Radio Interview Transcripts

MorePhotos Radio - David Lee Michaels Photography

ANNOUNCER:  Welcome to the More Photos’ Radio Photography Spotlight brought to you by helping professional photographers with all their internet needs. Also brought to you by Finally, an e-commerce solution for professional photo labs that makes sense. Now here is your host, Damien Allen. 

DAMIEN: Good afternoon and welcome to More Photos Radio. My name is Damien Allen, and joining me today on the telephone is David Lee Michaels of David Lee Michaels Photography. How are you doing, David?

DAVID: Doing good, Damien, how are you?
DAMIEN: I’m doing fine. Glad to have you on the program today.
DAVID: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
DAMIEN: Well we are glad you are here. Let’s get started. Why don’t you give us a little bit about the history and where are you located and how did you get started in the business of photography, David?
DAVID: I’m in Roanoke, Virginia, which is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains on the southwestern part of the state and really as far as being a photographer, it’s a great place to be because we just have so much to choose from in regards to location and what we can do outside, environmentally, and it’s just a great place to be. I got into photography…I was actually in entertainment for a long time. I was in the radio and music industry for a long time. A good friend of mine, who was also in the same business and also a photographer kind of; and we hung out together a lot and it peaked my interest. I had always fiddled around with a little instamatic cameras and enjoyed playing with them, but he kind of got me to the next step and introduced me to a little bit more advanced form of photography with metering and manual settings and guided me with getting my first 35mm. From there it progressed. I moved away from it for a little while, just because of the nature of the work I was doing didn’t allow for a lot of time to devote to it, but I still dabble in it. When the very early stages of digital came around, it peaked my interest again, because I just thought, “Wow this is great.”  You can experiment, you can play, you can do different things that you didn’t necessarily want to do with film maybe because of the expense or what have you, but you could with digital, because it was instant and you could delete it and do it again and try different things. That’s kind of what brought me back around. When the business I was in started to change and then got to be more corporate and a little bit more generic and wasn’t my flavor, I kind of made that conscious decision that I wanted to do more photography and the more I did, the more people would ask me to do. They all would ask me to do this or do this portrait for them, or if I was able to photograph this for them, and that is when I decided I’m going to do this full time.
DAMIEN: You started back in the dinosaur days of film and jump back in it with digital. Did you have a chance to study with other people? Did you take classes to get your skills up for the new technologies?
DAVID: When I decided I was going to make the change, I did. I started looking around and reaching out to people, you know, friends that I knew were photographers just to get a taste of what was going on and what the industry was like and to kind of find my way. Then I started taking classes and going to some of the PPA affiliated schools and I studied with Tony Corbel and Hanson Fong and Monica Sigmund, and Michael  Tails and some world class photographers. They have photographed heads of state. So I’ve had a chance to study with those people and really have them evaluate my work and tell me what I’m doing right; what I’m doing wrong, and hopefully not too much wrong, but they critiqued my work and have guided me along the way too as well.
DAMIEN: Now you mentioned you started off with photography when you were still in the entertainment field. What types of photography  do you specialize in now and what types of unique services  does David Lee Michaels Photography offer their clients?
DAVID: Well we specialize in weddings and portraits. We do a lot of family portraits. We really go after the high school senior market. I really am comfortable around high school seniors given the background that I have and feel like I can relate with them on certain things and talk music with them, and so we really work the high school senior market quite a bit. One of our passions is pet photography. We do a lot of pets. My wife and I both are animal people and have several dogs and cats of our own and that’s one of the things I really enjoy doing, because photographing pets is just a true passion of mine. We do a lot of that.
DAMIEN: With so many people that have jumped onto the digital bandwagon; Uncle Joe’s got a camera and what not, why should families, brides, or whoever choose David Lee Michaels Photography over having someone in the family shoot their photo?
DAVID: I think a lot of it has to go back with continuing education. We really work hard on attending a lot of seminars and I am a member of several forums. I am a member of The Professional Photographers of America and the Virginia Association of Professional Photographers. I serve on the board of the state association, and I am a PPA counselor for the Professional Photographers of America. So one of my mentors said, Tony Corbel, we really are trying to keep alive the craft of photography. As you know, anybody can grab a camera and take a picture. That’s not what we do. We are really more about the art and how the final image is going to look. Sometimes even though our positioning statement is “The art of being you.” And that’s how we try to photograph. We really want to capture the essence and the personality of the people we photograph. It’s more than just stand here, and let me push the button. It’s all about lighting and relationships and getting to know my clients too. That’s one of the things we really work hard at is finding out about our clients and what they are like and their personalities and what hits there hot buttons as opposed to once again putting them in front of a background and saying, “Smile”. 
