Insights and ideas from Anna Kuperberg
Composing the moment
When I was ten, I decided to be an artist. In college, I decided to be a photographer. But even before that, I was an observer of people and culture. Emotions, gestures, and relationships fascinate me. Adobe® Photoshop® and Photoshop Lightroom® 3 software have been so useful in my career because they let me focus on my subject and make things look the way I saw them when I took the picture.
I photograph weddings, dogs, and children. Most adults are uncomfortable in front of the camera, so part of my job is to put them at ease. My workshop students often ask me how to make subjects comfortable, and I always tell them that the photographer has to be comfortable first because my subjects pick up on my vibe. If I joke around, then they have fun. If I act goofy, then they don't worry about how they look because no one can look goofier than me.
It also helps that I am very sentimental. If I photograph a couple or a family with children I tell them how beautiful they look, and I tell them how I can see that they love each other. They understand that it's true, and they understand that I see them for who they are and not as some perfect image of who they should be. It gives them permission to just be. In the end, I think everyone loves attention because it's a form of respect.
Documentary photography is like improvisational jazz. I see what people are doing, and I react to them, so I am creating compositions within the framework of what's happening, and it all happens in real time.
Before I shot weddings, I did a lot of photojournalism and fine art. I feel lucky to have my work in collections nationwide, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the St. Louis Art Museum, and the Portland Art Museum. But I don't make a big distinction between work for clients and work for myself because I approach everything the same way.
My switch to digital in 2004 helped both my creativity and my business tremendously. On the creative side, it has enabled me to experiment with almost no boundaries. On the business side, it has enabled me to do everything in-house. Now my production assistant and I are the ones responsible for color, contrast, and exposure. We don't have to leave it up to a technician at a photo lab. We use presets in Lightroom to get a consistent look, and the processing goes really smoothly and fast.
After processing images in Lightroom, we use actions in Photoshop to dodge and burn, add vignette, contrast, and convert photos to black and white. Then we batch sharpen, resize, and add my logo to photos for my blog (www.kuperblog.com). Together, Lightroom and Photoshop help us streamline the workflow so I can concentrate on shooting.
To me, photography is about humanity, even if the subject is an animal or a landscape. I don't just want people to remember how they looked. I want them to remember how they felt.
Anna's B&W Photoshop action: