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Interview with Dreamstime

Michael Pettigrew/Websubstance, this week's featured photographer, joined our community in February 2006 and is perhaps the perfect example of the highly selective photographer whose portfolio may be small but sells big. His favorite subjects are children: "Taking pictures of kids is my favorite. They are so spontaneous! Just like bugs pictures you can't really predict the end-result of your photo sessions". He also confesses to a passion for insect photos and according to him, there's an impressive stash of insect macros somewhere in his archives. He says that "Taking pictures of insects is like going out fishing. It takes lots of patience but I find it relaxing". His passion for micro worlds is translated in most of his other shots as well. You'll see that Michael's models are mainly his family members, his microworld: his wife, his daughter, his "majesty" the cat, the "easy going" ginger dog. It's the ordinary lovable small family next door. It's Michael Pettygrew's world and photography, looking happy and spontaneous.

There are a lot of great cat and dog images in your portfolio. How do you get them to pose like pro models? Are there any special treats for them after being so well-behaved during the photo session? Dogs are so easy going and any treats for them will do, really. They are always up for a photo shoot. As for my cat, I try many kinds of treats. It seems that sardines are the best. But most of the time it's not enough for his majesty. It seems that he always has an appointment to go to. So I wrap up my gear and try again later. The cat will cooperate eventually. It's all about being patient and positive.

What was the last thing you learned in photography - a setting on your camera, a shortcut, an ability you never knew you had? Like most photographers, I learned long time ago that I should spend my money on quality lenses more than the camera body itself. Well, I learned back in fall (shame on me) that the same rule applies to strobe lights versus quality soft boxes. I upgraded all my soft boxes and it made a difference.

We see you are not afraid of centering your subjects. It's bold. How do you integrate the composition within the entire image concept? How important is framing/composition in the whole process? Framing/composition is very important. I imagine the customer browsing through hundreds of small images and looking for something that will pop to their eyes. I want my pictures to stand out from the pack. I will not hesitate to crop my photo so it stands out better. My goal is to put out a simple and clear image with a purpose.

Favorite (famous) photography-related quote or your word of wisdom for fellow contributors. Learning photography? Start with macro photo, it will exponentially amplify all your mistakes :)

Your images exude a lot of love towards humans and animals alike, sending a powerful message of happiness. So, just how selective are you? I never realized that! You're right, I focus on happy images (just like me) and I'm very selective. I have tons of macro images of very interesting spiders that I don't upload because I'm sure I would scare away some potential buyers from my portfolio.

Dwelling on this selectivity, we noticed that your artistic statement says "quality over quantity". Could you share some tips on how to choose the best, the most powerful image from a series, no doubt, full of good shots? Ah yes, that is just a note for myself. I am buying stock photos for my web site designs and searching for the desired photo is time consuming. Most of the time, while looking, I would immediately ignore a series of photos that would look all identical. That's why I want to hand pick my best picture from a photo session. If that photo of mine gets popular, then I will introduce more from the same session.

Which is the most difficult/challenging photo to take from your portfolio? I think the one of my wife running with the dog in the snow was a challenging one. We woke up one morning and there was this huge fluffy snow falling. I suggested to my wife that we go outside and enjoy this moment. I had to put cover protection on the camera. I decreased the exposure to avoid being blown out from the snow. I took several shots, the camera couldn't focus because snowflakes were getting in the way. I focused the lens manually. At the end, I was happy to capture one successful action shot in these conditions. Plus, my wife was in early stage of her pregnancy so this was special.

Many of your images have a spontaneous feel, backed by excellent technique. They don't quite look "premeditated". How did you get to achieve this? Share a bit of your photographic background. Were you formally educated or are you self taught? It's easier to get spontaneous images when most of your models are children or people you know well :-) Although, I do family and corporate photo portraits and will spend a good 15-20 minutes chit chatting with the person to ease up everyone prior to the photo session. I learned photography by myself with the help of books and online photo sites. I went through lots of rejections from photo agencies when I first started. I guess I became comfortable with photography through perseverance. I started out with macro photo, and it helped me to understand about lighting and selective focus in a very small studio :-)

Share the last thing that made you laugh. Aaahh, my 16-month-old daughter dancing on the song "What is love?". She has some funny moves. One that involves sucking her thumb while doing the elbow pump!

We would like to thank Michael Pettigrew/Websubstance for answering our questions and allowing us a peek into his beautiful microworld.

See the original interview here