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Crafting Visual Aesthetics - Catherine Macbride

  • 5 min read


Catherine Macbride is a professional image photographer based in glorious and green, Dublin, Ireland. Her work has been used by: TED, INC., Time Magazine, Next, Bazaar, CNN, T-Mobile, Huff Post and various other outlets. Cat's bright and colorful imagery combined with the Lensbaby caught our eye. See more of her work here.

Tell us a little bit about who Catherine Macbride is?

I live in Dublin, Ireland with my husband and son. My background was in science, but I have always loved taking photos, becoming more and more hooked on it as the years go by. I've always been drawn to colour and patterns and really love paper - and taking photos of these things just seemed a natural progression. Over time I was surprised to find that people were willing to buy my images. I now have images with a number of agencies and was lucky enough to be able to give up the day job to concentrate on photography full time, how cool is that! I still often feel guilty that I get to do something I love so much as a job


I started a photo a day project on the 1st of January 2011 which involves taking a photo and posting it online. I haven't missed a single day. It's been a huge challenge but a great learning experience and using the Lensbaby has been a great way of adding variety to my project. It's the lens I turn to when I'm stuck for ideas as it seems to be able to help me take photos of really ordinary everyday objects and turn them into something more than the sum of their parts. The shot I took of a pile of books and a chair is a good example of this.


When & how did you first discover your passion for photography?

I've pretty much always had a camera. My dad took and developed his own photographs when I was a child and as a teenager I spent most of my pocket money buying and getting film developed. But it wasn't till I got my first decent digital camera (a Canon 300D from my father-in-law when he upgraded) that I found the joy of processing my own images. It opened my eyes to the potential I could control how the image looked from start to finish and that was probably the beginning of my real passion for photography.


Where do you derive your ideas for papercraft and the other colorful props you use to set the theme of your photos?

Most of my paper craft ideas come from the same place most of my games came when I was a child and I still have a fairly active imagination. I usually start with an idea for a story deciding what is happening in a particular scene. I then make it, set it up, play out the scene moving things around till they look right in the viewfinder and then photograph it. I find it interesting that a lot of the time people who see the image often see a very different story to the one I was intending them to see, but I like that.


Where do you get all of your little props and rainbow selection of trinkets?

Most of the props I use in my shots I have around my house, as I like to take photographs of normal everyday things in interesting ways. If I do buy something it's usually from the pound/euro store and I don't buy anything for a prop unless I can think of at least three shots from it. I also borrow lots of bits and pieces from my friends and family who thankfully don't seem to mind.


How did you first discover Lensbaby, and what optic is currently your favorite?

I have a great group of close photographer friends on Flickr. We talk regularly about things like camera gear, textures, photography ideas and Lensbaby. It's a piece of gear that I think pretty much all of us have in some shape or form now. The first thing I bought was the Composer Pro with the Sweet 35 Optic. I recently bought the Edge 80 optic too, I can't decided which is my favourite I think it depends on what I'm shooting.


Your style is bright, fun and colorful - have you developed this style of shooting and editing, or did it just come naturally?

My photography style is the complete opposite to how I dress, my family tell me I always look like I'm in mourning. My photography style is not something I went out to get but seems to be what I've ended up with.


Your husband is a photographer too, do you two ever collaborate or work together?

I love the fact that my husband Scott is a photographer too, it makes it much easier to take and talk about photography all the time. We have very different styles and I'm always amazed that we can go the same places and take shots that look so different. We haven't taken joint images (so far) but we do help each other out with our photographs. I'll step in for Scott when he is setting up his lighting and exposure and he'll usually end up holding a prop or a light for me. When we go out for coffee we bring our idea notebooks and bounce ideas off each other. It's a great way for working out our plans for a shot. It's a definite advantage.

What are your favorite Lensbaby images you've shot?

It's very hard to pick just one image, it changes every time I look at them - most of the time it's the latest image I've taken with it, although I am very fond of an image I took of my son's hands holding a toy camera. The colours in it just ping and the focus achieved with the Lensbaby really adds to it in my opinion.


I also like the paper scenes I've shot using it, it really gives the image a completely different focus which adds to the overall effect.

Could you describe the behind the scenes on shooting your favorite Lensbaby images?

My set ups are usually very simple. If I'm shooting with my Lensbaby most of the time I use daylight either outside or in my small north facing sunroom which gets great diffuse light most of the year round. I seem to always shoot with my Lensbaby wide, usually at F/2.8. I think it's because I feel comfortable there, it makes the world through the lens very like the world is when I take my glasses off (I have very bad eyesight). I can see things close up in tiny detail with everything else turning to blur. With the Lensbaby at 2.8 I can show people what I want them to see and let everything else melt and blur I think that blur is a great place for peoples' imagination to take over :)


Any tips for photographers new to Lensbaby and manual focus?

When I started using my Composer Pro with Sweet 35 first I used it with my camera on a tripod and with the LCD display instead of the viewfinder. I used the magnification tool to make sure I had the focus just right. It helped me get use to it but as time has progressed I've become a lot freer with it, first getting rid of the tripod and then trusting my ability to focus using the viewfinder.


Catherine Macbride shoots with the Composer Pro and Edge 80 and Sweet 35optics to create the effects seen in the above images.

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