Direct Messages is a new interview series where I ask some quick questions to brilliant creators in our community. The interview happens over Instagram DMs to keep the conversation fun, light-hearted, and authentic. Have a suggestion for who I should interview next? DM me on Instagram!
One of the best parts about the photography community on Instagram is the circle of creators that share tips and tricks to help accelerate the craft of other creators. And of all the great accounts sharing BTS (behind the scenes) content, I can think of no better example than the wonderful @mediumphormat (aka Hazel Marie).
Between her engaging reels, clever selection of props, and perfectly styled shots, Hazel is one of my favorite accounts to follow and learn from. In today's second installment of Direct Messages, I (virtually) sit down with Hazel to learn more about her work, her background, and her desire for owl wings.
Read on to get to know one of our community's bests!
Verne: Morning Hazel! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions! Let's start with some essentials: who are you, where are you, and what do you do?
Hazel: Morning my friend! My name is Hazel, online I go by Hazel Marie. I’m a product photographer based out of the Seattle area. Been focusing on product photography for the past 2 years, but prior to that I was shooting mostly weddings and portraits.
And you have a podcast! 🙂
Yes! The podcast is still in its newborn stage, so it’ll be easy to catch up on any missed episodes 😉.
For those who haven't listened to them yet, how did you find yourself getting into product photography?
After a few years of shooting consumer photos (weddings, portraits, family photos, etc.) I began to realize my work was relying on leaving the house and working with everyday people. This was fine for the time being, but I knew I wanted to do something that could grow beyond just me.
At that time, about 3 years into my photography career, I was getting more and more professional gigs - shooting product photos for local Seattle startups.
It made me realize I could set up shoots in my home and build a brand that could grow into something big. Covid helped me push past weddings and I started focusing on product photography from home.
Since early 2020 I’ve been growing my brand, Medium Phormat, which focuses on B2B product photography - mostly lifestyle stuff.
I love hearing about everyone's creative journeys! I feel like the pandemic has really pushed a lot of people to build new creative muscles as well – or in your case, extend upon the ones you were already building in a new way.
So given that you shoot from home, can you describe what your average setup looks like? What's the space like, what gear do you use, etc?
Right now I shoot out of a dedicated studio space in my living room. Luckily the room is large enough to be divided into a living space & a studio space.
All of my gear and props are stored away in a closet to avoid dust accumulation. So, when it’s time to shoot I’ll just set everything up in my studio area and pull things from the closet that’s needed for the shoot.
This setup has grown over the past two years to a place where I can easily shoot and collapse everything down when I’m done. It’s super convenient and essential when you live in an apartment!
I'd love to see a full timelapse bts of you setting everything up from scratch one day! I know one of the things I've always appreciated about your content is learning about your setups and gear. It's made at-home photography much more approachable for many, I'm sure.
Ok, this next one is always fun. Find the first product photo you posted on Instagram and share it here. Then, give a quick critique of how you'd improve it today.
Okay! Let’s see...
This was when I was learning about product photo lighting, so I was really trying to shoot studio-style shots haha.
Honestly, the main improvement I’d make would be switching up prop use and overall positioning. This shot is decently-lit in my opinion, but it’s just too boring. I think I found those pebbles at a dollar store and thought they looked cool haha.
Perhaps a setup with more depth and interesting props would make this 10x better!
Ah, we're always our own worst critics, haha. I feel like a lot of the notes in your self-critique are actually very evident in all your recent work though. On that note – can you share one of your favorite recent shots? What makes it stand out to you?
Honestly, this shot really stands out to me. Watch photos are always so much fun to shoot, but this one was particularly hard to setup since the watch kept falling over so easily!
It stands out to me mainly for the composition and focus. I probably could’ve switched out the props and brown felt for something different, but overall the warmth + metal definitely has a nice flow here.
It’s certainly one of my recent favorites that I hope to top soon!
Love this shot! I'm always impressed when photographers can bring warm and cool tones together so naturally. And geez, I can only imagine what you had to do to get that watch to sit still lol. Nice flecto, btw. ;)
There also couldn't be a greater contrast between that first post you shared and this one. Both are great shots, but it's cool to see how your personal aesthetic has really evolved. What would be one important lesson you've learned along the way that has completely changed the way you approach your work?
Something that has really stuck with me while pursuing this field, that I preach all of the time now, is that practice makes perfect. In the beginning I’d get frustrated when a shot would come out bad after spending hours creating it.
But honestly, practicing every day has helped me improve tenfold. Learn as much as you can from content online, but nothing will improve your skills better than actual practice.
Along with that, I’ve learned to have patience when shooting. Things don’t always click in the beginning, but once you get into the groove of things it’ll come easier.
Having patience and practicing are things I implement in my work constantly!
These are lessons I could’ve only learned after making mistakes over and over. The growth truly is in the journey!
Such important lessons for every creative. I think part of why I really enjoy the Instagram community is that it feels a lot like a sandbox for people to play and practice in the open. Your content certainly helps a lot with that.
Exactly! That’s mainly what I see this outlet as - a form of practice.
Okay let's cap it off with a super important question. If you were to be half human half animal, which animal would you choose and which half?
That’s super hard because my favorite animal is a blue whale, but I can’t see a whale/human hybrid hahaa.
Hmm, it’d be cool to be half owl. Perhaps I could have proportionate owl wings & keep my human body. Owls are said to be wise so maybe my brain would be part-owl too lol!
Oooh the mix and match strategy! I like. Although a half human half whale would be equally amazing lolll
That's a wrap! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions! 🙌
Thank you!! So glad to be a part of this new segment you’ve been doing. Honestly a big fan of all of the new implementations you’ve been releasing for @watchstudies!
Get your BTS fix and brush up on your photography skills by following Hazel on Instagram! You can also learn more about Medium Phormat and book a shoot at mediumphormat.com, or tune in to her podcast at podcast.mediumphormat.com.
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