Photography Prodigy Blurs Reality and Imagination: A Conversation with Taylor McCormick

In only two years, Taylor McCormick has transformed herself from a budding photographer into a one-of-a-kind artist. Through an involved and self-driven process McCormick matured from a high-school student with a camera and an imagination into a gallery-sponsored artist, traveling to Atlanta, Washington D.C., New York and Los Angeles for her work. Her journey can be described by the same word used to describe most of her published images: dreamlike.

"Sleeping Beauty" by Taylor McCormick

Taylor’s breakout photography caught my attention with its originality and cultivated process. McCormick is a young woman talented beyond her years, whose portfolio illustrates a combination of both tenacity and creativity.

I recently had the chance to talk to Taylor about her breakout photography career and found her story to be an example of what young photographers can achieve with the right tools and vision.

At age 17, after a few years of shooting photos, McCormick began using Photoshop CS5 to create artwork out of the images she shot on her camera. She had no formal training in Photoshop, and learned the software through YouTube training videos and relentless trial and error. Her goal was to work on an image for a week, creating and learning as she made each photo increasingly more detailed and complex.

“By forcing myself to create one elaborate image each week; I give myself a week to work on it,” says McCormick. “I sleep on it and then I go back to it after sleeping.”

To pursue her passion, McCormick began attending Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), where she is currently a freshman. As part of her education, she attended a demonstration of Photoshop CS6 and upgraded her personal workflow to include the new program.
In her personal time, McCormick studies the work of photographers she admires, and integrates their methods into her own. For example, Brooke Shaden inspired her to shoot photos with a Nikon D80 and later a D800.

Inspired by the Brenizer method, McCormick often uses three to nine original photos for each image she creates. She often shoots several versions of a scene to combine shots into a base, and then adds individual malleable elements as layers on top.

During shoots, McCormick often takes photos of everyday objects like clouds or skies to build her own personal stock image library for later projects. Once the images are uploaded, she completes her post-processing in Photoshop, using features like layer masks, selective color, puppet warp, layer warp, content-aware fill and adjustment layers to fine-tune her creations.

Two years of intense work hasn’t slowed down McCormick. In fact, her ability and ambition continue to grow faster than her process can accommodate. She currently has work backed up so much that a photo shot today wouldn’t enter processing for several months.

Even after all that work, some projects are learning experiences and nothing else. “For every image that’s uploaded, 20 never make it,” McCormick says.

While she’s unsure of what the future will hold for her photography, Taylor loves the creative challenge and plans to keep pushing her limits to make new art. “I can’t really see myself doing anything else,” she says.

To see more of Taylor’s photography, visit her Flickr page and follow her on Instagram.