Photographer, Ali Harper, has been refining her process over the past decade. Her experience and preparation have fashioned a stunning portfolio full of imagery that conveys the feeling and intention of the spaces she photographs. You might be wondering just how she does it and if you could do it too. Keep reading to learn how you can harness Ali’s experience and artistic finesse with a simple click of a button.
Tell us about the inception of Ali Harper Photography. What did your journey to becoming a photographer look like?
I truly didn’t take a direct route into running a photography business — my degree is in graphic design actually! After receiving my BFA I moved to Atlanta to begin my career as a designer. I worked in print designing annual reports, logos and branding systems. I spent a lot of time hunched over light tables reviewing photographer’s work whom I hired and directed — imagine wax pencils, proof sheets, and medium format film — it’s honestly where I fell in love with the editing process. On the weekends you’d find me in the darkroom, processing my own black and white photos. I thought it was a hobby and never a career.
During this time, the dot-com era took off and I grew into a role as a Creative Director for a large advertising firm. I had a few mentors there, who saw my obsession with photography and encouraged me to step into it. Without these women I wouldn’t be where I am today — they not only offered me commercial opportunities I would never have had but gave me the confidence I needed to go full-time.
It was hard to leave a career I loved and worked so hard at, but photography was my passion, and I couldn’t turn it off so I took the leap. That was over 10 years ago.
What is your favorite part of the process when shooting interiors?
Great question. I love shooting interiors because I find it extraordinarily challenging. Every job is so different, and there aren’t sets of rules to follow. You have to truly think on your feet and sometimes you feel like MacGyver rigging it all together! I’m the type of person who would love some hard and fast “rules”, so honestly it’s a massive push for me to have chosen this line of work within photography.
When I first step into a space and see what my client wishes to convey, that collaboration with them to get it to truly feel — not just look — the way they intended is such an exciting challenge and process.
Tell us about your team! When did you begin hiring and do you have any tips for those out there who are thinking of expanding their team?
I have a group of people whom I adore working and collaborating with and attempt to bring them on whenever it is a good fit for my client. I used to shoot interiors solely on my own, but have found that with the way I shoot, I truly need not only an extra set of hands (it can be a good amount of lighting gear), but also a trusted set of eyes — someone who knows how I like to craft a shot, and can be thinking about and setting up for us in order to keep the whole team working efficiently. I also love having a stylist on every shoot, because it not only allows the interior designer some space to step back and creatively direct, but it also gives me the time to truly work the shot and the lighting.
I’ve come to realize that having a team and crew who have known me and how I like to work creates massive freedom on set for us all to elevate the work on so many levels. So when you are considering adding someone to your team, find someone who is passionate about collaboration.
What does your morning ritual look like? What are a few things you do to set the tone before you begin a busy day at Ali Harper Photography?
A morning ritual sounds lovely — ha! I’m a working mom, so the morning is all about getting my eight year old son ready for school. After that, it truly fluctuates — some days it is all about editing, some about billing, some about scheduling, some about marketing.
Shoot days are rather regimented for me, however. I do a “gear check” the day before and pack everything. All of my gear has a place where it goes (in the bag or in the car), and it never changes. In fact, my crew who assist me have this memorized as well so that we not only can get to it quickly, it’s easy to break down when the day is done. Truly it’s a complete system. And when I get back from a shoot, same thing — backup files on and offline, organize shots, clean and pack away gear. I always block out the day before and the day after a shoot to do this.
How would you describe your personal photography style and what influences have had the greatest impact in developing said style?
My style has definitely evolved over the past few years to a more nuanced, moody, evocative and layered feel. A lot of that has to do with the clients who continue to hire me and who have pushed me to create images that have a sense of place — or the idea that each space is lived in with some sort of lifestyle moment (even in the absence of people in the shot).
I lean heavily on my stylists to set that tone — a glass left on a table, a wrinkled throw on a bed, petals that have fallen on the floor — but even more so I attempt to craft the light in the room to evoke a very specific time of day in order to tell the story of the space.
Speaking of photography styles, you’ve recently launched a new collection of presets with REFINED Co.! Your presets allow us to step into your shoes and apply your signature style to our own snaps. What led you to create your own collection, and how has their use impacted your work?
To be totally candid, I wanted to create these because I wanted to spend less time editing, and have a more consistent look to my work — a “starting place” per se when working on an image. I collaborated with Marta from Refined Co and together we created presets for lifestyle, commercial, food and of course, interiors work.
There are Lightroom and Capture One options so you can use them when shooting tethered to your computer — it’s so great when your client is on set and can really begin to visualize how the final image will look. But we also made iPhone presets as well — that way your client can have consistent look and feel if they take on-set photos to post to their social accounts. It not only gives you confidence on set, but also gives your client a useful, collaborative tool for their work.