Spotlight: Elizabeth Messina


Elizabeth Messina is an award winning artist and passionate photographer. Her images are powerful and intimate, a sublime balance between light, composition and emotion. Sought after by a discerning clientele, Elizabeth’s images have graced the covers & pages of countless magazines and books. Elizabeth was named "one of the best wedding photographers in the world" by Vogue Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar, and her work often takes her to the far corners of the world. Although she’s often in creative pursuit, camera in hand, she’s most happy in the presence with those she loves. When Elizabeth isn’t making photographs you’ll find her at home in Southern California with her husband, three children, two dogs and a strong cup of coffee.

Recent Publications

First, tell us a little about yourself. What is your background, how long have you been a photographer, and what type of photography do you specialize in?

I fell in love with photography at the tender age of twelve when my mother gave me my first camera. Several years later, I earned a BFA from The San Francisco Arte Institute. From the time I first held a camera until now, I have had a deep love for creating images. I specialize in creating luminous natural light photographs. Over the years, I think many people now know my intimate portraiture, weddings, fashion and images of women and children. I adore capturing beautiful images of women of all ages and I am currently working on a personal project focusing on women. In addition to photography, much of my time is spent with my family. I am a happily married mother of three. We live in Southern California with our two dogs Luna & Margaux.

Why did you get into photography, and what inspires you?

As a child, I was very shy and introverted. Photography gave me a voice, a quiet language that helped me understand and interact with the world around me. That remains true for me today as well. Photography is the language of memories. I am filled with genuine gratitude that so many people hire me to capture the meaningful moments in their lives. Its a wonderful responsibility. Inspiration can come from many places. Sometimes, I find inspiration in my children, other times in design and art, sometimes its simply the light coming through a window. I also find it important to immerse yourself and simply work as an artist. Inspiration can often come while you are in the process of working. As you interact with your subject, and compose images, you become part of the inspiration you need. The act of observing and doing, as well as making mistakes, can be very powerful.

Can you give us some insight into your shooting techniques? What are the top 3 most important elements when you shoot film?

I think the three most important elements of a film photographer are light, composition and connection. Light is breath to a photograph. The intensity, direction and quality of light has great impact on all imagery. I think seeing light, not just through your lens, but with your eyes, is a great tool. The more you are aware of light and how it works with your photographs, the more consistent and capable you will be as a photographer. I often am drawn to gentle natural light. My rebuilt natural light studio in Southern California is full of windows, so that I can make photos virtually all day, any day. (You can check out Elizabeth’s studio in Domino Magazine & Rangefinder Magazine). Composition is also an incredibly important element in a photograph. I prefer clean and simple compositions, anchored in balance. I prefer when composition feels effortless (although it often takes a lot of effort). I think light and composition are inextricably connected, they work together. I also find connection with my subject very important, especially as a film photographer. Much of the work evaluating light and exposure, composition and balance are nothing without a genuine connection, even if just for a moment. A photograph is part magic and part science. The magic is most evident when you look at an image and feel something.

Why do you shoot film? Any advice to others?

When I fell in love with photography, there was no digital option. While learning at The San Francisco Art Institute, I spent many late nights under a red light printing my own film images. My love affair with photography has its roots in film photography. I think it is valuable for every photographer to shoot film. As you cannot “check” the back of your camera while you shoot, you are forced to remain fully in the moment. This I think challenges any photographer to constantly be connected to light and composition. This flexes a muscle you are not forced to use while using a digital camera. Digital photography is its own kind of magic of course. I think the skills and discipline you get from shooting film are useful even when you are working with a digital camera. I also truly love the look and feel of film. Film is beautifully imperfect. Although there are many wonderful tools and presets that can mimic the feel and quality of film, I still love an authentic film image, composed and exposed in camera. As a photographer I think its worthwhile to learn and try new things. Do not be afraid to shoot film or try something new.

What are your biggest influences?

There are several iconic photographers that I truly admire. I adore Paolo Roversi, Deborah Tuberville, Sally Mann, Tim Walker, Rodney Smith, Sarah Moon and so many more. I have a board on Pinterest called “ADORATION” where I have a folder of some of their work. I also love painters like Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. As an artist, I think it’s beneficial to be aware off and honor those who came before us. I am also deeply influenced by music. Whether is Cesaria Evora or Kendrick Lamar, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Fleetwood Mac or Rhianna, I am often most creative while listening to music. I usually play R&B while shooting in my studio, loud hip hop while driving, and more mellow music while cooking.

Any recent photos, shoots, upcoming projects, or photography plans that you're excited about and would like to share with us?

I recently photographed a cookbook with actress Sasha Pieterse in my home studio. “Sasha, In Good Taste” will be available October 2019. I am, as I mentioned earlier, working on a collection of images of women of all ages and ethnicities. I hope to turn this personal project into a book someday soon. I have several beautiful wedding celebrations, including an intimate destination wedding in Tuscany coming up, as well as several portrait, boudoir and pregnancy shoots planned in my studio.

What's your favorite photo or session you've ever taken on Fujifilm?

Oh it would be impossible to pick one. Each shoot is part of me and I love them all.