The MISSBISH Photography Workshop | Elise Swopes

Photographer: Elise Swopes

Instagram: @swopes

How has being based in Chicago aided your creativity?
Chicago is a bustling city of unique architecture, creative energy with museums and statues planted throughout its landscape, and a blossoming circle of amazingly cool and friendly people. It’s pretty easy to flourish when you truly love something and share that with a city that holds these characteristics so highly.

How did you get into photography? Can you tell us about your first experience?
I got into photography through Instagram by using my iPhone 4. It was a super tiny little thing and the output for photos was horribly small, so I was trapped in the space that was just viewing through an iPhone. I’m not even sure we could have seen the images on a computer at the time. Instagram was like this little secret community of creatives who made things with their iPhones.

Most agree that photography is all about capturing the moment. What's your secret?
I enjoy capturing the moment but I also like twisting it into something else. I’d say my not-so-secret secret is that whatever I shoot, I am looking for a space to do something interesting with. Whether it’s a perspective where I can edit a giraffe in the shot or put a waterfall through it, or simply a completely blue sky where I can add an ominous storm cloud instead.


"I figured if I become persistent enough in giving back what I needed myself, maybe that would cause me to be just as positive in my own life."

You do a lot of interesting collaborations. Tell us the story behind one of your favorites.
I do! I probably sound like a proud mother, but I love all my collaborations all the same… Haha, they’re all special in their own way... Nah, but to be quite honest - I think my few favorites have been the ones where I have been able to travel. It’s difficult to top swimming in waterfalls and going zip-lining in Costa Rica, taking trains and enjoying Shibuya, or riding camels and going to the top of the tallest building in the world in Dubai. It’s also difficult to pick between the plenty of those.

Your style is very unique as you're known for creating intricate edits made on your iPhone, how did you come to perfect this craft?
I’ve been creating digitally since I was a little kid. I had my first website when I was in 6th grade that taught others how to build their own websites. I was heavily into teaching myself how to code and create layouts on blogs and early social media like Myspace and Xanga. When I picked up mobile editing and shooting, it seemed like second nature to me. Granted I spent plenty of hours practicing and learning how to perfect my mobile craft, it is definitely something that I love and find passion doing.

What is a constant source of inspiration for you as a photographer?
My constant source is the weather! Living in Chicago definitely helps with this. The weather changes in a matter of minutes. Hah! I’m most inspired by a foggy, rainy day, but I do enjoy a good bright day for nice shadow play.

To date, who has been your greatest influence/mentor and what have you learned from them that you still carry with you to this day?
I’m grateful to have two really wonderful parents who have supported me throughout most of my creative decisions. I don’t think I would be doing what I do today without them buying the things I needed to keep creating. It’s hard to choose between them both for who has inspired me most, but they’ve both instilled the idea of hard work and to keep pushing through no matter what.

Your spirit on social media is always very caring, giving your fans motivation and life advice daily. How do you keep such a positive attitude?
I haven’t always been this way. I needed a personal change because I didn’t like the way my brain automatically went to the negative in some cases. I knew this wasn’t my character but just habit in thinking. I figured if I become persistent enough in giving back what I needed myself, maybe that would cause me to be just as positive in my own life. It’s been so rewarding to get messages from people or in person “thank yous” for sharing things I know I’ve needed to hear sometimes. I keep a positive attitude by practicing affirmations, writing down things that I love in a journal, and practicing good communication with others and yourself most importantly.

Can you give us three photography tips and explain each of them?
Always remember to wipe the iPhone lens before you shoot with it, your hands have a lot of sweat and oil in them and it causes the light and photos to look smudged.

Practice makes perfect when it comes to editing. The best thing about having all of this be digital is that we have an undo button and a redo button. Keep tapping things and seeing what works. There’s no loss!

Invest in a place of your own to show your work. Imagine all social media went away. What would you show someone? Build a website and create a hub where your people can come and enjoy just you with no distractions.

Finish the sentence...
If I weren't afraid, I would... swim more in big bodies of water.

I wouldn't be where I am today if... my parents weren’t so supportive.

I've been listening to... travis scott and new edition.

Kids these days... used to be a super dope band in Chicago.

I look and feel my best when... I’m matching. OCD gang!

When no one is looking I... watch a lot of reality TV.

Traveling is... life.

I respect... people who fight for the rights of others who can’t speak for themselves.

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