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Well, someone left the back door open, and somehow I slipped in unnoticed to iHeartfaces as a contributor!  ;)  (I’m sure they have a bouncer at the door now.  HAHAHAHA!)  I feel like a big imposter compared with the amazing iHeartfaces founders and contributors and MOST of the wonderful photographers who join in every week for this wild wide of creativity and learning that iHeartfaces is.

It has helped me to grow tremendously and try new things and think outside of my normal box.  I am so thankful for everyone that is in any way involved in this website:  from the founders, to the weekly photographers that join in the fun with the challenged and fix it fridays!  Thanks guys!

So, here is my interview for iHeartfaces!

Post image for Interview With Our Own Dana Suggs!

Dana writes: I am a wife of 18+ years, mother of 3 (15, 12, and 4), and a (more than) full-time job-holder who could not go to school to learn photography.  So, I am mainly self-taught with a photography group online that has been amazing to me!  My goal is to use my talent however God leads me, even if that means never going into a full time career of photography or being rich and famous.  (Although the rich part might be nice……)

Dana’s Photography Journey:

My photographic journey began in July in 2007 where I assumed I would purchase the expensive camera, and all my photos would be breathtaking, and I’d make a kajillion dollars. People would throw their wallets at me….I’d be famous and stuff….

I learned very quickly the error in my thinking.  It isn’t the camera, it’s the person BEHIND the camera.

It meant late late nights studying all I could and practice practice PRACTICE!

I’m not the best. I’m not the worst. I am learning, and I think it’s pretty acceptable to camp out there for awhile….maybe the rest of my life. For when I have reached perfection, what more is there to do?  That’s my quote for the day.  You can borrow it if you want to.  Keeps you humble.

Dana’s Favorite Face Photos:

I am a Youth Sunday school teacher for our church, and every summer we hold a large church camp for teenagers.  This is one of my very favorite times to shoot!  I love this photo for a few reasons:  I love our speaker, Brad Fogarty, and I love how you can see the motion in the photo even though everything is perfectly still.  Look at his face and you can see the love for these teenagers.  Look at the audience’s faces and you can see how intently they are listening to him.  It just tells an entire story all in one moment!

This is a photo I took early in my photographic journey of my own kids.  I have practiced over the years on THIS photo how to do good black and white conversions!  My first attempt was terrible, but over the years, I continue to go back to this particular photo and practice my conversions.  A good black and white technique is important to learn!  But I love the simplicity of this photo.  It’s one of those real moments in my kids’ childhoods that I will always remember…..even down to the oversized shoes my daughter stole from her friend!  LOL  I love how my oldest is glancing down at my daughter in such a natural gesture.  Just one of my favorites.

I did newborn photos for a friend of mine, and I think this is when I first fell in love with newborns!  I love this photo so much!  The feet are so precious, and what I was shooting, when the baby yawned and I was lucky enough to catch it!  Goodness, I love babies…..they make me all warm and fuzzy!

I love this man.  On my Mission trip to Mexico, he was sitting outside this beautiful cathedral begging for money.  He is homeless and sitting on every personal possession he owns.  In his hands, he is holding the little Bible I gave him, and sitting next to him, is possibly the only food he will eat all day:  the marshmallow sucker I gave him.  And after I took his photo, I paid him for the simple honor of taking his photograph.  I love his face, wrinkled and leathered by the sun, his smile:  even in the midst of such terrible circumstances, he laughed with me and gave me the best smile his toothless mouth could offer.

I have started to do some Strobist workshops to help expand my knowledge of photography.  This was taken at the 2nd one I attended.  Remember, always keep learning!  I’m so afraid to do new things, meet new people, and step outside of my comfort zone, but I want to learn all I can!   I just love the COLOR of this photo!  She just turned her head to glance at someone that called her name, and there it was…that perfect photo!  It’s just simply delicious!

Fun Q&A with Dana:

-What do you love most about capturing faces?

I think our faces tell a lot about us:  our emotions, our pain, our life story.  For that one moment in time, this was my life, past and present, all of my insecurities, all of my confidence, situations and environment….it’s all captured right there!  Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad, but for that one moment, it’s there, frozen.  I think we all want to leave a little piece of ourselves behind after we are gone, no one wants to be forgotten.  Which could also explain why I love to shoot old people so much!  The older the better!

-What do you find most difficult about capturing faces?

