But first, a little about you…
Are you a photographer and/or a designer?
So am I.
Do you have a passion for success & photography?
So do I.
Have you ever succeeded at anything?
So have I.
Have you ever failed at anything?
Me too. More than once.
My name: Chris Parker.
What's your name? Introduce yourself in the comments below. Don't be shy. I want to get to know you and your story.
I asked the above questions because we've all failed and succeeded at something. Yes? Yes.
Some of us are already successful 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. I 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 making $150 per hour. Which was way more than the $3.35 an hour I was currently earning at the local grocery store.
This means it took a loooong time to save up for my first semi-pro camera, a Nikon 8008 with the kit lens (in 1989).
"Crap, I have to buy some film too. Cool, what do you recommend for shooting models?, I ask the sales guy. O.k., give me 5 rolls."
"That'll be $75 (something like that – too long ago to remember the exact price – but it was a lot of money to me), please", the clerk says politely.
Me; "Ummm, I don't have enough for that. Just give me 2 rolls of that stuff over there…"
Off I went to make $150 per hour!
"Yo, sis! Let's go shoot some pics for our portfolios." "O.k," she says.
2 rolls done, and back to the camera store to have them developed. I'm informed they'll be back in about a week.
So, I wait. And wait.
Finally, the day has arrived that I can put together my portfolio and start earning some real money!
The clerk; "That'll be $28 for processing and prints". At this point, I'm thinking I've already spent too much on this endeavor. And need to recoup my expenses as quickly as possible.
No worries, I thought.
Soon, I'll be making $150 per hour and can afford to buy that Saleen Mustang I had my eyes on.
I pay and quickly open the envelope to review my work.
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. Oh, and 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 too 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 doors, 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. I have some more failures to share first before I reveal my secret to success…
I failed many more times over the next TEN years. Yes, I failed for 10 STRAIGHT years. No joke. In hindsight, 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 and 'round, I went. And I loved it!
During the next year, I photographed thousands of kids. Shooting kids allowed me to be, well, me. Goofy. And it was a blast!
Oh, and in case you're wondering, I used the 'ole 84 beater Mustang as my traveling companion. I had to remove the front seat to fit all the equipment!
That Saleen Mustang was still out of reach and not practical for the current job. Sad face.
Walmart was my best paying photo gig, and it only lasted a year. For the next 9 years, I never earned anywhere near what I made with Walmart. Go figure.
It wasn't until 2001 when I had my first major breakthrough. Thanks to the internet and a little site called "the Knot."
But first… 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!
I'd pull up to the front of the house, step out, snap, next… So un-inspiring.
Not long after, this camera came out for taking 360-degree photos. Realtors paid triple for this type of work. Sign. Me. Up!
So, now I'm shooting homes inside and out. And earning about what I did from' 91-92. And still not making $150 per hour! Nor do I have that Saleen Mustang. Dang, it!
But, my passion for photography was burning brighter than ever before. I couldn't think of anything else I'd rather be doing.
Quick sidetrack; around 2000, I met the woman of my dreams, and we got married in 2001. Which will be relevant to this story very soon.
Back to the story…
One of the guys I'm working with, at the local camera store, is telling me about this guy he knows that shoots weddings. This was around the year 2K... and yes, I'm working several jobs at this point. He gets around 2K per wedding. Say what? It's like 1988 all over again.
But this time, I love photography more than anything else and have a burning passion for being a pro photographer. Not to just earn $150 an hour.
Yet, I'm still thinking to myself, kinda like in '88; "I can do it, and better." Of course, I can. Now I have 11+ years of experience.
Flashback to 1995; my first wedding shoot (and what I thought would be my last). It wasn't really a paid gig. I was attending a friend's wedding, and the hired photographer's camera died.
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.
I didn't enjoy it.
I hated it.
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.
It sounded simple enough.
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.
So, in 2001 I contacted the "Studio" to learn how to be a pro wedding photographer – for them.
Hired. Now onto the next two phases…
Step 1: purchase my first medium format camera and 2 lenses.
Which was required if I wanted to work with that studio? No problem. Sorta.
So, I spent around a thousand dollars (for the second time) – with the money I didn't have.
Step 2: Let the training begin.
6 weeks of training. In-studio and on-location (during real weddings) with a master wedding photographer teaching me the ropes. Easy peasy. I'm a quick learner.
