Making Magic with Alexandria’s Lens
Go to the Instagram page for Alexandria’s Lens and one word comes immediately to mind: magical. Magic is a theme that runs strongly throughout Alexandria’s work, but it goes deeper than those ethereal glows and wispy patronuses. Magic is her preferred subject matter, mission statement, and purpose all in one. A lover of stories, Alexandria wants to bring hope and wonder to the world through her imaginative photography.
As an Adobe Live veteran who has partnered with some of today’s biggest names (Netflix, Profoto, and Disney to name a few), she not only has the skills and vision to achieve her goal, she’s building a tall platform to go with it. In a recent talk, Alexandria opened up to us about her habits, process, and inspiration.
How did you get started with photography?
I first became interested when my oldest daughter was born. We were young and still in school. We couldn’t afford professional photos. So, we saved up for a used Canon DSLR on eBay to take baby photos on our own.
I was going to school for history, but after that, I got passionate about photography and ended up taking courses while we were living in Santa Barbara, California. I learned about fundamentals and how to work the camera without thinking constantly about the settings. It made photography easier because I was focusing on creativity.
What about editing? How did that come about?
In the beginning, I learned the basics of Photoshop for quick editing, color editing, that kind of thing. I worked with props and light to create magic in my photos. I didn’t start experimenting with editing effects until a couple of years ago, when I realized I wanted more magic in my images than props alone could provide.
When I reached that point, I dove in. I was watching tutorials – including a lot of PHLEARN tutorials with Aaron – learning how to put backgrounds in or do a cinemagraph. I would start with an idea, and then learn the tool to execute that idea.
I actually got to meet Aaron when we both did live edits with Adobe. I was nervous to meet him, but he was great. It was so surreal, after watching his tutorials and learning so much from him! And what was crazy, is a bunch of people there caught some kind of bug. So I was doing this live edit and it was a big deal and I was feeling sick at the same time.
The photography part of my work is my true love, though. Editing is just an extension of that. That’s one reason why I try to use as little stock photography as possible: for one thing, I just enjoy shooting. But it also cuts down on the editing time so much, when you can control the lighting in each shot. Sometimes I do need to find a stock element, like for the rabbit (in the Alice in Wonderland photos) or a moon or something, but I try to shoot as much myself as possible.
There are some unusual pieces of equipment listed on your website. Would you tell us a little about that?
Yes, I have the Harry Potter wands (on my website). You see those a lot as props in my photos. I also have a glowing moon nightlight and the lights I put under an umbrella. And the umbrella!
I use my mouse a lot (for selecting), but I use the drawing tablet for things like hair. I use my drone, not just for photos but for family videos as well. It also helps me get a different perspective for behind the scenes. You can go overhead… it’s a cool tool to have.
What artists or photographers do you most admire?
That’s a hard question because I follow a lot of friends. Meg Loeks does lifestyle photography and she’s just really brilliant at it. She brings magic without adding a ton of things. She makes truly beautiful work. We’ve been friends since about 2014.
There’s also Brandon Woelfel. He creates a lot of magic through lighting. I really think Calop’s work is beautiful. I discovered him after I started working with Photoshop. Joel Robison really expresses his emotions through art and always comes up with unique concepts.
There’s also Annie Leibovitz, Dorothea Lange… people who really stated what it means to be a photographer. But I pull from stories more than anything. I’m inspired by things I read more than just things I see.
Let’s talk about that. What stories do you find inspiring?
Well, I love Harry Potter, of course. I introduced my daughter to it at the age of four. She’s the most die-hard fan I’ve ever met! She still writes letters for owls and puts them on the doorstep.
But all things magic, really. There’s also Alice in Wonderland. There’s so much magic in it. So many things and quotes you can live by. I know I referenced The Lorax in a photo recently, but if I were going to recommend a Dr. Seuss book, it would be Oh, the Places You’ll Go. I think you can read it at any point in life and get something out of it. I love that he was rejected 30 times before finally getting published.
Talk to us about your habits. How do you begin your creative process?
I have a notebook where I write down all of my ideas. I look at the notebook before a shoot to decide what props and outfits to bring along. Then, I use it to make sure I have everything when we leave because the car is often filled to the brim in the back.
My family is a big part of my photography. We do the shooting together. One of my son’s first words was “photoshoot” (his second word was “Harry Potter”). My oldest daughter is getting into photography and writing down her ideas. I’ll let her take photos with the camera sometimes, and she’s starting to show an interest in editing. My husband has always been really creative, himself, and he’s in management, so it’s a good outlet for him, too. He’ll be chasing the kids around while I’m behind the camera.
What do you do when you hit a wall?
I go back to my notebook when I need ideas. Often I have too many ideas to act on at once, so when I come back later on, hopefully, one of those ideas sparks something. I don’t always have time to hit a wall.
Sometimes, I just need a break. Nature’s a huge part of our lives right now, so we’re usually out every weekend. We might just drive until we see a place that looks right. I love being away from screens and just out and about.
I also spend time with the kids for inspiration. They say things and do things that are imaginative. Their flow is very constant and they just say what comes to their minds! The image where my son is reaching up to the moon that’s hanging from a string, that came from something my daughter said when she was four. I found an old video of her talking about touching the moon and it being on a string, and that gave me the idea.
What quotes always fire you up?
I actually love quotes. I have a few:
“Set wide the window, let me drink the day.”
– Edith Wharton
I’ve always really liked that one, because we all have down times where we just need to open a window and let some air in.
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
– The Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
I’m such a dreamer. I kind of live in my dreams, and sometimes I need to get out of my own head and live and do things… and so that one just kind of reminds me to go and do a little bit more.
“You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head, but I’ll tell you a secret: all the best people are.”
– Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Adults hide their weird a little bit more than children. You have to be willing to let your weird out sometimes.
What are you focusing on right now in your work and photography?
There are some things that are too early to talk about, but one thing I will mention is my upcoming project with Profoto. I really love their lighting. In fact, they switched me onto artificial lighting after a trip to Alaska in 2018. I found that it makes editing so much easier when you integrate lighting into your photography. I use continuous lighting quite a lot, mixed with natural lighting, and I also incorporate some flash as well. So I’m working with Profoto on a project to talk about saving time, showing my experience using artificial and natural light together.
I have some personal projects, too, that I won’t really talk about at this point except to say that I want to help people create. I have a few things in the works that could help people create like I do, not so much through traditional tutorials, although there may be some of that, too.
I’ve also made it a point to start taking lifestyle, behind the scenes photos of our family over the last year again so we would have more photos like that. I started as a lifestyle photographer, so I wanted to integrate those into my work again. On my Instagram, you can see my lifestyle work in my highlights and swipe-overs.
What do you hope that people take away from your photography?
Ever since I was a little girl, fairy tales and magic always inspired me because they made me feel like anything was possible… all adults should hold onto that through life. Magic fills my heart, and although I do create for myself, I want to give that to others, too. I want to brighten someone’s day, help them get lost for a few minutes.
There are so many serious things going on in the world, so much information all the time. I want to bring back the magic, let everyone take a break. It’s not that those topics aren’t important, but I want to bring hope, wonder, imagination, and magic back to the world.
Be on the lookout for those upcoming projects Alexandria hinted at! In the meantime, see more of the magic on Instagram @alexandriaslens or on Alexandria’s website. There, you can view her Adobe Live edit, her appearance in a commercial for Disney, and much, much more!