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’ve been a professional artist since I was 17. I think my experience as a tattoo artist gave me a head start when I began to study photography about ten years ago. I was already used to the ideas of balance and composition. I think training or experience you have in any artistic mediums helps to develop your vision in other mediums too.
I began making pictures as a way to document my travels, but I learned pretty quickly that I had a passion for it. Photography offered me a purely creative outlet without the constraints of clients’ wants and needs.
Can you describe the defining moment or image that made you want to become a photographer?
I took a shot of Lake Tahoe several years ago with a disposable camera. When I saw a photo in a calendar that was almost identical to mine, I thought that maybe I had a pretty good eye.
What was your first paid photography job? Did you enjoy it? Were you scared? Did you make any mistakes?
I did some promotional shots for a tattoo artist friend of mine. I was shooting a Canon camera at the time and trying to use ETTL for the lights. If you have ever tried to use the Canon TTL flash system, you know how frustrated I was. I ended up with a few good frames somehow. That’s when I knew I had to learn how to really use light.
It’s funny… the model I shot was really shy at the time, but now she’s a regular on Suicide Girls.
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?
I think the hardest part of making photos is not repeating yourself. Especially if you’re shooting similar subjects a lot (like fashion or portraits), I think it’s easy to figure out one formula that works and stick with it. I think it’s important to keep pushing yourself as a photographer.
Do you try to help others learn about photography? If so, please explain how.
Yes. I teach two workshops in Costa Rica each year. I teach my students about photography and Lightroom as well as Costa Rican life and culture. Costa Rica is a beautiful country, but there is more to it than you would see from the window of a tour bus.
I’m teaching a workshop in Atlanta with Rick Sammon in August, and I write instructional articles for DPExperience.com.
Do you consider yourself an artist first before thinking about the job ahead of you?
I don’t think much about definitions, I just like to make pictures.
What is the best advice you would give a photographer just starting out?
Take a class and learn the basics of exposure and composition before you start worrying about all of the latest and greatest gear. You can learn a lot and make great photos with a D5000, a kit lens and a flash. Spend more time shooting and less time reading message boards about the “best” camera/ lens/ flash/ etc.
The key to creativity is…
Wow, THAT is a big question! I don’t know what the key is, but here are some ideas… Hang out with people that you think are more creative than you. Find friends you can talk about photography with and go shooting with. I think the exchange of ideas is one of the best ways to spark your creativity.
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?
My favorite camera is actually my Nikon D700. I like it because I don’t feel like I have to make excuses for it. I can make the photos I want to make without thinking about the camera (picture quality, noise, handling, etc). The lens I use most is my 24-70mm f/2.8, but I’m really digging my new 16-35 f/4 VR.
What is your favorite time of day to shoot outdoors?
I like evening and sunset. I don’t mind getting up early for the sunrise, but most of my favorite shots tend to be from the end of the day.
How do you deal with rejection of your work, losing a job, not making a sale or a negative comment?
I think a constructive negative comment is one of the most valuable critiques you can get. Someone telling you “nice shot” doesn’t teach you anything about your photography or how you can improve it. As far as losing a job or a sale, I think it is important to find out WHY you lost out so you can improve your chances the next time.
Do you prefer RAW or JPG and why? If RAW, would you prefer a system that uses the DNG RAW format?
I always shoot RAW. I use Adobe Lightroom for my image processing, so shooting JPG wouldn’t make any difference in the speed of my workflow. That is a great thing about Lightroom; it eliminates the only downside of shooting RAW (besides filesize, and memory is cheap). If you are using Lightroom and you switch from JPG to RAW, you won’t notice a difference in your workflow. You WILL be able to change your camera profile and white balance, and that is great!
How do you protect your camera when not in use? When traveling? When on the way to a job? What if it rains? Any specific brands you love more than others?
Think Tank Photo, all the way! I don’t remember the last bag I bought that wasn’t from Think Tank. I just got one of their Airport TakeOff roll-a-board bags and I love it. All of their bags come with a rain cover (even their “holster” bags), so the elements are not a problem. I got caught in a rain storm in NYC last summer, and the only thing that stayed dry was my Think Tank UD30 and it’s contents.
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 clean my own sensors using products from Visible Dust.
Do you listen to music when shooting a job? Do you listen to music at all? Do you listen to what the client likes?
I don’t mind listening to music when I’m shooting, but I find that it really distracts me when I’m editing photos.
What is your favorite band? Movie? Book? Museum? Website? Who is your favorite photographer? Artist?
Band- X, movie- Star Wars, Book- The Roominghouse Madrigals, Museum- Orsay, website- ?, current favorite photographers-Muench, Jay Maisel, Joe McNally
What is your favorite photograph you’ve ever taken?
Hopefully I’ll be working on that tomorrow.
What is your favorite photograph from another photographer?
I have a lot of favorites by Henri Cartier-Bresson
Is there something you always ask yourself or think just before you push the shutter button?
I always look around the edges of the frame to make sure I’m not including something I don’t want or leaving anything out.
Do you find yourself always looking at the World wondering how it would look as a photograph?
Actually no. I think it’s important to see the world sometimes without imposing a frame around it.
Do you prefer big lighting, a strobist style lighting or mostly natural light?
I have mainly used natural light and hot-shoe strobes, but studio lights are going to be my next big purchase.
What radio sync system do you prefer? (PocketWizard, Radiopopper, etc)
I have used Pocket Wizards for a while now, and they are the industry standard for a reason. I am looking forward to trying out the Elinchrom Skyport system in the near future.
Any projects you are working on currently? Anything planned for the future?
I’m excited about a project I have coming up shooting some local MMA fighters. I’m also preparing for workshops in Atlanta and Monterrey, Costa Rica. The Costa Rica trip is going to be a great time with good friends. I’m looking very forward to that.
Anything you would like to add for our readers?
I would like to offer your readers a $100 discount for my workshop in Costa Rica this September. Enter the discount code “wyden2010” at https://arenalworkshop-wyden.eventbrite.com to receive the discount. I hope you enjoyed this interview, thanks for having me!
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.