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An Interview with Diana Shaffer

Diana Shaffer, took some time to tell us about her rapid success as an emerging local photographer, and explained her love of finding and capturing beauty and light in the dark, desolate, and abandoned. Read on to learn more about her!

Diana Schaffer Lancaster Photographer
diana_shaffer_photography_ Instagram.JPG Diana Shaffer @diana_shaffer_photography_
Find Diana Shaffer online

We see you online professionally as a photographer, but also artistically as a photographer. Tell us about how you came to be a photographer.

I always had a passion for photography, but I didn't actually pursue it until June of this year. I purchased a used Nikon D7000, and a couple lenses, from another photographer who was upgrading her equipment.

So, you recently get this camera and explode with it. How did that blossom so quickly?

Diana Shaffer Photographer 1 So you recently get this camera and explode with it. How did that blossom so quickly?

Honestly, it all started from hurt and pain that I was feeling emotionally. I was looking for a positive way to express these feelings, and I found it through the lens of my camera. Photography became a positive outlet for me, and I think that's how it connected. It became like therapy. I think that's why I exploded so much with it.

There's so much positive benefit to it. Anyone who would look at your portfolio would say that you have a passion for people. What is it about people that makes them your focal point?

I like to hear people’s stories, and connect with them on some level. We all have a story to tell, and I like to capture that with my camera. It's a bonding thing too. If I can encourage even just one person through my photography, or by the time I spent with them, it makes this adventure even more worth it.

You're saying one can look at your pictures and see your story?

Absolutely, yes. “Project Broken and Beautiful” is an album on Facebook, and posted on Instagram, that expresses a deeper, hurting side to me. Whereas, pretty things and family portraits describes the happy and healed story of my life.

How long does it take between shooting and editing for you?

I usually can't wait to go home and edit. So, depending on my availability, and what’s going on in the day, I would say within a few hours, or a day later.

What makes you go take photographs?

Diana Shaffer Lancaster PA Photographer What makes you go take photographs?

My passion for self expression drives me to take photographs. Also, people are contacting me to take pictures for them, so I'm to the point where I'm making a business from it.

So to go back, you get this new camera … how did it all come together for you?

At first, I was nervous to use a professional camera. It all looked so confusing. I used to always just get pictures on my phone, and I was comfortable with that, but I knew I had to at least try using a camera. I have really great mentors who encouraged me along the way, such as Whitney Monaghan, who is an extremely talented photographer.

She told me something I'll never forget. “You already have the artistic eye, the technical stuff will come.” She was right about that, and has never steered me wrong. I still have so much to learn, but I'm very comfortable with my camera now, thanks to her encouragement.

So, you would say photography is about capturing the moment?

Definitely.

What do you look for when shooting solo missions?

Diana Shaffer Photographer 3 What do you look for when shooting solo missions?

I look for anything that stands out...maybe someone who isn't looking, and they don't realize they're doing something interesting, so I capture it.

You like to go places where people will be to take pictures?

Sometimes yes, like a photowalk, or sometimes just walking around downtown. I have yet to not be inspired by somebody or something in our hometown. There are so many great places to take pictures in Lancaster.

How would you compare the number of candid photographs you take with the number of posed photos?

I would say the majority of my work is candids. I like to find genuine moments, and capture them. When doing family portraits, I may do some poses, but I like them to be as natural as possible.

You do feel it's important, if you snap a picture of someone, to let them know?

1 records You do feel it's important if you snap a picture of someone to let them know?

Definitely. If it's the back of someone, or they're indistinguishable, then no, but otherwise, yeah.

This eventually blossomed into a job for you to do portraits. How is that going for you?

It's going really well. I almost can't keep up with all the emails and inquiries, which is a good problem to have. But, I always make sure I have time to do my own personal projects on the side.

Where are people finding you?

Word of mouth mostly. I do a little advertising face-to-face, and then my online posting. That's really all I do at this point.

You do all sorts of styles...which is your favorite?

My favorite is photographing children, because I can just be myself, and get silly, without feeling like I need to impress anyone. I also enjoy black and white photography to express a deeper emotion in a picture, so that's a style I apply to a lot of my photos.

Tell me about your process working with photos after you shoot.

Diana Shaffer Photographer 5 Tell me about your process working with photos after you shoot.

I use Adobe Creative Cloud, which includes Lightroom and Photoshop. I would have to say, I mainly utilize Lightroom, but would like to learn more about how to use Photoshop. After I edit the photos, I export them onto a USB flash drive, and either mail it to my clients, or hand deliver. If the photos are just for my use, I'll upload them to Facebook and Instagram, and then I'm on to the next mission.

During an hour session, how many shots are you taking?

Probably close to 500 per shoot, sometimes more. I would rather have too many images to choose from than not enough.

How many of those do you share with your client?

Probably anywhere from 30 to 100. I go through the shots, one by one, and pick which ones to share. Sometimes, I'll just omit a batch from the start to help with editing if I didn't like the shot.

What do you share on social media? Just Facebook and Instagram?

Yep. Just those two. I don't prefer one over the other. I use them both. I do have a Pinterest account, but I only use that for inspiration, and photography ideas.

Do you have any "do not wears"?

Diana Shaffer Photographer 6 Do you have any "do not wears"?

Yes. Heavy patterns, pinstripes, bright orange, bright green, logos.

In addition to what you do professionally, you also have a creative outlet. Tell me about your style.

Well, as mentioned earlier, I'm in the midst of expressing the outlet of a broken side to me through some of my pictures, but I mainly like to focus on being positive, and encouraging people. I might see a Bible verse that would go with a picture, or I'll attach a motivational quote to go along with it. People need to know there is hope, and that God can put together the broken pieces of our lives, and make them beautiful.

How do you match those?

