Behind the Lens… Lora

Behind the camera... Lora        Lora McKnight


A Pet Peeve

First, I’d like to share a little pet peeve of mine… photographers who don’t put their own picture on their website.  What’s up with that?  Here’s my thought:  I LOVE photography.  I LOVE being a photographer.  My entire goal in being a portrait photographer is to express to people how important pictures are in our lives and to get them to stand in front of my camera and let me create an image of them.  So why in the heck wouldn’t I have a picture of ME on my own website.  Well I would of course!

The Beginning

As you can see, I really do love what I do.  I’ve always loved photography and had dabbled around with it since high school.  In 2002 I had a little baby boy and fell in love.  I started playing with my camera and in creating all of those pictures of the love of my life, I began to truly fall in love with photography.  Then in 2005 (many moons after high school), I decided that I wanted to do photography as a career.  I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.  A PHOTOGRAPHER! 

I sucked at it!  No seriously… I had no idea what I was doing, but boy did I have a lot of passion.  Luckily, I’m tenatious and I don’t give up when I really want something.  So I started studying and practicing.  I went to workshops, I spent hours with my camera shooting anything from people to flowers.  First with my film camera and then shortly thereafter with a digital camera.   I was in love.

I had started asking friends and family to let me do portraits of them in exchange for prints.  I realized shortly thereafter that as long as I didn’t cut anybodies heads off, people generally liked what I was doing. Some of them actually gave me money.  At the time, I thought I was doing great.  So I gave myself a business name and got some business cards.  I started trying to compete with Walmart and JC Penney’s, not to mention all those seasoned pro’s around town who I figured were charging so much that there was no way that people wouldn’t flock to me and bust down the doors.  My goal was to offer “fine art photography” to the masses.  The problem was (even though I didn’t realize it at the time) my skills weren’t exactly to the level yet of offering fine art and I didn’t realize how much time, experience and effort went into getting to that level.  I was shooting mediocre images of folks with poor lighting and I was giving away my work on CDs (more about that later).

But I had passion.  And I was tenatious.  And I had a dream.  So I kept practicing.  I kept getting feedback from friends, family and from actual professional photographers.  I kept working at it and struggling to improve.  And guess what… I did.  Not by great leaps and bounds at first, but every day I learned something new and I learned from A LOT of mistakes!  (This is starting to sound like the Little Engine That Could.) 

I think I can, I think I can…

The Change (come on, keep reading… it’s worth it!)

No, no… not that change ladies!  I’m talking about the change in my life and in my work that got me where I am now.  In August of 2007 I received a spam email.  It was from some guy who wanted me to buy some sort of shortcuts for editing pictures (okay, I now understand that these invaluable little shortcuts are called Actions…geez, what did I know?)  I was about to delete the email but something about it caught my attention. 

There was  a link in it for a workshop called “Digital Photography Bootcamp”.  I clicked on it to see what it was all about.  That my friends was the start of the biggest change of my professional career.  The “guy” who had spammed me was a photographer and educator named Kevin Kubota (named as one of the top ten wedding photographers in the country.)  I didn’t realize it right then, but he would become an integral part of my photographic career going forward into 2008 and beyond. 

On his website for this “bootcamp”, he had all kinds of information about what he would teach us in this week long intensive training for photographers.  It sounded phenominal!  Then I found the price… at the time, it was about $2300 and included lodging at a ranch, gourmet meals and 5 days of intense photographic and business training.  Wow… double wow.  Um, I didn’t have $230.00 let along $2300.00.  So I almost closed the webpage.

But once again, something caught my attention.  There was a little blurb about a single scholarship that would be offered for their October bootcamp.  All I had to do was submit 10 images and write an essay.  Easy peezy lemon sqeezy!  I completed it that night and then I waited.  About a week a later, I got an email from his company saying that they had good news and bad news.  The bad news was that I was not the recepient of the scholarship for the October bootcamp.  The good news was that they had had so many amazing applications for the scholarship that they had decided to do a very special December bootcamp for the top 20 photographers that they chose from all these applications… and I was one of them.  I had NEVER won anything in my life, yet I had just won an all expense paid week long training workshop with one of the top photographers in the country.  I was exstatic!

So in December 2007, I drove from Boise Idaho to Bend Oregon in my old Jeep Cherokee and spent one of the most amazing weeks of my life.  I’m not going to go into great detail here, but I will say that Kevin and his staff are some of the most generous people on this planet and I will be forever grateful for his kindness, his knowledge and his emense generosity.  I will tell you how that one week changed me forever as a photographer…

I now know the value of my work and who I am as a photographer.  And that folks, is what changed my life and my career.  I still had skills to build, but now I knew that my work, my time and my business had value and I knew what I had to do to take it to the next level. 

Where I Am Now

So, here we are in 2011.  Guess what, I don’t suck anymore! LOL  As a matter of fact, not only do I love what I do, but I’m good at it.  In the three years since I attended Kevin’s bootcamp, I continued to study and practice, but now I was doing it with an entirely different perspective and with a knowledge base that allowed me to go into warp speed with my learning curve.

I’ve realized that I don’t like shooting weddings but I love the intimacy of a session with an expectant mom and dad or a newborn baby.  I realized that while a lot of  photographers like shooting on location and doing outdoor shoots, I love working in a studio and having total control over my lighting and my environment.  So I opened a studio after moving to Portland.  The longer I do this, the more I love what I do.

I love people… especially the little furry ones (and just for the record… that could be human or canine!)

I love running my own business.

I love creating my art and honing my craft.

I love my family and friends who encouraged my and supported me through this journey to where I am now.

I love my son who is now a handsome 8 year old and who you may possibly see featured in various images throughout the Life Prints website (maybe.)

I love myself and I love my life.  That’s not to say it’s perfect… nor am I.  But it’s a damn fine life when you are surrounded by people you love and have the opportunity (and the fortitude) to follow your dreams.

~Lora Phillippi, Photographer/Co-Owner, Life Prints Portrait Design


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    Musings of an eternal optimist on all things photographic, business and well… life in general


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