Capturing the best moments of someones life is a great responsibility and thus has become the full time passion and career for Tina Bolling. A professional photographer of over 23 years, Tina goes above and beyond to get the shot that counts… and to capture the moments that last. Tina fluidly navigates intimate group dynamics by seamlessly moving forward with a great sense of timing and accuracy. She demonstrates the unique ability to blend great artistry with a profound sense of photographic acuity. We spoke with Tina Bolling about her style, her career, and her passion of working with her clients.
Tina, thanks for speaking with us today. I first started noticing your work up around town in the late 90’s, but had previously seen other photographs in the homes of many friends. Though I didn’t know you at the time, as I ran across each photograph something distinctive would jump out to me and say, Tina Bolling. Can you give us a little introduction into the inspiration behind your work?
I love simple lines, beautiful light and monotone colors. My inspiration for photography came to me when I was quite young. I used to ride my bike to the library and check out photography books, and National Geographic. I was always drawn to the close up shots of people, the ones where you could see into their eyes, and see the wrinkles on their faces. Most of those photographs only used natural light, and were very simple, that was what really inspired me, so from then on tried to create images with that type of look. Still, I strive to use available light 99% of the time, and never have too much going on in the photo. I think that is what you might have noticed about my work when you saw it.
You received your first camera when you were 8 years old will you tell us about this event and the path it eventually led you to?
My father and grandfather are both photography enthusiast, and they gave me my first Kodak camera. From then on I started taking pictures of everything I did. I used my allowance to buy film and have it developed at the local camera store. It was always a big thrill to go and pick up the prints. I’ve always been artist, and in school and won several art contests, but my favorite story is the one about Humboldt County. When I was ten, we took a trip up north, from LA, and went to Eureka. I of course took many photos of the area. When I returned to school there was a summer vacation photo contest, I entered a Humboldt photo, and I won. The irony is, that years later, I would end up going to Humboldt State University to study Photojournalism.
You were then traditionally trained as a photojournalist. This career often gave you little to no time to stage or understand much of the interpersonal dynamics that you were photographing. Will you please talk about this?
Photojournalism is the art of telling the story with no words, only an image. Although in journalism you are taught to be objective, I always felt my best images came from me following my personal interest. I figured if it interested me, then it might interest the reader too. I always shot from my gut, or heart, and it seemed to work. To me it’s really about a feeling…how someone feels when they see the photo, and how they feel if they are the subject of the photo. To this day, my goal is to evoke feeling.
Getting people to feel comfortable is large part of your work. Will you talk to us about your focus and emphasis you place on the actual photo shoot?
The photo shoot itself is incredible important to the success of my work. Again it’s about feeling. For me, the work I do, is so much deeper than just the final product. It’s about relating to each person I work with. I really want each person to come away feeling good. So, I try hard to make it a memorable experience. The experience someone has is a huge part of it. If the client has a good time during the photo shoot, then when they see the photos, they will take away much more than a photo, they will have a memory. Most people don’t like having their photo taken, so it’s my job to make it as fun and comfortable as possible. It’s difficult to give tangible examples of how I do this, because a big part of it is instinctual. Over the years I’ve learned how to interact with people. I think being a people person is key. I truly like people, and am interested in them, so it’s easy for me to relate. Perhaps it’s my personality that helps me work well with people. I also, of course guide them through what I’m doing, so they have an idea of what to do. I help them relax by making jokes and telling stories…I sing songs to the kids and make some really silly faces and sounds. With the kids, I often crack myself up and that makes them laugh.
I am curious about the artistry within your work. Where did you pick up your sense of style and aesthetic?
I’m honestly not sure where it came from. I just know what I like. It’s like asking, why do you like vanilla ice cream…I don’t know…I just do. It’s the same with my work, I just know what I like, and I always try to achieve that certain look. That’s not always easy because every circumstance is totally different. No two shoots are alike, even if they are in the same place, at the same time of day…each individual brings their own essence to a shoot and I have work with what’s there. I always pay attention to light, background and mood. I want to create a mood that is warm, welcoming, fun, and beautiful. I want my photographs to be a close to a piece of art as possible.
You seem to have an innate sense for understanding how to move within complex and interesting group dynamics. I never realized how important this might be for a photographer until I listed to you explain how you work. Will you talk a little bit about this?
