The Photographer Project: Shannon Oleksak

Portraits by Diana Deaver

What’s your birthdate?  

July 23, 1983

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 started really taking photos in college. I had always loved taking photos beforehand with a simple point and shoot or simple film camera, but I was a studio art minor at the College of Charleston, where my focus was photography. I would say it was a combo of both somewhat natural and learned. Even in the beginning when I was taking classes, I did not know exactly what I was doing… As mentioned I did a minor in studio art at College of Charleston focusing on photography.  I took mainly black and white film classes at C of C, which is all that was offered back then. We moved to NYC a year after I graduated and I eventually ended up working in the photo department at theknot.com I also started second shooting and assisting other photographers, which is really how I learned most technical aspects of photography.  We moved back to Charleston in late 2008, and I started my business then : ) 

What do you love to photograph?

Weddings and children : ) Although I do love photographing other things, at this point in my life, it is mainly children when I am not photographing weddings or couples. I have some friends that only solely photograph weddings or just families, but I love the combination! Especially seeing my past wedding clients’ families. 

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

Gayle Brooker was actually my first photo teacher ever at the College of Charleston : ) She was an adjunct professor at the college for a semester when I was taking classes. Also, I have been really good friends with Corbin Gurkin for a while. We are more friends, but always inevitably chat about photo stuff/work and life balance, etc. 

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

This question for some reason is tricky for me. I am somewhat an introverted person, so my first thought when I think of this would just be my husband and family.  I feel like I would be too nervous to have dinner with anyone really famous and for some reason it just really isn’t important to me. I will think about this one more though!

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

Yes, I can tell with the light, clients, environment, etc.  I feel like I do somewhat minimal editing after shoots, just basic color correction.

What makes you feel connected to your subject? 

I would say chatting with them about similar interests and them trusting me.

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

Editing is not my favorite, but I do my own editing. I outsourced editing last spring for the first time ever, but decided to take it back myself, as it is such a particular thing for me.

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

Not necessarily a genre, but I would like to pick a film camera back up again at least for photos of my kids!

What’s on your photographic bucket list?

Possibly some destination wedding venues.  I also lately have been thinking it would be amazing to have an all white studio for family/newborn sessions : ) I love the bright, natural light with a minimal feel to the background.

What inspires you?

Definitely the light and natural surroundings of an environment. I am also really into home decor/interior design.  I have a more minimal/neutral style in my home.  And when I say minimal, I still have WAY too much stuff, especially with kiddos, I should say I always aspire to have a more minimal style : )

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

I definitely take my business interactions very personally and tend to read into things probably too much (my husband says I do!) But I definitely like my clients to be pleased but also know there can be completely differing opinions on style. I hope with what I post and display for clients to see that I book clients who are into a similar style. 

What advice would you give an up and coming photographer?

Work with other photographers to learn from real life scenarios, if you have children—adequate childcare!, know some business and marketing aspects as well. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes besides just being at a shoot. 

What makes you feel loved?

Of course when it comes to my business and photography work, I would say when people are happy with the photos I have taken. On a more personal side, I would surely say hanging out with my husband and two kids : )

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

Late afternoon light is my favorite on a sunny day and early, early mornings can also be pretty (and quiet and more peaceful, esp. if you are downtown). It can be trickier to get clients to go for really early mornings though! I also like somewhat filtered cloudy days on the beach/marsh.

What are your social media handles?

Instagram: shanmichphoto

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

Website: www.shannonmichelephotography.com (actually working on a new site right now!)

What makes you feel pretty?

Hmm…this is a tricky one, but I would say feeling comfortable with what I am wearing, showering (this is ridiculous and embarrassing, but I have two smalls kids and work from home business, so at this stage in my life, I would probably add this one…doesn’t take much haha!), a new hair cut, or even a fun adventure or experience. 

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

This has probably changed over the years, but I would say I do truly feel lucky to have a profession that I absolutely love. There are certainly trying days and experiences, but overall I absolutely LOVE what I do. The only thing I could think of that I would possibly want to do besides photography if I could do anything would be some sort of home decor/design job.

The past couple years have certainly been a bit more challenging adding kiddos to the mix. But I feel lucky that I have the opportunity to be a mostly stay at home mom and work full time as well. That does mean a lot of late nights and always working during nap time, but on the flip side, I am able to see my kiddos a lot as well. I have learned though, that is a necessity to have adequate childcare so it is not all night work/kiddos watching TV while you work (I may have done that a few times…)

Candids provided by Shannon

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