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Q&A with Angie McCabe of Myrtle and Moss Photography



Tell us a little about yourself/your business (how long have you been in business, where are you located, any special awards or features?)

Hey!! I'm Ang! I'm based out of Victoria, BC, Canada but originally from Calgary, AB. I am momma to smart, humorous and crazy little boy, and have the most incredibly supportive husband who not only pushes me to follow dreams but is also my guide along the way. I've been doing photography for 11 years and in business for 9 years. I'm self-taught and strongly believe in learning, bettering your craft, and raising your own bar with every session. I believe that you should shoot things you're scared of or don't "like" as it will make you a better artist and be able to thrive in any situation thrown at you -- specifically with wedding photography!

I've been published in several print magazines including Lemonade and Lenses and the Wedding Ring Magazine, Fresh Magazine and online blogs/magazines (Hello May, Beauty & Lifestyle Mommy Magazine, Natural Ink Magazine). I've had a number of top finishing photos in Shoot and Share and was named one of the Looks Like Film Artists of the Year for 2016.

I will be a keynote speaker at a seminar/workshop later this year, but I'm not allowed to announce it yet!

What are you most known for?

Well, I named my business "Myrtle and Moss", as "myrtle" represents love between two souls, and "moss" is symbolic for maternal love -- these are my two favorite things to photograph! So no, my photography name wasn't just a trendy/hispter decision! I named my business before the term "hispter" was created lol!

My passion for photographing moms and babes stems from my background as a labour and delivery nurse. I am now doing photography full-time which gives me the perfect balance with my family, while still being around fresh little babes and expecting mommas. I would say I am most known for photographing connection and emotion in my photographs, whether it's a maternity session or couples session -- that is what I'm most passionate about so I think that's what shows :)

I am also completely inspired by incredible light, textures and depth in my photos. I am constantly looking at the way light falls on people's faces and the quality of light as the light changes in a room. You can't go for a drive or a walk with me without me scoping out locations for my my next session. One of my favourite wedding photos was actually in a deserted dirt parking lot in Mexico, the way the light hit it and the dust in the air make it look like we were in a magical desert! (my clients think I'm crazy sometimes when I ask them to shoot at certain locations, but they thank me afterwards!).

How long have you been mentoring?

I've been mentoring since late 2015. I started off with doing 1:1 teaching, but now offer larger workshops and retreats.

What all is including in your mentoring and what kind of experience do your students receive?

When I teach, I give 100% of myself to my mentees/students. Be prepared for LONG days. My background as a nurse and working 13 hour shifts has set a standard for my teaching.. some days we start with sunrise sessions and shoot well past sunset. My students shoot along side me for maternity and couples, and for my 1:1 mentoring they are very hands-on with newborns. For larger groups, the newborn portion isn't quite as hands-on, but everyone gets their turn with their camera.

I strongly believe that building other women up and empowering them helps them to become better artists. Whenever I am finished a workshop, I feel almost sad to leave as I'm leaving behind lots of new friends. We laugh together, cry together, and it is a totally safe place to ask ANYTHING. I am self-taught, so I too, am constantly learning new things, and I've even learned a ton from my mentees!

I still have a few spots available for my retreats this year, which will be 5 days together at a beautiful home on the coast (I'm doing them on the west coast [Tofino] and east coast [Prince Edward Island] of Canada). For these retreats, we will be shooting at a variety of locations including the beach, forest, as well as a couple indoor sessions (snuggle sessions or at-home love-fests I call them!) and boudoir! We will be taking advantage of sunrises and sunsets and all the light in between. Along with hands-on shooting, I will be going over workflow, editing, Q&A’s/discussions and some outdoor exploring time (this is also supposed to be a holiday for my students). I always leave time for everyone to practice what they've learned on each other and I make sure everyone goes home with a pretty new headshot or two!

At what point did you go from seeing yourself as someone who enjoys taking photos as a hobby to seeing yourself as a photographer?

