Interview: Photographer Laura Wielo
An interview we were on the edge of our seats for, Laura Wielo lent us her time and attention to give us such in depth and articulated answers that we’re ecstatic to share!
What sparked your interest in and passion for photography?
Ironically, most of my life I never considered myself an ‘artist’ (nor did anyone else). I never took any art classes when I was younger, I was actually a cheerleader in high school. It wasn’t until college that I started exploring my creativity. I went to school for graphic design and figured that photography would be a valuable skill for me to have in case any of my future clients needed photos taken for marketing purposes.
Aside from the business benefits, I had always been interested in aesthetics and photography as an art form. I followed a lot of photographers on social media and began to notice how much of my free time I was spending looking at photos. I was a huge fan of Ben Sasso’s work in particular. I was drawn in by his rich, warm color tones and beautifully balanced compositions. I also really loved the crisp, editorial nature to his photographs. On the flip side though, I also really enjoyed Logan Cole’s work who’s style is much moodier and photojournalistic.
As I looked at these images I tried to figure out why I was so captivated by them. Was it the color? Was it the emotive expression of the subject? Was it because each image told a story? These artists had successfully created something that I responded to. I thought to myself, what if I was able to do the same thing? What if I could engage with and inspire others through photographs I created? Imagery is such a powerful form of communication and I was excited to see if I could use photography as my platform to connect.
Fast forward a few years and I can tell you that I frequently receive messages from people who reach out to tell me that they are touched and inspired by my work. I am humbled and encouraged every time I see a new notification in my inbox and these messages remind me that I do have an influence. I may not have 100k Instagram followers but is that really the goal anyway? I’m still engaging with an audience…I am still making that connection. Even at 1,200, I have a tribe of people who value my work and that’s a big deal.
How would you describe your vision/style?
I would say that the style of my work lands somewhere in-between photojournalism and editorial. Depending on the project, sometimes it’s my job to capture a story and sometimes It’s my job to create one. My wedding photography is very photojournalistic. During a wedding day I’m focused on documenting authentic moments as they happen.
I do however, have some flexibility during the portrait part of the day, to creatively compose and direct the shots. I enjoy getting this one on one time with the couple where I can create something more romantic and intimate. With my editing, I would also say that it leans more editorial. I want my colors to pop as opposed to processing them with the crushed, faded look which is currently trending with many other lifestyle photographers.
What is a vital aspect to your work?
I shoot a lot with my 45mm tilt-shift. I think over the past year or two it’s kind of become a signature to my work. I love how I can take a really busy scene and minimize all the distractions based on how I focus the shot. This gives me the ability to draw the viewer into the part of the photograph that I want them to notice.
I’m really intentional with my color grading. With all the presets out there, I think it’s really easy to begin creating images that look very generic. Color is really difficult to master and I think that artists who are really good with the way they handle color set their work apart from the majority. All of my Lightroom presets are customized and compliment the way I shoot in camera. Post-processing is a huge part of this craft and it’s never as simple as slapping on a preset. I would say that only about 50% of a photographers job is done behind the camera and the rest is done behind a computer. The way and artist finishes an image reflects their personal taste. Good color grading plays such a role in communicating a mood and emotion so I focus a lot on my color.
Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?
I get my ideas and inspiration from a variety of places. I frequently look outside my industry for inspiration because I think that those who only look within their occupation to be inspired have missed it entirely. Of course I do spend time studying other photographers work but I’m also constantly paying attention to the world around me. I’m inspired by nature, scripture, fashion trends, music, film, the interactions I have with people… the list could go on. I also get inspired by random things like kitchen plates or canvas book covers haha. I collect things that have really nice texture or color because I get excited to see how they look through my lenses. Pretty much, I buy things that I know would photograph nicely and my roommates make fun of me for it, ha!
What keeps you going?
I am a huge proponent of personal work. I have learned just as much, if not more working on personal projects than I have working with any client. I stay inspired by experimenting on my own time, which helps me develop my craft and grow my skills.
What has your evolution through photography been like?
Well, I began second shooting weddings my first year and really enjoyed it. The following year I began to book my own weddings along with other lifestyle sessions like engagements, maternity and families. Mixed in with that I also picked up some commercial jobs to broaden my experience. No matter how busy I got, I always made sure to create margin in my schedule for personal projects.
What is your goal with your work?
From a business perspective, I of course want to continue growing my client list. In that regard, I’m regularly setting short term goals for myself that enable me to keep doing what I love. Long term however, I think it’s really about the process. Learning is a journey and I think it’s more beneficial for me to focus on milestone achievements rather than fixing my eyes on one ultimate goal. Working toward a goal is great motivation but it’s also working toward a finish line. There is no finish line with learning. Learning is fluid and I think that success is not exclusive to one specific accomplishment, but should be measured by development and growth.