Interview: Sarah Lyons
TF: How’d you get started in photography?
SL: I was heavily involved in the North Scottsdale real estate market, working for a group of investors that flipped homes, and also working as a realtor myself. Scottsdale, Arizona was one of the very first markets to be hit by the economic downfall, and I just could not see fighting that fight. So I was nearly unemployed for almost a year, living on my savings, without a real plan. I come from a family of very artistic people…both my Mother and my Brother are extremely talented musically, my Father is a retired foreign and national news editor/writer/journalist, but I didn’t have a creative bone in my body. SO, with zero knowledge of photography whatsoever, I had a light bulb moment one day and decided to purchase a camera off of Ebay and make a go of it. I consulted with a guy who worked at my local camera store and asked him to teach me a few things about lighting and how to operate a camera. He helped me get started, and then PictureGroove Photography was born!
TF: That’s quite a story! What aspects did you find most difficult and which came easier?
SL: That’s what happened! I have always had a knack for business and customer service, and during those days of MySpace, (2007-ish) I was seeing some pretty amazing photos pout there that inspired me. I thought I would give it a try.
The most difficult aspects for me was the technical side…metering light properly, fearing the failure of equipment, and that…but the human relations side was very easy for me. I used to be a fitness model as well, so I had the experience of being on the other side of the lens too. But when I was being shot, there was no care for post-production, makeup and hair, or anything like that. I dislike most of the images that were ever taken of me and how they were plastered all over the internet without my consent. I took to heart when I started PictureGroove and treat each model like I wish I would have been treated way back then.
TF: Let’s talk a bit more about post-production. The PictureGroove trademark seems to be.. well, extremely vivid images. Was it always that way or did it evolve over time?
SL: It was always that way for me. When I knew what some of these programs were capable of, I really wanted to play around and see what was possible. I also think all of the vividness for me was an awakening process…when I became an unemployed realtor and business woman, I was in a dark place. So the color and texture and learning for me was all symbolic to a new beginning.
TF: Who is the typical PictureGroove client?
SL: Well, I like to think that my clients are anything but typical lol…BUT…I work with the person that loves to be pampered. I have worked with the most elite pro athletes all the way down to the newbies that have no idea what they are doing. Maybe someone whom has overcome a major health obstacle and has healed and my work has inspired them along the way, or someone whom has gone through a nutrition program and lost some weight, or someone whom has had kids and wants to celebrate getting their “sexy” back…it varies. But the best part is creating and maintaining friendships along the way. I have worked with a few ladies over the years that are very loyal and love to work with me as often as they can. Given that I have a built-in boutique system, providing wardrobe and coaching and the best hair and makeup people along the way, it is nice that the model can just show up and leave the rest to PictureGroove.
TF: What do you say to the “purists” out there – the photographers who don’t retouch photos and who voice opinions that lots of post-production pollutes the art form?
SL: All photographers out there have their own style, or niche. Whatever works for them, is what works for them. I don’t really have anything to say about them. Leave my art out of your mouth, and I will leave yours out of mine. That’s what makes this such an amazing field is that there is no wrong or right. Yes there are specific guidelines that all publishers implement in to their respective publications, but people hire photographers based on their style, reputation, and the ability to deliver the type of photos the client is seeking at that time.
TF: You’ve got some tales from the road I bet. What’s one of the things clients should avoid when shooting or gearing up for a shoot?
SL: Oh yes, lots of road travelled and LOTS of tales. ONE of the things that someone should avoid when shooting is starving yourself! I had a lady show up to a shoot that had the shakes so bad from not eating. Let me tell you something…SHOOTING takes a lot of energy! So make sure that your body is hydrated, and filled with good, solid nutrition before you get in front of the lens. You will be more alert, feel better, be more confident, and your photos will show it! Gearing up for a shoot, aside from the fitness shows of course, please don’t come to me with a 4-day old spray tan. If you are coming to shoot with me, my tanning company, PictureGroove Tanning can spray you the day before your shoot. Skin color matching in post production is a daunting task, and it just looks bad to show up with blotchy, scaly old spray tan, so, if I am not doing your tan, please make sure it is a fresh even natural tan.
TF: Do you still get the itch to get in front of the lens now and then?
SL: LOL…Very rarely. BUT, on occasion I miss feeling all glamorous and working the camera. There are a few PictureGroove fans that want to see me shoot again, my guy encourages me to, so, maybe one day I will. I did an impromptu shoot when I was in Hawaii a couple years ago, but just to see if I still had “it”.
TF: Looks to me like you’ve still got it. What’s on the horizon for PictureGroove. Where do you go from here?
SL: That’s very sweet of you to say. PictureGroove is always going to have it’s niche in the fitness and glamour world. That is where I started. I am getting more involved in shooting corporate stuff…This summer, I shot the 2015 calendar for the Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery, and they have over 100 locations across North America. I am re-aligning forces with Duke Hillinger of Adrenaline TV…Back in 2001 I was hired on to be their TV host, but the show didn’t wind up hitting the airwaves, so the revival of Adrenaline TV is underway and I have teamed up with them to find new TV Hosts for the show…AKA the SWAT Team. All details on that will be unveiled in the very near future. I will keep shooting just like I love to, and keep working to exceed the expectations of myself and my clients.
All images © copyright: Sarah Lyons / PictureGroove Photography.