This is the winning image for Alien Skin’s latest Photo of the Month contest. The photo-sharing theme of last month’s contest was carefree. Congratulations goes to Anna Smolens!

Judge

Our guest judge for the contest was photographer Kate Hailey. About the winning photo, she said, “What I love about this image is the creativity, the slight smile, the play with light and the flips of the hair. There’s a sense of joy and fantasy in one frame. As if from a book of fairy tales.”

Winner

We connected with equine and portrait photographer Anna Smolens. Learn more about her, below.

How did you get into photography?

Aside from a single photography class in high school, I have not officially studied photography or any other type of art. I went to school for equine studies and criminal justice. My dream was to be a mounted police officer, but after school, I was offered a job working with horses, and I have been doing that, in one way or another, ever since. I dabbled with photography in college, but I started shooting more seriously a few years ago.

Can you tell me about some of your favorite photos you have taken recently?

A few months ago, I upgraded my studio lighting to a more portable setup. Since then, I have been practicing working with them. The series of photos of my daughter, including the one that won this contest, was a fun exercise in mixing different types of light. Some of the shots I took are definitely on my favorites list! Second to that was shooting horses in motion in my studio. It was incredibly challenging, but the results were amazing.

Do you work with an assistant?

I try to work with an assistant as often as I can. Horses require an additional pair of hands to get good-looking expressions from the horse. For me, knowledge of horses is more valuable than photography know-how. If someone can push a horse to its limits without pushing it over, or if they know how to position a horse in the desired way, it is worth its weight in gold. And I won’t have to micromanage, which gives me more time to focus on the photography. It’s impossible to capture the split-second expressions of animals if you’re not ready.

How has Alien Skin’s software changed how you process photos?

I like to use Exposure to finish a lot of my photos, particularly my studio shots. It adds a little something that really makes my photos pop. I typically do basic edits in Lightroom, and I’ll bring the image to Photoshop for retouching if needed, but all the color grading happens in Exposure.

Learn more about Anna Smolens on her website, Facebook, or Instagram.

Runner Ups

There were so many great photos shared last month. Below are just a few of them. Thanks everyone who shared!