Michelle McSwain

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Michelle McSwain

Photographer

Venice, CA
New York, NY

www.michellemcswain.com
instagram @michellemcswain

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?

I strive to capture whimsical and colorful lifestyle imagery.

The moments I capture must involve at least one (if not all) of my three favorite things- bright colors, fun, and people. And sometimes, my forth favorite thing, wine. I try not to take life too seriously and I think this sentiment comes across in my photography.

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WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW?

I studied photo in college in my hometown of Kentucky. After graduation, I moved to NYC for an internship at a studio where I gathered as much knowledge about the industry as possible. After four years, I left to go freelance for the New York Times and Yahoo doing photo editing/retouching while building a little tech start up on the side. During that time, I created and patented some mobile technology for shooting photos on iPhones. It was a wild ride but after years of doing the tech thing, I decided to get back to my real passion of shooting and went full-time as a commercial photographer. And here I am now.

 

How do you stand out in your field?

I'm a really good mix between fun and responsible, creative but logical, and I pretty much consider every single human my friend.

I feel like in the creative field it's hard to find a balance in these areas. Running a business requires me to be responsible, communicative, reasonable, organized...one might say, on top of my shit. Being a creative though requires imagination, energy, and vision. I think I stand out because I'm able to be both of these things. Also, I've spent a lot of time working on my ego and leaving it at the door whenever I leave home. I think that is sometimes hard to find in my field too.

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WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?

Video! Aren't we all? I've resisted it for a while but I'm on board now. I've begun offering short social videos for new clients as a way to amp up my video portfolio and in the meantime, I've been playing around with personal projects that involve moving images. It's been fun but definitely a learning curve as video and photo are two entirely different skills!



WHAT'S YOUR STYLE/PERSPECTIVE/TASTE? DO YOU HAVE A PROJECT THAT REPRESENTS THIS?

Fun, lighthearted, bright, and colorful. Not to sound clichΓ©, but it's my perspective on life and it has been for as long as I can remember.

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WE ARE ALL SLASHIES WITH MULTIPLE SKILLS, WHICH ONE DO YOU WISH YOU COULD DO MORE OFTEN?

Being a friend to people....does that count as an industry? I do think one of my biggest skills is being a thoughtful friend and good listener. I always wish I had more time to focus on this and be the best of friend to all the wonderful people I've met. If this answer doesn't count, then, fitness. I wish I had time to become a fitness coach and help motivate people to stay fit and healthy.


WHAT IS FRUSTRATING YOU RIGHT NOW?

There's a personal project that I've had in the back of my head for years now and have had such a hard time bringing to life. It's something I feel extremely passionate about so I don't want to just drop the whole idea but it has been a real challenge to execute - I'll get there though!




IF YOU COULD HIRE SOMEONE FOR $20/HR, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THEM DO TO MAKE YOUR DAY EASIER?

Build and design pitch decks for me and set up meetings with agencies.


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LET'S BRING OUT THE TIME MACHINE. WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD HAVE TOLD YOURSELF, WHEN, AND WHY?

"Light painting photography is too niche so move on" in 2012, because I spent a decade trying to make it something with my tech startup and I wish I could take some of that time back to be building my own photography career. But it's ok, no regrets.



IF YOU COULD TALK TO AN EXPERT TO GAIN MORE INSIGHT ON SOMETHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT?

I'd love to talk about the changing industry with social media and pricing structure.

WHAT KIND OF OPPORTUNITIES/PROJECTS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

Photography, Photo Retouching, and Video | Specifically involving brands looking to create custom content. I'd also love to take on a few e-comm jobs.

DESCRIBE YOUR IDEAL JOB/CLIENT/COLLABORATION.

My ideal client is American Eagle. I love their brand, their mission statement, and their campaigns. Another ideal client would be TOMS, for all of the same reasons.



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WHAT IS YOUR HOURLY RATE, RETAINER, OR SALARY RANGE? 

Sample Pricing for Projects: *These are samples and are subject to change/vary case by case*

Final deliverables vary per project
Headshots/Portraits: $400 min
1/2 day photography for small brands: $750
Full day photography for small brands: $1500 (range varies depending on project)
Full day photography for large brands: TBD
Retouching: $45-55 per hour or $35-50 per image (varies greatly depending on type of retouching)


WHO IS A CREATIVE THAT HAS HELPED YOU ELEVATE YOUR WORK?

Vanessa Price, Art Director and Wine Sommelier, vanessa@vinumco.com, @vanessalenoreprice | She pushes me, drives me crazy, but has brilliant ideas and I love creating with her. She's been a partner with me on all the wine work.


Adam Saewitz, Video Maker/Editor Genius, ads390@gmail.com, @saewessa | The first person to ever give me a portfolio review. A great friend, mentor, and seriously an artistic genius.


Sarah Haman, Advertising, sarahhaman@gmail.com @sarbearinnyc | Because she has always believed in me, even before I did...so much that she sent a giant commercial job my way before I'd ever done anything of that level. I'm happy to say we killed it.


Jesse Chamberlin whom I personally do not know but her work is a huge inspiration @jessechamberlinmarble | Her creative eye is unmatched and her editing style is unlike any I've ever seen. There's no other artist like her and aspire to be at her level one day.


And lastly, I have to add my husband, who's a creative in his own right, a musician- Adam Tepper @abtepper | He's given me the space, trust, and support through all my creative endeavors, with an unwavering belief in my entrepreneurial spirit, and whew, he really helped me pick the pieces of my heart up off the ground when I quit my tech company.

HOW SHOULD SOMEONE APPROACH YOU ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER?

Email or DM is my preferred form of communication and I love to have as much info as possible about the potential project- date/location/budget/example images if it applies...the more info the better!


HOW DO YOU STAY CREATIVE?

Spending time with new people and listening


This member profile was originally published in February 2019.