Interview with Marilyn Sholin

This week Red River Paper sent me an email to do an interview for the Digital Imaging Cafe. I thought it was so much fun to write and to think about their questions that it seemed like I should share it on the blog. So here’s the interview and when it’s actually posted on the site I’ll add the link to it also.


Marilyn Sholin

PPA: Master Craftsman Photographer, CPP

Corel Painter Master

Author, Artist & Educator

1. What is the most valuable advice that you had received and found most useful in your career?

Advice comes cheap doesn’t it? But valuable advice comes rarely! I was extremely lucky to have a mentor early in my career who gave me advice I have tried to follow for over twenty five years. He said to always follow my own creative style and not to let education change my style. He emphasized to me that education in photography should be about learning the techniques but not to let that infringe on my own style. Don’t try to copy what others are doing instead use the technology to create your own visions.

He also taught me that the more we give back to teach others, the more we learn ourselves. That is why I enjoy teaching and speaking so much. I get to meet others at different places in their careers and to join them on their journeys and become a part of it. There is nothing more exciting than to see the light bulbs starting going on in people’s heads while teaching!

2. What is the most important thing you could teach another photographer about succeeding in photography, whether technical, business or artistically?

I absolutely try to leave everyone I meet with this one piece from my own life. BE FEARLESS!

Learn that everyone is afraid! Fear is what holds back success. Get over the fear and just do it, try it, shoot it and show it. Nothing bad will come from it. The most successful people have learned from their failures. Failures are a learning experience. Never stop creating no matter what it is. Whether it’s a day spent in the kitchen cooking or out shooting flowers or working on an image in digital image programs….it’s all about creativity in your entire life. Go visit other studios, galleries and museums to keep the creativity alive! Take notes, draw sketches even if you can’t draw. Make yourself unafraid to try things you never did before.

Fear=Absolute Failure from lack of exploration.

3. Which is more important to you…composition or content? Why?

Without composition there is no content. Composition is what leads the eye through the image and creates the content and transfers it to the brain. Content could be a glass of water but when it is put off center and maybe a leading line to it with background interest it becomes composition that creates the art. Without all that, it’s just a glass of water.

4. Are there certain mistakes made in your career that have taught you important lessons? If so, what?

Oh wow, which one of my gadzillion mistakes should I talk about here? Mistakes are what make a career! I always tell new artists and photographers that the number one mistake I made starting out was not charging enough for my work. It took too long to raise those prices and get into a new clientele in the right price market. Start out at the beginning to charge what is right, not what you think you are worth! Compare your prices with the best in your market and set your own prices reasonably similar. What matters is not how good you think you are, but how you present yourself to the market and where you put yourself in the marketplace. Wherever you start makes it harder to change later.

5. Was there a particular photo that inspired you to become a photographer? Is it your own or someone else’s? Can you show or describe it to us and explain how it moved you?

My inspiration for visual arts and photography was my family. As a child my mother took me to all the museums in New York City and had art books all over our house. She had art on the walls and also had 16×20 black and white portraits on the wall in the living room of my brothers and myself. My mother had a great joy and love of photography and all visual arts and passed that on to me. As a child I thought I could never be an “artist” because I couldn’t draw. Instead I opted for photography which was very much a part of our lives. My brothers had a darkroom in the house and my uncle had one of the first Polaroid cameras. My mother always hired the local town photographer for family events and cameras were always a part of our lives. So I started out as a photographer and for my sixteenth birthday I got my first camera that was all mine. I became the family photographer and gradually moved up to classes in 35mm and developing and printing my own work.

When I discovered Corel Painter software my life became complete because I could finally do with it what my mind had been seeing whenever I photographed. I always looked through the camera and saw much more than was there but had no idea how to make it more “my own” and not just a photo. With the current digital painting world I am now able to fully realize the art I always wanted to create. My influences now are more in the painting world than the photography world.

6. If it was your last day on earth, what would you want to photograph?

Color COLOR and more COLOR. Color is life to me. If it was my last day on earth I would want it to be the height of fall colors in the mountains and that is what I would want to photograph and paint. I live for color now and the ways to bend it and make it my own.

For more information about Marilyn and digital painting visit one of her web sites.

Marilyn’s Events, Workshops, Webinairs and Online Classes


The Art of Digital Photo Painting: Using Popular Software to Create Masterpieces (A Lark Photography Book) (Paperback)

by Marilyn Sholin (Author)

Studio Portrait Photography of Children and Babies (Paperback)

by Marilyn Sholin (Author)

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