Tracy Anderson does a wonderful job of creating intimacy between the viewer and subject. Sometimes this is achieved with a piercing gaze directly into the camera’s lens and sometimes it is done with an expression, deliberate framing, or careful lighting. The overall effect is one of caring and connection, something that many photographers strive for years to achieve. -J
Who are you and where do you live?
I am Tracy Anderson and I live in Austin, Texas.
How (and when) did you get started in photography? In short, tell us the story of your photographic journey.
This is not something that developed early on in my life. I honestly did not know what interested me for years. I was so focused on my career and raising kids, I felt like I didn’t have time to really think about anything else. I have always loved taking pictures and always knew how other artists’ great photos affected me, but never really thought more about it. As my kids got older, my boyfriend strongly encouraged me to take photography classes and it was the best thing I ever did. I finally found something that I loved and was eager to learn everything about it (and this does not happen to me!). He got me my first DSLR and I took off from there. I took two studio classes at Austin School of Photography and then practiced as much as I could. I am so grateful for my daughter and my neighbor (the subjects of many of my images) and their patience with me through my learning process.
Who (or what) have been your main photographic influences and inspirations?
The one person that has actually inspired me the most is my boyfriend. His hobby was film photography for many years and his images have always inspired me. I watched as he made portraits of the kids and I loved the close-up images and the detail he was able to get with each face. I would not be where I am today without his inspiration, support and perseverance in getting me to those classes.
I love the portrait photography on photo.net, particularly Ulla Wolk’s work. Her portraits are beautiful. I also have to mention Jacynthe Curtis, a fellow photographer who was encouraged me along the way.
Your Photo.net portfolio is primarily filled with portrait images. How did you get started with that type photography?
In my first photography class, our instructor asked each of us what type of photography we were interested in and my response was landscape and color images. As I started to learn more about photography and how to really use the camera properly, I practiced on my kids and my neighbors and would stalk all of my daughter’s friends when they came over. Over the next few years while taking classes, I developed a love for faces, especially in black and white. I love looking at the detail of each face and really getting to know the inner person just from the image.
Explain how you see your body of work and what draws you to do the photography that you do?
Up close and personal. I love to engage each person before and during the shoot and, when I succeed, that comes through in each image. If I can get my subject to not think about taking the picture that’s being made and just open up to me, I can capture that “up close and personal” image. I have come to truly believe that we connect and learn so much about a person through their eyes.
Have you ever worked as a professional photographer? If “no”, why not? Is it something you would like to do? If “yes”, do you wish you could do more of that work? What does it bring or take away from your photography?
Yes, I’ve been lucky to get a variety of jobs: hired by families to take portraits of their children, asked to take landscape portraits for wall prints (this one was a bit challenging!) and commercial location shoots. I do have a “day-job” so I work as much as I can on the side. For now, I cannot change what I do, but one day I would love to practice photography full time. Having a non-photo career does limit the time I can spend learning and working on new ideas, but I do the best I can.
What do you enjoy most about photography?
I absolutely love interacting with new people, especially kids. They bring so much joy to everything and have no inhibitions in front of the camera. I have an office job so I don’t meet new people very often. I also love the responses that I receive when providing the images to the client. One response that stands out: “Wow, that is [bleeping] beautiful and this image brings a tear to my eye.” You can’t get a response much better than that!
What was the most recent photographic technique that you learned or mastered? And what is the next photographic technique that you would like to learn?
During my photography courses, we only touched a little on studio lighting. When I first started out, I relied heavily on natural light. A few years ago I started using spots and softboxes and learning by trial and error – the best way I learn. I love the black and white images I have made with the studio lighting.
I would love to photograph the stars at night! I am just in awe of many of those images, especially the colors you get from the sky at night. I am determined to try this in my spare time (so check back with me in about 6 years).
What was the most recent piece of truly useful photographic equipment that you purchased? What is the next piece of equipment that you are looking to acquire?
It was not a purchase, but I did win a Sigma ART 50mm lens on the photo.net portrait contest. It is my absolute favorite lens and I can’t leave home without it. My next piece I would like to acquire is Nikon full frame DSLR (maybe the next photo.net contest prize?).
What is in your camera bag on a typical day?
My Nikon D3100, 18-200 Nikkor lens, Sigma ART 50mm lens (my favorite), Rokinon 85mm lens, a few extra cards, an extra battery, cleaning cloth, and chapstick, of course.
What is your typical downloading/storage/sorting/processing procedure? Where do you store/backup your images? What programs do you use for post-processing?
When I mentioned earlier that having a full time job takes away from my ability to learn as much as I can, this is probably my biggest weakness. It is so hard to keep up with technology when you have so much going on! My D3100 does not have wireless, so when I get home from a shoot, I immediately download my RAW images to my computer. I review all of the images (I take loads) and delete the ones that clearly will not work. I then go through them again and find the images that really stand out and start the processing. I rely mainly on Photoshop Elements 12 for all processing and I also love the Bellevue actions. I typically send the client a few teasers via text as soon as possible (clients love them). As of now, I store my images on my computer and back to up to external storage.
What words of advice or encouragement do you have for anyone just starting on their photographic journey?
It can be challenging at first when you post your images for feedback (on any of the social media outlets). You will continually learn and improve your skill so do not be discouraged if you don’t get the feedback you are looking for right away. Over time, you will build your portfolio and will also build your network of peers. As that grows and you continue to improve your skills, you will gain confidence and can rely on others to give you positive and negative feedback (and trust me, you need both!) and they will also encourage you along the way.
It was hard to pick one image as a favorite (like picking out your favorite movie or song). Looking through my portfolio, it was this first image that I took that really stood apart from everything else I had taken up to this point. It inspired me to try new things. I was learning and experimenting with indoor natural light and trying to get that perfect catch light without the subject looking right at the camera. I uploaded the image and I remember feeling beyond excited – I could produce an image like this – to my eye, it has a subtle sci-fi feeling … and she looks robotic. This image was also one of the first that I took of Gracie and I knew this was going to be just the first of many beautiful images. 50mm, f/3, 1/50, ISO 200, edited in PSE.