Member of the Month Alison Carlino

by Nayeli Pagaza

Alison Carlino

September 01, 2011 — Alison Carlino was born to succeed in the art world. Her talent for playing flute won her a music scholarship to the University of Louisiana at Lafayatte – and now she is conquering the photography industry with her bold and edgy imagery.  Since it was started eight years ago, Carlino's Photography has expanded frombaby and high school senior portraits to elaborate wedding photos, international corporate images and fashion shots.

Currently, she is partnering up with a well known, high-end women's bag and clothing store based in Houston, TX. "I can't disclose the name of the store yet because we are still working in the final details of the contract but I will be in charge of creating marketing material that could be used as advertisements in Houston magazines," Carlino says.

She is also introducing her new brand, Alison Faith Weddings & Seniors, which includes her newest fashion and wedding photographs.  "I am very excited because I am beginning this new venture into doing more edgy photography," she says.

One of her upcoming projects includes a fashion shoot at the Houston Municipal Air Terminal this fall. "We are renting out space at The 1940 Air Terminal Museum for two weeks and using the art deco architecture to create a retro and vintage fashion theme," she says. Carlino says in order to highlight her photographs, she will be shooting at the peak of day, between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Her favorite camera to use right now is a Canon 5D Mark II. She also prefers to use Quantum Qflash Model T5d, QFT5D-R turbo flashes intended for outdoor shots because "It creates lighting drama and keeps the sky blue. It also helps overpower the rays of the sun."  Carlino says she is also looking forward to shooting nighttime fashion pictures. She says working at night will become easier when using a Lowel id-Light to fill light in dark areas.

But what matters most to Carlino is displaying her love for bold and vibrant colors in her photographs. "You'll rarely find black and white images in my portfolios," she says. For her, color expresses the emotion of the moment. Red, for example, implies love and creates a romantic atmosphere.

Her love for colors was apparent in a wedding shoot held at the South Coast Winery Resort and Spa in Temecula, CA. Her luminous photos include scenery of the grapevines and hillsides where the bride and groom exchanged their vows.
She says her favorite photos include those where the sun's rays play with the images displayed in her camera. One of her favorites includes a photo she shot next to a large window in her studio that captured a mysterious look in the bride's face from the warm sunshine outside, with hints of greenish and yellow hues.
"I prefer the first two hours and the last two hours of the day to shoot wedding photographs," says Carlino. "I use gold and silver reflectors to open up the shadows." Carlino first took up photography as a hobby, capturing portraits of her family. But she quickly realized she wanted to become a professional photographer when she began working as a fourth grade teacher. "I was always more interested in taking photographs of my students when they were doing science projects," Carlino says.

After two years of teaching fourth grade, she decided to take her love of photography to the next level by attending workshops in Louisiana and partnering with mentors, as well as becoming a member of WPPI eight years ago. She is inspired by one of her favorite mentors, Jerry Ghionis, whom she says is "continuously reinventing the learning curve."

Carlino will also be attending this year's WPPI Road Trip on September 18 and 19. "It is always a very professional atmosphere where I always feel inspired by the speakers, am able to network and get a first glimpse into the latest products in the market," she says. 

Carlino advises anyone looking to break in as a photographer to "Learn anything you can get your hands on and want to specialize in, get mentors, attend workshops and don't under-price your products because you will be doing a disservice to the industry."

Being a southern gal, it comes naturally to Carlino to be hospitable and a friend to her neighbors. She loves to give back to her community by teaching free workshops in addition to her paid ones. "I feel like I have come full circle as I am beginning to teach my own workshops now," she says. Each donation she receives from her classes is given to local women's and animal shelters. She also donates gift certificates that are good for photo sessions in her studio.

It is also no surprise that having a master's degree in educational technology has come in handy for Carlino, who is a PC programming junkie and loves enhancing her photos with Photoshop, Lightroom 3 and Kubota Image Tools. Mostly she uses these programs to for changing tonality, creating sepia toning, retouching skin and doing eyes corrections. She also uses these programs for RAW to JPEG conversions.

While many photographers have been hit hard by the economic downturn, Carlino says she has been lucky living in Houston, where her studio (which has a staff of five) has continuously grown. She is also very active on Facebook and has an online newsletter. "My business basically comes from word-of-mouth clientele," she says. "I have grown into doing about 300 portraits a year and shooting between 25-30 weddings."

Still, Carlino admits that not everything she has done in her business has been for the best. "The biggest challenge for me is balancing my home life with my work life," she says. As a mother of two – to Zachary, 10, and Michael, 7 – Carlino wishes she'd rented out a small studio outside of her home in Richmond, a suburb of Houston. "It wasn't fair to ask my husband to take the children to the park every time I had made an appointment with a client at home," says Carlino. 

But, she says she has finally resolved this problem as she and her husband bought two acres of land minutes from their home and have built a beautiful studio with hardwood floors and vast windows for sunlight.
Carlino has begun doing business with the Abu Dabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) where she was asked to photograph their private and large-scale dinners in Texas. 

"I am excited to continue working with ADNOC, and perhaps photograph their world trade show abroad," she says. Her photographs also appeared in the Washington Post and several major Arabic newspapers. "I want to start adding more destination projects to my portfolio and work in more national and international locations," she says.

To see more of Alison Carlino's work and learn about her workshops visit her online at

Freelance writer Nayeli Pagaza, is a 2006 University of California, San Diego graduate, and co-author of Impacts of Border Enforcement on Mexican Migration: The View from Sending Communities. She is an international relations expert, community and media liaison, and recruiter currently based in Huntington Beach, CA..

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