Six weeks are up, and I'm ready to sign the contract for my own 35-40 weddings, at $300 a pop.
That's o.k. I thought. In a couple of years, I'll have a portfolio and can start charging what I want.
Or I can become a master photographer, at this studio, and shoot 80-100 weddings just like my Sensei (plus, he was getting $500 per).
That was the plan. The last thing I was expecting was being…
Wait, another failure? Yep.
Apparently, I wasn't good enough for this studio. Sad face. Tears. Rejected.
Next day. Screw you, "Mr. studio."
"I'm determined to be a wedding photographer if it kills me!!! Oh, yes, I will."
But how. I only need a dozen photos, and I'll create a killer wedding album. You know, the old school albums where you have 8×10 prints, one per page, mounted to some "cardboard." Yep, that's what I started with.
But I had to shoot a wedding first. A classified ad placed. "I'll shoot your wedding for free in exchange for use in my portfolio." I waited. Phone rang. Booked. Shot. Success. Yup, this is the most significant milestone of my photographic career, up to this point in my life – I just didn't know it yet.
Wedding album in hand. Booked some more weddings here and there. Oh, and for $800 per and not the $300 I was offered/denied, from – you know who you are "Mr. Studio."
In your face, "Mr. Studio"! Shoot a few more weddings… Bigger, better portfolio.
Then, the snowball effect. There was this thing called the world wide web that I heard about in the news. I never paid much attention to it. I thought it was a joke.
Ha! I can tell my grandkids…
"I was around when the world wide web became mainstream."
Then one day, I stumble upon this little website called; "the Knot." Hmmm, for $40 per month, I can advertise on their site.
Sure, why not.
Ummm, best freakin' thing I've ever done to launch my photographic career!
Considering, from 1992-1998, I tried snail mail (junk mail some would call it), telemarketing, yellow pages, and word of mouth. All of which failed to start my own photographic studio. Failed. Year after Year.
By the end of 2001, I had 48 weddings booked for the following year!! Plus, throughout 2002, I added another 14 weddings! Yep, 62 weddings my first full year as a pro wedding photographer.
When I first started, I had one package for $800. As I booked more (and learned what other photographer were giving their clients), I created additional packages.
On top of that, re-print orders came rolling in. For a few weddings, the re-print orders exceeded the initial package!
Which led me to my next breakthrough. Charge more, shoot less, earn the same or more (in some years I made more the less I shot).
In total, that first full year, I grossed 3 times more than in 1991 and 2000.
I'm now a pro photographer. Happy face.
Some find it hard to believe that I shot over 500 weddings in 14 years. But, remember the Sensei teaching me to be a wedding photographer? Well, he told me that he and a couple of master photographers (at the "Mr. Studio") were shooting 80-100 weddings EVERY year.
Yep, I've shot over 500 weddings. But, what if I told you that's not even the incredible part?
What I'm about to share with you will blow your mind. Ready?
Those 500 weddings were shot in a foreign country! What?
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!
But wait. There's just a 'lil bit more...
...Oh. and yes, I started earning MORE than $15o per hour (6 months out of the year). But, Tammy wouldn't let me get that Saleen Mustang. Sad face. After all, we had a family now. Happy face.
Quick re-cap on why you're here... and why I think you should hang around some more. Please and Thank You!
First, thanks for reading this far! If I could give out points for those that read the farthest, you'd have a gazillion+ points and be the winner.
Second, I began using this new software called Photoshop - 1.990- ish. Studying to be a Graphic Designer, I was, in case this whole "photography" thing didn't pan out.
In the late '90s, I began using Photoshop more for "developing" my photos - after scanning my film of course.
After my first digital camera (purchased middle of my first wedding season - of 2002), I no longer had to scan - as much, since I shot half the wedding with film and the other with my trusty Fuji S2 (still didn't fully trust these "digital cameras").
Which led to late hours of staring at my computer "editing" my photos - hey, the lab use to do this for me. But, this allowed me to be more creative and fulfill my creative vision... I reasoned.
Fast forward to late 2004. Shooting digital full-time. Now I'm spending more time "editing" my photos than shooting and consulting combined. Ugh. This is too much work and I'm no longer earning more than $150 an hour. Sigh... But, I'm still earning a good living and doing what I love.
About this software, which was in beta. called: Lightroom. OMG! It's everything I ever dreamed of in an editing program, and more.
