For our fifth installment of interviews with photographers from our community, we are thrilled to feature Ashley Marston (you know her as @ashleymarstonphotography on Instagram). Ashley – thank you for participating and sharing all your insights with us.
Tell us how you started in photography and why?
I had hoped to one day be a photojournalist. But I started a family early on in life and it was with the birth of my first son Noah, that I really picked up the camera and never put it down.
How did you settle on your style and what you want to shoot?
For a short period I was setting up back drops and and taking on clients that wanted classic christmas card photos. And while there wasn’t anything wrong with that, I began to notice that the photos I took that were un posed, un scripted, those little heartwarming moments ended up always being my personal favourites.
After my third child, I read an article online about Birth Photography.
Its like the light went on inside. THIS was what I wanted to do. Nothing is more unscripted, emotional and raw as Birth.
I believe that its because of the success of my Birth Photography that I felt more confident to then change they way I shot and approached my clients. I no longer took on any Posed Newborn photo sessions and started offering Lifestyle Images instead. At first the transition was slow, I did a lot of explaining what I wanted to do. But I have been blessed to have really amazing clients that trusted me and in the end, they came out with images and moments they will treasure forever.
Now people book me because I don’t ask them to pose. They want me to capture the essence of their family. And Im so honoured to do that for them. Just recently I have added ‘Documentary’ Photographer to my business name along with ‘Birth’ and ‘Lifestyle’. That was a big step for me. I never thought I’d get here.
This Spring I am shooting my first ‘Day in the Life’ session with a family that is not my own. Its going to be the next turning point in my career and I’m really excited about it!
Tell us a bit more about your setup for your maternity shoots. Do you use natural light or strobes? What are some of the other things that are key to you?
I am a natural light photographer only and shoot most of my maternity sessions outdoors all year round. My Maternity families don’t always just include the mom and her belly. Of course its a big part of it, but we welcome Big Brothers and Sisters, and sometimes pets in as well. Its about the love that this baby is coming into, and sometimes that love includes a whole household.
What are some key elements you need to capture when you are doing your maternity shoots?
Love, Anticipation, Beauty.
How do you deal with a child that doesn’t cooperate?
I have three children of my own who have been photographed daily since the day they were born. I recently completed my first 365 Project and am into this years now again. There are some days when they just don’t want to be photographed. Thats ok with me. I then take that opportunity to photograph them from afar playing in their rooms or with each other instead of having the camera right in their faces. And if I have a specific idea or shot in mind…I just keep it in the back of my head for another day. The opportunity will always come again.
For my clients I approach it the same way.
Kids feel comfortable around me, I think they can sense my ‘momma nature’. If they are not interested in sitting down with mom or dad I let them wander on their own. I never force anything. My client sessions need to be fun. Its not about looking perfect, its about being together. I encourage love, tickles, piggy back rides and even the odd ‘booger’ joke. I think when kids feel they can just be themselves, it takes off a lot of pressure.
Everyone is happier and it reflects in the images.
How many shoots do you now each year? And how do you manage your time to allow this to happen? Would love to hear some of your time management tips for that.
I shoot generally 2 sessions a week. In the Summer more and in the slow seasons maybe a bit less. I take on 2-3 Births per month on top of my client sessions.
I have my children in Day Care one day a week and I usually shoot Newborns on those days and Ill book up my Saturdays with one session in the morning and one in the evening.
That is enough for me. Ill never take on more than that. I like to be very efficient with my editing and delivery on images, so taking on more clients per week, would mean longer wait times to get a final product. Thats not ok for me and my business.
Also, this is what works for my family. Im only out of the home 1 or 2 days a week for a few hours (with the exception of a birth), so I can give them my full attention for the rest of the time.
Editing is a bit trickier. I work every night after the kids are in bed, and try to stay focused. I have found recently that I love podcasts! They are wonderful for making those editing hours go by effortlessly. I have even found a few great ones geared towards photographers.
‘Dear Photographer’ is currently my favourite.
Next September Ill have two kids in full time school and one in preschool a few full days a week. While Ill miss this short period of time in our lives that my children are home with me, I will however look froward to working some ‘day time’ work hours and have my nights free for extra stories, snuggles and help with Homework.
Personal work vs assignments… How do you balance the two? And is there a time during the year when you have to say “no” to either one?
I take July and August ‘off’ of Birth Photography. This allows me to shoot a small wedding or two and live an ‘off call’ life with my kids.
Having the freedom to go swimming in places with no reception and being able to relax and leave my phone at home when were are at the beach is wonderful. I come back into Birth Photography in September feeling refreshed and that is very important to me, my family and my clients.
What are some of your favorite lenses?
Well my Sigma Art 35mm 1.4 lens never leaves my camera. I have shot my entire 365 projects with it. My other favourite is my Canon 70-200mm. Its perfect for allowing a family to get to know me before I come right into their space with my 35mm. I also love it for weddings and home births when I feel the need to be out of the Birth Space for a while, it gives me new perspective.
Next I’d love to try a Lens Baby! Thats first on my Wish List.
What do you pack in your camera bag when you have to travel? On average, how long do you stay to photograph the birthing process?
I have a Vanguard rolling suitcase that I use for Births. Its a life saver especially when I feel like Im walking forever down those long hospital corridors. I pack in it my two camera bodies, A Canon 5D Mark iii and my Canon 5D mark ii as a back up. On my main camera is my 35mm (of course) the 70-200mm lays beside it and I also have a Canon 24-70mm that I keep just in case (I sometimes like to take it in the OR with me for a Caesarean Birth) I use an off camera flash for Births in the night. And I keep lots of extra batteries, both for my flash and cameras. For myself I keep some tylenol, a tooth brush, a healthy granola bar, rescue remedy and some tissue. I cry at every birth Ive ever shot, so this is very important.
Birth is always un predictable. The longest birth I have ever attended was 24 hours, the shortest 2 hours. I arrive around ‘active’ labour and leave after all the important moments have been photographed.
There is always a quiet moment after birth, a hush as the family relaxes and the adrenaline wears off…that is when I say my goodbyes and slip away.
What software do you use to edit your work?
I use Lightroom only. It has everything I need.
Thanks very much, Ashley! To see more of her work, please visit Ashley Marston Photography site.