This month for the f/22 profile we head west to the Bay Area and talk to Annie Florin a child and baby photographer in San Francisco. I have known Annie for over a year now and have watched from a distance as her business has grown. A couple of weeks ago when I was in San Francisco I met with her on afternoon and caught up, and this past weekend asked if she would be the f/22 profile for this month. I would like to thank Annie for taking time from her busy schedule and being the f/22 profile photographer this month.
What was it which got you interested in photography?
I’d have to say that overall my strongest influence was my father. From as early as I can remember he was using SLRs and taking photographs of anything and everything. Photographs, his and others’, were always on the walls. I can remember dozens of trips to the photo lab and being so excited to look at the black and white proof sheets he got back. Of course, it was also a running joke in our family that if we were out and about and didn’t know where our Dad was, it was safe to assume he got held up photographing something. Through him I was introduced to the idea of how powerful a photograph of a child can be for a parent. My parents divorced when I was very young and every summer my older sister and I would spend a month with my Dad in Chicago. Throughout this whole month he would take hundreds of portraits of my sister and me. As a kid I was annoyed at having to hold still for so long. As a photographer and now a parent, I understand he was trying to capture the moments as best he could so he’d have those images to sustain him during the periods we were apart.
Switching from a hobby of photography to a career is a tough decision since photography is a competitive field, what drove you to make this decision.
Honestly, I didn’t feel I had much choice. Throughout college and my years of teaching, I struggled to find a career that really felt like a good fit. I loved teaching but knew it wasn’t my “forever career”. You know that scene in “Office Space” when Peter ponders the question “what would you do if you had a million dollars?”. Well my answer to that was always an easy one: photography. I wasn’t sure what my focus would be except I knew that it needed to really matter to me. So it was sort of a blind leap of faith (rather than a solidly laid plan) that I left my teaching position and began my own education by attending the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, and merging my love of children with my passion for photography just unfolded naturally.
Living in San Francisco and being a photographer using natural light for the images, do you find it difficult on those days which produce blue skies?
Actually the sunny days don’t throw me too much. They’re challenging, sure, but I’ve become adept at working around the harsh sunlight. A summer in Montana will do that for you! I know how to seek out shade and lately I’ve started experimenting with techniques which use sun flare and backlighting.
The real challenge for me in San Francisco is the persistent grey, foggy days. While they’re ideal for outdoor shoots (soft-box in the sky!), they make indoor shooting tough. I like for my sessions to include some time in client’s home because I think it gives a context to the images, an intimacy that the outdoor lacks. But it often means that I’m shooting at higher than ideal ISOs which is what recently led me to upgrade to the Canon 5D.
Your primary focus is baby and child photography and as you were a teacher prior to the career change, how do you feel it shows during your shoots as well as with your work?
Well, I taught special education working with young children with severe emotional and behavioral problems so my experience in knowing how to shape behavior for a desired result comes in pretty handy! Also knowing what kinds of behaviors and attitudes are developmentally appropriate makes me more sensitive and flexible during shoots and more aware of what expressions are essential to capture for certain ages.
I think it can also reassure parents that I’m comfortable with their kids and don’t have any expectations of “perfectly behaved kids”.
In terms of the images that I capture, I think having taught the kids I did has influenced the type of expressions I’m drawn to photographing. I tend to bring out more curious, thoughtful and intimate expressions as opposed to the goofy or smiley ones. It’s something that I have to remind myself to work on during shoots so that I’m getting a good balance of images, some of the classically smiling little one and some of the contemplative child.
Earlier this year your husband and yourself welcomed your son into the world, how has this changed your business?
Oh boy has he changed things! Like all major life changes, there’s the good and the “challenges”. The amazing part of becoming a mother is a new appreciation for the value of photographs. The moments of babyhood are so fleeting and the littlest look, the slightest curl of hair or the way a baby holds his pinkie, are so important to have captured.
Being a mother has also opened a lot of doors for me in that it’s introduced me to “The Mommy World”. Moms talk. A lot. To each other, to kids, to teachers, to friends, to family, to me! Meeting people first as a mother, then as a photographer really helps clients feel they can relate to me and trust me.
As for the challenges the basic issue is just a shortage of uninterrupted time to devote to my work. There are days it’s overwhelming to juggle and balance the two roles but having to do so has definitely taught me to be more productive with the little bursts of time I do get.
The last few months of the year are probably quite busy for you, are there any items you have available for your clients this year to make it a special holiday season?
I’m really excited for the holidays this year because I’ve teamed up with Minted.com to offer a fantastic selection of holiday cards. They have such fresh and modern designs and the quality of the printing and paper is unmatched by any other company I’ve worked with. Not to mention they are also a San Francisco-based company!
This year I’ve put together a variety of holiday card sessions and packages, giving my clients several options. One exclusive offering is mini-sessions. Ordinarily I don’t do this but at this time of year, people are busy and goal-oriented about their holiday tasks. They want to get their photos and their cards and be done. They don’t necessarily want a 2 hour session or to sort through hundreds of possible holiday
card designs. So I’ve simplified the process for them by bundling mini-sessions and packages of holiday cards.
Outside of the baby and child photography which you concentrate on for your business, are there any other areas you enjoy exploring with your camera for personal projects or do you find that it focuses on your son?
I can tell by your question that you’ve been checking my Flickr page! What? 50 pictures in a row of the same baby isn’t riveting artwork? Ha! It’s true that I take a lot of pictures of Jack. Partly that’s because he’s a great little subject and just as cute as can be (right? RIGHT?!) but also because my days are pretty much consumed with caring for him minute by minute. My photography often reflects what is present and valued in my life at any given time. Before becoming a mother, it was often my dog or San Francisco. During pregnancy, it was chocolate cake. No kidding. Now it’s Jack.
I do miss having the free time to go out shooting as a way of exploring the city. I find that when I have my camera in my hands, I’m braver, more confident and more open to the world. It gives me the opportunity
to capture the essence of the urban environment – the beautifully ugly and the grandiose. I’m hoping that as we settle in more as a family, I’ll find a way to do more of this again.
It has been quite an exciting twelve months for you with the quickly growing business as well as everything else. Is there anything in particular you learned during this timeframe which you would like to share with the readers?
It’s definitely been a life-changing year in many ways but professionally speaking the thing I’ve really come to learn this year is about creating and maintaining a community of peers. The fellow photographers
I met during my training at Rocky Mountain School of Photography have come to be not just my friends but my colleagues. Through them I get inspiration, learn about business practices and continue to stay in the loop on technology and workflow. Doing freelance work and being self-employed can be somewhat isolating so you have to really seek out a professional community and fortunately our profession is so compatible with creating internet communities.
You may see more of Annie’s work at the following sites:
Annie Florin Photography – San Francisco Baby and Child Photographer
Flashes of Life Blog – Annie Florin
Look for another f/22 profile in November.