Originally from San Antonino, Texas, Angela Lynn Pencsak traveled the world with a military family. She returned to her roots and is now the vice president of the San Antonio Professional Photographers. With a life steeped in photography, it shouldn’t be a surprise she will be the organization’s president next year.
As a child, Pencsak shot film, and was eventually a yearbook staff photographer in high school. As an adult, she became a district manager for Sears Portrait Studios, which was where she developed her passion for photographing children. “It didn’t teach me much about photography, but it taught me everything about managing a studio and customer service,” she says.
She then went to college for business—not photography—which she says was “a very smart decision.” Her business skills primed her to run the retail studio she currently has, Angela Lynn Portraits, complete with staff. She also credits joining Professional Photographers of America and attending every convention and seminar she could. “Even though I have a background in photography, I never stop learning,” she says. “I just continue my education.”
All that learning continues to pay off. The first time Pencsak entered an international competition, even though she claims she didn’t know what she was doing, she recieved four merits out of four, which won her Photographer of the Year from PPA. Last year she attained the rank of Master Photographer from PPA.
Pencsak’s studio specializes in maternity and newborn photography. Estimating that 90 percent of her work falls into those two groups, she takes other assignments as varied as photographing beauty pageant contestants and volunteering with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, the Down Syndrome Association, and The Heart Gallery.
Preferring to work in her studio primarily because she has a controlled lighting environment, Pencsak uses a range of gear to help her stay on top of her local market. Her main camera bodies are Canon EOS 5D Mark II models. Her lenses are all from the Canon L series, including an 85mm, an f/2.8 100mm, a 50mm, an f/2.8 70-200mm, and a 17-40mm. A Sekonic L-358 helps her dial in correct exposures. Her lights are fired by PocketWizard Plus II radio triggers. Profoto D1 500 units are the lights she relies on. “I love the way they’re made,” she says. “I love the case they came in. If I have to go on location, I feel like everything can be packed real safely. That’s a big deal because fore with my old lights—I can’t even compare the quality. I kind of feel like I now have the Louis Vuittons of lighting,” she says laughing.
“I usually use these lights for the main light with a four by six softbox, and then I will have a strip light or two in the back. With babies, I usually only need one. I always like to have some kind of kicker light on my portraits. In my studio work, I often have some kind of rim lights. I really love that separation of a rim light on — even on a baby’s head, or on anything. If I can’t achieve that with a kicker, I’ll even put a reflector back there, or I’ll use the natural light in the back and then use the strobe in the front.”
Although flat lighting has come into style with some new photographers, Pencsak prefers the drama of high ratio lighting, even on newborns. Getting the look she wants with each subject doesn’t make for a fast photo shoot. “It’s a long process. It’s not a fast session,” she says. “It’s a lot of patience—lots and lots of patience. I always tell parents the biggest thing in newborn and maternity photography is your relationship with the client and them feeling like you’re their best friend. You are in control and know what you’re doing. You’re patient and nothing’s going to bother you. I always tell them, especially ones who have a toddler and a newborn and they come in, and if they’re a first-time client, ‘Look, this is going to take a while. I’m patient. Don’t worry about it. And it’s not going to go perfect, and your child’s not going to be in the mood you want them to be in. Don’t worry, we’re going to make it happen.’ I always, always have an assistant in there with me. I need a hand on the baby and a hand on the camera, and I can’t be all the hands.”
To keep things interesting, Pencsak dabbles in shooting food photography and architectural photography, but she has no plans to make a career switch from maternity and newborns any time soon. Pencsak will be teaching this September at the Austin PPA meeting. You can bet her lectures will focus on how she became the area’s most successful maternity and newborn photographer.
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