Today, I sit down with Caitlin Spiess, an up-and-coming photographer & graphic designer out of New York City. We discuss what inspires her to take photos, the pros and cons to digital photography, and a graphic design Off-Broadway that would bring her to a new level in her career.
(Photo by Caitlin Spiess)
Ryan Sprague (RS)
Caitlin Spiess (CS)
RS: Did you attend/are you attending college? What did you/are you studying?
CS: Hofstra University. I am in my final semester, studying photography with a minor in design.
RS: When would you consider you inception of becoming a photographer?
CS: That's a really difficult first question! I've always had a camera and I can't really think of a time when I haven't thought in terms of a rectangular frame. I guess it would have to be the first time I developed my own film and it all came out perfectly. That process is nerve wracking, and requires a lot of patience. I don't have much of that!
RS: Have you always wanted to be a photographer?
CS: No, actually. While I was growing up, I wanted to be everything. I thought about going into law, I thought about being an actor, I wrote really horrible song lyrics for awhile... I didn't seriously consider photography as a career until high school.
RS: What inspires you to shoot?
CS: The city, my friends, interesting lay lines. I love capturing anything I can.
RS: Is there a certain type of photography you would consider yourself a veteran in?
CS: I don't think that's the best way to describe my current skill level. I mean, the easy answer here is portraiture, but I rarely shoot the same way twice.
(Photo by Caitlin Spiess)
RS: What inspires you to take pictures?
CS: Moments. I love capturing little moments, little details. I might go out to cover an event, and spend ten minutes on the place settings or the couple holding hands on the table. I love things like that.
RS: How does one evolve as a photographer? Do you see yourself evolving?
CS: I'm always learning, always using new techniques. The benefit of working in an environment where the process is constantly evolving is I get to constantly evolve. A lot of people have trouble understanding photography as an art form, because "the camera does all the work" but if you give the same set up and subject to six different photographers, you're going to get six different photographs. It's a fascinating art form.
RS: What has been your best/worst experience as a photographer?
CS: My best experience would be shooting an off broadway show. I love stage photography, and the amount of colors and different lighting challenges involved, it was a wonderful experience to work with DreamCatcher Entertainment on that project. My worst experience would be showing up to a shoot without any memory cards. I felt so incredibly foolish, and now I have a checklist in my camera bag that I go over before I leave the house for a shoot.
RS: In such a visual medium, how would you describe the ins and outs of taking pictures? What is your process? Is it all digital? Or do you spend hours in a dark room?
CS: The most important thing in this medium is exposure and composition. If you can't control your exposure, you can't control your photos. If you don't know how to compose a photograph, it's not going to look good. Anyone who wants to be worth their salt in photography should take their cameras off the auto setting and learn about the Rule of Thirds. I do shoot digital, because that's where the industry has landed. It's not "headed towards digital" it is firmly landed here. However, that doesn't mean I don't still shoot analog from time to time. I have a Diana lomography camera that I love, and my Canon AE-1 is one of my most treasured possessions. Generally, though, I'll scan the negatives and edit and print digitally. I prefer that system, I feel like I have more control over my work.
(Scene from the Off-Broadway production of In the Bar of the Tokyo Hotel. Photo by Caitlin Spiess)
RS: In the age of instagram and other online features, what sets the every day person apart from a professional photographer?
CS: Skill level. I don't care what you shoot with, if you don't understand composition and exposure, you're not a photographer. You own an iPhone. I use Instagram and Hipstamatic, I love those apps. They're fun. But that doesn't make you a photographer. It makes you a person with a highly useful piece of equipment and social media network. I think there are photographers on Instagram, but not all Instagrammers are photographers.
RS: What would be your dream shoot?
CS: See, this is funny. The answer to this question used to be "Photographing Emma Watson with Annie Leibovitz", but the answer to this question is now photographing the First Family. Barack Obama would be an incredible subject, and after seeing his official White House family portrait, I know I could do it better. When those were released, I was annoyed because the family wasn't centered, and I could tell why. There was this garland in the background that, had they been centered, would have looked like it was growing out of someone's head. But instead of moving the garland, they just nudged them over a couple of inches, and apparently neglected to move the camera. I think I ranted about that photograph to anyone who would listen for days.
(Poster designed by Caitlin Spiess)
RS: What have you shot?
CS: I have photographed several Off-Off Broadway shows, one Off-Broadway show, and several other theatrical events. I also do headshots, portraiture, and event photography.
RS: Do you dabble in other artistic endeavors?
CS: Yes, I also do graphic design. I have my own photography and design firm called i.l.l Productions. i.l.l stands for "Ink, Light, and Lens". My favorite (and most successful) project was a poster for an Off-Broadway show at New World Stages.
RS: Are you working on any specific projects right now?
CS: Currently I'm the in house graphic designer for DreamCatcher Entertainment, they're an amazing company and without them, I would never made the breaks I have so far in my career. And especially not this early in my career. I'm also designing a branding and advertising project for a play series. Other than that, I'm always taking commissions!
RS: Where can people find out more about what you do?
CS: They can find me on Facebook HERE