11 Questions with Beauty Photographer Alexandra Villarreal
Dive into the world of beauty with photographer Alexandra Villarreal as she explains to us how she brings an idea to fruition and overcomes creative blocks.
1. When and how did you become interested in photography?
Growing up I've always been into art, I've always been into creating and getting crafty. I was always drawing, always painting as a kid. My parents are both creative people, and have always supported/pushed me to do something with my creativity. I started taking my artistic ability more seriously as I got older. I took multiple art classes in high school and even won awards for my art work. There was a point where I started to become bored with my drawing and painting and felt the need to challenge myself in a different way. My mind wanted more. I wanted to start creating more of a tangible art. I started becoming interested in photography my sophomore year of high school. I'd always see the photo student's projects posted in the art hallway. I was fascinated. I signed up the following year for my first photography class. It was strictly a film photography class. I learned how to make a camera from a coffee can to developing my own negatives in a dark room and how to manipulate my images with objects. It was such a great learning experience for me. I was feeding that creative hunger that I was looking for. After a year or so I started to dabble in digital photography. I knew that was my calling. I just needed to develop my style. I've always been into fashion trends and makeup. Putting that into the mix was the beginning of my craft. From that point on I researched how to better my work, how to set up lighting, how to shoot this, how to edit that. As an artist you are forever growing. Things are always changing.
2. At what point did you decide that this was something you’d like to pursue professionally?
After gaining experience and working with some friends to build a little portfolio, I realized that this is me. This is where I can express myself, my thoughts. To give my audiences something that makes them think. I wanted to share a piece of my mind with the world. I gave myself 2 years to really practice, push myself to develop my identity and what it was I wanted to shoot. I've been shooting for about 6 years now. It's insane to see how much things change and how much you start to become more professional with your work.
3. Did you study photography in school?
I did not go to school for photography. I studied film photography for a year in high school, but I am self taught in digital photography. I research a lot though. I've noticed it can be a little difficult to gain knowledge from other artists. Being let down by the lack of advice allowed me to challenge myself again. I will read, I will watch videos and I will test to understand a technique. We are so lucky to have such knowledge at our finger tips. The internet and books have been my guide to help me better understand my photography, lighting, makeup, fashion, etc.
4. What kind of Photography do you do?
My main focus is beauty portraiture. Skin care and makeup are so fascinating to me. Shooting this particular genre allows me to have as much creative freedom as I'd like. Working with makeup artists and really bringing their ideas to life is so satisfying. You are projecting your thoughts into real life. I do shoot some fashion work here and there. I would like to stick to one specific style and really put my heart and soul into it.
5. Do you Retouch your own images? Do you feel that retouching is a vital part of taking your photography to the next level?
I do retouch all of my own images. It has been quite the process trying to learn how to properly use photoshop and all of the techniques and styles. I finally have developed my own work flow that allows me to save time and edit efficiently. I think retouching is something every photographer should have basic knowledge of. For me personally I try my hardest to set up my images exactly how I want them while shooting. This helps with reducing time in post-processing. We are human and nothing is perfect, so retouching comes in handy and can save an image! I do believe that there are retouching skills and retouchers who can turn a photo into a work of art. Its all about preference.
6. What were some hurdles you came across when you first started pursuing photography?
Hurdles for me, I had a few. One being myself. I think everyone can relate when it comes to not feeling as if you, or your work is good enough. We are our own worst critics. I would sit there, and compare myself for hours. I would tare my work apart, to the point where I was like you know what... I'm done. There is no point in this, or I'll never be like so and so. With that mind set no. I met a few people along the way who completely changed my outlook. one being someone I met a year ago, and who I have the pleasure of calling her my best friend, a big sister. Yes I stopped being so harsh before that, but Cristina Jacobs truly touched my life. She said to me one day when I was being weird about things, She stopped me and said, "Alex, what the HELL are you saying. YOU are good enough, YOU are talented YOU have put your heart and soul into this for years, this is your baby." "Who cares what people may think, who cares what this artist is doing." "YOU have talent, you are an idiot if you give up now." I love her for just giving me that shake people need once in a while, and for having faith in me. Along with other personal influential things she has been by my side through a lot of my creative endeavors, and I hope she is there for many more possibly Another hurdle I have faced, is other people trying to take away what you love, and react negatively to my work. From loved ones, to social media followers. People are going to have something to say, and i've learned to just let them have an opinion, even if I don't agree. I feel that people should start looking at things from different perspectives to better understand what an artist is trying to portray. People generally question what I do, or why I decided to pour Honey on Model Madeline McInnis. My answer, Because I was inspired, and I was like HOW beautiful will that texture look when its photographed, on such a beautiful model. Why does every beauty shoot need to revolve around being so simple? Why not have fun, why not make a mess. Bend the rules.
7. Tell us about your first photography gig!
My first photography gig was actually a Vegas car show... Yes I started shooting cars for a while. It was a paid gig, and I was so excited to have been offered the job. I was absolutely nervous. I didn't know what to expect, I felt like I forgot how to do anything. It was a great experience over all, and really opened me up. I can say I learned a lot.
8. Tell us about your process of making your idea come into fruition and how important is communication with the team to make it happen ?
Putting my idea into action... Its quite the process. I'm usually inspired by Colors, Patterns,Food,textures,etc. I see inspo all around me. I usually like to come up with a general idea, or have something that inspired me start my process. I try and put together an idea that can have consecutive looks. I link up with a makeup artist and brain storm. This can take me days weeks even a months of planning. Once we have decided on the concept i am very particular in who's face will flow perfectly with the idea. I think it is so important to have the right face, the right personality, this really can make or break the whole look. once the model has been selected I usually try to make sure the model comes prepared with basics just in case. Nails done, Natural hair, and fresh faced. It is so important to communicate with everyone on the team. Everyone plays an important role to the shooting process. If there is a flaw in the make up or a strand up hair out of place it is key to address these things and work together during the shoot to create wonderful images to help elevate the stresses that can come form post processing. Communication also helps me see things i may not be seeing. I'll have MUA's and HS's give me suggestions that I never would have thought of or would have noticed.
9. What do you do to keep creating when you have writers block?
Staying creative, and inspired can be difficult. When I get creators block I need to take time away from it. I need to miss it, I need to refresh my mind. I personally like to take about a month or so off. Focus on my day job more, see my friends and family, catch up on personal things i've been setting aside. I'll have me time. I really start to miss it by the end of the month, I look into new trends, different artist and just re-ignite the passion. It is so crucial to take some time away. Never let yourself get burnt out. Pick up where you left off with an open mind, and fresh eyes. My Best work and drive always happens after i allow myself to re-energize.
10. What advice would you give to a photographer who is just starting out?
My best advice would have to be never give up, and stay hungry. Crave your passion, want to better your skills, push your limits, feed your mind with knowledge, never starve yourself from learning. There will be moments where you'll want to just quit. If you are passionate about something if you truly love something you won't give up. You will invest your heart and soul into it. Never compare yourself, you are an artist, you are at different stages then other artists some may have skills they have been working on for years, just know they were in your shoes at one point in their lives. You will only be discouraged if you let that get the best of you.
11. Are you working on anything at the moment that you’re really excited?
I AM working on something SUPER exciting. I can't wait to share with everyone. It will be taking place next month. Well more like a few things coming up I can not wait to share with everyone. I would like to say more, but you'll have to wait and see! :)