Award-winning Australia photographer Lisa Michele Burns has built a career on her vivid interpretations of love and landscapes. She has captured more than 300 weddings and destinations across Australia, Europe, Asia and Africa, earning a reputation for her colourful, joyful style and her creative approach to popular destinations.
With a background in journalism, it was a summer job spent in the water, photographing dolphins off Moreton Island, Australia, that sparked Burns’ passion for photography. Her photos from Morocco, taken while on a writing assignment for Lonely Planet, were picked up by the guidebook behemoth, which led to a string of freelance assignments for Lonely Planet around Europe. She returned to Australia and set up her own landscape gallery on Hayman Island, which she owned and managed for six years. Today, she works as a freelance photographer for her company, The Wandering Lens, and is currently working on projects in France.
What was your career path – how did you go from aspiring photographer to professional?
The moment that kick-started my career was when I travelled as a writer with Lonely Planet to Marrakech, Morocco. They ended up using my images in an online photo feature and I then did a variety of freelance assignments as a photographer around Europe for the Lonely Planet website. I didn’t feel completely professional until I opened my own landscape gallery in 2009, then I felt like a proper grown up because I actually had to learn fast about the business side of being a photographer, the not so fun part! I photographed landscapes, weddings, events, portraits and had my gallery of landscape prints and photo souvenirs open 7 days a week on Hayman Island, a luxury five-star resort on the Great Barrier Reef. After six years of working every single day of the year, including Christmas (boo!), I now work freelance with my company The Wandering Lens and am travelling the world partnering with tourism boards and travel brands to promote destinations through photographs.
What is your favourite piece of photography equipment?
My underwater housing. Taking photos underwater has changed the way I see the world and being able to put my Nikon D800 camera inside the housing ensures I can take high-quality images in the water without worrying about it getting wet.
What is your favourite photography rule to break?
I’ve never been one to follow rules in photography but that’s because I didn’t learn any as I’ve had no formal training. Learning how to use your camera in a way that creates the images you want is what it’s all about, cameras can do so many things so get creative and see what works for you. Ditching the tripod is probably my favourite ‘rule’ to break, climb a tree, lay on the ground, get wet…don’t be afraid to get dirty for a great photo!
How would you describe your style?
Colourful and warm. I love working with landscapes in the golden hours when the light is warm and the colours are rich. When it comes to my underwater photography I get a little addicted to the split-level style, capturing the underwater world and the scenery above the water level in the same image.
What inspires you as a photographer? Within or outside the photography world.
Landscapes and light are what keep me reaching for my camera. I’ve never really been a city or street photographer, I’m much more inspired by beaches, mountains, lakes, the ocean…pretty much anything outdoors. I recently saw the Northern Lights for the first time in Sweden and that has definitely inspired me to seek out colder destinations for photography alongside my wanderlust for tropical islands!
Which photographers influenced you? How did they influence your approach?
When I started out in photography it was the iconic photographers that shot Lonely Planet and National Geographic covers that I idolised…I used to picture my photo on the cover and if I couldn’t see it, then I’d just keep trying until I got one half as good. Now I’m influenced by the places I visit, I try to look at maps before I visit to plan which locations I think would be great for sunrise, sunset and then which ones would look great from the water for my The World from The Water project.
What motivates you to keep taking photos?
It’s a big world and I’m yet to photograph most of it! Knowing that there will always destinations I haven’t seen keeps me going. Social media has been a huge game changer in motivation too. Following amazing travel accounts on Instagram makes me feel like I’m missing out so I’m constantly trying to plan new adventures because they’re popping up on my feed every single day!