Gotta have it. Download and install. Staring at the screen. Now what? Where do I start? What do I do with all these sliders? Sigh. Where's the instruction manual? Hmmm, that doesn't help much.
It's new. No Youtube videos, forums to ask others about how to do this or that. NO pre-made presets, it was the dark ages all over again.
Trial and error. Lots of time trying to get it to "work".
Months later; finally figured it out and how to use for my business. Streamlined my workflow and started processing 50o photos per hour! Back to earning more than $150 per hour. And more creative possibilities to help me stand out from the competition. Happy face.
Bored in my spare time, I started another business (around 2009): Photographic Elements. Designing wedding albums and post-processing for other photographers around the world.
Slow Start. Advertisements placed. Snowball. Success. Burn-out. Scrap that.
Instead, sell pre-made presets (early 2015) to streamline photographers editing process and teach them how to edit themselves (better, faster. creatively. etc..).
Middle of 2016, "light-bulb" moment. Which brings us to the next phase...
Re-establish Parker Photographic as the go-to source for no-bull tips, advice, presets, tools, resources and more.
I'm talking beyond just pre-made presets.
A system. A RECIPE for YOU. A formula. The key to my sanity, while editing hundreds of weddings and portrait sessions... editing in Lightroom.
Bundled-up nicely (in the form of the articles. newsletters, videos and premium stuff - for those that want to achieve success faster) that make up this blog. 4 for photographers like you... so you don't have to stare at Lightroom for hours, wondering where to start, being intimidated, frustrated, feeling overwhelmed and just tired of taking forever to edit 1 session.
Which starts with your sanity.. editing in Lightroom. the right way - your way! A workflow - designed for YOU! Knowing exactly which sliders to push for YOUR style! Presets designed specifically for YOU!
Which brings us back to...
I'm here to help you fulfill YOUR creative vision, in Lightroom. Lightroom made easy, for YOU. And if you stick around for the long haul, much more to come in the near future.
Thanks for reading!
Your bonus for making it to the end: "Peace of mind, knowing that you're finally in the right place and will no longer struggle with Lightroom".
Oh, one last thing, what is the number 1 thing that you are struggling with in Lightroom? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for the entertaining read. Good hearing your story. My life took a much different path than yours. When I was young I wanted to be an architect and was redirected to civil engineering by a counselor who meant well but didn’t really know the difference between the two.
Speed up a few years and I am in college and the doctors told me that I had a form of arthritis called Ankylosing Spondylitis. My dreams of being an architect or engineer went up in smoke and I knew a career of hunching over a drafting board would only make it worse, so I switched careers and pursued clerical jobs where I could type.
The goal was to be a word processor, but to make a long story short that became data entry, which I did for 15 years. The advancement of the illness let it be known that even that choice limited me so I went back to school again at age 49 and pursued a degree in technical writing.
I never did get that civil engineering degree and it hurt to not have a degree. I graduated in Jan 2015, but don’t do much technical writing as now I am 58 and there is not anybody interested in hiring me as I am also disabled from the arthritis of the spine.
Like you, I am quite familiar with failure and feel I am a success because I am still here on this planet. I am always curious about computers and dabbled in ubuntu where I first learned about Gimp and Inkscape which I still use although I have migrated back to windows 10.
Thanks for reading. Initially, I was reading your blog trying to send a file to you regarding the course you taught on udemy about the 37 Essential Gimp projects, which I have completed. Yay for me! I got so much out of your course.
Hi Gregg, Thanks for sharing your story. I always say never give up!
As for the course, you can post files in the q&a section… if you have any questions or just wish to share.
Gregg, God bless you and hang in there. With your engineering background and interests including technical writing, you might find web development/design/software engineering something to consider if you haven’t already.
Great bio and thanks for sharing! I have your epic Photoshop course from Udemy and during your journey you’ve obviously become a Photoshop master also among other things, including designing websites in Photoshop. In 2020 I’m learning PS and focused as a novice on product photography and ideally in coming months doing some amateur fashion photography – both to create my own content (out of financial necessity) for a website side project. I’m originally form Midwest and now live close to L.A. and often hike on Sundays in Griffith Park.
Thank you for sharing your journey!! I am currently taking some of your courses on Udemy and I want to personally thank you for doing such a fantastic job.
