The Photographer Project: Sally Watts

Portraits by Diana Deaver

What’s your birthdate?    September 24, 1971

When did you first pick up a camera?  Tell me about that.  When did you know you had a talent for photography?  Natural talent or learned process?

I first picked up a camera in 5th grade, when we made pinhole cameras in Gifted. (Such an obnoxious name for the accelerated school program! Nevertheless, a good fit for a high IQ/ low common sense creative child like me.) We developed our film, and I fell in love with the process. I can still remember smelling the chemicals for the first time. Intoxicating.

What do you love to photograph?

Seemingly insignificant moments. I find beauty or poignancy in everything. Sometimes it’s hard to turn off the compulsion to snap everything I see people do- even strangers. Especially strangers!

Who are some of your photographer icons and/or mentors? 

I’ve learned so much about business, technical aspects of shooting, and human nature and psychology from Leigh Webber. She is a constant source of inspiration, insight and friendship.

You get to have dinner with 3 other people, alive or deceased.  With whom would you dine?  What would you ask them? 

I thought this question would be so tough, but they came right to me! David Foster Wallace, Steve Martin, and Sally Mann. All three are/were brilliant, amazing, thoughtful, true to self trailblazers in their own way. And each speaks to aspects of my personality; the writer/philosopher, the romantic image maker, and most of all, the quirky, silly dork.

Do you know when you have a spectacular shot, or does that come about in the editing process?

You know. Sometimes an image pleasantly surprises you when you’re looking back through, but typically you’ve been stalking that great candid moment, or you created a posed or candid portrait with the lighting, so you know. 

What makes you feel connected to your subject? 

Gosh. What doesn’t? I’m endlessly fascinated with people, but I try to act nonchalant and low key, like I’m not scrutinizing their every feature. Because I’m not! I feel happiest when clients leave a shoot saying, “that was fun!” That’s the best compliment I can get.

What are your thoughts on editing?  Like it or abhor it?  Do it yourself?  

I do it myself. I like to play around with different looks occasionally, but more often than not I edit everything the same way, so the gallery looks cohesive. It takes amazing skill and taste level to “branch out” in post processing and have your work look really cool, vs. really cheesy. I typically don’t chance it. 🙂

Is there any genre of photography that you’d like to explore further?

Street photography! It’s my passion.

What’s on your photographic bucket list?

I want to do more portraits of men. I’ve noticed that no matter how comfortable a man is around me; how long he’s known me, there’s a tendency to get stiff or Austin Powers-ish silly in front of my camera. It’s actually much easier to get great, natural shots of men I hardly know! I’d like to work through dissecting breaking down that awkward barrier.

What inspires you?

People in concentration, unaware of their surroundings. Split second moments of expression, gait, movement, laughter, uncertainty, etc., that are heartbreakingly poignant to me. Sunsets. Sunrises. My children. Nature. Music. Everything inspires me! I’m easy. 

How would you handle a difference of opinion with a client? 

This has so rarely happened to me. I tend to attract the perfect clients, for which I’m grateful, if a bit baffled at how I manage to get that right every time. But if there is a concern, the client is always right, or I’ll work to really listen and empathize, and make the best of the situation. I have zero professional ego about feedback, apologizing, correcting, etc. I’d much rather know what people are really thinking. 

What advice would you give an up and coming photographer?

You’ll know you’re getting better at your craft when you feel like you completely suck. At the beginning, listen to industry naysayers more than non industry praise showering.

Are you involved in any kind of continuing education or professional groups?

I’m a PPA member, and I plan to attend more workshops this year. In the past I haven’t participated in enough continuing education and networking, and since workshops, conferences and travel are good for business and a write off, why not?

What makes you feel loved?

Oh boy….Turns out I’m much better at discussing what I love! 🙂 My children’s hands in mine. That always does the trick. And laughing with a family member or friend. I’m talking doubled over, tears, breathless laughing. I don’t think we, in our culture, do that nearly enough. 

What are your favorite conditions/lighting/circumstances to shoot?

I’m happiest when I’m shooting as a fly on the wall in a dimly but atmospherically lit place. 

What are your social media handles?

Instagram: sallycwatts

FB: https://www.facebook.com/sallywattsphoto/

Website: www.sallywattsphoto.com

What makes you feel pretty?

Perfume. I’m always searching for that unicorn scent. Painted toenails. They’ve been red or pink, occasionally purple or silver, etc., since I was 14. Being happy makes me feel pretty too, as does being true to my own style and personality. Really, though, as every woman over 40 knows, or should know, feeling pretty is about comfort in your own skin. Not being afraid to sing along in the grocery store, let your laughter ring out, hug someone, close your eyes and feel the moment, or twirl, run, or lay in the grass if the moment is there.

Do you have any other thoughts or things to say about your profession?

These days I’m quite interested in mixing still images with video, which I learned to do when photographing births. A great example is the 60 Second Photograph tag on Instagram. So cool!

Candids courtesy of Sally Credle Watts

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