Crash Taylor Interviews Anna Kuperberg

This week I welcome Anna Kuperberg. She is a super successful San Francisco based photographer who photographs weddings, children and dogs. I love Anna's work, it really pushes the boundaries. I highly recommend that you take some time to view her beautiful images on her websites and blog. Another thing that I love about Anna is that she is a lover of canines and has two rescued dogs like myself. If you love dogs you have to check out www.slobberspace.com. I hope you enjoy the interview and brilliant imagery. Don't forget to leave a comment, as you know how much us photographers love comments. Until next week, keep shooting and lovin' life. Crash

Hi Anna,

Tell us a little bit about yourself –

I'm very lucky and happy that I got into the right field at the right time.  I started out doing freelance photojournalism at a time when the newspapers were already dying.  I tried to stick with it, but it was hard finding interesting work that paid well.  The whole time, I was doing weddings on the side, but I never intended to be a wedding photographer.  Then one day (around 2003), I realized that the industry had changed, and the wedding clients were more savvy, and seeking better quality photography.  I quit pursuing the newspapers and magazines and realized that I had a lot more creative freedom and a lot more fun as a wedding photographer.  This business suits my personality and talents very well, and I am very grateful that I jumped into it right before the industry really took off.  Success does take talent and hard work, but it also takes luck.

Where is home?
San Francisco

Did you go to school to study photography?
I am over educated.  4 years of undergraduate as a photo major at Washington University in St. Louis and also an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute.

How long have you been a photographer?
17 years.

How would you describe your style?
Witty, honest, emotional, and sometimes insightful.

Do you have some recent images you can share with us?

How many weddings do you average per year? 30

Do you have an assistant/2nd shooter that accompanies you on wedding assignments?
Yes, always.

What is your favourite part of the wedding to photograph?

I love parents, when they cry.  That is so sweet to me, because I am close to my parents.  I also love children at weddings, crying and otherwise.

What weddings albums do you use? Queensberry and Leather Craftsmen.

What type of cameras do you shoot with?

What is your favourite photography accessory, other than your camera? I’m not really an accessories girl.  But OK, how about my think tank CF card wallet.  It’s the one that clips on your belt loop, so you can’t loose it.  It’s called the “Pixel Pocket Rocket.”

If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?

Whatever awesome lens makes the most awesome photos.  Which one is that?

What lighting equipment do you take on a shoot? Two off camera flashes, a cheap little video light, and some reflectors.

What is your favourite computer/editing accessory, other than your computer?
I want to put in a plug for ShootQ, because it’s really the only good studio management software out there for a wedding workflow.  Also, I think photographers concentrate too much on photo gadgets when they really need to learn to manage their office better.

What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.?
Adobe Bridge presets that add a little contrast or help me quickly correct for exposure.

How important is Photoshop (post processing) in your final images?
I Photoshop every photo that ends up as a print or in an album.

Are you a Mac or PC lover? Mac.

What piece of equipment would you most like to get but don’t have yet?
I get a new computer every three years.  My next one will be right after Macworld.   So it’s going to be a souped up Mac Pro unless they announce something new.

What’s the best part of being a photographer?

When I am taking photos it’s like I’m totally absorbed in the moment.  During my normal life I am prone to over thinking and over planning.  But in photography I am totally in the moment.  I’m totally myself.  It’s really thrilling.

How do you keep yourself motivated and your photography fresh?

The most important thing is to maintain a sense of curiosity and wonder. You have to follow your passion and then stick with it obsessively.  It’s a balance between working hard and not being too hard on yourself.  You need to have high standards, but then don't be such a harsh critic that you stifle yourself.  Many photographers are so afraid of making mistakes that they never do anything new.   I think many photographers know that they are supposed to experiment but once they get successful they just keep repeating their past successes and stay on the safe side.  Then ten years down the line they wonder why it’s not fun anymore.  Eventually they also wonder where all their clients went. You have to keep moving, and this really means following your curiosity and not getting complacent.

What has been your most memorable assignment and why?
A self assigned project of children on the south side of St. Louis, that culminated in a one-person show at the St. Louis Art Museum.  I would love to do more documentary projects like that.

If you could shoot a wedding with someone who would it be and why?
Elliot Erwitt.  He is my hero!

Where would be your dream destination wedding?
Machu Picchu

A website and/or blog you visit often?
The Year in Pictures

The hardest part of your job?
I have a tendency to overbook myself.

Things you say or do to put your clients at ease in front of the camera?
I tell them how fabulous they are, because they really are.  I am also kind of goofy, because clients don’t worry about looking ridiculous when I’m already ridiculous.

