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Where did you learn your stuff?
Old 10-03-2006, 03:16 PM   #1 (permalink)
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I posted a blog today on my Biker E-zine about where I learned how to shoot. Here it is in its entirety:
Iíve been a shutterbug for about ten years. I first started shooting pictures as a hobby. Now, Iím a full time wedding and portrait photographer. I love it!

I often get asked about being a pro photographer. I get asked what type of camera I have. I get asked about what itís like to shoot the different stuff that I do. I get asked one question more than any other. People ask me what school they should go to.

Thatís a hard one to answer. Itís especially hard for me since Iíve had no formal training. Everything Iíve learned has been from the inside of a book, trial and error, or one on one or small workshop tutelage.

I first started out shooting travel pictures with a 35mm point and shoot my mom bought for me when I joined the Navy. My wife kinda pressured me into it. She told me that if I didnít have any pictures of all of these exotic places I was going to show our kids I would regret it. It was alright.

Then, I started riding motorcycles. My first big bike was a Honda Magna. I rode in Hawaii with a large club. I would take pictures of us hanging out and sometimes of our bikes in cool spots. I would also take pictures of some of the cool custom bikes in Hawaii.

I started buying all of the biker magazines, but there was nothing about Hawaii in them. The scene in Hawaii is off the Richter Scale. Thereís tons of rad bikes out there. I was disappointed that no one was covering that scene.

I started sending in pictures and stories to some of the biker mags I was buying. They started publishing them. My first big one was a news story published in Easyrider. When I moved to the mainland US, I started getting gigs with Outlaw Biker, Biker, and Dixie Rider magazines. I started shooting pretty girls on bikes, too. I was really liking this.

I decided about five years ago that I wanted to be a full time working pro. At the time, I though I could make a living shooting pretty girls and hot bikes. I really had no clue. Thatís when I met Rick Hughes.

Rick was doing one of his photo workshops on business. I was interested in making money. This is the first workshop I attended. And boy was it an eye opener! I realized I had a lot to learn.

My shooting was nowhere near where it needed to be. I was hurtiní! I immediately started reading everything I could. I wanted to learn it all.

I became active in an online photography community devoted to shooting glamour called Garage Glamour (now Glamour1). I was reading as much of the stuff I could from people like Rick. I made a couple of good friends and learned tons! I really watched other people like James DiGiorgio (aka JimmyD) make awesome pictures. Jimmy really taught me a lot. He would post his lighting setups as well as the pictures that he shot.

I didnít get my first real taste of photography until I attended a Super Shoots by JT Smith in Jacksonville. JT taught me a lot about seeing the light and working with whatís available. As a matter of fact, my lighting set up of choice for portraits is something JT taught me. I have also attended a workshop on wedding and portrait photography by JT and use many of his business techniques today.

I assisted Rick and JT on several assignments, have had some one on one instruction, and have been to workshops given by both of them. Rick has really taught me a lot about making women look beautiful and how to handle models and commercial clients, while JT has really helped understand how to shape light and given me a solid foundation for my portrait and wedding business.

Itís no wonder why when someone asked in an online forum what school they should go to for photography, I told them to go to school for business and minor in psychology. I can make pretty pictures and learned it without any formal training. Running a business and dealing with people is a different story.
You can see the blog on my site.

This got me to thinking, "I wonder where ithers learned their stuff?"

So, let's have it. Tell us who your mentors were/are and how you learned to take pretty pictures.

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Re: Where did you learn your stuff?
Old 10-03-2006, 03:39 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I bought a Canon G3 with some saved up money, mainly for snapshots of friends and family. I started trying a few different things like macro and landscapes and really enjoyed the results.

Christmas 2004 I got the Digital Rebel. It was a whole new world. I started reading everything I could get my hands on. John Shaw's books were a real help starting out.

About the same time I bought a copy of Photoshop (imagine that, actually paying for it instead of pirating it ) and started messing around with it.

I ran into Charles Umberger on several forums and attended two of his workshops in Charlotte. He demystified lighting for me, and made me see it as something not to fear.

I shot a friend's wedding for free because they didn't have any money, and it turned out great. I started to see that I might be able to do this for a living.

I don't do many weddings, but I've started a business doing all the post-production work for wedding photographers.

