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 currently live in the Salt Lake City area of Utah. I grew up in Chugiak Alaska and have been interested in photography as long as I can remember. I was a self-proclaimed camera geek in high school working as a photog on the school paper and yearbook and as a teacher aid for the photography classes.
Can you describe the defining moment or image that made you want to become a photographer?
As a teenager I remember the event of developing and printing my first images in a darkroom and feeling that I had created something from start to finish. I don’t remember the exact print, just that it was something that I had made.
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 first camera was a hand-me-down cartridge loading Kodak Instamatic 100. My first SLR was a used Petri.
What was your first paid photography job? Did you enjoy it? Were you scared? Did you make any mistakes?
My first “Pay” job was shortly after high school. I started with a local photography company as a school pictures photographer. I used a long-roll 70mm camera. While it wasn’t really creative, it was taking all these school pics that helped me hone my skills in capturing good expressions. Obviously this is still a skill that I use today.
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 worked for five years after high school as a full-time photographer. I began as a school picture photographer and worked my way up to do weddings, portraits, sports teams, etc. I left the professional world after this time because I wasn’t making enough money. I re-entered the profession a few years ago when I began making enough from my stock photography to support a full-time business.
What was the last straw, the final decision maker to make you go digital? What do you miss about film?
I had sold all of my film gear (Nikon system – FE, FM2 for 35 mm, Mamiya 645 for medium format) in the nineties. When I decided to re-enter serious photography around 2004, digital was the obvious choice.
What is the hardest part of the job when shooting for a client? What is the hardest part of the job when shooting for yourself?
Since I specialize in stock photography, I don’t shoot much specifically for a particular client. The hardest part for me is the organizing of models, props, locations etc. when setting up a shoot. Once I’m on location (or in my studio) shooting, I’m in my “special place”
Do you try to help others learn about photography? If so, please explain how.
Yes. Along with two other photographers I founded Photowalking Utah (photowalkingutah.com) in 2007. In addition to monthly events, I teach free photography clinics every other month under the Photowalking Utah name. I also teach other free clinics for local events when asked (if it fits my schedule).
What and/or who inspires you in life and photography and why?
My philosophy that I use in business comes from Proverbs in the Old Testament of the Bible. The proverb states “He who refreshes will himself be refreshed”. I believe in working to bless other’s lives before my own.
Do you consider yourself an artist first before thinking about the job ahead of you?
Yes. I feel that being a “creative” helps me in planning my life and photography. I am always making notes of shoot ideas and working to pre-visualize what I seek to create.
What is the best advice you would give a photographer just starting out?
Shoot, shoot, shoot. Learn the rules, then break them. Shoot was you love subject-wise.
The key to creativity is…
Listening to your inner voice.
What is your favorite camera that you have used or owned? What camera and lens combination do you use most of the time when photographing for a client? What about when photographing for yourself?
I absolutely loved my Mamiya 645 medium format film camera. Am actually working with another photographer to set-up a darkroom to begin shooting film for hobby purposes. I’ve got a used 645 on my wishlist.
The camera/lens combo that I could do 90% of my work with is a Canon 5D Mark II and a 24-105 f/4L lens.
What is your favorite time of day to shoot outdoors?
Early evening with the sun an hour above the horizon. Then put the sun at the models back and fill with a reflector.
How do you deal with rejection of your work, losing a job, not making a sale or a negative comment?
I’m really hard on myself with rejections. Even though I’ve got over a 90% lifetime acceptance ratio at iStockphoto, I still get upset when I have a rejection. I try to learn from it and use it as a growth event – though I don’t always do well with it.
Do you prefer RAW or JPG and why? If RAW, would you prefer a system that uses the DNG RAW format?
Shoot 100% in RAW. Quality is key in my line of work, and using RAW is second nature to me in my workflow.
How do you protect your camera when not in use? When traveling? When on the way to a job? What if it rains?
Do you clean the CCD yourself or send it away somewhere? If you send it away, where to and how much does it cost?
I will use a wet swab method of cleaning my sensor myself. However, every few months I take it to my local shop for a more thorough cleaning.
I 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?
Hey, that sounds cool. I’m interested.
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?
When in the studio I always have music playing. U2 is a popular selection.
What is your favorite band? Movie? Book? Museum? Website? Who is your favorite photographer? Artist?
I really don’t follow many “big name” photographers. Favorite band is U2.
What is your favorite photograph you’ve ever taken?
I’ve got such a short attention span that my favorite shot I’ve taken always seems to change. If I had to pick one it would probably be a photo of a kissing couple taken on their wedding day.
What is your favorite photograph from another photographer?
I love Anne Geddes’ mother/baby shot with the baby being held under the mother’s garment like it is in her uterus.
Is there something you always ask yourself or think just before you push the shutter button?
I look around the subjects head to make sure it is “peaceful” and placed properly in the shot.
If you could take your art in any direction without fear of failure or rejection, where would it lead? What new thing would you try?
More travel to exotic destinations to capture “one-of-a-kind” shots
Anything you would like to add for our readers?
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.