The first photographer that comes to your mind and why?
I’m going to pick someone that most people don’t know so that everyone will click on this link.  It’s Phillip Toledano and he did a project called Days with My Father.  It’s very moving and honest:

A wedding photographer who inspires you?

Oh there are so many!  I think the best is yet to come.  Some kid who’s still in college is going to outdo all of us.

The last workshop or seminar you attended and why?
Every year I go to the foundation workshop in Dallas as part of the staff.  All the best people are there, and it’s a lot of fun and bonding and inspiration, for the staff as much as for the participants.

Do you conduct workshops for aspiring photographers? Yes!  Please e-mail me at [email protected] to get on the mailing list.

What photographic organizations do you belong to?
I join just about anything that sends me a membership form.

One way you market your business?

The obvious thing is to make work that stands out.  Many people will tell you that it’s not about the work; it’s about the marketing.  But the truth is that its way easier to market extraordinary work than to market crap.  On top of having a great portfolio, I think it helps to be social and chatty, either with or without the internet.  Some people are better online and others are better in person, but being genuinely interested in people is a huge advantage, in any field.

How important is an awesome website for your business?

Extremely important.  It’s what the business card once was, but better because it has much more information on it.  With weddings, if clients don’t like your website, they don’t call you.  Period.

Do you advertise in bridal magazines?


If not a photographer you would have been?
A painter.

Do you make time for personal photographic work? If so, what do you enjoy photographing and do you have some images you can share with us?

I used to do a ton but the past three years I’ve been concentrating on wedding photography almost exclusively.  I do have a dog photo blog, which is mostly personal work and a few clients at
http://www.slobberspace.com. In 2009 I’m going to start another project, so stay tuned.

If you could be invisible for one day with your camera...
I would sneak into the prisons at Guantanamo and record everything there.

Photographing penguins in the Antarctic, a photo shoot for Victoria Secrets in Costa Rica or the wedding of Brad and Angelina?
The penguins of course, are you kidding?

Delhi, Moscow or Lapland with a Hasselblad H3DII-50 and Kate Moss?
Are you asking which of those places would I photograph Kate Moss in?
I may be going to India soon, but without either Kate Moss or the Hasselblad.

Is there anybody, living or dead you would love to capture on film and why? Leonardo da Vinci.  He had a great face.

What advice do you have for photographers just starting out?

Follow your heart and do what’s true to you.  Don’t forget that photography is a discipline and requires practice, just like playing the violin or basketball. When it comes to business, you can copy what other people successful people do.  But when it comes to art, you have to strike out on your own.  A great photo is a reflection of the photographer’s mind, so it’s impossible to make a great photo by trying to be someone else.  There is only one you.  Many people stop short of expressing themselves because it feels vulnerable, so they end up following a formula, and their work is boring.

I’ve learned the most from…
My parents

Who or what inspires you in your personal life and work?

I love dogs and babies.  I love their uncensored joy and delight in people.  If we could all be so open and honest, we’d make better art, and we’d be better people.  I’m also inspired by anything creative and new, like a chocolate bar with a piece of bacon in it, by Vosges.  How brilliant.  It’s a big hit and I admire that kind of originality.

What talent would you most like to have?
I wish I could sing really really well.  It’s a musical instrument that you take with you everywhere.

Something you’re still learning?
How to take time off without worrying about the to-do list.

What do you love to indulge in?
The most stupid and goofy videos on youtube, you know the ones with cute puppies and kittens jumping into cardboard boxes.  And any kind of home cooked meal that comes with lots of butter and gravy.  And going for long walks with the dogs.

Something that is overrated? Twitter

Something you’re saving up for?
I already have everything I need.  I’m only saving for retirement and any other calamity that might happen.

If you could have lunch with anyone who is famous who would it be?

David Sedaris.

Where you'll find me on a Friday night at 9 p.m.?
At dinner with friends

Your favorite film (movie) of all time? Anything by Charlie Kaufman

First thing you would do if you won the lottery?
Buy the house next door to mine and move my parents into it.  Then travel around the world working on more documentary projects.  Then run a dog rescue.  Oops, that was more than one thing ☺

Three words that describe you? Thoughtful, irreverent, dedicated

What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now? A surprise.

And the last question, if you had one wish…
I wish my dog wouldn’t greet clients by sticking his nose in their crotch.  It’s kind of embarrassing.

Oh one more, if someone said ‘how can I be the next Anna Kuperberg?’ What would you say?

You’ll probably need some smaller sized shoes.

Your readers can find out more about me:

Website:   www.kuperberg.com

Blog:   www.kuperblog.com

Also:  www.slobberspace.com