DAMIEN: And a lot of people are used to having the digital, or the camera phone, or back in the old days the old Polaroid land camera or whatever taking shots around the house and what not, and that is a lot different than what happens when you go into a studio, or if you have a professional come to a location to shoot you. What advice can you give a client who has never had their picture taken professionally to make the session go easier for them?
DAVID: I think the biggest advice is to do your homework with the technology that is available to us now. People can go online and they can look at photographer’s websites and get a sense of who that photographer is and what they are about. Do you homework and find a photographer who’s style you like. I think sometimes a mistake can be made that, “Oh I’ve heard of this photographer, let’s hire him to do this portrait, or to do our wedding.” And then in the middle of the job, maybe their particular style doesn’t fit the idea of what you had envisioned the final product being. You may have wanted something more traditional and maybe a little more photo journalistic. To do that you have to research and find a photographer who produces images you like, that fits your style and personality. Listen to the advice they give you. Certain things like clothing. It can make a big difference and then when you hire a photographer, I think the biggest thing to remember is let the photographer do their job. Sometimes you’ll get in those situations where there might be one family member who starts directing how the session is going and you’ve hired a professional, let the professional do the work for you.
DAMIEN: Now when you’re dealing with a wedding situation, whether you are photographing the wedding party or if you are doing the reception afterwards, are you the only shooter on this, or do you have multiple photographers that go with you to large events?
DAVID: I have an assistant. Her name is Samantha and her nickname is Sam. If you hear me refer to Sam, that’s who that is, and she is my assistant and I have always in my second shooters, I’ve always tried to have a female second shooter, because I want that perspective photographed too on the day of the wedding. Women and men are distinctly different and she’ll see things that I won’t see. She’ll photograph things I may not have gravitated towards simply because she see’s it from a female perspective. She does work with me on all my weddings and occasionally some of the portrait shoots.
DAMIEN: Now your website  is full of beautiful shots, lots of different styles of photography, lots of different types of settings, what are the best pieces of advice you can give parents when you are preparing to have a child photographed, and at the same time, when you’re doing bridal stuff, when you’re doing weddings, what kind of advice can you give the brides? What do you tell your clients to prepare them for your shoots?
DAVID: Well with children, the biggest thing I can tell parents is don’t stress. Sometimes if a parent brings in a baby or a young child and that child is really active or the baby is fussy that day, all the parent can see is that child being really active or the baby being fussy. They don’t know that we’re looking for certain things and certain moments and we capture those moments and a lot of times if the parent starts to stress out, that feeling transfers to the child and that’s where you can have some difficulty. I tell parents all the time, “You just relax. If you want, you can go in the next room and sit and read or look at a magazine, and just relax and believe me, we’re going to get some beautiful images. You’re going to be real excited about what we have for you.” With brides I tell them all the time, one of the biggest things to look for is make sure you have chemistry with your photographer. I think that probably with weddings that’s probably the most important thing outside of a photographer’s style…a couple needs to have. You need to have that chemistry, because this is a person you are going to be spending 6, 8, 10 hours with and this person is going to be with you from start to finish and the last thing you want is to have someone you don’t particularly get along with, let’s say, or have a strong feeling about to be in your life that much on that particular day. There’s already a lot of stressful things going on, you know, getting to the church and the ceremony and the guests, and saying, “Hi” to all the guests and everything else that goes along with that day. You want to make sure you have great chemistry with your photographer, see him or her as a friend when they approach you as opposed to like, “Here he comes again, you know, what’s he going to ask me to do this time, or what is she going to ask me to do?” Make sure that you are totally comfortable around them. We work hard in our studio to develop that relationship, you know, the first meeting when they come in to see what services we have and what we offer and to look at the images, and one of the big points, one of the big things that we do, is we get both if I haven’t already met the groom, both the bride and the groom to come into the studio about a week before the wedding. One of the big things I like to do is I want to meet the groom. I don’t want him to see me walking into his man cave on the day of the wedding and to see me as some guy invading his space. I want him to have a relationship with me. I want him to know who I am so that when I walk in and say, “Hey, let’s go play, let’s do this, let’s do that.” That he’s comfortable with it and it also gives me a chance to find out about my couples. What they like, what their hot buttons are, what they like about each other, you know, where did they go on their first date and things they like to do together. It gives me a lot of background information. Each wedding that we approach, we are not shooting from the template fashion, we’re shooting it individualized. We are taking into account, who these two people are and what the shots should be like.
