So you want to be a photographer...Part 1.
Over the years, and more so recently, I've gotten asked a good bit in different ways about "how do I become a photographer?" Nowadays the word "photographer" carries with it a different definition based on who you are, and your view of what a photographer is. For some, owning a camera and taking pics, means "I'm a photographer." Others wouldn't dare classify themselves a photographer until they feel they are "worthy" of the title. This isn't a post to blast anyone or the definition. After all, we all start somewhere and frankly I seriously SUCKED when I started.
I debated a good bit on how to discuss this subject. I decided to break it into several parts and I'll start by talking about how I got started and a little of my background. One thing I want to stress is there are many amazing photographers out there. If you asked each about how to be a photographer or their background, you'd get a ton of different answers. There's not one right way to go about becoming a photographer or on how to be a great photographer. It's your journey...This just happens to be about my journey so far.
I never really picked up a camera until I was 19. I started dating my wife, and she was taking photos of flowers for one of her classes and it was pretty fun. Around 2006 or so, we got our first digital slr. I knew nothing besides shooting in automatic. I shot random crap with it everywhere. Animals, flowers, etc. Around that time period I got injured at work and had to spend some time at home recuperating. I didn't have much to do but sit around and I stumbled across a website for collecting autographs through the mail. I met Niki Ghazian, a model from LA, on Myspace and she liked some of my pics and encouraged me to shoot models. I thought it was crazy and that there wasn't any type of models in our area. After a few years I ran into some old friends who were modeling in the area.
One of the things that I personally think helped me in photography was doing the autograph collecting. Not that actual act of collecting autographs, but when I would look for photos online to get signed, the ones that attracted me to them weren't the basic headshots or just typical photos. I really liked the creative stuff, the ones that stuck out to me as unique. I really feel that's one of the things that helped to shape my eye and the way I try to approach my own work.
In June of 2009 I began shooting here in Chattanooga. That's where I started to feel like I was a photographer. It opened up a world to me that I honestly didn't really know existed. I started off working with models because I was trying to put together photos for a book of poetry that I had written. I honestly didn't think anything would ever become of photography. In starting off, I still knew absolutely nothing about my camera.
Starting off, I studied photos all the time. I wanted to see what was out there. I looked at people in my area and would compare my work. Don't do that. Find the people that do the type of work you like and inspire you. Don't worry about what other people in your area are doing. It's not a competition. Everyone sees things differently and if you're inputting the type of work that inspires you, you'll start creating the type of work that you enjoy and it will be your own.
After about a year of shooting or so, I finally started trying to learn my camera and photoshop. I knew absolutely nothing about either other than basic stuff. One of my biggest teachers was Popular Photography magazine articles, and then a greater teacher was Advanced Photographer magazine from the UK. The photography mags from the UK were by far the best out there. Learning to shoot manual using trial and error to figure out what my cameras could do was imperative. You can't really do what you need to do when shooting in auto. You want full control of your gear and you need that knowledge to troubleshoot in difficult environments.
I do want to state that I'm self-taught. Early on I asked a few local photographers some questions and actually got some advice, that if followed, I'd have been out of photography before I really started. So you gotta be careful out there. I learned from magazines, You-Tube tutorials, and a lot of trial and error.
In late 2011, I got some breaks and started working with some amazing tattoo models and some bigger tattoo sites saw our work and started sharing us all over. That's when I got most of my publication credits was in 2011 and 2012. The tattoo scene was bursting and looking for content. In late 2012, Facebook's algorithms started to change and our reach started to diminish pretty drastically.
If you wanna be a photographer nowadays, you gotta stay up on social media. Truthfully, I don't do a good enough job of it. It's easy to get overwhelmed but it's the difference in jobs, and just scraping by.
In Mid-2015, I started to work with film for the first time since I actually learned how to use a camera and it's been amazing. I enjoy doing the colorful, digital work but b&w film is my love. I've always been drawn to gritty b&w photos but with a digital camera I just couldn't really capture the look I liked. B&W film killed it.
Shooting both b&w film and then the other side of my work being colorful, digital has been a seriously tricky road to navigate for me. The style that personally took off for me in digital work has a higher editing style to it and for my film it's more natural. Those are two audiences that don't necessarily always mesh in what they like to see.
Presently I'm still shooting. I still shoot a wide variety of work, models/families/bands/landscapes and I'm trying to do more pet photography. Photography is not a job to get into just for money. Some people see our rates and get the wrong idea that we're rolling in cash. For the most part it's not the case. There are months that it's busy and amazing, and then there are months you might not get a booking. We have overhead of studios, equipment, etc. But I digress, I'll talk more about that in an upcoming part.
I just wanted to share a little bit about my work and how I got started. I tried to keep it shorter (didn't go into stories and such) if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments or message me and I'll try my best to reply.