Tara is a NZIPP Accredited Professional Photographer based in the Wellington region of New Zealand’s North Island.
Hi Tara can you please tell us about yourself.
I’m based on the Kapiti Coast, just North of Wellington, with my family – one husband, three kids, two cats and a dog. I drink way too much coffee and eat approximately my own body weight in dark chocolate every year. I love to preach self care but kind of suck at practicing it, I’m an insomniac and an extroverted introvert.
How did you develop an interest in Photography?
I was always a creative soul, into drawing, painting and performing arts, but was quite late to “discover” photography – I was in my early thirties before I started dabbling. We didn’t have a camera at the time but we did have a webcam; I wanted some photos of my kids so I started experimenting with capturing (reeeaaaallly bad quality) stills off my webcam. When that became frustrating, I got myself a little point-and-shoot. My eldest daughter was at kindy in Paekakariki and I used to take the train there and back, so the three hour kindy timeslot wasn’t really enough time to catch the train home and back and get anything done, so I used to hang around the area with nothing much to do. I started bringing my little camera and taking photos of everything – the ocean, shells, flowers, and when the kids were with me, them as well.
I started frequenting online art communities like RedBubble, which had a very active community behind the scenes (not so much now, I believe) where you could ask questions. Since I had a point and shoot camera I couldn’t really control what I captured in camera (and didn’t really know how to, anyway) so my initial focus was on figuring out how to achieve things in post production. I would find an artwork I loved and then Google to find out how to manipulate images in Photoshop to achieve similar effects. Lots of advice and tutorials later, I got pretty good at that and ended up doing fantasy artworks on commission for a few years. Then I found portraiture (in about 2011), realised I needed a DSLR and a whole lot of foundational knowledge, so I did a diploma course, got my first DSLR and many years and much practice later, here I am!
What type of photography do you do most?
Documentary Family Photography is my wheelhouse. I do three hour sessions with families that are unposed, unscripted, moments based. I’m on a mission to make sure parents exist in photos, for the sake of their children. I know first hand what it is to lose a parent and have no photos of them, so I know what a void that leaves and I want to prevent that for other families. I think parenthood, especially motherhood, is really undervalued in today’s society so I love documenting it honestly and show everything that goes into it in a beautiful, honest way.
My secondary genres are contemporary Sue Bryce-style glamour and headshots. I love the transformative effect the glamour genre has on women who have been told all their lives that they aren’t enough – not skinny enough, not pretty enough, not young enough, not whatever enough – by the media and people in their lives. To see that what they see in magazines is just a matter of good lighting and angles and they can look just as phenomenal is very healing for them and puts to rest some of the “not good enough” feelings they deal with. And headshots I love doing because people tend to put them off and cringe at the thought of having them done, and to watch them actually have fun in their session and leave relieved (and of course, love their photos!) is really rewarding.
Do you remember your first shot? What was it?
I don’t remember my exact first shot but it would have been some terrible webcam capture of my kids. 😛
If you could go back 10 years, what advice would you give yourself?
Oh I’m no good at this kind of question. I think we follow the path we’re meant to. I guess I would tell myself to get good at this thing, it’s going to stay with you and you’re going to love it, and as soon as you’re ready to take on clients, hire a mentor to help you build your business properly. It took me way too long to figure out how important the business side of this is to learn.
Is there any artist/photographer who inspired your art?
Oh, so many! I learned a lot of my digital art skills and how to photograph macro nature photography by following artists on Redbubble for inspiration. Sue Bryce was instrumental in my learning how to photograph contemporary glamour. Kirsten Lewis and a whole range of amazing documentary family photographers inspired me to learn documentary family photography.
What is in your camera bag?
The usual – two DSLR bodies, a range of lenses (which ones will depend on the job), lens cleaning cloths, memory cards, holster attachments and a tea spoon to adjust them because I lost the adjustment tool, lol. Safety pins, muesli bars, business cards, a notebook.
A funny story you would like to share from a photoshoot?
I can’t really think of one particular story. Kids are always funny to work with though so there are always funny moments. I live for the kinds of moments that most people would consider outtakes – the kid eating noodles and splashing noodle water everywhere, with food on his face, the kid having a tantrum, things going hilariously wrong. I think that’s so much more fun and interesting than perfect smiles.
Why did you join NZIPP?
I’ve always battled with imposter syndrome, and shooting a genre that doesn’t involve posing, controlling light and at the same time, doesn’t focus on big newsworthy matters (think war, famine) but instead focuses on parenthood and tiny moments, doesn’t really help in that regard. So I didn’t really consider myself “good enough” until a good friend encouraged me to come along to an NZIPP meeting, where I met some amazingly supportive and encouraging photographers. It was really different than I expected it to be, I loved the connection. Soon after I entered some work in my first Iris awards and came away with several awards, which gave me the boost I needed to try for accreditation. I’ve found the comradery and mutual support among the NZIPP photographers so awesome and encouraging; it can be hard and lonely running your own business by yourself, and to connect with others in the same boat is both encouraging and inspiring. Plus it gives you somewhere to turn when you have questions or need advice.