Pamela Salai is known for putting others front and center as one of Pittsburgh’s premiere family photographers. Rarely is she put in the spotlight! Having the opportunity to work with Pam for my own maternity shoot, I wanted to chat about what goes on “behind-the-lens.” Her work is definitely captured in a unique light and setting. With Pam, anything goes.
From real live unicorns to whimsical, casual merry-go-rounds in the park, photography is made magical. What I love most about her work is that she captures the fairytale that every child sees. She really sees the world from the eyes of a child – a wild, magical and wondrous place.
Known for her imagination and keen eye for detail, Pam recently released a Magazine on how she built her name in photography, Mastering Minis. Taking her teachings to the next level, she is launching a LIVE Mentor Class from June 24-30.
Doing what I do best, shedding light on awesome girl bosses, I wanted to spotlight Pam and her effort to mentor and guide fellow photographers! Read my “Behind the Lens with Pamela Salai” interview to really get to know all of the effort that goes behind these phenomenal shoots.
Can you walk me through your design process for your sets? What is typically involved in building a set?
I would love too! Let’s reference one of my most sought after mini sessions sets “Daydream Minis.”
For my daydream mini session I knew I wanted it to be super whimsical and look like a dream, during the day – lol. When I created my first idea for this 2014, I did it outside. I had a tent, some fluff for clouds, a huge moon that my husband cut out of wood from a drawing, I threw in some pillows and hung stars from a tree. It was super cute…but I was still learning my style with editing and shooting.
I continued to work on the idea every year moving it indoors. I rented a studio and eliminated the tent and rented a couch…It wasn’t until like 2016 that I nailed the look for these mini’s. Now, I couldn’t even imagine them any other way.
All of my sets start with a dream or a vision.
Once I have this idea floating around in my head I start to draw it out on paper. This way I can add/tweak things as I go along. *not every vision gets implemented as I visioned – sometimes they actually turn out better than I thought.
After getting it down on paper and clipping out of magazines or drawing in props that I want I start searching or “making” those props needed.
My garage or basement ends up becoming my “staging” area (even though I have a studio – I rent it out so I can’t just run down there and set things up as easily as your think with one that has a studio )
Where do you find inspiration for your set designs?
All over. Mostly in my head. I have honestly always been a creator and my imagination runs on full octane. However, sometimes these inspirations can be sparked from something I see. A book. A postcard ( mostly the vintage ones get my wheels turning). A magazine ad. a commercial or even sometimes just something that I had drawn in my notebook years ago and bring it to life.
Your work is definitely different than most photographers and I think a lot of that is owed to vision. How would you describe your style?
Aw, well thank you. I think the best way to describe it – is what I have been told. Light and airy, whimsical, magical. I am a story teller and I love to tell stories with imagination being the key behind it all. So my visions are fueled by my clients wants and needs. If it’s one of my exclusive mini sessions, such as “daydream minis” – those come straight from me. If it’s a full session I do a Q & A with my client this helps me create a vision that is meaningful to them. So when they look through their album it sparks a memory, a time in their life where I captured it & saved it on the pages for them to flip through for years.
Let’s talk costumes! Do you offer all clients dresses? Where do you shop?
Ekkk one of my favorite parts. I am such a girly girl and I really truly believe that the clients outfits makes a statement so it has to be perfect and “fitting ” for the set. I do not have a specific place I shop because I have so many places that I love and each ones serves a different purpose. However, I do have a curated client closet that I have had for 5 years and have been building on each year. So if we do not find the perfect thing in my closet then I help them find it whether that means renting, buying or sometimes even having it custom-made. For my daydream mini sessions, I bring a huge rack of clothing for the girls and boys to pick from. It’s really fun for them because they feel like they are playing dress up.
What about props – how do you pick out props?
I don’t always find what I want so I will make it or refurbish something that I have. I am all about re-purposing ( props can get expensive). Having 2 girls & a boy, I do sometimes “borrow” things from their room. However, I do love vintage shopping so I am always on the look out for cool unique items where-=ever I am. I book out 3-4 months in advance so I have a good idea on 1/2 of my year anytime I am out so I know in my head what to look for.
Want to know more about the details and how to make a shoot set work? Pam is spilling her secrets!
Pamela Salai | Pamela Salai Photograghy is releasing :
ⓜⓐⓢⓣⓔⓡⓘⓝⓖ ⓜⓘⓝⓘⓢ мenтor lιve claѕѕ jυne 24-30!!!
can be found below and also on the Hello Storyteller platform
Featured inside the magazine : mini sessions from start to finish , a peek inside one of my magical mini sessions, Tips, How to find inspiration, How to make profit and more…
What is included in this Mentor Live ???
In my bag
Q & A
Pam will pull ⓞⓝⓔ lucky name on the 30th from everyone who is in her class to win a swag bag including :
a free annual membership from @ summerana actions ( I will link FB for FB & IG for IG )
printed version of the magazine
along with a fun magical swag bag filled with magical goodies