I work as an electrician/robotics programmer, and needed to do something more creative and visual in my off time, which through a series of bumps nudges and dabbles led me to web design. I fell in love with it! The design aspect fills my creative cup, and the technical part of web development satisfies my techie nerd side. Realizing I needed to take some courses and brush up my design skills I stumbled onto Udemy and subsequently this Chris Parker fella.
I really can’t thank you enough for putting together such fantastic content, and sharing your years of knowledge with us newbies out here. My workflow has become far more streamlined, I have a much better understanding of design and layout than when I started this journey, as well as mastering editing tools that previously frustrated the dickens out of me.
Now after reading your story I’m inspired to push harder and try to make this a full time gig as I move towards early retirement.
By the way sorry about the Saleen, but I think the tradeoff was worth it.
Thanks for the feedback and support!
I am currently going through your Udemy Lightroom class. I noticed a lot of the photos were from Detroit so I Googled you and found your web site.
Do you have local classes? I live close to Detroit (Rochester) and want to continue to get better at photography with a goal of turning it into a business. It would be a business in the 3rd stage of my life – school, work, WORK THAT I LOVE.
I am an engineer (electrical). My wife is really an artist posing as an engineer for GM. I can figure out the technical stuff. My wife can look at it and say that it is good.
I have been traveling world wide (mostly Asia) for the work stage of my life. I started digitally believe it or not with a Hitachi MP-EG1A that I bought around the late 1990’s. I think it was 0.4 megapixel. I got a Stonehenge photo with it that is actually usable. To make a long story short, I have been updating every couple of years. I am currently full frame with a Sony Alpha 7r4 and for traveling a Sony Alpha A6600.
Also, bought my first Mac in 1984. I still have it (not using it).
I would like to continue to get better – do you put on local classes or photo trips?
Hi Doug, I’m considering virtual workshops. Until then, you can join our private Facebook group where you can share photos and get feedback. Plus, I’ll make an announcement about any workshops through the group.
Great story! I would like to check out your website and follow you on social media. Thanks for the presets. I have used Lightroom, but need to use it more often. Not sure what my struggles are.
Perhaps my story is different to nearly everyone else who has read this. Firstly, I am 75. I have been taking photos all my life going back to school days over 55 years ago. I am not a professional photographer, obviously retired now and playing alot of golf. I don’t struggle with photography and here’s why. Until about 3 months ago I just took snaps, over time probably a few thousand. Snaps of vacations, dinners, birthdays, days out, family etc. I think I can quite honestly say not one of those photos was taken with any real thought as to composition or anything else. None of them was shared with anyone but family. But here’s the thing, I love virtually every one of those photos because each one has a memory, an event or moment that without the photo I would have forgotten. I love going back and looking over holiday pics etc, not much point taking them if you’re not going to look at them.
Now, here’s the rub. As I said about 3 months or so ago I suddenly became keen on trying to understand the photography process better. I was on holiday with a friend who is a professional film maker and he shared some insights into curating his photos and that just seems to have set me off, before this I had never altered a photo after taking it. For the last three months I have watched numerous YouTube videos including your 4 hour one twice. I read all about the various cameras available and lenses. I now have a fundamental understanding of some of the main aspects of a semi decent picture. I understand the technical side somewhat but the hardest part for me is composition and seeing what makes a great pic as my artistic skills are about zero.
Oh, and the two camera’s that I shoot everything on are Panasonic Lumix TZ95 (uk) or my Motorola phone. Both are light to carry about and the TZ95 has a 30 times zoom. Obviously a tiny sensor but as I don’t print anything, they just go to Google, then I’m not sure the camera makes much difference to me. We’ll see.
However, I am really loving learning as much as I can about photography even though it’s just for me. I’m not really bothered about what anyone else may think about my photos, they can’t really think anything cause I don’t share. (Just one when I joined your site). I’ve always been a golf addict but photography is now running golf a close second and the main reason for this is that professional photographers like yourself have willingly shared their abundant knowledge to everyone who has an appetite to learn. I thank you very much for doing this and want to let you know that even for an absolute amateur with no intention of being anything else it is so wonderful to be able to understand directly how you as a professional go about your business.
Thank you again.
Hello Ian, Thank you for the feedback and sharing your story! Composition can be learned by anyone regardless of your “artistic” abilities. I have a few articles on composition here: https://parkerphotographic.com/category/photography/