share what are your must haves for for personal work?
Meghan: It depends on the type of client! If I'm shooting families/babies/kids, I bring my Contax and my digital (mark3). If I'm shooting Empowerment (all film) I bring my Rolleiflex 2.8 and my Contax. If I'm just shooting for me, it's all Rollei. Man I love that camera.
Joyce: "Empowerment" is something that's new to Meghan Boyer Photography. Tell us more about it!
Meghan: Yes! Like everything else in my photography business, this came from a personal place for me. I know how hard it is for women to see themselves as beautiful (myself included). I wanted to help women see their bodies, no matter the curve, shape, lump, stretch mark, as beautiful. Because it was so hard for me to accept these things about myself, I wanted to help others get to the brave, empowering place I wasn't ready to be yet. And after doing a few shoots and seeing the faces of my clients and how they felt after their session, I was empowered myself. I began to share in their bravery and come to a place of acceptance of my own perfect imperfections. Empowerment shoots aren't Boudoir. They aren't about sex or bedrooms or lingerie. They are about allowing a woman to feel beautiful and free. To see themselves as sexy the way that others probably see them. They have become my new favorite type of session. Shooting them all on BW film helps fuel the passion and creativity. And it adds to the raw beauty of the sessions too.
Meghan: If you can go back in time and do it all over again, what would you do differently and why?
Meghan: There isn't much I would do completely differently honestly. I like my mistakes because it gives me something to laugh at! But I would tell my younger self to stop looking at other peoples work and comparing myself to them. It's such a disservice to your own work. I'd also tell myself to buy fewer actions. I always thought I had to to get better photos, but really all I needed to do was work harder on nailing the shots in camera. Turns out, I really hate photoshop actions!
What are your favorite artists on your play list right now?
SUCH a wide variety. Lily Allen, Miranda Lambert, Beyonce, Radiohead, Portugal.The Man (I warned you, they were random!)
"I wish my kids would hurry up and go to sleep so I can watch..."
the back of my eyelids
A quote you live by:
"I am enough"
Where is the most exotic place you have ever been?
Aitutaki in the Cook Islands (AAAAAAmazing)
The first item on your bucket list:
Travel to South East Asia and photograph the people and culture
Your favorite hobbies beside photography:
eating and working out (because of all the eating!)
Beer or wine?
Depends on my mood
Flip flops, sneakers or sexy stilettos
Car, Train or Airplane?
any of the above as long as I'm going somewhere
Two truths and a lie (in random order):
I know how to milk a cow, My real name is Margaret, I want to drive a race car.
Joyce Kang is a children & family photographer in Austin Texas. She is also a mentor and an instructor for Embrace The Grain, an intro to film photography workshop. She is married to her best friend and enjoys outdoors with her family. She loves to curl up with a good book and has a terrible addiction to any thing that tops with a heaping scoop of ice cream drizzled with chocolate fudge!