Q: Can you start off by telling us a little bit about you and what you do?
Hello! My name’s Mary Baird, and I’m a 24-year-old photographer from Orange County, California. At the moment, my main gigs are product photography and leading the photo team at Eastside Christian Church in Anaheim.
Q: Where are you in life right now and how does that affect what you shoot?
I’d say I’m definitely in a period of transition.
I’ve been doing product photography for a little over four years now, but I know it’s not an area that I’d like to continue in forever. It’s time to make a change and create content in the area I’m genuinely passionate about doing.
Ultimately my dream is to do full-time freelance ministry work and travel as much and as often as I can. Painting a creative and different perspective of who Christ is, his love for us, and his beautiful creation for those who don’t know him and even for those that do is significant to me.
So I tend to shoot and share mainly images of nature, Eastside worship/portraits, and adventure photos that hopefully inspire others to get outside and see their surroundings in a new light.
Q: Tell us one of your most memorable stories working as a photographer:
So, I’ve always been big on utilizing Craigslist for finding photography jobs and gigs. I pretty much swear by it if you’re quick and know what to look for and at one point I was even refreshing the page every twenty minutes so that I could be the first to reply if something good came along.
I was committed, or probably more accurately, a bit obsessed with it. But long story short, because of my Craigslist obsession I ended up traveling with a team of veterinarians/wildlife photographers to the Altai Mountains of Mongolia in 2016 for two and a half weeks to help shoot a wildlife documentary on Golden Eagles and their nomadic Kazakh trainers.
It was an incredible experience, but one of my favorite memories from that trip has to do with four young Kazakh boys who found me alone at the base of the mountain while my team was climbing up to film the eagle’s nest.
I stayed behind to film the crew and the nest with the drone from below, so I think the boys must have seen it and were trying to look for the source of the strange flying object. They came up to me full of curiosity with huge smiles on their faces, and after a fumbling introduction which we all cracked up about because we couldn’t understand a lick of what the other was saying, they all sat down next to me and quietly watched as I flew the drone. Then the oldest looking boy whispered to the others, and they all ran away laughing through the hills. A couple of minutes later they came up from behind me with their hands behind their backs, giggling and smiling from ear to ear. The oldest boy walks up to me first and hands me a fistful of wildflowers they had just run all over the mountain picking for me. The rest lined up, and each gave me their fistfuls until I had a huge, colorful bouquet I could barely wrap my hands around.
That specific moment had little to do with photography, but I’ll never forget the joy I experienced from making that connection with those sweet kids.
It was an unforgettable experience.
Q: Describe one thing you wish everyone knew about photography:
Hmm… let’s see.
I think most photographers and creatives, in general, can relate to this.
I wish more people/potential clients understood and appreciated the value of our work.
Photography isn’t easy, gear is expensive, and there’s a lot of technical know-how we’ve had to learn through countless hours of shooting, editing, and experimenting.
Once I understood the value of my work and stopped selling myself short, from there, it was a lot easier to grow my business and find quality jobs with clients that appreciate and pay well for my creativity.
Q: Describe what keeps you going + creating:
Friends, family, and strangers I don’t even know but who show support for and appreciate my work are what keep me going.
I’m passionate about capturing moments that last forever, that can have a positive impact on someone’s life, and inspire others to create and live life to the fullest. So it makes me happy knowing that what I capture can potentially lead someone else to make a decision that brings them joy.
Oh and lots of coffee, that and my glasses that block out the harmful blue light from my computer screen while I edit; all good things that keep me going and creating.
Q: Describe your work + life balance:
Balancing work and life has its ups and downs, but overall I think they mesh pretty well together.
I’ve been freelancing since I was sixteen so most of my work doesn’t necessarily feel like work if that makes sense. It’s more so just a part of my life mainly because I love what I do. I get to be creative, go on adventures with friends, see beautiful places, tell the stories of people I interact with, and make a difference through visual communication.
I love it.
