Q&A: DIANE VILLADSEN
Since starting our business, Elle and I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of cool people. From creative professionals to makers, graphic designers to accountants who work with creatives, all of whom are doing some amazing things. For this new segment of our blog, we’ll be sharing online interviews with creators and entrepreneurs in the industry. By featuring these people, we hope to celebrate their badassery, empower other creatives with their knowledge, and inspire creativity in your everyday lives. With that said, we’re excited to bring you our first ever Q&A with the lovely Diane Villadsen.
Diane is a fashion and portrait photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Driven by color and space, she creates unique imagery that features dream-like tones and a cinematic perspective. As passionate as she is about photographing, Diane is dedicated to sharing her knowledge through Youtube tutorials and online resources. Diane may be most notably known for her Adobe Lightroom and Camera Raw presets called Pop! Presets.
Having been a fan for quite some time now, it’s a true pleasure to be able to pick her brain and share this interview with you:
Tell us a little about who you are and how you got into photography.
Well, my journey into photography is a circuitous one. The first inkling of me knowing I wanted to do something visually inclined was when I aspired to be a cinematographer between about third and eighth grade. I would write screenplays of my favorite books and get my friends (and myself) to act in them. They were horribly executed for the most part, but I do think that phase really did help me develop an eye for motion and composition.
I went to a very academically rigorous school my whole life, and a career in the arts was never really discussed. By default I wanted to be a doctor for a few years, but I quickly realized that medicine would never be my true passion, nor would it suit the lifestyle I wanted to have. I was also quite dedicated to music at the time and had plans to major in music theory and maybe become a composer. This is still a goal of mine, actually, but more as a hobby than a career.
Having loved learning languages throughout my life, I ended up studying linguistics at UC Santa Barbara. I had a wonderful experience getting that degree and would still consider pursuing side work in linguistics, but during my junior year, my photography business started to take off, and I knew I had found "my calling." I had always played around with a camera throughout most of my adolescent years, so switching to doing it professionally was a pretty natural transition. I learned so much within my first year of shooting portraits.
Luckily, even though my parents both work more traditional jobs in the semiconductor industry, they were always extremely encouraging and supportive of my creative hobbies, even when they didn't understand it. They did want me to try working a "normal" job outside of college, so I worked at UC Berkeley for 2 years before leaving in December 2017 to finally go full-time with photography. So far, it's been great! It's had its challenges, but for the most part I'm just grateful I have so much time to devote to creative shoots and furthering my business.
Main source of inspiration?
It's hard to pinpoint where my inspiration comes from. Rather than one main source, I'd say it's a conglomerate of little bits of inspiration that I come across daily. Maybe it's a new location that I drove past on my way to the grocery store, or a mural I saw on a building. I like to take an interdisciplinary approach to inspiration - using music, other art forms, nature, and color to just feed my mind and gradually form a more specific vision. I save a lot of photos that I find interesting on Instagram, so that's a pretty reliable source of inspiration for me.
How do you prepare before a shoot?
I typically start by preparing some sort of mood board - either on Pinterest or drawn out by hand. If it's color-based, I might even make a PDF of location/backdrop colors paired with wardrobe colors. Then I find a team (I prefer to keep it as small as possible) and work out the logistics of making the shoot come together. Depending on the shoot, I might still have to location scout, make props, or even shop for clothes if I'm styling it. Checking the weather and planning the locations in order of light is also important. For instance, if I want to be sure to have angular shadows at a certain location, the earlier or later the better. Immediately before the shoot, I sometimes email myself a shot list or a run-through of ideas I have for posing and composition. It can be really easy to forget things when you're shooting, so it's helpful to have a list to refer back to. But sometimes it's great to have no specific plans, so whatever happens, happens.
Talk to us about your favorite part of the creative process.
My favorite part about the creative process is coming back after a successful shoot and uploading the photos to my computer. I get so giddy scrolling through the best shots and am eager to edit them as soon as possible. Ironically, though, once I'm actually in the thick of editing, I can't wait for it to be over.
What is one thing in your photo kit that you can’t shoot without (besides your camera)?
Hmm...probably clothespins. Good stylists will have their own wardrobe pins, but often I have to adjust the fit of the clothes on models when I style it myself. Or my portable changing tent, which comes in handy when we're shooting at a bunch of different locations without bathrooms. Other than that, though, I don't really have anything in my camera kit other than one camera body and one lens. I like to keep it simple because the fewer things you have, the less there is that can go wrong.
Describe your dream shoot.
I just discovered a place on a Caribbean island with pink salt ponds and mountains of white salt behind them. It's pretty much my dream location, but it seems really difficult to get there from California. Someday I will make it happen.
What has been the biggest creative challenge you have faced, and how did you overcome it?
Overall I think my biggest challenge has been a mental one: allowing myself to be patient as my work unfolds. In any creative field, it's hard to watch your work exist at one level when you know you can take it to another level eventually. It's frustrating to bridge the gap between "what is" and "what can be." There are so many ideas I have that I want to bring to life, and it's hard to wait to see them become reality. I don't know if I really have overcome this, but I will say that I place a fair amount of trust in myself – I trust myself to advance my work and constantly improve everything I create, even if it takes a while. So that's the best solution I have for that challenge right now.
What is one thing you want to accomplish before you die?
Creatively: I know this sounds ridiculous, but photographing Barack & Michelle Obama for my "Old Friends" series. I'm determined to make that happen. 😀
Personally: publish a book, release an album of original songs, buy a house in California, and see the parts of the world I haven't yet seen with my partner Padraic. (I know you said one thing, but there's a lot I need to do before I die. 😉)
Any advice for someone who is just starting out as a photographer?
Don't worry about your gear, and shoot as much as possible. Everyday or every week, if you can. You don't need to narrow down what you want to shoot within your first few years of photography; just take every project that comes your way and see what happens.
Lastly, if you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Such a tough question. Hmm. I feel like this answer would change monthly, but for now it's "Little Giant" by Roo Panes.
Thank you Diane!
We hope you enjoyed our first Q&A. To learn more about Diane Villadsen, check out her social media accounts below:
Facebook: Diane Villadsen Photography
Facebook Group: Make It Pop! | Creative Photography with Diane Villadsen
Youtube: Diane Villadsen
Pinterest: Diane Villadsen
Is it the weekend yet?