A Photographers Interview with Nate Lawson

Please tell us about yourself as a person and as a photographer. Where did you grow up and what sparked your desire to photograph? Were you active with the photography department in high school? Where are you living now?

I was born and raised in Sheridan, Wyoming in the shadow of the Big Horn Mountains. Both my parents are art teachers. My Dad taught Ceramics and Design for almost 30 years at the college before retiring and my Mom is currently an art teacher at the junior high. I never wanted to get into art, instead had my eye on Physics and Astronomy. I dropped out of college and joined the Army in 1996 and thought that was the life for me. It wasn’t until I was medically discharged with Essential Tremors, and won my first digital camera, that I really started looking toward art and photography. I have since started my own business, and have plans to be a professional photographer for life.

Can you describe the defining moment or image that made you want to become a photographer?

I don’t think there is one defining moment that made me want to become a photographer. Instead, the more photos I took, the more I played with the camera settings, the more it grew on me. I’ve always been interested in photography, I just never thought of it as a career.

What was the first camera you ever owned and how did you come across it? Was it a hand-me-down, purchased at a garage sale, found on the side of the road?

My Dad gave me my first camera when I was about 10 years old. It’s a Minolta XG-1 with a 50mm lens that used to be his. I used that camera for years until I got my Canon. As a matter of fact, I believe I have a roll of film in it right now!

How did you decide to make photography more than a hobby? If photography is your full time job, how did you make that decision? What was your backup plan if the photography career didn’t take off? Any regrets? If you are not a full time photographer, what is stopping you? What is your full time job? Any plans to become a full time photographer in the future?

I have yet to become a full-time photographer. It’s mostly due to the fact that I have a family to support and don’t yet feel comfortable leaving my paying job on the hopes that I can make enough money to support us. We also live in a small town and it’s hard to get a steady clientele. I have a degree in Fine Art and will be getting my Education degree to become a teacher. I will always work towards becoming a full-time photographer, and it will happen one day.

What was the last straw, the final decision maker to make you go digital? What do you miss about film?

I moved to digital only because I won my Canon Digital Rebel XT in a contest. I’m pretty sure I would have anyway, just not that soon. I still shoot film as well.

Nate Lawson

Do you try to help others learn about photography? If so, please explain how.

I love showing and teaching others about photography. I’ve always enjoyed teaching and when I can show someone something they didn’t know before, it makes it all worth it. I’m always answering questions on how I got a certain shot, or what the settings on the camera mean. The more I can show and teach others the more fun photography becomes.

What is the best advice you would give a photographer just starting out?

Just push the shutter. The more photos to take, the better you will become and the more comfortable you will be with your camera. Don’t be afraid to experiment with camera settings and composition. And NEVER say, “Oh, I’ll get that shot later.” Take the shot, you may not get another chance.

The key to creativity is…

Experimentation. (You never know what you’re going to get!)

What is your favorite time of day to shoot outdoors?

I love the early morning light, how warm and soft it is. And if it’s slightly cloudy it’s even better! This does take some dedication, getting up early (before the sunrise), but it pays off in the end.

How do you deal with rejection of your work, losing a job, not making a sale or a negative comment?

Rejection of my work always inspires me. I understand that not all people are going to like my photography. But unless it’s for a client, who is paying me for what they want and like, it doesn’t bother me. I have found that in most instances when the viewer doesn’t like my work it’s because they don’t understand it or the processes used to achieve the final piece. This may sound arrogant, but when someone dislikes my work I just tell myself that I’m the professional and they don’t know what they’re talking about. If I agree with some of their criticism, then I think of how I could do it different next time. If I disagree with them, I thank them for their thoughts and don’t worry about it.

Do you prefer RAW or JPG and why? If RAW, would you prefer a system that uses the DNG RAW format?

I used to shoot in JPG, always. I didn’t understand how to use software like Lightroom or Aperture to process RAW images. I also thought that it just took too long to go through all my photos and convert them from RAW to JPG. Not anymore! Now I shoot exclusively in RAW. I use Adobe Lightroom 2 for all my photos. I now understand the value of RAW and keeping all the image data so that I can process it the way I want to. I will still shoot JPG for sports when I need to shoot quickly, but RAW is the way to go. I also convert all my images to DNG when importing to Lightroom.

Nate LawsonI recently started a project called 5511 where a client pays $5 for a 5 minute photo shoot when 1 artificial light is used and they receive 1 digital photo. Is this something you would be interested in trying? For me it is something fun and challenging. What are you thoughts on that?

I think that is a great idea! I would love to try it and see what I can make of it. I think challenging yourself as a photographer will help you grow as a photographer. If we all just shot what was comfortable, we would never learn and become better.

What music sparks your creativity? Do you listen to that when shooting a job? Do you listen to music at all? Do you listen to what the client likes?

I love a good techno/trance album to get the creative juices flowing! But anything that’s upbeat, powerful, and loud will do the trick.

What is your favorite photograph you’ve ever taken?

This image is by for my favorite, taken in Germany at Bostalsee. I was lucky to look up just as the man was walking back across the pier.

Is there something you always ask yourself or think just before you push the shutter button?

“Is the best angle/composition/lighting that I can get for this image?”

Do you find yourself always looking at the World wondering how it would look as a photograph?

I always find myself driving down the road thinking, “I wonder if that would make a great photo?” I am constantly looking at everything as if through the viewfinder.

Anything you would like to add for our readers?

Just go out and have fun!

View more photographs by Nate Lawson: natelawson.com, twitter.com/nate_lawson, thephotogformula.com

Thank you for reading the interview. This interview was presented to the photographer with questions asked by me and submissions from other photographers. The photographer is asked to answer only what he/she is comfortable with. If you would like to contribute to future interviews, please submit your your questions to me on Twitter, Facebook or on the Interview intro blog post, What would you ask a photographer?. Thank you for reading and enjoy the interview.

Some questions supplied from the following Twitter users:
@pjtaylorphoto, @ishootinraw, @donkeymaster, @GrfxGuru

Some questions supplied from the following Facebook users:
Brian Walter, Faylin Myhre, Leslie DeLorean, Patrick Connor

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