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Interview With Naomi Locardi

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Naomi Locardi started out as a graphic designer and with her husband, Elia, they created a successful travel photography business. Here she shares her story on how she eventually became a pro photographer

What was it that inspired you to become a photographer?
I had dabbled a little with film photography in high school and college, but wasn’t all that serious about it until many years later when I started to travel. Travelling the world has taken me to some incredible places and photography was a natural artistic outlet to capture and share the beauty of these amazing destinations. One of the things I love most about photography is that it gives you the ability to freeze time, to capture memories and experiences of a place and transport yourself back there, or take others along for the ride.

How long were you photographing before you decided to become a pro? What did that process look like?
It is a bit of a long story since my journey to becoming a pro didn’t take a straightforward path. Instead, it evolved naturally over a period of several years.

My background was in graphic design and I started my first company in 2003, focusing mainly on branding and corporate identity development. I found that my independent nature made me more well-suited for being an entrepreneur. Along with my husband, Elia, in 2010 we launched our first photography related business; a travel photography blog, www.blamethemonkey.com. Initially, it was a way to showcase his photographic work and the stories of our world travels. We developed the content together and I started-out shooting a lot of behind-the-scenes images of him in the field for the blog and other online content, mainly out of the need for materials to publish. After being an entrepreneur in the graphic design field for so many years, I was now technically also in the 'business of photography' but at first, I was focused on content development, building Elia’s profile, assisting with marketing efforts and using my graphic design abilities to generally help our photography business grow.

Gradually, I became a larger part of the story. We found that our audience was curious about our life on the road as a couple, along with my unique perspective, and it turned out I couldn’t continue avoiding stepping into the spotlight alongside him. As a result, my online profile took on a more and more independent role and I started exploring my own creative interests in photography more deeply. Around 2012, I started to become more serious about my own work and the evolution happened rapidly, as I focused on improving my technical skills in the field and exploring different genres.

Also in 2012, we began combining our extensive travel experience with our love of photography to design and plan all-inclusive photographic tours and worldwide photography related events. Throughout our travels, I had spent so many years researching and scouting locations that I was able to cultivate a wealth of knowledge in photography concepts – it was really just a matter of putting that knowledge into practice.

After a couple of years of aggressively shooting, by 2014 I started licensing some of my work independently. In 2015, we launched our next company, Dream Photo Tours, providing unique custom designed small group photographic tours to some of the most beautiful destinations on the planet. Initially, I took on the role of doing mostly the logistical planning and business operations for our tours, but I quickly discovered that I had a natural passion and ability to teach others, as well as the patience and knowledge to be an effective educator. Leading photo tours gives us the chance to share our love of these amazing places, to see them for the first time again through someone else’s eyes and to impart our extensive photographic knowledge with others at all different points in their photography journey. Developing and leading photography tours has become a true passion for me and has helped my ability as an educator grow tremendously. Photography has this amazing way of connecting people from all corners of the globe through a shared passion. It is wonderful to watch our participants bridge those connections and become friends during our tours.

Describe a difficulty you faced when you first started out, that you had to overcome as a new professional.
Probably the biggest hurdle I faced was my own self-doubt. We are truly our own worst enemies as artists and I had to really own up to the idea of 'being a professional photographer' within my own mind before I was open to putting myself out there. There is a certain amount of vulnerability that is necessary as any kind of artist and photography is no exception. You are revealing part of your soul to the world when you share your art and, for me, there are all sorts of emotions that go along with doing that. To be creative, means tapping into the things that inspire you, listening to that small voice within that says, 'it’s okay to just follow your heart and create the things that bring you joy.'

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When did you start using the Fujifilm system and why did you initially choose Fujifilm to be such a huge part of your process?
I was so excited about Fujifilm that I couldn’t wait to get one, but in truth it was on a trip to Thailand that my Nikon D700 shutter failed and I had a to use my husband, Elia’s, backup camera at the time, a Fujifilm X-E2. In hindsight, it was one of the best things that could have happened for me, since using the Fujifilm System just felt right. I found it more intuitive than a DSLR and I was enjoying shooting more than ever before. It played a huge part in my general enthusiasm for photography and my evolution to becoming a professional. Looking back, it was a real turning point for me.

