One on One with Ted's Masters - Melissa Cowan

15 January 2015 11:39:06 AM AEDT

Hi Melissa, please introduce yourself

Hi, I’m Melissa. I’m a Kiwi girl who jumped the ditch to Melbourne three years ago. Currently, most of my time is taken up shooting the city’s buzzing underground music scene and creating my own fine art pieces.

What defines your photography style?

I take a documentary approach towards my work, where I try and capture the honesty and spontaneity of my subject, whoever or whatever it may be. In the context of my gig photography it’s always my aim to capture the energy of the party. Capturing the raw emotion of people behaving naturally is a theme that translates to all aspects of my work.

One of the great things about photography, and something that I hope comes across in my shots, is that even the most seemingly ordinary or mundane subject can become interesting and significant.

melissa cowan

Do you have any formal training?

Yes. I studied at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in Photo Media.

While I don’t think that it is essential to have formal training in order to be a successful photographer, I certainly feel that it has had a positive and lasting influence on my work to date.

Studying disciplines not directly associated with photography, such as painting, sculpture and time based art has given me a broad set of skills that have helped me develop my photographic style.

What inspires you?

Chicken nuggets, rum and regular naps. And of course people, places and generally anything and everything that catches my eye.

What type of lighting do you use most within your photography?

Natural lighting all the way, if I can. While often my gig and event photography calls for the use of an external flash, and artificial lighting is something I’d urge any novice photographer to become comfortable working with, I would always choose natural light to shoot in as it has an organic feel that goes hand in hand with my style of shooting.

melissa cowan

How has social media helped with the success of your photography?

Social media has really changed the game when it comes to getting your work out there and has undoubtedly aided my development as a photographer. It has allowed me to create an online presence and document my work, but more importantly it has allowed me to share that with people all over the world.

Facebook and Instagram are incredibly powerful tools, not only to display my own work, but also to create networks and gain inspiration from other creatives from an infinite pool of talent.

How important is post-processing to your works?

Post processing is crucial to my work. It enables me to play with colour, which is a major component of how I translate my style and flair to my images. My editing process is mainly in Photoshop Raw and if I need to give extra love to a particular image, I’ll bring it into Photoshop where I can tweak and edit until I'm happy with the result.

melissa cowan

What’s on your gear list?

What type of photography do you enjoy the most? Creating your own personal work or client shoots?

A bit of both. My personal work will of course always be close to my heart, and is the truest expression of my own creativity and individuality. At the same time, some of my most enjoyable experiences as a photographer have come from client shoots, and the opportunity to shoot subjects in situations that I would otherwise not have been exposed to.

What tips would you give a photographer on best way to get your work published/ or/ to get noticed?

Never stop creating and don’t be scared to throw yourself into the industry. Shoot often and collaborate as often as you can. Never stop hustling. Building networks is a huge part of advancing your career. You never know who you’ll meet and the opportunities that can arise from chance encounters.

Showcase your work, let people see what you’re involved in and what you’re working on, whether it’s through exhibitions, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, or any other platform that helps you show the world what you’re made of.

Throughout all this, enjoy what you do, remember why you started shooting and don’t compromise your artistic integrity for a fast buck, your style is a part of who you are so don’t change it for anyone.

Any big plans for the future?

Travel! I recently visited Japan, which blew my mind. It was so inspiring to have the chance to take photos of people and places that were so unfamiliar to what I usually shoot, so I would love to get another photographic trip organized. This year I want to pursue more personal projects, as I have been a bit slack on that front, collaborating with some legends and hopefully produce some interesting work.

Any advice for the novice photographer?

Create. Collaborate. Party. Meet. Repeat.

melissa cowan


If you like Melissa's work, check out her portfolio and galleries here...



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