Keep Calm

Keep Calm

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Photographer, mom and educator, Summer Murdock, shares with us her approach to photographing kids and how she uses Replichrome to process her stunning images.

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Tell us about yourself, both personally and professionally. How long have you been making photos? How did you get started?

I am a wife, mom, of four kids, a family photographer based outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, and an online workshop teacher. I love a good adventure and try to get outside and explore as much as I can. I have been making photos for almost 8 years now. I think I have always had it in me though. I used to walk around my neighborhood as a kid with my 110mm wind up camera, taking pictures of my dolls among all kinds of other rather boring things. Maybe this isn’t all that uncommon but I remember the sense of enjoyment that it brought me even though I wasn’t making anything that was good.  I also remember going to art galleries as a kid and teenager and really gravitating towards the photography exhibits. It has always pulled me. I took a couple classes including a b&w film class back in college. I considered it as my major but my fear of what I perceived as a super cut throat and competitive business scared me away. I let my practical side take over. That is one of my few regrets in life. Almost 8 years ago, I became a bit obsessed with making images. Partly it was because I wanted to capture my children’s lives in a meaningful way, but it has become more than that now. It has become a creative outlet for me that is more fulfilling than I ever imagined it could be. It has become a part of who I am and how I see now.

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What are your favorite subjects to photograph?

I love to photograph kids and light. Obviously my own kids are a huge inspiration to me but I love to photograph all kids. Particularly young kids. I love how they see the world with such fresh eyes. Everything is new and full of wonder to them. I remember being that way as a kid and having that feeling when you wake up and think that this might be the most amazing day yet. I try really hard to live my life as an adult that way but, let’s be honest, that’s no easy feat. Light is another thing that is a huge inspiration to me. I often feel like it’s a more dominant part of some of my images than the people are.

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Your photos have an amazing calmness to them.  Can you explain a little about your process for making photos and how you select the images that you show to the world?

I have four kids so my life is chaotic at times. There is hardly ever quiet at my house. I think I seek out calm in my photos because I long for more calm in my life. I tend to be attracted to the quiet parts of movement, the moment right before or after something happens. I rarely shoot subjects that are standing still. Even my portraits are usually captured as someone is walking and I say “stop and look at me.” I find I get much more authentic and real expressions that way.

My process for making photos is pretty simple actually. My photos usually happen from following my curio. I am a pretty curious person. I have been shooting for a while now and I although I do go though ruts or periods where i feel “uninspired”  I still feel pretty excited about taking pictures. I have learned that when I have that little voice in my head that says “oh wow, that is really cool or interesting looking” that that is my cue to run and grab my camera even when I don’t feel like it.  Shooting in this way has kept me shooting and enjoying it for almost eight years and I think I love it more now than when I started. It keeps me energized and always pushing myself to try new things and get better.

I share all kinds of images with the world. My only criteria for what I should share and what I shouldn’t would be “do i like this? Is this interesting to me in some way?” I try really hard to just go with my gut and not second guess myself too much. Of course, I am more thoughtful about what images I put in my portfolio, but we live in an interesting world of over-sharing with all the social media outlets and people taking pictures every single day. I am one that thinks it’s actually good for photography. If people are constantly shooting and getting better, they are raising the bar for us all. Growth is a good thing always.

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Talk a little about your approach to post-processing.  What are your preferred tools? How do you know when an image is “finished?”

My approach to post processing is get it right in camera so I don’t have to spend a lot of time editing. If you have interesting light in your images, you often don’t need to edit much. I’d rather be out shooting and exploring than sitting at my computer. The Replichrome presets are some of my go-to tools. I use them on a daily basis. They add the extra something my images need while still making them look natural. I use Bridge, Adobe Camera Raw, and Photoshop as my editing tools. Most of the time I just open my images in ACR apply a preset, tweak a few things, and then save it straight from there and am done.   If it needs further tweaking I open in Photoshop.  Editing is something that I almost feel my way though; it’s fluid and every image has to be dealt with on a case by case basis. Mostly I know it’s done when I look at it and think “that’s it.” I just know it when I see it.

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