Getting them to relax enough that their true character and personality come shining through.  Some are more difficult than others, but when I catch it, I’m ecstatic!  I was told one time that I can capture that natural smile like no one else can, and that just made my entire day!  My little sister (10 years old) has aspergers and that was my hardest challenge.  But I learned how to catch her beautiful smile, so I love to practice on her!  And since then, I’ve been able to photograph other Asperger children/teens and have been able to find that natural smile!  It just takes patience and a little wink from God.  ;)

-What was your favorite photo shoot?

I’ve recently discovered how much I LOVE shooting newborns!  They are so much fun!  It is very time-consuming and requires a great deal of patience, but the rewards are so great!

I’ve also recently started shooting for ProjectTiny and have fallen in love with these babies!  I get to go into the NICU and shoot teeny tiny or sick newborns!  It is completely voluntary and I cannot share the photos on my website or facebook, only ProjectTiny and the sweet family I am shooting for.  It’s one of those completely selfless things that I love so much to do!

And I LOVE to shoot worship services for church events, but probably my favorite has been shooting my first Mission trip!  I believe that God is working all over the globe through amazing missionaries, and we need to see that!  We, who sit in our comfortable environments, need to see the amazing and beautiful things that God is doing in remote, deprived, and scary places!  And I want to go and shoot those things for people to see!

-Surely you have a “most embarrassing” photography moment you can share with us?  :)

I once shot an engagement session for an acquaintance and I was meeting her fiance for the first time.  She tells me at the beginning of the session that he was a model for Abercrombie and Fitch, and I almost peed myself right there!  I did alright, but it took ME a long time to calm down and get into my “groove”!  I’m easily intimidated!  LOL  (I just said “peed myself” on iHeartFaces.  OOPS!)

I’ve also been threatened to be thrown in jail while on a photo shoot too!  LOL  Apparently, it is against the law to shoot photos on railroad tracks.  I’m such a rule breaker!  LOL  Good thing the Senior and her mother had a GREAT sense of humor!

There’s your tip for the day:  Stay off of railroad tracks.

You’re welcome.  ;)

Dana’s Helpful Hint:

Keep going.  Keep practicing.  Always keep learning.  I just believe that we NEVER stop learning!  I don’t ever see myself as “good enough” when I look at other professional photographers, so I always keep practicing, always keep learning.  And don’t give up.  Don’t ever quit.

In the beginning of my journey, I surrounded myself with people that “LOVED” my photos!  It didn’t matter how awful that photo was, they had nothing but GREAT things to say about it.  That was a complete detriment to my learning.  I had one photographer that was totally honest about my photos and gave me an HONEST critique.  Oh how I HATED that lady, and I almost quit right then and there.  But after I got over my initial offense that she could dare say those things, I made it my mission to get BETTER.  That is what changed my photo journey for me.  I had to learn to ACCEPT critiques on my work in order to improve!  And yes, some things are objective, but when it comes to technique and overall skill, you have to be able to hear what is technically “wrong” with your photo!  It is not a personal attack on you and you shouldn’t give up!  But you should take that and LEARN from it for the next time.  This is one reason why I LOVE when iHeartFaces has the Critiques!  It makes us better photographers!

Another tip that I was taught (funny enough, by that SAME amazing photographer that critiqued my work  LOL) for capturing those amazing catch-lights in the eyes:  take your subject by the shoulders (you may want to practice this first on your friends or children so your clients don’t think you are man-handling them.  LOL) and look straight into their eyes.  Turn them until you see their eyes light up from the light source!  When you find that natural catch-light, take the photo!  But always find your light source FIRST before you start shooting.  It makes a tremendous difference in your photos!

Special Note from Angie & Amy: If you would like to take Dana’s advice to heart and begin using Constructive Criticism as a way to improve your photography, we have an amazing CC Group set up in our free Community Website.  This group is extremely active and there are a lot of photographers who are sharing and growing together over there.  Give it a try today!  :)

Dana’s Photography Equipment:

I have a Nikon D90 and a D80 as my back up.  My favorite lens right now is my 35mm.  It stays on my camera MOST of the time!  I also have the 50mm 1.8.  I really REALLY want a good MACRO lens like the 100mm, as well as a great zoom lens.  I haven’t found a great one yet.  I don’t have a lot of expensive toys or gadgets, I’m a pretty simple girl with a real budget.  I’m not one of those amazingly famous photographers with tons of money.  I’m just a part-timer that loves to do this!  I buy what I can, when I can, and I learn everything I can.  Remember, it’s NOT the expensive stuff that makes the beautiful pictures……it’s the photographer.  Learn everything you can about what you have to work with.  Master that first, and when your budget grows, your skill will have too.

I use Adobe Photoshop CS4 to do all of my editing and I LOVE LOVE LOVE Florabella actions!

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