DAMIEN: You’ve been doing this for a while now. What is your favorite type of photo session, David?
DAVID: Wow. I like weddings. I like the party. Weddings can be a lot of fun, and we have been fortunate that our wedding couples have been fun, fun to be around and to spend a lot of time with. I guess as far as animals, pets, I love photographing pets. I love the uniqueness of each one that comes in. I like the personalities, you know, and everything especially the dogs are so unconditional, and I enjoy that a lot.
DAMIEN: What do you find rewarding about being a photographer, David?
DAVID: I think this will sound maybe strange, the documentation. When we do weddings, pets, children, or family portraits, we’re documenting a particular point in those people’s lives, and I not only view it as an image and a piece of artwork hopefully on the wall, but I also view it as a historical document. I shoot from the perspective that these images are going to be around 150 years from now and somebody is going to look back and say, “That was my great grandmother on her wedding day, or that was my great grandfather, or this was my grandfather’s animal, favorite pet, favorite dog.” Or whatever their situation may be. “Oh this was my mom when she was a baby.” I want these images to be around 100 – 150 years from now and people look at them and enjoy them and get a sense of what it was like back then and who these people were at this point in their lives. I think that’s one of the cool things about weddings, and of course, about senior photography with our high school seniors, because that’s such a transition period. You’re going from this one educational environment of being in high school to this whole new world where you have people from literally all over the country, if you go to college, or if they enter the workplace, into this more adult environment. It’s such a transition in life and I want people to be able to look back and remember those times and things that may have been associated with that time period or with those images.
DAMIEN: And it really is all about capturing a point in history for the family, for a person’s life.
DAVID: It really is, you know, so many people and one of the scary things, like you mentioned, like people with phones in their  cameras and the digital photography world and how it has evolved, you know a lot of people take images with their phones or with their point and shoot cameras and then they download them to their computers and then they maybe burn a disk or what if the disk gets lost or what if the hard drive crashes, or what if the phone dies or something, these are images lost, and the art of having he print, even with snapshots has kind of diminished over the last several years, and so that’s why I think my goal as a photographer when I am hired or commissioned by someone to do a portrait or a wedding that it’s even more incumbent on me to get beautiful images and to make sure they have in their hands, beautiful prints that they can display or put in a family album or whatever it may be so they will be around 100 years from now. Not just images lost, because we had this cool new technology.
DAMIEN: Now we are rapidly entering the holiday season, and of course the kids are back in school, is David Lee Michael Photography running any specials for this time of the year and what is going to be new for  the rest of the year and 2011?
DAVID: This time of year we do several what we call our limited edition Quick Click sessions and these sessions, we do them all year long, but we do a few more of them this time of year. We’ll do something around Halloween, where we’ll do 15 minute sessions by appointment and you can pre-book an appointment where the kids come in and we get them in their Halloween costumes, and we have special little collections that they can purchase so they will have those images from that event. We do also a Christmas Open House. One of our big things that we do during the summer and even at Christmas we do summer is Dog and Cat Days of Summer where we do once again Quick Clicks. Those are 15 minute sessions and these are all fundraisers. The Quick Click sessions are. We’ll do for the Dog and Cat Days of Summer, we do pet food for the local SPCA. At Christmas we do Santa Paws which is once again pet food for the local animal shelters with a Christmas promotion and the Halloween promotion we do donations to Susan G. Coman Foundation so we have a lot of that going on throughout the year in addition to what we normally offer. So we try to not only have products that are for the clientele that we market the studio to, but we also like to have some of those special events where we can give back to the community and maybe people who typically couldn’t afford what we do, can come in and experience the studio and get some nice images and take advantage of that while we give back to the community.
DAMIEN: If someone is looking for more information on David Lee Michaels Photography, where do they go? What is the website and contact information they need?
DAVID: The website is Our email address; you can email me directly. It’s, or there is a link on the website. You can reach us by phone at (540) 342-9129. Of course if you are email us we generally get back to you pretty quickly.
DAMIEN: I’d like to thank you very much for joining us today, David.
DAVID: Thank you. We appreciate it.
DAMIEN: We’ve been speaking David Lee Michaels of David Lee Michaels Photography of Roanoke, Virginia. You have been listening to More Photos Radio. My name is Damien Allen. Everybody have a great day and we’ll catch you next time.  
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