Behind the Lens: Meet Chicago Photographer, Victoria Gamlen

By Emily Merrell

Have you ever flipped through an issue of Vogue and thought how insanely gorgeous the pictures are? Victoria Gamlen has a vision to make sure everyone feels like they are in an issue of Vogue. Unlike standard event photography, Victoria emphasizes a whole experience where the individual gets their hair and makeup done and goes all out. Learn more about her love of photography below.

Victoria Gamlen, courtesy of Victoria Gamlen

SDS: What drew you to photography and what type of photos do you like to take?

VICTORIA GAMLEN: I think I’ve always been drawn to it. But I never really allowed myself to pursue it until a couple years ago, when I found myself without an answer to “What do you like to do for fun?” I remember always asking my mom if I could take a picture on the “family camera” (remember those?) I just loved the feeling of the click of the shutter. Similarly, I’ve been studying images since I was young as well, whether it was on billboards or magazines. I’m really drawn to the boldness of commercial and editorial photography. I think the reason I continue to pursue it past the honeymoon phase of a new hobby is the intellectual and artistic stimulation it provides.

As far as what type of photos I take, professionally I shoot portraits and lifestyle, but am looking to do more commercial photography.

SDS: As a photographer specializing in portraits and headshots, can you educate us on how those styles of photos vary from a normal photo shoot?

VG: Yes! Technically, I think that any picture of a person is a portrait. But to me, a headshot represents how you are viewed by the world on a professional level and a portrait is how you want to be viewed by the world on a personal level. There’s also a difference in quality and quantity between headshots and portraits. Headshot sessions are pretty quick and the client receives no more than three images. A portrait session includes more pre-consultation to really get a feel for who the client is and they’ll receive at least 8 images from their shoot.

SDS: You’d once mentioned to me that you want everyone to have an editorial moment when getting their picture taken. Do you have an tips on questions for individuals to ask when booking this type of photography?

VG: First off, find a photographer you connect with and not just one whose work you like. Second, know that your photos aren’t going to look the same as the photos in the photographer’s portfolio or on their Instagram. Sure, they might be the same editing style, but it’s similar to when you show your stylist pictures of a celebrity’s hairstyle you like. No style is going to look the same as it does as Carrie Underwood. It’s not the photographer’s job to make you look like someone else, just the you-est version of you.

Third, professional makeup is a life changer. If you’re nervous about getting your makeup done, ask your photographer which makeup artist they’re going to have working on you and look at their work to make sure you’re comfortable with it. Be aware that many makeup artists also do weddings but that doesn’t mean they only know how to do bridal. If you like the makeup in the photographer’s work, that’s the kind of look they’ll be doing for you, not a bridal look (unless that’s what you want!) Lastly, your picture is a big deal. There’s something very bold about having your picture taken. It takes a lot of courage. So don’t discount any nervousness or fear. They’re all more than valid.

SDS: With our worlds being super digital, what are your feelings of printing photos?

VG: So important! Digital is awesome, don’t get me wrong. I feel like this idea of hating on digital things in general and the instantaneousness of our world (the first world at least) has been been in the zeitgeist for awhile now and I really don’t want to subscribe to it. Technology is awesome. Can it be used in not awesome ways? Absolutely. So can a lot of things. *Gets off soap box.*

That being said, printing is SO important. So many photographers just offer digital versions for downloads or it’s on a thumb drive. But what people don’t realize is that computers and thumb drives are corruptible, they don’t last forever. Something could happen to a print, but putting an archival quality photo somewhere safe has a much longer lifespan than a thumb drive. Also, there’s just nothing better than looking at old photos. What are you going to look at? What are you going to pass down to your kids and family? I don’t want to leave a thumb drive behind. The bottom line is, there’s nothing better than looking through old photographs. So print your photos, people! You won’t regret it.

SDS: What are you looking forward to most in 2019?

VG: Spring (Chicago winter joke). But getting into commercial and editorial photography. I love shooting “normal” people and helping them find a new or forgotten version of their beauty, but I also really like shooting with models. So I’m hoping to explore more of that this coming year.


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