I am an artist at heart. I really enjoy working with my hands and creating. My love for photograph is directly correlated with my love for art. When I decided that this is what I wanted to do, was actually when I was in nursing school (awful timing, but still finished my degree and worked for a few years as a nurse, while still doing photography part time). In 2008, I had the opportunity to work with a very well known model who was airing on a weekly TV show at the time, and I could not believe that she actually wanted to work with me. I felt totally star struck! I loved everything about working with a team of stylists, hair and makeup artists, and bringing a vision to life. Honestly, I feel like I had no idea what I was doing with my camera (compared to now), but I was so happy with the end result. That was when I first realized that this pipe dream of mine could actually be a reality.

What is your learning objective for your students?

My goal is to make people excited for their next session; to be confident in any lighting condition; to be confident with posing and directing; and to take images that keep them up at night because their heart is on fire! I want them to leave feeling absolutely inspired going into their next sessions on their own!

Another thing I like to talk about is work/life balance, and building a business that works for your life.

Do you offer in person or online mentoring or both?

Right now, I am offering mainly in person 1:1 mentoring, and have a few 5 day retreats coming up this year. I am hoping to offer more online teaching this year!

Tell us about your gear and your one must-have lens.

I use a Canon 5D MKiii and a Mkii for backup. I would probably puke if I knew the shutter count on my Mkiii but when it does eventually die, a MkIV will replace it. If I was to pick ONE lens, I would have to say it would be my Canon 35mm f/1.4 L. I love that I can get up close without a lot of distortion, and it really helps in telling a story. I am able to take pull-back shots as well as right up close. My other absolute favourite is my 85mm f/1.2L which gives the most amazing creamy bokeh and the colours of the sunset are amazing with that lens. I use primarily my Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4 for newborns. I have a few more in my bag, but you won't find my shooting anything but primes! I feel that using prime lenses makes you more thoughtful of composition and I also find the glass much sharper and faster.

Who in the industry do you look up to and why?

This is going to be a long answer since I am connected with the maternity/newborn industry as well as the wedding/portrait artist industry! So much talent out there!

For portraits, lighting, and thinking outside the box, I would say Ben Sasso is incredible. I also love that he embraces teaching and is an open book -- he is the person I look up to as a role model in this industry. Oh, and he's totally with Katch Silva -- who is absolutely amazing as well! The talent and artistry under one roof is insane!

My favourite wedding photographers are: Fer Juaristi, Jonas Peterson, Nicole Ashley, Dylan Howell, India Earl, Lukas Piatek -- I could write for days, so those are just a few. For photojournalism and storytelling, my favorite is Daniel Aguilar.

For newborns, I would say Erin Tole, Rachel Vanoven and Sandra Hill hold the trophies in my books! Their posing, lighting and wrapping skills are top-notch and they're all awesome individuals as well! I just met/shot Erin Tole so I can say first hand she is not only an amazing photographer, but incredible human being!

What do you do when you feel unmotivated or uninspired?

I plan a dream session or get busy making something with my hands! Sometimes as much as we all get inspiration from what we see in our newsfeeds, the best thing you can do at times is just shut off your computer or phone and get inspired by your surroundings. I like to just hang out with my favourite people or photograph my toddler (if he'll let me -- he has the "photographer's child syndrome"). I have created a nice little group of close photography friends who have definitely helped me during my 'funks'. I recommend everyone have at least one good photog buddy (even if online!).

What do you think is the most challenging part about being a photographer in today's industry, and what do you do to overcome those challenges?

I think that the perception about photography is that it's the best job ever, we barely have to work and we take pretty photos all day. Wouldn't that be nice? My biggest struggles personally would be actually managing the business end. With all the social media platforms, direct messaging etc, we get attacked from all angles and have a hard time shutting off. We live in a world of instant gratification and since our businesses are mostly based online, it can be overwhelming. While I haven't taken any actual business courses, I have learned things the hard way. Getting organized and delegating tasks (yes, asking for help) can be the best thing for photographers. If you hate doing taxes, hire out. If you hate answering emails, get a studio management program or hire an assistant. If you hate editing (weddings in particular) then hire an editor. Sometimes as artists we feel the need to control every aspect, but let's face it -- running a successful photography business is 20% photography and 80% business.

