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Don’t tell her I said it but I’ve had a bit of a girl-crush on Tania Quintanilla since I first saw her impeccably polished beauty shots from one of her collaborations with top Austin make up artist, Maris Malone Calderon. Now, every time I talk to Tania I realize we have more and more in common besides fashion photography; a love of red lipstick (hers Nars Red Lizard, mine, MAC Rocker,) the same favorite taco joint -Taco More, favorite flower – peony, fashionista vs geek personalities, undergrad studies in biochemistry, and a semi-secret love for vampire novels.

Tania is originally from Monterrey, Mexico but her family moved to San Antonio in 1985, “Just in time for me to memorize Top Gun and all the lyrics to Whitney Houston, the album.” She began studying photography in Texas, later moved on to Brooks Institute in California, started her career in Miami, and came back full circle as one of the best fashion photographers in Austin.

How did you get your start in photography?
I had a crush on this guy in high school that carried around a camera. I decided to take a photography class to get to know him. Turns out he was on the yearbook staff, so I fell in love with the darkroom instead. I guess I was a natural because I would get asked to shoot events all thru high school and then when I was in college getting my biochemistry degree I worked for the newspaper as the staff photographer. Once I graduated I decided to learn how to really use a flash, so I went to Brooks Institute of Photography in California where the program consists of 3 years of intensive (boot camp-like) photography education. I moved to Miami to work on my fashion portfolio and the rest is history.

Texas has soul.  Not sure if it’s the spicy food, the big skies, or the music, but it drew me back.  I love it here.  There is still a little WILD WEST feel in Texas.

Who has influenced you?
I was really lucky in school. My high school teacher, Art McNicols, really believed in me and pushed me in the right direction. Then in photography school I met TC Reiner, he is a lighting genius and an impossible teacher to please, so naturally I love him. He would make you cry in one sentence and change your life in the next. He teaches me still.

What was your best career decision?
Moving to Miami instead of NYC straight out of school. TC Reiner told me Miami was filled with talent and photographers don’t live there. He was right. I had access to great models and crew, great assisting jobs, and the competition living in town was small. I built a great client base and a solid portfolio before I moved back home to Austin.

How has the move changed your career?
I loved Miami, and I go back a lot, but I missed the people in Austin.  I think my career suffered a bit when I moved to Austin but I feel more inspired here.  The fashion world is tiny in Austin.  When people in my industry reach a certain level they tend to move to New York or California.  Just last year I lost six of my regular crewmembers.  The good news is Austin is still full of incredible talent.  I have worked with some big shots in the hair and makeup industry here.  Local models that I photographed are making it big around the world.  Most just love living in Austin and travel for work.

People are creative here.  They understand the creative process and they support it.  In Miami you can’t put your tripod on the beach without having to pay a permit.

You say that you feel more inspired in Austin, can you elaborate on that?
I feel more inspired in Texas than any other place I’ve lived because the people here keep me happy and sane.  In Austin you can start a conversation with a barista in some random coffee shop who also has a PhD in rocket science.  People are creative here.  They understand the creative process and they support it.  In Miami you can’t put your tripod on the beach without having to pay a permit.  (NO OFFENSE, Miami.)  Texas has soul.  Not sure if its the spicy food, the big skies, or the music, but it drew me back.  I love it here.  There is still a little WILD WEST feel in Texas. It’s freeing.

Your retouching skills are pretty mind-blowing. How did you learn and how long do you typically spend retouching one beauty shot?
I have to admit I’m a little bit of a weird nerd.  I grew up on video games and Vogue magazine.   I always wanted to be a one of those kids who could draw, but I didn’t have the patience.  When I was introduced to Photoshop 10 years ago, my world opened up.  I took all the classes my school offered and would play with my images for hours.  Then out of college, I attended seminars, bought tutorials, and practiced.  Once you know something is possible you can find a way to make it happen.  These days for a really complicated beauty image it might take me 3 hours to retouch.

Once you know something is possible you can find a way to make it happen.

How do you manage the business side of photography? Do you send email blasts and postcards? 
No, I try a little, sometimes, but most of my work comes from pimping out my portfolio.  I am always updating my website and blog.  I try to keep up with my social media.  I get a lot of work from referrals.  When I get a couple of weeks off, I am going to implement some sort of marketing e-blast thru Agency Access.  Also, I am currently represented by Wonderful Machine, and they seem to be getting the work out.

 

 

 

 

How do you feel that social media has changed photography, good or bad? Do you Instagram? 
I love to Instagram, hate to Twitter, and I feel neutral about Facebook.   I do think social media is the future of advertising.  As for personal marketing, the key is to get the followers with influence.  I’m not sure I have that yet.  I do plan to one day get smarter about my social media.  For now, I’m just participating on the sidelines.  

What would your dream assignment be?
I love any assignment that will take me, and my pick of an excellent crew, to wild locations hidden around the world.  Also, I love to shoot big hair and makeup ad campaigns.

 I do think social media is the future of advertising.  As for personal marketing, the key is to get the followers with influence.

Any horror stories?
I’ve had models faint on set, clients cancel shoots because of one word on a contract, missed flights, and shoots in 110 degrees with swamps of mosquitos.  It’s all part of the job.

What is next for your career?
I hope to keep my home base here and split my time between Austin and NYC.  Austin is growing so much but I would really have to focus on lifestyle to flourish in Austin’s advertising Industry.  I’m more of a fashion and beauty photographer and that kind of work is limited here.  I’m also looking for more aggressive representation.

Do you have a favorite Texas place to shoot, visit, or find inspiration when you are not working in the studio?
I love the old architecture of downtown San Antonio.  I love to shoot in the hill country.  Have you been to Hamilton Pool?  It’s like fairies and unicorns live there.

I’ve had models faint on set, clients cancel shoots because of one word on a contract, missed flights, and shoots in 110 degrees with swamps of mosquitos.  It’s all part of the job.

What would you be doing if you were not a photographer?  
This question scares me.  In an alternate universe sits a girl in a biochem lab studying genetics that looks just like me.  I don’t think she’s happy though.

What are some of your other hobbies? What do you enjoy doing when you are not shooting?  I am obsessed with ceramics.  I love hand building and anything Raku. I’m also still addicted to vampire novels.  I know that boat has sailed for most but when the time comes to be tested on my vampire knowledge I could write a thesis.  My new love is paddle boarding on the lake.  LOVE, LOVE the summer fun!!!

 

 

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5 Responses to “Tania Quintanilla”

  1. Tania, I am very proud of you ! I have enjoyed a lot reading this interview, I love your photos and your dedication to do everything wounderful

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