Because I’ve photographed over 300 weddings, I have learned when to anticipate when something might happen. I also have learned to how to judge emotion. A wedding is a very emotional time for most people involved, not only the bride and groom, but the parents, siblings, best friends, etc. I’ve become somewhat of a counselor and a wedding co-coordinator. I know why and when people are going to be feeling “it” and so I make sure to help them relax and enjoy the moment. Once they remember to do that, then it’s much easier for me to capture them at their best. I always remind people to breath, smile, and think about how happy they are rather than how stressed they feel. Most often, just a subtle reminder really helps.
Tina, I’d love to hear more about how you see and work within events. To date you have photographed more than 300 weddings and so have a pretty good understanding as to the flow and cadence. Take us into your mind as to how you are paying attention, timing and then choosing your photographs?
No wedding is alike, but there are key things of course that are important to capture. There are the obvious things like the family shots, the first kiss, and the cake cutting, but what’s really important are the small details. The look on the grooms face when he sees the bride walking down the isle, or the interaction between the bride and her father who is giving her away. I really have to pay attention and be aware of everything that is going on at all times, and to know what might happen before it actually does, so I can be there. My biggest goal is to tell a story, so in the end, even someone who wasn’t at the wedding can look at the photos and feel like they were there. When all is said and done, after the wedding is over, all they have left are the photos and their memories, and memories fade, so I think, the photographs are extremely important. I take that part of my job very seriously.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you incorporate your experiences with traditional print film and photographic darkroom into achieving your results?
Again, it’s really all about light. I know how to use light to my advantage, and whether it’s with a film camera or a digital one, great lighting makes the difference between a good photo and an exceptional one. I worked with film and did all my own darkroom work for 16 years, back in the days when you had to be very precise, because you couldn’t “fix” it in Photoshop. I love Photoshop, but now I still shoot as if I’m using film. Because, with the volume of work I do, I can’t afford to fix everything in PS, I have to get it right from the start. Window light is my favorite. I also like a cloudy day because it’s a natural diffuser. The clouds take away the harsh shadows and gives even skin tones, but still leaves a sparkle in the eyes.
Tina, your work evolves with your clients to over time and often follows them throughout their lives. Can you share this evolution with us?
This is my favorite part about my job. I have the great pleasure and privilege of working with people during the “biggest” moments of their lives, the milestones. Generally, I meet my clients when the are getting married, so I’m there for their wedding day. Then when the have their first child, I get to be there to document that, from the pregnancy to the birth and through the babies first year. I have many clients whom I photograph every year on their birthday. It’s such a joy to see each kid grow, and change, but mostly I love building that lasting relationship with the family. It really means a lot to me. I also do many other milestone events, like anniversaries, graduations, and birthdays. It’s a big deal, and I feel so honored to do what I do.
I want to ask you about the relationship you end up having with your clients. I was very impressed to understand the extent you go to in creating rapport and establishing comfort.
I love building a relationship with my clients, I truly care about them all and I enjoying hearing about what’s going on in their lives as the years go by.
So, how do you capture the true spirit of your subjects?
Oh, that’s a tough question, and even if I knew exactly how I do it, I’m not sure I would want to tell. This is part of my art and part of what sets my work apart. It’s something that comes naturally to me, and I’m not certain how to explain it.
Can you show us two or three of your favorite photos and then point to something extraordinary with each one?
Gosh, it’s extremely difficult to choose only three photos, I have thousands in my portfolio.
What is the main focus of your business?
It’s definitely a service oriented business, I do anything relating to people photography. I think my job is less about photography and more about making people feel good by helping them remember a certain time in thier life. I document peoples life in all its stages, from weddings, to pregnancy, to portraiture and everything else in between. I photograph the cycle of life; catching a moment in time as well as the essence of a each person is what I enjoy doing the most.
Tina, we are now moving into Senior portraitseason how can people reading the LocalsGuide go about setting up an appointment to work with you?
The best way to reach me is to call. I like making personal connections. 541-482-2930. I can also be reach through, email, my web site, or on Facebook. firstname.lastname@example.org, www.tinabolling.com
Finally, any last comments or thoughts you would like to share with our readers?
Yes, my photography is an art, but my business is a service. I offer a special service, to take part and capture an important time in peoples lives. I take that very seriously and do my best to give them the best possible experience, from begining to end, the end being the final product…a fabulous photo to cherish.
Tina Bolling Photography