Introducing our January Member Feature, Molly Odell Seeling of Cedar House Photography.
Website and blog: http://www.cedarhousephotography.com/
Genre of Photography: Senior Girls
What's your 'photography story?
I first started out shooting film, way back in the day. Originally, I became interested in photography as a way to record my travels, and it was pretty common for me to be going through airport security with a Ziploc bag of 20, 30 rolls of film :) I’ve always loved working with people, and I originally wanted to do photojournalistic / documentary / National Geographic people photography. I ended up regularly second shooting for a local portrait and wedding studio, and when the owners decided to move, they offered to let me buy the business, which at the time included several ongoing contracts for family portraits through a family camp, and newborn portraits through the local OB-GYN's office. So I started out shooting everything - babies, families in studio, seniors, weddings, corporate headshots, etc. As I got more comfortable, I gradually started to narrow down to what I really loved. For 4-5 years, that was pretty evenly split between seniors and weddings, and just last year I took weddings off my website and have been focusing almost 100% on high school senior girls.
Tell us about your very first shoot:
Oh gosh, I don’t remember which exact one was my very first paying shoot. When I was in college, I shot some of my little sister’s friends’ senior portraits, a wedding here and the for a cheap friend or acquaintance. I knew next to nothing about lighting, I had an okay grasp on composition, and I was still shooting in only aperture priority mode rather than manual. I used my sister a lot as a model - she’s gorgeous! Every so often I’d get lucky with a really stellar shot, but have no idea how to recreate it.
What three words best describe your style?
Laid-back, offbeat, cinematic.
If you were stranded on a desert island with only one camera, lens, and accessory, what would you bring?
I use my 5DMkII for pretty much everything. I rely pretty heavily on my 70-200 2.8 for portraits, although if I was on a desert island I might go with a nice wide angle for some landscape shots :)
If you could go anywhere and photograph anything, where would you go and what would you shoot?
Styled portraits with locally-designed clothing at the Taj Mahal or in Morocco- I love the colors, the architecture, that golden humid light, and beautiful fabrics!
If you could be photographed by any photographer, living or dead, who would it be?
Annie Liebowitz - she’s magical!
What one tip would you give a photographer starting out in your field?
Learn some solid business skills. I focused a lot on the artistic elements in the beginning, the craft of it, which is definitely very important. But I made a lot of mistakes and had to learn a lot of business lessons the hard way, and I feel like that held me back in the beginning. I wish I had learned the basics earlier, like figuring out how to budget reasonably, how to determine your cost of goods and what you’re actually paying yourself per hour, etc. I thought that being a good artist would, in and of itself, guarantee success. If you’re creating beautiful work, how could you NOT make money? Then I realized it doesn’t work quite like that :)
What websites/blogs do you visit often?
Not much photography-related these days. I love Pinterest and Etsy for sourcing props or compiling ideas. I check the news kind of obsessively.
What do you find most difficult about being a photographer?
The seasonality of it. I specialize in high school senior girls, and especially in Colorado, there’s a definite season for that, due to the combination of yearbook deadlines and the weather. Every year, it’s hard for me to pace myself in the summer and say no to someone, because what if I really needed that money in February? It’s really easy to overextend yourself.
What do you find most rewarding?
The relationships that I’ve developed with my girls. Some of us keep in touch for years after their shoot - I’ve seen my past seniors graduate from college, get married, and start to have kids, which is crazy. It’s so wonderful to think that you could help someone feel better about themselves, to see themselves in a beautiful light and a less self-critical way. I want my girls to see themselves like the people who love them do - lovely, charming, authentic, and full of light. I love it!