EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the latest in our series of Q&A’s with local photographers, and it features Abby Holkko, owner of A Little Photography in Gilbert. The mother of two who is due with her third specializes in wedding and wedding ring photography. If you are interested in being considered for Focus on Photographers, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. – B. Miller
Tell us a bit about yourself – where did you grow up, where do you call home, what is your family life like? I grew up ten miles north of Virginia in Britt. I currently reside in Gilbert with my significant other Alex, two kids Xander and Ava, and we have another baby on the way in February. Our house is busy with activities and pets, and we value any downtime we have together. My photography studio is located on Broadway Street in Gilbert as well.
How many years have you been into photography and how did you begin? I began my photography journey with an advanced point-and-shoot Kodak camera back in 2006 in the state of Washington. The scenery was breathtaking, and it was hard not to want to capture what I saw. In 2011, I received a Canon 7D camera as a gift, and my professional journey started soon after. I shot my first wedding mere months after and have not slowed down ever since.
Is this a full-time passion/career or do you have another job? Photography is a full-time passion with only part time availability. I work full time in healthcare quality improvement and
risk management and as a figure skating coach for the Virginia Figure Skating Club.
What inspires you to go out and shoot? I am inspired to go out and shoot
because the world is continuously changing. What you see today may not be here tomorrow. I am reminded of when my family and I went on a train ride over Lester River in Duluth the morning before the flooding took out one of the train bridges in 2012.
Which photographers influence you? It’s hard to pick just one photographer that influences me. Nowadays, access to the work of others is so wide open you
can really get lost in a sea of amazing pictures. Growing up I met an amazing lady who is now an amazing photographer. Sara Kiesling has grown so much as a photographer that she has now created her own brand of fabulousness. Meg Bitton creates awe-inspiring photographs of children and teens being simply who they are.
What is your favorite type of photography? My favorite type of photography is wedding and engagement photography, or other shoots with romance. I am a diehard hopeless romantic, and every wedding I have shot reminds me that there is hope in love, and where there is hope in love, there is a belief in fairytale endings. Capturing couples who are so in love that all they see is each other, even in a sea of 300 wedding guests who are close family and friends, warms my heart to the core.
What type of photographer do you consider yourself to be? Trying to explain what type of photographer I am is interesting. I consider myself to be very simply be an “in the moment” photographer, meaning that while I do edit photos to fix highlights, shadows, or discoloration, I do not use Photoshop to add in things that were never there or to stack photos to create dimensional works of digital art. I can see myself in the future possibly dabbling in Photoshop to add backgrounds to mini sessions or grad photos, but it will never be a focus of mine.
Do you prefer color or black-and-white? I do not have a preference either way as to color versus black and white as every session can merit the use of both. I have a preset I prefer for black and white that is called Startrails. It’s black and white with a hint of maroon in the coloring, it really perfects my clients’ skin while providing contrast to other details.
Do you prefer indoors or outdoors? As a mostly natural light photographer, I will always prefer shooting outside. Since I don’t utilize indoor lighting, being outdoors offers all the lighting one could ask for.
What is your favorite season to take photos? I will shoot in any season if the right opportunity shows itself. I love winter shooting as there is something extremely artistic about shooting against a snowy-white background with high contrast colors. I used to shoot Sno-cross, capturing snowmobile racing for ISOC. Fall and summer provide natural colors that really pop off of a printed product in the end.
What is your go-to lens? As of late, my favorite is my 24-70mm lens. I also enjoy shooting with my 100mm macro when it comes to insects, flowers, and wedding/engagement rings.
How much time do you put in each week? The amount of time I spend each week doing photography varies greatly. When I have had weddings during the week, they can take 10-20 hours of editing, depending on the size of the wedding. Regular sessions can take 1-2 hours depending on the type of session and the number of images captured.
How do you keep up with the latest technology and trends to educate and improve yourself? I have never been one to really follow trends closely. I don’t feel that I should have to give up who I am as a photographer and what I believe photography should be to follow a current trend. Trends are temporary, but your style and personality as a photographer should really be ingrained in you. It really is a part of who you are. When I want to improve and educate myself, I enroll in workshops that are in line with my general style that will help bolster the skill I wish to improve.
What is your favorite photo or shoot in your porfolio? I sincerely love taking photos of wedding and engagement rings. During one particularly rainy wedding day, I was able to capture water drops in the same frame as the wedding rings. But my favorite overall shoots involve being able to capture the bond of family and friends surrounding a loved one who does not have much time left on earth. Being a photographer means you have the absolute privilege of capturing a person’s first day on earth, their biggest events throughout their life, and even their last days on earth. What other job in our world gives such an opportunity?
What is one thing you wish you knew when you started? There are a couple of things I would have wished to have known when I first started. The major thing is how much of a dog-eatdog world it is out there as a photographer. There are many photographers that are willing to help out and collaborate with you in certain ways, but there are others that would like to do nothing other than to see you fail. The other is how hard it would be to walk away from the photography world. I
had an extremely trying year-and-a-half with my family’s and my own health, and as much as I tried to walk away, I was still drawn back to capturing moments in people’s lives, even as mine was in chaos.
What advice would you give new photographers? Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t jump into the industry offering free shoots or super cheap mini sessions just to take more pictures. You may make a bit of money in the short run, but you will be marketing yourself as a cheap service, and any clients you make will expect the same cheap prices from you at all times.
What are your plans/hopes for the future? There are a few hopes for the future: I would love to be strictly a wedding photographer, and along those same lines a wedding ring photographer.