This is my story.
How I failed and succeeded as a Photographer & graphic designer.
I asked the above questions because we’ve all failed and succeeded at something. Yes? Yes.Some of us are already successfull at being a “pro” photographer. Some of us are still struggling to full-fill our dreams. I hope my story is an inspiration for YOUR growth and success as a photographer, regardless of where you are on your photographic journey. Oh, and a bonus awaits you for anyone that reads my whole story… Once upon a time, on a warm sunny day (I remember it well), I was born; circa. 1971 Location; Planet Earth – Hollywood, CA to be more precise – destined to be a star. Now, I bring that up because my parents say I’m from Earth… but, some think otherwise – mostly my kids. I’ll spare you the details of the next 13 awkward years of my life… …so, we’ll fast forward through time, and I’ll take you on a fun-filled journey from 1984 – 2015 and you’ll not only discover more about my photographic journey, but also how I can help you achieve your creative vision… My parents bought me my first camera; a Kodak Disc Camera, 1984. Not sure why. Never wanted one. But, hey, I was taking a once-in-a-lifetime hike into the Grand Canyon. 10 miles in, 2 days – 3 nights camping and then 10 miles back out. Oh, the things we can do when we’re young. The photos from that trip were awful! I blame the camera. Fast forward to 1988. My sister decides to become a model. “How much are they charging you for these head-shots I ask”? “Wow, I say, those photos are horrible and you’re shelling out $150 per shoot? I can do better than that!”. Although I had ZERO formal training and no camera. But, my motivation was to earn an EASY $150 for a 1 hour shoot. So, my photographic journey began. For months I dreamt about earning $150 per hour. Which was way more than the $3.35 an hour I was currently earning at the local grocery store.
Back to my first failure as a photographer…
“Say what? Under-Exposed? Dynamic Range? What does all that mean?”, I anxiously reply.
I could tell he just wanted to say – “You idiot, you’re not going to make $150 per hour until you read some books, learn how to use your camera, master light and spend thousands on film for trial-and-error”. But, he didn’t. He politely “educated me” on what my next step was for better results.
Ugh! I ain’t got time for this. I’ve already spent over a thousand dollars (that took me months and months to save) and needed to start making $150 per hour, today.
And, I couldn’t afford any books either. Not at $29 or more per book. Besides, I’ve already spent to much.
I go home with my tail between my legs. Only to see the new photos my sister just paid $150 for. Which were a million times better than mine – shhh, don’t tell anyone.
I wanted to earn that $150 per hour. Determined, I hop into my 1984 (3 door, hatchback), 4 banger Mustang – since I couldn’t afford (yet) the brand-new Saleen version… you know, the one with the high performance 5.0L V8 engine, Pioneer sound system, and chrome wheels… sigh… I’m gonna get that car, so I head over to the local library to read up on how to be a “photographer”.
The rest is history. Kind-of. Have some more failures to share first, before I reveal my secret to success…
I failed many more times over the course of the next TEN years. Yes, I failed for 10 STRAIGHT years. No joke. In hind-sight, it’s quite depressing to think about.
I never made that $150 per hour in my first year, or my second, or my 10th year. Oh, and that Saleen Mustang, more on that in a minute…
Instead, I hopped around from 1 portrait studio to the next. Some went out of business within a couple of years. Others were a “chain” and paid minimum wage. But, each year I was determined to be a pro photographer.
Around 1991 I was hired by Walmart to be part of their traveling unit. At the time, not all Walmarts had an in-house portrait studio. Especially those in smaller towns. I was assigned 6 different states. Each week I’d spend time in one and travel to the next for another week.
Around 1998 I burnt out on shooting portraits and started working in camera stores as a sales clerk – funny how life sometimes takes you back to where you started.
Although, I never did work in the store where I purchased my first camera. It was still ironic… Now I’m looking over the counter teaching others why their photos didn’t turn out the way they wanted. Sigh.
But, it really didn’t pay the bills either. Just more failures up to this point.
O.k., sorry if all my failures are getting you down. But, we’re almost to the good part! Read on…
Fast forward to 2000; I got a gig shooting “real estate” photos. What a blast. NOT!
Yep, he only brought 1 camera.I was shooting for fun and was asked if I could help out and finish shooting for the day. Sure, why not. It was a horrible experience. Didn’t enjoy it. Hated it. Never again. Filed under: “never doing it again”. …Back to the present; “I failed at it once, and hated it. But, I’m willing to give it another go”. But how. I have zero wedding photos and can’t create a portfolio from nothing. It was suggested, I work for/with another wedding photographer and learn from them. With experience comes a portfolio. Sounded simple enough. Not. At the time, there weren’t that many photographers seeking apprentices. After weeks of searching, I found a large portrait studio (with 7 or 8 locations) that were hiring wedding photographers. No experience required. Here’s a chance at my first real success to becoming a pro photographer. But wait, it wasn’t quite that easy.
Hired. Now onto the next two phases…
Ha! I can tell my grandkids…
“I was around when the world wide web became main-stream.”
You see, in 2001 I married the love of my life; Tammy. She’s French Canadian. After 9/11, immigrating to the U.S. ground to a halt. We were told it could take months or years before our application would be looked at.
So, it was easier and faster for me to immigrate to Canada. 95% of the weddings I shot were in Michigan. I’ve also shot in Florida, Kansas, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Arizona and yes, Canada.
2-3 times per week, I’d travel an hour (one-way) to meet up with wedding couples, at a Starbucks in Royal Oak, MI. Then, I’d spend the weekends, in Michigan, to shoot Friday and Saturday – some weekends Sunday too. On top of that, I only worked around 6 months of the year and never more than 30 hours per week – easily eclipsing $150 per hour (before expenses).
Now, that’s what I call passion. There you have it. My secret to success…
PERSISTENCE & DETERMINATION…
NEVER-GIVE-UP on your dreams!