Hi Rachel. I'm sure you've been asked before, but how did you get started in photography?
It seems like every photographer has a story about how they started shooting when they were four years old and haven't put down a camera since. I don't remember taking pictures at four years old, but all through grade school and up to high school I took an insane amount of pictures. Then, when my family moved from Ohio to Nebraska my junior year of high school, I was able to take a photography class for the first time. After that, I started photographing sporting events for the school newspaper/yearbook. When I went off to college, all I'd known was sports photography and I didn't really want to do that professionally, so I dropped photography (plus I didn't own my own SLR). But a few years into college I realized I didn't like what I was doing, started looking at photographers for my own wedding (not yet engaged, of course!), and somehow stumbled across Jasmine Star and Michelle Moore. They both showed me that portrait photography could be incredible and that you could make a living doing it. I saved up, bought a Canon Rebel, switched my major to Entrepreneurship, and the rest is history!
That's awesome. I always enjoy hearing other's stories.
What was your first camera?
The Canon Rebel XSi with 50mm f/1.8
You mentioned a couple names earlier, but who are you currently most inspired by?
These days, I am most inspired by Patrick La Roque (a Fuji shooter!), Sam Hurd, Brian Kraft, and Keith Lee. Their styles are all quite different from mine, but they inspire me to think and shoot differently and to get out of my comfort zone.
Can you share one of your proudest moments as a photographer?
A while back I was talking to a former client of mine, and he was saying how one of his siblings got married and their photos didn't turn out very well. He told me he was so glad they hired me to shoot their wedding and that their photos were worth every penny. My heart just about burst from happiness. I love it when clients are that happy with their photos!
That is awesome!
So I noticed on your website that you are primarily a wedding photographer, but you also do a lot of photo sessions. Can you tell us a little bit about your style.
I like clean images. True to life colors, good contrast (but not excessive). I'm not so much into black and white photos but there are some exceptions. I also am most comfortable shooting with longer lenses (my favorite is my 100mm f/2.8, but my DREAM is the 135mm f/2L), but I'm learning to shoot wider and am slowly becoming friends with my 28mm f/1.8 for portraits.
I noticed that our approach to our photos are similar and our affinity to using prime lenses as well!
I saw on your blog that you have a Fuji x100s. Congrats by the way. What made you interested in that camera and was it all you hoped it would be when you got it?
I was sick and tired of carrying around my big DSLR only to not even take it out and use it when we were hanging out with friends. Maybe I was a bit shy to whip out this massive camera? People get a little weird when you have a big camera in their face. But I really wasn't documenting my life like I should. I heard about the X100 (original) on BH's website, then Zack Arias started using it and I really wanted it but couldn't swing the cost. Then the X100s came out, I read about how most of the quirks were fixed, and I knew I really had to check this out. I rented the original X100 for a couple weeks when we had a few trips and I loved loved loved the images from it, so I ordered the X100s and waited 5 weeks for it to ship. It is amazing. I carry it with me everywhere I go, and people are forever oogling over the retro-ness of it.
That's awesome. From your blog I can see that you are really enjoying it.
I really like your travel photos and hope to see more of your travels. Do you have any more trips planned for this year?
I actually am shooting a wedding in Cabo San Lucas later this year, which I am super pumped about! I'm hoping to do some snorkeling and whale watching while we are there, too, so I'm planning to order a waterproof case for my X100s. Brian Kraft took his X100 to Hawaii a while back and I'm excited to introduce my X100s to a tropical destination!
That sounds like a lot of fun!
I see that you specialize in wedding photography and you take some really beautiful photos. Tell me a little about how you got into wedding photography. Was it something you always knew you wanted to do or did you just happen to get into it by chance?
It's funny because at first, I didn't think I wanted the stress/pressure of shooting weddings. But then I realized that's where a lot of the money is, and I also became so obsessed with Jasmine Star's wedding photos, and I knew that I wanted to document people's love like that. I second shot and assisted wedding photographers for about six months before I shot my first solo wedding, and I actually love pretty much everything about weddings!
I know exactly how you feel.
I noticed on your site that you cover destination weddings. That is so exciting. Do you have any in 2014 and where?
I will be shooting my very first destination wedding in Cabo in December. Destination weddings are a hard market to get into, and a lot of it is really just luck and letting people know you're interested in traveling. So often people won't even consider me to come to the next state over because they think I don't shoot outside of my own town, so it's really about getting the word out as much as possible.
I really enjoy visiting your website. I see that you cover a variety of topics on your website and not just paid gigs. How important would you say it is to have original content and a variety of topics on your site?
I think it's ridiculously important to put yourself out there. I blog a lot about myself - my life, my dog, random stuff - and I've had so many brides email me and say, "I feel like I know you already!" If all I had on my website was all of my recent weddings and shoots, they'd know I have good images, but that doesn't really make me stand apart from other photographers she's considering who also have good images.
Do you have a favorite piece of gear?
This past winter I purchased the Canon 50mm f/1.2L (my first L series lens!) and it is unbelievable. Crazy awesome.
If you could only take one lens with you when traveling which would you take?
I only take my Fuji X100s with me when traveling! I spent 12 days in Europe with just this camera and wouldn't change a thing!
What is one of your long term goals with your photography?
As vague as it sounds, I want to always keep growing and learning. Sometimes we, as photographers, hit these plateaus and we don't ever really keep moving forward. I've been trying to push myself lately with using off-camera flash, composition, and using my wide angle lens for portraits more. I want to always be striving for greatness.
Do you enjoy taking on personal photography projects? What have you done or would you like to do?
I do, but often times I never follow through with them. Sometimes I'm terribly unmotivated! I started a self-portrait series last year and I think I've only done two or three so far. I really need to get back on that! But I do enjoy experimenting sometimes. Over the Fourth of July I did some crazy fireworks photos, and I like to experiment with studio work.
Given that you also use a mirrorless camera how do you see the future of that segment in the photography world?
I really think there's a future in mirrorless. I think Fuji has some incredible image quality and I'm excited to see what they come up with in the next few years. And I'm really glad mirrorless is taking off because my Canon gear is HEAVY!
What tip can you offer someone who is just starting out in photography. Are there any myths or lessons we should ignore?
This is going to sound bad, but trust me, it's tough love. In the beginning, everyone always praises your work even if it's not that great. They think it's great because they don't really know. Find super crazy awesome photographers who inspire you and strive to be great like them. Never stop pushing yourself. Dissect images to figure out how they were created. Then try to use those techniques on your own images. Study as hard as you can, ask for help, learn as much as possible. And practice every day. Shoot every day. Take a real look at every shoot, every wedding, and evaluate it honestly. I still come away from weddings saying, "Okay, next time, X and Y need to happen so that Z can be better." It's the only way you'll improve.
Great words of advice. Sounds like I'll be visiting your website many times in the upcoming months. Its always nice to see what's new with Rachel Ruffer Photography.
Rachel Ruffer Photography - Cedar Falls, Iowa - Wedding Photographer
Please enjoy a couple of her photos.