I usually get the picture and think to myself, "Oh wow! That Bible verse, or that saying would work." One of my favorites is the Helen Keller quote I posted recently of an older couple holding hands. She said, "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, or even touched, but must be felt with the heart." It just really spoke to me, because these two older folks were so in love, and it was just beautiful. So, I added that quote to the picture.

Even at family events, you're always taking pictures.

I am. People know I always have my camera around my neck. It's almost part of my everyday attire!

You said with your professional photography, that has been blowing up lately. How do you want that to evolve?

Diana Shaffer Photographer 7 You said with your professional photography that has been blowing up lately. How do you want that to evolve?

I would like to stay busy, but I never want to get to the place where I'm not enjoying what I'm doing anymore. Time management, and taking one step at a time, is so important for me. One thing that helps with that is being a mom. I'm not away from my kids during these times I'm out shooting, or taking pictures. I'm bringing them along with me.

My younger daughter, Kaylee, has been playing the role as my assistant, which is actually a huge help. Both my daughters support my newfound passion and pursuing of it.

Do you feel like you're charging enough to do what you need to do?

Yes, at this point in my photography, I have to stay affordable while gaining experience, and saving up to get better equipment.

And, you have the proper equipment and all that?

For what I am doing now, yes. But, at some point I need to invest in getting a backup camera, because I'm shooting my very first wedding in October.

Does that make you nervous?

Yes, very! Because, that's something you can’t do over.

Are you doing anything special to prepare for that?

Diana Shaffer Photographer 8 Are you doing anything special to prepare for that?

Just looking up a lot of ideas up on Pinterest. Pinterest is my best friend right now! I also talk to other photographers, and mentors of mine, asking for their advice. I'm also starting to collect my own props, either by making them myself, or going to a craft store to purchase things as needed.

What else is coming up for you that's new, or is challenging your boundaries?

I would have to say weddings, but previously I was challenged by a commercial job I was hired for. I had to drive to locations, and take pictures of renovated buildings, which was out of my comfort zone. Trying to figure out angles, and the lighting, was a challenge, but I'm thankful to have had that experience.

You said you shoot in manual, so you're hardcore getting right in camera. What setting would you say is the most frustrating to get right?

ISO for sure. My camera is a crop sensor, so I can't bump the ISO up too high, or the picture will look too grainy. But, sometimes I don't have a choice, and just have to figure out the right adjustments to make it work.

On your camera, what's the highest ISO you can get up to before it starts being a problem?

I would say that I can't bump it up much further than 1000, or the grainy look starts to happen.

What kind of photos were you getting at this time where you needed to increase your ISO?

I was trying to get pictures in low lighting.

What is your aperture at this point? Are you up pretty high?

Diana Shaffer Photographer 9 What is your aperture at this point? Are you up pretty high?

I try to keep that low unless I'm shooting a large group of people.

Do you find that you're more critical of your work than the clients are?

Definitely. In the very beginning, I would spend hours on just a few pictures, and get so frustrated, only to find out that people were actually pleased with my work. I didn't need to pull my hair out over it, or spend a ton of time trying to make something perfect. But, I guess that's only normal when first starting out. Fast forward a couple months to now, and I'm much more time efficient when it comes to editing, and I'm feeling more confident with every shoot.

And, I imagine that your editing process for this commercial project was a little different then your editing process with people.

Yeah, most definitely. I didn't need to smooth any skin, or worry about smiles. It was all about trying to figure out how to reduce a glare coming from a window, or a shadow on the building.

Do you have any super tips and tricks when it comes to editing people?

I like to use the skin softener, because let's face it, we all have flaws on our face. I really like color pop, because a lot of my pictures are outside, and being a natural light photographer, I want to capture the green in the grass, or the colors in the flowers. Adding a vignette to a picture is always a nice touch as well.

I see you've been getting more into the grunge and abandoned photography. What is this saying about your mood?

Diana Shaffer Photographer 10 I see you've been getting more into the grunge and abandoned photography. What is this saying about your mood?

(Laughs) Like I said earlier, I prefer to photograph happy beautiful things, but I wanted to start expressing another side of me. Although my heart, I feel, has been healed from my past, there are still scars that remain, and when I see an abandoned building, or something old and forgotten, I can relate to that feeling. I want to capture that moment, and give it recognition, and appreciation.

So, you're looking back and trying to find the beauty in the dirt?

I guess you could say that, yeah. When I see a broken window, or an abandoned building, I can relate to that, sometimes even more so than with a beautiful flower. I want to capture those images, and bring them to life again.

Then what is the mission of your next project? To find the abandoned and preserve it?

Sure, you could say that. I don't think this will be a project that will ever end, because as mentioned earlier, it's a form of personal expression. I'll always be on the lookout for broken and beautiful things, mixed with some mystery.

How are you going to give these abandoned places their light back?

I guess by finding their best qualities. Like, finding an area that stands out more than the others; eye-catching things, like something on the floor, or maybe a plant that happens to be growing in the midst of a pile of rubble.

I see that in your photography. You try to find the unique perspectives.

Diana Shaffer Photographer 11 I see that in your photography. You try to find the unique perspectives.

I like to think so, yes. I see it in my mind, and then I try to create it in real life. It doesn't always work out, but it's the thrill of trying that keeps me going.

So, in the darkness and despair, there is also light and rebirth.

Yeah, most definitely! That’s what I try to capture with my photography.

What are you looking forward to in the future? What can we expect from you coming up?

At this point, I'm just going with the flow, and living in the moment. I still have so much to learn. It can be overwhelming to think too far ahead. One thing you can be sure of, family portraits, and photographing events will be keeping me busy. That will not stop, and neither will my passion for finding beauty in the brokenness of life. I'm really excited to see where this journey will lead me.

Diana Shaffer Photographer 1
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