Did you experience a noticeable difference in your workflow when you changed systems to Fujifilm?
Probably the biggest adjustment was getting used to the Electronic View Finder (EVF) with the transition from the Optical View Finder (OVF) and, of course, focus peaking changed my life! For those of you who aren’t familiar, focus peaking gives you a visual representation of the areas that are in focus, highlighted in a certain color within the EVF and LCD display. However, I’d have to say that the biggest change was the efficiency of my setup process once I found a composition I was happy with. Using the in-camera histogram and focus peaking made the whole process faster and gave me more accuracy.

Many say that the Fujifilm lenses are unbelievable. Were you surprised by that when you got your hands on it? What’s your favorite lens for landscape work and why?
With Fujifilm’s long history of making exceptional products, I can’t say I was surprised, but it was really nice to not have to correct a lot of the imperfections from the glass that you get with many other camera manufacturers. My favorite lens for landscape photography has to be the 10-24mm f/4 R OIS. I am constantly looking for interesting colors or textures in foreground elements that are low to the ground and this lens really lets you capture those elements, along with the overall landscape, in an interesting way.

When you look back at your growth as a photographer, can you identify two places/bench marks where something you learned or experienced made a significant difference in your process or art?
When I started out I was photographing handheld, around cities and behind the scenes, and so I really wasn’t using a tripod very often. In truth, I hated carrying the thing everywhere. But obviously, not having one really limits the quality and kind of images you can capture. I knew I was serious about photography when I started carrying it with me all the time. It may sound simple, but it was probably one of the biggest jumps in the quality of my images and gave me the ability to shoot in all lighting environments, while being able to use the best camera settings and unlock the potential of longer exposures and lower ISO values.

As I mentioned, I was a graphic artist in my past life, so already had a strong grasp of compositional techniques when I started doing photography, but there is a bit of a learning curve when getting used to shooting landscapes with a wide angle lens. You really have to learn how to compose with foreground, middle ground and background elements and understand how the edges will stretch and your subject will pinch in at the center. So, probably the second biggest change was understanding how to work with the wide angle lens for landscape photography and it was something that just had to come with time and experience.

What have you learned about yourself through your photography? What has that taught you and how have you applied it?
I have always been a bit of an adventurous person and when I was younger I literally had no fear. Photography has given me a purpose to go on more adventures, to push myself further outside my comfort zone and see how far I can push both myself and my work. There is still so much I really want to do, including more trips into the backcountry and remote areas of the world for both landscape photography and unique life experiences. Does that answer the question? I guess I have learned that I’ll always push myself to the edge (quite literally) to get the pictures I want to capture.

If you could sit down and share advice to yourself when you were first starting out what would you say?
If you are inspired when you are creating, you will naturally inspire others, because people will respond to how you feel about your work as much as the work itself. Don’t compare yourself with others as comparison can be the death of creativity. Be easy about all of this, follow your inspiration and you will find your own unique path through all the noise.

To someone just starting out with their journey with photography and Fujifilm what advice would you give them as they begin their journey?
Shoot, shoot and shoot some more! No amount of education can replace real world trial-and-error. You will make mistakes, but that is how you will learn and grow into the better photographer you want to become.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering turning photography into a profession?
My goal is always to inspire and never discourage those looking to make the leap, but I am also a very practical person. I would say to examine your reasons and make sure you really want it, before abandoning whatever income you already have. Ease into it if you can, while you transition from your day job, but at the same time getting as much real-world experience in the genre of photography you are interested in as possible. Photography isn’t a career for the faint-of-heart and it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to really be successful. That said, there are more opportunities than ever for someone who is focused, but making it financially sustainable won’t happen overnight. Having good business and marketing skills are a major plus, so work on those areas where you are lacking if you want to find success as a professional photographer.

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