Q: Describe your work environment:
Well, I have several different work environments because of freelancing and volunteering. I set my hours and mainly work from home where I’ve set up a large, clean desk space full of natural light, plants, and my adorable orange cat named Julius.
It’s quite relaxing, and yes, I’m absolutely a cat lady and not ashamed to admit it.
I’ve been trying to work at coffee shops more often though to change up that environment and it also just helps me focus better when I’m not distracted by things at home. With the product photography, I’ll go into the studio to shoot when there are new products or find some cool places to shoot outside if I need to get some lifestyle/social media photos and then I’ll edit at home.
And when it comes to Eastside, well, I love it there. I have a little desk area in our green room next to my good friend, Vivian Lawrence, who *side note* is an amazing pianist, composer, and all around great person. Find him on social media; you won’t regret it! But, that area is my home base on the weekends when I’m shooting services and during the week when I come to hang out. Eastside is a home away from home, full of love, laughter, friendships, and work that truly matters because it ultimately deals with eternity.
Q: Can you describe where you find your inspiration?
I find a lot of my inspiration comes through the people I surround myself with –– photographers, cinematographers, musicians, adventurers –– the majority of my closest friends are creatives like myself and their work is incredible. They are the ones that inspire me to keep creating, challenge me to continue to better my work and improve, but most importantly they know how to make life and work fun, and that’s inspiring in itself.
Q: Did you always see yourself as a photographer?
At a young age, I knew that I didn’t want to compromise when it came to my career. I wanted to do something that would make me happy.
So when I was younger that consisted of me wanting to be a veterinarian, professional skateboarder, tennis player, BMX biker, helicopter pilot, and no joke, I would see empty buildings for sale and imagine how I would turn it into my perfect skate shop/coffee shop/music venue all-in-one.
In junior high, I was set on becoming an artist like my mom who used to draw and paint but soon realized it wasn’t for me. And then at some point in my early teens, my parents ended up buying me my first camera. It was just a cheap little $40 flip camcorder, but because of it, I fell in love with photography. There was nothing that made me happier than capturing what I saw in front of me and freezing it in time. I loved experimenting with different perspectives and trying to create something unique, and from then on I knew that life as a photographer would genuinely make me happy. I’ve never looked back since.
Q: Did you go to school for this? If so, are you satisfied with having gone or not gone? Why/why not?
My plan after high school was to go to community college and then transfer to an art school to get a bachelor in photography.
So I went to Cypress College because I knew they had a great photography program there. But when I hit that two-year mark it hit me. Why on earth would I spend $40k a year going to an art school to get a degree I don’t even need? The idea of putting myself in that much debt was out of the question, and it’s the quality of your work that matters most, not what degree you have.
So instead of continuing with school, I decided to jump straight into full-time freelancing. I’m happy I made that decision because I learned more through the first-hand experience and researching on my own than I ever did in a class setting. That was an enjoyable and exciting time in my life because I didn’t know exactly what type of photography I would ultimately love to do.
I tried it all from portraits to weddings, fashion, journalism, studio, travel, photo retouching, fine art, and events until I found what I loved. If I could give one piece of advice to new photographers, it would be to try everything! There are so many different avenues to experience, and by trying them out you’ll learn what areas you like, don’t like, and ultimately love.
Q: Describe your typical gear list? + What is one tool you could not live without?
I’ve never been the type to know a lot about or have a lot of gear.
Currently, the only gear I own and actively use are the Canon 6D, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, and a 13″ MacBook Pro. It’s all I need to create and get my work done. Eventually I’ll add some more lenses, but for now, the 24-70mm is the one piece of gear I can not live without. I did a lot of research before I purchased it back in 2015 and it is the perfect all around lens. It works great for portraits, landscapes, studio, macro, and many more situations but my favorite benefits are how well it works in low-light and the fact that it produces super sharp crisp images.
It was a pricey investment but one I’ll never regret.
Follow Mary on Instagram.