So, long story short, a lot of trial and error spattered with the support of friends, family, and online communities. And, a lot more trial and error to come
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Re: Where did you learn your stuff?
Old 10-03-2006, 10:08 PM   #3 (permalink)
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first off, i'm flattered to be mentioned in your post, mike. thanks!

while i've been shooting 35mm SLR cameras since i was 12, i've also spent a a big chunk of my adult life shooting video cameras as well. i've worked shooting everything from aerospace/defense contractor marketing stuff (e.g., hanging out of airplanes or helicopters shooting other air vehicles) to mainstream to adult content and late-night, cable T&A. ("skinamax" and that sort of stuff.)

but i began shooting pretty ladies, in earnest, in the very early 80s.

my wife at the time was an actress. she hung out with plenty of other actresses. i converted my garage into a small studio (also converting a small storage building into a dark room--B&W only.) I began taking headshots and portfolio shots of hollywood hopefuls-- actresses as well as commercial models. at the time, i was trying to "make it" as a writer and director and this was a great way to make money.

i learned a lot from shooting actresses because they are often so good at "selling" themselves through expression and pose/body language.

much later on, working in the adult industry, i had plenty of opportunities to shoot pretty ladies in glamour style shots. some of you might know that some pretty damn good glamour photography appears on some of the boxes (or on the clamshell artwork) or in the ads for adult products and in dozens of magazines here and abroad. sure, some of it is garbage, but look at the product artwork & photography coming from companies like vivid, wicked, digital playground, sin city, LFP, and many more... yes, including playboy. some of it coming from shooters like suze randall, earl miller, ken marcus and more. while i spent most of my time time directing and shooting video, I also decided to start working as a photographer as well. in fact, these days i'll sometimes pass on shooting video and/or directing if it conflicts with a gig to shoot stills because that's what i really love doing!

i've studied lighting for years and years and, while much of what i know about lighting stems from motion picture lighting, i've taken that knowledge and applied it to digital photography. (yeah, i attended a few years of film school too.)

today, i'm shooting stills more and more. not just for adult and girlie magazine stuff, but i'm starting to make some inroads into fashion and other areas. for instance, it looks like i'll be shooting a campaign for a new makeup line in a month or so. these are high-end cosmetics from a startup company with cash behind them, developed by two experienced (and working-everyday MUAs) along with a notable chemist in the cosmetic industry. These cosmetics will target both consumers as well as for professional applications. IN fact, Ive seen the product packaging--clear acrylic with embedded mirrors and the logo in bright red--and it's really classy and upscale looking.

anyway, I guess that's my story in an even more compressed way than reader's digest condenses their stories.
I'm not an art critic but I think I know a good picture when I see one.

My NSFW blog
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Re: Where did you learn your stuff?
Old 10-04-2006, 12:24 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Well, I do have some formal education in the area, which has helped me. But before I went to school to learn about photogrpahy, I did it hands on, and that's where I have learned the most.
I know that I am one with beauty, And that my comrades are one. Let our souls be mountains, Let our spirtis be stars, Let our hearts be worlds.
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Re: Where did you learn your stuff?
Old 10-04-2006, 08:23 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I've always been artistic, and was attending the University of Northern Iowa majoring in art (drawing, painting, sculpture), when I took my first photography class as a junior. I'd known I'd always wanted a career in Art, but didn't know how I could make a living at it, untill I picked up that camera. I took nothing but photography classes after that, and recieved a degree in Photography.
For a couple years after that, I managed several different photo labs, and shot on the side. I think every photographer should have darkroom experience (even though it's not even used now) to help them better understand how light effects the paper. Eventually it got to be like having two fulltime jobs (managing the lab, and my side photography business), so I quite the lab and have been on my own ever since.
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Re: Where did you learn your stuff?
Old 10-04-2006, 09:21 AM   #6 (permalink)

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I get asked this a lot from sitters actually, the most-asked question being, "Did you go to school for this." Well, I didn't (my degree is in software engineering, most people would actually be shocked at the amount of creativity that goes into computer programming; seriously). I tell them, I learned the same way I learned a lot of things - by reading. I sometimes see a lot of misinformation and such on the internet that someone wouldn't have said/done if they had just done some actual reading. Like Jimmy, I study a lot, I read a lot of books and such on lighting, about how lighting works, how it behaves etc. It's been said that "Photography is 1/2 art, 1/2 science." There's definitely a science/math side to it. It's not "just art."

Experience is obviously very valuable too, and I shoot a LOT. But, experience isn't everything. I saw a post recently from someone who said he's been a photographer for over 15 years. He's even putting on a lighting class, and he responded to a post from a newbie asking about lighting ratios. He told the person that f/8 to f/11 is a 3:1 ratio. I figured it was a typo, but wanted to point out that it wasn't, it was 2:1. Apparently it wasn't a typo and he actually argued with me.

So, for me, it's a combination of reading, experience, and guidance/critique from other professionals like those on this forum.

Thanks, great thread!
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I've heard of the school of. . .
Old 10-04-2006, 10:40 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Hard Knocks this sounds to me like the school of Soft Knock. . . . . . err . . .well you get my meaning.
Paranoia does not preclude persecution.
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