Dana Pugh is a Calgary wedding and family photographer. You can checkout out her website http://shortandsweetphotography.ca or on her facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ShortandSweetPhotographybyDanaPugh
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Dana: Hi, everyone. I’m Dana Pugh and I’m a children’s and family photographer based in Calgary, Alberta. For the last six and a half years or so, I’ve been operating under shortandsweetphotography.ca. Hopefully within the next month, I’m changing, I’m launching a whole new rebrand and I’m becoming justdanapugh.com. My focus is kids and family. Jasser has asked me to come on here and answer one question and talk about my favorite image, so here goes nothing.
The question I chose came from Gabe McClintock, may be you’ve heard of him. He also lives in Calgary. Anyways, he asked me a question so I’m going to answer it. Gabe says, “I love how real and natural your images are, the beauty in the imperfect. So my question is how do you love families to relax and let real life happen when so many are obsessed with perfection these days?”
I think that’s a really good question. I think that there’s a trend in all photography, wedding and family photography, this sort of like Pinterest perfect, look at everybody’s going for. It’s not perfect to me that’s just the honest truth. I look at those images and I really feel like something is lacking. I guess in a way I’ve redefined perfection to suit my own version of it. I think that as an artist, as a photographer, you need to know yourself and what appeals to you and that’s your voice. This idea of perfection, Pinterest perfection I like to call it, it doesn’t appeal to me at least bit, so I don’t strive for it.
I really go in and I take my time with my clients. I don’t ever rush them. Some families are more comfortable with themselves and natural images happen really quickly and other families need a little bit more time and space to be able to let that happen. I’ve learned that over the last seven years that I’ve been in business. I take time, I don’t have any expectations. I don’t place expectations on them and I certainly don’t expect perfection, so that makes things really easy because it’s one thing in wedding to expect perfection because it’s a perfect day.
In family life and once you have kids you realize that when you have children especially when you have toddlers, perfection is something that just is almost impossible to achieve. I just let go that right away, so I just give them a space to be comfortable and the time. As far as kids go, I just listen to them and talk to them and relate to them. Kids are humans, too, and they just want to be heard it’s that simple.
I think also I am a big believer in show what you want to shoot, and so I still take those perfect images of everybody looking at the camera. I just don’t show them on my website or my blog. I show the images that I create that really appeal to me. Those are the images that enter in competition. Those are the images that I promote, because I want people to know that’s what I expect from them when they come. I do have expectations, but it’s just that we’re going to go and have a good time and they’re going to come and love each other. That’s perfection to me, seeing the look of love on a father’s face when he looks down at his little girl, that’s the idea of perfection to me.
I hope that answers the question. It’s kind of a weird question, because … I mean it’s not weird but I could spend days talking about how to make families comfortable. I think the key is knowing yourself and knowing how you relate to other people, and I’m really aware of that and I have spent the last seven years really exploring that, so yeah it’s that easy.
Now as far as my favorite image goes, I feel a little bit like I’m cheating because it’s not a family image. For me, picking an image of one of my families or of my own children is really difficult and favorite image is like picking a favorite child. So I’m going to pick a travel image. It is for me the moment where I felt like I was a real photographer. I took it a year and a half ago and I know that it might sound really crazy because I’ve been shooting for about eight years. I think everybody has doubts about their work, but when I took this image and I saw it for the first time I thought to myself, “Oh hey, may be I’m okay.” It’s just true we all have doubts about our own work.
I traveled to India with a group called “Momenta Workshops,” where they pair nonprofits and photographers together. While I was there, they encouraged me to do a personal project where a shadowed boy named Karthik around a slum in Dehradun, India. I was very fortunate to have with me a guide named Abhay Ghata. Abhay, if you’re ever in India, Abhay is an absolutely must. He will make sure that you have the ability … he’ll create the opportunity for you to take incredible images and he certainly did the morning that this image was taken.
I’ve been sick for several days and I had missed out and so I was really anxious to get out and photograph. We arranged to go to Karthik’s home that morning and when we woke up … actually all night it just poured rain and I knew that and I knew it was freezing cold because it was cold in my hotel room. When I woke up at 5:30, I met Abhay in the lobby, because 5:30 is when you get up if you want to take the good pictures. When I met Abhay in the lobby, all the other photographers who were scheduled to go out that day they decided not to. Some of the places were … it snowed actually. It was that cold, it was in January so they couldn’t get to them.
Abhay asked me if I wanted to go and I just didn’t know, because we had talked to Karthik’s mom and there was no power in the slum that morning and it had rained all night. It’s hard to explain to be in there, but there are no sidewalks or roads there in that area. Their yard was quite muddy and there was some fear of me getting my gear dirty that sort of thing and so I wasn’t sure what to do. I thought there’d probably be no light and it would be freezing and everybody would be uncomfortable and how are we going to take a good image. Abhay and I had some chai and we were chatting in the base and what’s the worse thing that could happen. The worse thing that could happen is you show up and there’s absolutely no light and you can’t take any pictures, but you got to sit in their home and experience this in some times. I don’t know if he said this but this is … what I got from our conversation was that sometimes life is meant to be experienced without the camera in front of your face.
So I went to Karthik’s house that morning. I took 150 images. It was incredibly dark. There was no power like he said. They didn’t have a stove so some of the light was provided by the one little propane burner that they had in their house. They had a couple of candles just slightly larger than birthday cake candles attached to the wall. This image was shot probably about 6:30 in the morning at ISO 5000 with the shutter speed of 1/30 at aperture 2.8. I love that and I now that, I always remember my settings for this image. I really feel like it’s the best image I have ever taken. I know it’s not perfect. There’s some motion blur and all that, but I think that helps add to how wonderful it is.
Yeah, I took that image that morning. I don’t know what else to say. That’s my favorite image. I love India and that was a magical moment for me, like I said, where I felt like I could actually maybe be a photographer for real. It sounds funny saying it aloud. I know that if you’re a photographer and you’re watching it, you have doubts about your own work and we all do. We all do and every now and then you take a picture that really supports that you should be doing this, and this is one of those pictures for me so I wanted to share it you.
I just want to thank Jasser for asking me to do this. I hope it was okay and thank you all for listening. Okay, bye-bye.