Richard Photo Lab

Richard's Photographer Spotlight: Elisa Bricker

For Elisa Bricker, photography is all about history. For nearly a decade, Elisa has merged her familial roots in the arts with her passion for capturing her clients' own unique moments in time to pass on to future generations. Her work has been featured in national publications such as Martha Stewart, Town & Country, Brides Magazine, Southern Weddings, The Knot, Weddings Unveiled, Once Wed, Style Me Pretty, & more.

Today in Richard Photo Lab's Photog Spotlight, Elisa is sharing her advice for saving yourself some image-making time and heartache, how food fuels her body AND creativity, and the thing she has never operated her business without...

Richard: What first sparked your passion for photography?

Elisa Bricker: My parents created a love and appreciation for the arts. My mother studied piano and violin, and she taught music to each of my siblings. She created an early love of literature and poetry, as well. I was also involved in the theater and dance community from a very early age.

My dad fostered a love of visual arts. I remember learning about photography from him—he studied art and architecture in college. He is a true artist and creative in many forms. I was never as good with a pen and paper, so I took to the camera quickly! My parents were very clear that art was for everyone to participate in and enjoy.

Image by Elisa Bricker

R: Making the leap from photography as a personal passion to a paying gig is a big one... how did you decide to pursue it as a career?

EB: It actually all fell together seamlessly. I was in a job as a marketing director. I loved working with people and telling stories, but I’ve never considered myself a brilliant writer (despite having my masters in English literature). I started my photography company on the side to earn money for better equipment, thinking I would use it for my nine-to-five job.

It ended up being a beautiful fit. I was doing the work I loved most and had the freedom to say yes or no to a job as I saw fit. Fast forward six months, and I couldn’t sustain both anymore. So, I left my full-time job to pursue my photography business.

R: When you aren't shooting for clients, what do you LOVE to photograph?

EB: Spaces! I love traveling to new places to photograph things. Some of my favorite images have been taken in Charlottesville in collaboration with local restaurants, wineries, and shops. Creating relationships with these business owners has helped me love on my city, and it is such a good way for me to stretch myself!

Image by Elisa Bricker

R: How do you find a balance between being creatively fulfilled and being able to pay the bills?

EB: I have never operated my business without a profit. Even in the beginning, I knew I had to make money in order to make this work for me. I’m grateful that Edward, my husband and owner of Contax Rental, helped me from the very start to make sure I priced myself for profitability and hired an accountant, which let me focus more on my art.

R: What is your favorite camera and why?

EB: Can I pick two? I love the Contax 645. It’s my go-to camera for almost any situation, and the images are stunning. For day use and easy on-the-go, I have a 35mm Contax T2 that I love. The images are unexpected and very freeing!

Image by Elisa Bricker

R: What's your first memory of shooting with film? Why do you continue to shoot it as a pro?

EB: My first camera was my grandfather's camera, and I remember shooting a roll of black and white film. We sat at the kitchen table and hunched over the prints, talking about exposure, bounding light, and composition. Then I would buy another roll, photograph my siblings, develop it, and we would start again.

I have him to thank for my love of the medium, and I continue to shoot film because of the generational love he has instilled in me. It’s part of not just my own history, but the history of my family. When I photograph couples, I imagine their family history, too — they’re hiring a film photographer, the way their parents and grandparents did...

R: Why is it important to have continuous communication with your lab?

EB: Your lab is your opportunity to take something good and make it great! Having trouble figuring out color or film stock preferences? Ask your lab! See something happening with your scans and want to know why? Ask your lab! Particularly when I was starting out, regular communication with my lab saved me time and heartache as I grew in my love of and appreciation for film.

Image by Elisa Bricker

R: Do you have any pre-shoot rituals?

EB: I eat well! I am a true believer in the saying by Virginia Woolf, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” I love going out for a good meal the night before to get my creativity flowing (and it might be a good excuse to go out on a date with my husband, too!).

R: Let’s play a game of “Either/Or”! Savory or sweet?

EB: Sweet! I have a huge sweet tooth.

R: Chocolate or vanilla?

EB: Chocolate. Like, as dark as I can get it.

R: Dogs or cats?

EB: Dogs! They’re so loyal.

R: Urban or rural?

EB: That’s a hard one! I’m a country girl that grew up just outside the city, so I have a love for both the cityscape and the sunset off my parents' porch.

R: Modern or vintage?

EB: Vintage all the way. I’m constantly at estate sales trying to replace my new things that are breaking with old things that are still pristine.

R: Breakfast or Dinner?

EB: Breakfast. I think it goes back to the sweet tooth. Croissant, pancakes, French toast, bacon, eggs, coffee, fruit—how can you go wrong with breakfast?

R: Warm weather or cold weather?

EB: Warm! I would so much rather sweat than shiver.

R: Early bird or night owl?

EB: I’m a natural night owl, but my daughter is teaching me the beauty of becoming an early bird (whether I like it or not).

R: Crossword or Sudoku?

EB: Sudoku! I love puzzle-solving games.

R: Batman or Superman?

EB: I had a major crush on Batman in middle school. Not on anyone who played him, but on actual superhero Batman.

R: Truth or dare?

EB: Both. I have no shame

Image by Elisa Bricker

R: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be when you grow up?

EB: A PureBarre instructor or a natural wellness coach.

R: If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?

EB: Magically lifting up the sun for 15 more minutes of portraits and then dropping it back down. I’d be able to use it all the time!