Interview with Portrait Photographer Ashly Deskins

Next in our series spotlighting LumoPro Ambassadors and their work, is Ashly Deskins, a portrait and lifestyle photographer from Northern California.

Ashly began taking photos in 2009, as a shared hobby with her husband (then boyfriend). Ashly started off on the opposite side of the camera – standing in as a model while her husband learned about off camera flash.

Woman in green dress

Photo by Ashly Deskins

After her initial exposure (see what we did there?) to photography, Ashly decided to add some photography classes to her college courseload as she pursued a Bachelor’s degree at the The Ohio State University. Ashly says “That’s when I fell in love with photography and really felt like it was something I wanted to pursue long term.”

Family portrait on a beach

Photo by Ashly Deskins

Ashly has now shot everything from families and weddings to burlesque and boudoir, and even some wildlife. She refuses to settle on one area of photography, saying “I was once told that I should pick one genre and focus on that, but I could never stick to that rule. I shoot what I love, and I love what I shoot.”

Ashly thrives on the challenge of always shooting something new and different. She feels that constantly adjusting to new subjects and shooting scenarios is the only way for her to continue to grow as a photographer.

Senior portrait in the woods

Photo by Ashly Deskins

Ashly’s work centers mostly on portraiture. “I love shooting portraits that make you feel something when you look at it. It’s not just about the lighting or composition, but about the emotion the image gives.”

She says that the opportunity to meet new people is both one of her favorite aspect and the most challenging part of shooting portraits. “I meet many of my clients for the first time on the day of their session. Without meeting face-to-face before their shoot, I don’t know how our different personalities will work together. Luckily so far, I’ve had nothing, but amazing experiences.”

Couple standing by curtain outside

Photo by Ashly Deskins

Though human portraits make up the bulk of Ashly’s work, she has also had the opportunity to create images of some furrier subjects. In 2014, Ashly began documenting the wildlife around her apartment complex – specifically the squirrels. This simple photo exercise, turned into a much more involved project with full-blown sets that Ashly designs herself.

Squirrels interacting with photo studio scene

Photo by Ashly Deskins

Ashly’s workflow is very different when working with her fuzzy friends, versus a regular portrait session. “With wildlife, I don’t use flash, as I don’t want to scare the animals. Using off camera flash also requires a subject that can take direction, and I only have so much control over where the squirrels move and how they ‘pose’.” Ashly points out that that the squirrels are in control of how the shoot will go.

Squirrel playing with camera

Photo by Ashly Deskins

Because of the wide variety of subjects Ashly shoots, it’s important for her to have equipment that is flexible and holds up well. For her lighting, Ashly uses the LP180R flash and the Phottix Odin trigger. Of the LP180R, Ashly says “It was the first piece of equipment I used from LumoPro, and I know that it’s just going to perform. It’s a workhorse. My camera can miss focus, my memory cards can corrupt (and have), but my LP180R? None of that – It. Just. Works.”

For photographers just getting started, Ashly recommends getting out every day and shooting and not to worry so much about social media. “It doesn’t have to be shared. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Take the pressure out of getting that flawless shot and remind yourself that not everything has to be posted for the world to see.” She says that shooting every day allows you to familiarize yourself with your camera and work on the basics, like composition and exposure, while adjusting to different environments, different lighting conditions, different subject matter.

Woman in dress in front of bridge

Photo by Ashly Deskins

When asked about her favorite image that she has taken, Ashly says she prefers to focus on her next shot. “I truly feel like my favorite image is always my next image. I’m always trying to challenge and push myself every time I pick up my camera.”

Ashly credits her love for travel and adventure with influencing her work. “I am always seeking new places to photograph and experimenting with new ways to add fun to the shoot.” She hopes to take her photography show on the road and photograph a wedding or couple in Iceland or even Ireland.

Pregnant woman in red dress

Photo by Ashly Deskins

She adds that her obsession for home makeover shows and decorating translates into her passion for creating styled shoots with props. “I really love doing styled shoots and planning a shoot down to the last detail. Renting furniture, getting flowers, getting the subject’s attire just right – really creating a whole other world and scene within a beautiful setting. It’s like creating my own fairytale.”

Ashly Deskins Dancer

Photo by Ashly Deskins

Lightning Round: Getting to Know You with Ashly Deskins!

LumoPro: If you could spend one day with any photographer (living or dead), who would it be and why?

Ashly Deskins: This is really difficult, because there are so many that I would love to pick. However, if I had to choose, it would be Gregory Crewdson. I have admired his work since college. I love the lighting and storytelling of his work. The detail in each image is incredible. I feel like I pull some of my inspiration from his process of planning, even if it’s for a single image.

LP: If you had a career other than photography, what would it be?

AD: It would be working with animals in some capacity. I would love to have a sanctuary or animal rescue.

LP: If you had to choose one piece of lighting gear to have during a zombie apocalypse, what would it be and why?

AD: Either a flash or a light stand. I feel like the flash may temporarily startle them, slowing them down. However, a light stand could probably come in handy as a weapon.

LP: If given the chance, would you rather photograph the Olympics (Winter or Summer), the X-Games, a polo match with the entire royal family or a professional beer pong tournament?

AD: A polo match with the entire royal family, for sure! They are already so well photographed, I feel like it would be a fun challenge to photograph them in my own style. They all seem to have such unique personalities, so it could definitely be a challenge to show their personalities through my eyes. Plus, Prince Harry is a very talented photographer himself! I feel like we’d be BFFs.

AD Couple Arcade Portrait

Photo by Ashly Deskins

A big thanks to Ashly for her time. You can find more of Ashly’s work on her website – http://www.thegreenelephantlifestyle.com. You can also follow her on Instagram – @greenelephantphoto

All images by Ashly Deskins and used with permission.

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