This is an excerpt from an interview with Corrie Schaffeld that will appear in the 2013 Photographer’s Market. Purchase a copy of the 2013 Photographer’s Market (available in late August 2012) or subscribe to ArtistsMarketOnline.com to get the complete Corrie Schaffeld interview.
Corrie Schaffeld and I have a unique connection. We first met the HR office at F+W Media, as we were both starting new jobs on the same day. While waiting for our orientation to start, our conversation moved onto the subject of photography. His passion for the subject was very apparent even then. Corrie’s position as a book designer and art director allowed him to spend a lot of time working with my team at the studio and on location. Invariably, beyond the work at hand, our conversations moved onto cameras, lighting and photo techniques. As Corrie mentions later in this interview, he was soaking up all this information like a sponge, listing to our advice and building his skills and acquiring camera and lighting gear at breakneck speed. So when he told me three and a half years later he was leaving F+W to start on his new career path it came as no surprise. Now that he has been on his own for a year or so and has seen his client list grow exponentially, I thought it was time to share his story of success and his passion.
Tell us about yourself and your career path in photography.
I graduated from Northern Kentucky University with a BFA in graphic design. As a BFA student, I was required to take 12 hours of non-design classes, and all of my 12 hours happened to be photography classes. I actually liked my photography classes so much I wanted to switch majors but was afraid my parents would kill me. Ironic huh!
Do you have a mentor or someone you look up to?
Not really, well not one person … I am a sponge when it comes to photography, design and art. So I am always looking at things (ads, websites, magazines) and then researching who shot the images.
What inspires you to create?
Life! I know that sounds corny, but as photographers our job is to capture life, whether it’s an event, my kids, someone’s wedding. It’s a way for me to show what happened at that time and place, to tell their story. Something that can never be recreated and will serve as reminder of that special event forever inspires me job after job and never get old.
Talk a bit about your creative process, and how you approach your assignments work.
I usually start with an idea about how I want to shoot a project or person … then let that idea go out the window as soon as I start shooting. When I first started shooting I would get discouraged when I didn’t stick to what I had in mind. But the more I shot, I realized the preconceived plans were killing me creatively. So now I start with a plan but know my best shots will come from somewhere out of left field. You just have to let the magic happen.
Does this differ when you shoot for your portfolio?
No. I try to approach every shot as if my computer crashed the night before and took every image I have ever captured (and took all my back up hard drives, DVDs, and servers with it), so that I have to start from scratch. People hire me based on the work in my portfolio, so I intend to give them the same passion in their shoot as I displayed in the shoots featured in my portfolio.
What are your thoughts on the development of a unique style, and the value of this in your market?
That’s a good question. With the changes in photography and social media anyone can see your work. I stalked blogs when I first started shooting, and I came to find out it actually hindered my creativity and confidence. I think the best thing for every photographer is to find your own little hill and own it.
Do you attend seminars and/or trade shows? If so, what are your thoughts on their benefits to you and the market at large?
I have attended both. I think it’s important. You can never stop learning new techniques or seeing new products. I just attended a workshop of a photographer who I admire tremendously. Oddly enough, the thing I learned the most is that she gets nervous before a shoot! It made me realize she is human and makes mistakes, and it’s okay. I know that sounds odd, but it helped me relax and, in turn, helps my subjects relax. Then I can shoot them on a comfort level as if I were their best friend.
Do you belong to a professional association?
Yes, WPPI and Pictage.
Talk a bit about your experiences with competitions and how this affected your career.
I have entered a few, have done well in some, and have not heard back from others. I do think it helps. It’s opened doors for me that would normally be closed. But you can’t get discouraged when you don’t receive any feedback. A lot of it comes down to judging preference. I guess it comes down to a risk-reward thing, and you have to be OK with that going in.
Do you shoot film in any of your work, either professional or personal?
I do. In the past it has been personal, but I have started to incorporate it into my professional work—it gives a whole other feel to the shot.
Talk about your workflow process and the tools you employ.
I use Adobe Lightroom for most of my processing and finish them off with Photoshop.
Do you have any parting words of wisdom you would like to share about the future of the photography profession?
Photography is changing every day. With new equipment, programs, and techniques, there is no telling where it will be in five years. Never settle on today, and always keep an eye on tomorrow. With social media and the ability for amateurs and professionals to get their work out there, the market for professional has never been tougher. The ones who outlast this are not always the best shooters, but they are the ones with a good business plan and the ones who are willing to change ahead of the curve.