Home : Interviews Photography : Tamea Burd
Please tell us something about yourself, how did you take up this profession, was that your hobby initially?
I’m a full-time, eco-friendly photographer from Vancouver, BC. I specialize in portraits and headshots and I’m known for the intimate, informal quality of my work.
I’ve been taking photos since I was about ten years old. I don’t know if it was ever what you’d call a hobby, because for as long as I can remember, I’ve seen everything around me as though it were a photograph. When I was little, I called it having ‘picture-eyes’.
For years, friends and family would ask me to take their photos for them. Weddings, new babies, portraits, etc. And I would do it for free, because it was something I loved so much. Photography made me so happy to do; it honestly didn’t occur to me that it could also be my full-time job. I guess like most people, I didn’t equate ‘job’ with ‘happiness and love’.
But that changed one day, after a friend in another country offered to pay for my trip if I could come to her home to take photos of her new baby. A light-bulb went on over my head. I realized that if people were asking me to travel internationally just to take their photos for them, full-time photography could indeed be my job for the rest of my life.
It was the best decision I’ve ever made and I’ve been incredibly fulfilled and joyful ever since.
What is your philosophy behind photography? How much importance you give to gears?
As I’m primarily a portrait photographer, I’ll speak specifically about that. When it comes to portraits, I truly believe anyone can look wonderful in a photo, as long as they’re relaxed, content and comfortable. Although part of a photographer’s job is to understand the technical aspects of what we do, far more important is for us to genuinely connect with the subjects in our photos.
I refuse to shoot portraits in contrived situations or places. I also refuse to ask people to fake a smile for the camera. What makes a photograph powerful, is the spark of feeling it conveys. If the feeling is false, what’s the point?
As for gear, it’s a major contributor to the technical quality of a photograph. The right lens can make a world of difference. But - as with most things - equipment only takes you so far. Skill, intuition and aptitude are far more valuable tools, no matter what you do.
You have special eyes for children photography. Could you tell us more about it?
Thank you! I really love taking photos of kids. Probably because I’m still pretty connected to being a kid myself. When I’m commissioned to do photos of children, I spend at least 15 minutes just talking to them and engaging them in the ‘process’ before I even take out my camera.
Getting down to a child’s level, literally and figuratively, has very rewarding results. I kneel down or even sit on the floor so I’m at their eye level, not looming over them. I show them the pictures I just took on the screen of my camera, so they get a sense of what’s going on and what they look like. I haven’t met a kid yet who doesn’t love that.
Basically, treating a child like they’re an equal instead of a pet or a talking doll, will almost always gain you some rapport. You want them to interact directly with you, instead of the impersonal, clicking black machine you’re holding in front of your face.
Do you use image editing/retouching software, plugins? Do you feel they are necessary?
For any digital photographer, an image editing program like Photoshop is absolutely necessary. It’s the modern version of a darkroom and I couldn’t do the work I do without it. It’s such a full, multi-level program; I have yet to need any plug-ins, although I’m sure I’ll try some out just for fun one of these days.
What are your perceptions about art photography? Do you have personal favorite subjects?
Well, art is subjective, so that’s not a simple thing to answer. Regardless of the subject matter, what draws my eye – whether I’m taking a photo or looking at one – is light, shadow, composition, focus and tone.
For favorite ‘artistic’ photo subjects, I definitely lean towards two things: dilapidation and nature.
Could you share one of your great moments you have experienced while on a photo shoot?
I thought for a while before answering this. I can’t choose any moment in particular. On almost every shoot, my favorite moment is when I take that one picture I know is special. It’s elating. And I’m always so grateful to have the gift of doing something that shows a person how incredible and beautiful their face can be.
What will be your advice for the learners or the people who want to take up photography as a profession?
For beginners, my advice is to be fearless about learning and to not over-think the process when you’re actually shooting. It’s often so daunting to take on a new skill, especially a complicated one. But when you don’t allow yourself to be intimidated or overwhelmed by what you’re doing, great and wonderful things can happen.
For anyone wanting to be a professional photographer, the best advice I can give is to know the value of what you do. That’s not as easy as it sounds. First of all, you have to be able to honestly asses your skills and the quality of your own work when it’s compared to your competition.
Your value isn’t just based on the financial aspects of this business. It’s also based on the fact that you are being asked to document real moments and real people. That’s a privilege and it’s something you need to approach respectfully and honestly. You have a special skill that’s worth more than any money. If you never lose sight of that, you’ll be a success, regardless of your income.