Three years ago, JaiMaria Howard received a Canon t5i for Christmas. She wanted to make videos, but her friends had other ideas – they wanted her to take photos of them. This led her to taking Intro to Digital Photo and Intermediate Digital Photography classes at The Light Factory. She recently received second place in this year’s annual members’ show, for a photograph of her sister. JaiMaria, 15, answered a few questions for the Observer’s KNOW series; responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
What inspired you to take this photo? I took the photo of my sister, Madison, in June. I was letting my dog outside, and I could see the sun shining on a section of the fence. I asked Madison if I could take pictures of her. We played music, she did what she did, and I did what I did with the camera. We broke a part of the fence in the process.
When I went to edit, I did a lot to that one image. The colors are really what makes it happen in the picture.
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What’s something you’d want people to know before they see your photos? A lot of the time, I don’t have a set focus on what I want to create. And if I do have a focus, it usually goes out the window two seconds after I begin a shoot. I want people to know that much of my work is spontaneous. I take a subject, my camera and a location and create.
What about the work you’re doing right now makes you most proud? What makes me most proud is my growth. When I look at pictures I took six months ago, I see how I’ve improved from taking classes and practicing. I’ve learned technical things like when is the right time to take pictures and how to use Photoshop.
Have you learned any lessons? Shooting RAW (a photo format like jpeg) allows you to have more freedom with blues, greens and reds during the editing process, which is my favorite part of photography.
Another lesson is anything is worth a picture. With the right angles and lighting, you can make any background beautiful. I’ve taken pictures in run-down parking lots, but with the right timing and angles, you can make a beautiful image. With editing on top of that, you can make it look like you shot it in Paris in the spring.
What’s something that might surprise people? My favorite part about editing is comparing the final product to what came straight out of the camera because it’s a pretty drastic difference. Being able to take something that was kind of OK and turn it into something that’s really great is a lot of fun.
What does the Charlotte arts scene need most right now, in your view? Charlotte needs more originality. You see a lot of styles of art, but we’ve seen it so many times. I think people who create art should create from the heart. If your heart is telling you to recreate a style, do it and add your own flair.
This story is part of an Observer underwriting project with the Thrive Campaign for the Arts, supporting arts journalism in Charlotte.