Secondly, I think the toughest thing for photographers these days is the amount of talent we see online and can get really down on ourselves when we see other photographers posting crazy good photos. For whatever reason, we are programmed to feel that other's successes are directly correlated with our own misfortunes or insecurities. When someone succeeds, as much as we are happy for them, we start to think about what we are doing wrong or why we aren't getting the likes or follows. This is the worst type of funk to get yourself into. Instead of comparing, try to focus on your person growth. Look at old photos you took and compare it to your work right now. Focus on your own improvement and set realistic goals for yourself. If your goal is to pose better, then plan a session (even a free one, there I said it!) and just work on your posing. If you want to work on lighting, try shooting your kids every hour for a day and see how the light changes.

Stay inspired, and shoot shoot shoot. There is no amount of workshops or teaching that will make up for hard work and lots of shutter clicks.

What is your personal measure of success as a photographer?

I would say that as much as external recognition and praise can feel nice, the most amount of satisfaction I get is when my clients cry seeing their photos or video for the first time, and knowing how much the photos mean to them and their family for years to come. Another feeling of success comes when someone says that they don't need to see my name on a photo to know that it's mine, as I have always felt like my work can be inconsistent at times. Success to me is when I get an inquiry and they're pretty much booked before I even reply because I am the one that they have chosen and will do anything to make it happen.

This year, I am hoping to really focus on work/life balance and making my business work better for my lifestyle, so I have the time to just be "mom" without a million things going on in my brain or stress bogging me down. To me, that would be the epitome of success, but it's still a work in progress!

What do you look for in your locations when seeking the "perfect" spot for your sessions?

I love depth and texture to my surroundings. While it is nice to have some "epic" backdrops, I'm equally as happy as shooting in a boring field with tall grass. I pay attention to where light falls and make sure I plan in advance where the light will be when I'm picking a time for my sessions. In the summer months, my favorite time is the super low sun and the following 20-30 minutes afterwards. I also love framing my clients with natural elements if I can. Paths are always great as they give the eye somewhere to follow. Those are just a few things I look for!

What do you believe is the best marketing tool for photographers to attract their ideal client?

I believe that showing photos of what you want to shoot and what inspires you is the best way to attract like-clients. Since I am super busy with teaching and maternity/couples, some people forget that I'm also a wedding photographer. If I randomly post a wedding photo, I almost always get a couple wedding inquiries right away from it! If you want to get more adventurous couples, you have to show people adventure photos. If you want to photograph boudoir, you have to show people that! If this means that you need to do a couple styled sessions or model calls, do it!

If you could go back and give yourself advice from when you first started, what would you say?

Put yourself out there. You can't expect things to just fall on your lap, you have to go out there and get it. The answer will always be no if you don't ask, and what's the worst that could happen? I wish I could have told myself that years ago!

What’s your guilty pleasure?

listening to Justin Bieber. There I said it.

What do you like to listen to while you edit?

(see above) oh, and more mature stuff like Bon Iver, Sigur Ros, Explosions in the Sky, Alt J, and some random EDM/House music.

What always makes you laugh?

My toddler. He turned 3 in October and it's seriously the BEST stage. He is developing the best sense of humour and cracks me up every single day . He's the best cure to a bad day.

What always makes you hide?

Oh sweet jesus. I cry at commercials on tv. The real tears come from sad stories about sick kids or losing loved ones. The happy/gushy tears come from when people write their own vows (I don't know how I shoot through the tears!)

Least favorite food?

Mushrooms. No thank you, buh bye. No mushrooms for me, thank you. Especially those raw ones (barf).





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