How I got started in photography
I was asked about how I started my career as a photographer. There are two parts to this story: my passion for fine art photography and later my focus on pet and portrait photography.
In high school back in the mid-1980’s, I earned a high school scholarship in photography at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, and in one summer fell in love with the process. As a teenager, I was amazed in the darkroom when I developed my first print, making me eager to learn everything and anything about photography.
Throughout under grad and grad school, I shot film. I was a huge fan of Agfapan and Polaroid 665 film. Back in the film camera era, style had as much to do with the film and the photo paper as with the shot itself. I wasn’t a fan of 35mm cameras because I felt they were too small, so I shot with medium format cameras. My favorite and last camera was a Mamiya 7. As digital was becoming more the norm, I got to play with cameras like the Nikon D70 and some others. It wasn’t until later in 2007 that I sold all my gear so I could get a Canon 5D, full frame camera. It was then I made the big switch to all digital.
The biggest change in my photography career was not from any new gear or technology. It was my dog Toby who I adopted over 12 years ago.
When Toby was young I took him on long walks, finding open spaces where people regularly bring their dogs off leash. Through these experiences, I became excited about dog owners and the interaction I found at these dog-friendly outdoor areas. As with most anything I do, I brought my camera. This community of dogs and their owners encouraged me to begin photography projects around dogs.
This experience also led me to research other pet photographers. I had no idea that I could focus my attention just on pets. I found beautiful work that inspired as well as gratified me, knowing that there exists a business model for pet photography.
From then I started to promote myself, mostly to friends but kept the security of my day job.
Making the leap
I started climbing a steep learning curve: lighting, shooting video and managing the business aspect of photography. I began to step away from the fine arts world of photography and was more involved with the commercial world. I joined ASMP and was amazed by what I didn’t know.
As the book, The Black Dogs Project was taking off, I decided that it was now or never to become a full-time photographer. I left my day job and started following my passion with an increased sense of purpose now applied to my own business. Aware that the photography world is always morphing into something new, I keep current with new technologies and gear to continue being my best self.
Consider how smartphones have changed the game for the consumer-camera field. Smart companies like Light.co are tapping into that field by creating a bridge between what professionals need and what consumers want with the creation of their compact camera.
As a self-employed business owner, I focus on what is most important to me- making sure my clients can display beautiful photos that they can hang in their homes. Prints are my top priority, yet people want to share not just the images but the experience. With that in mind, I also shoot video, create interactive slide shows and make custom smartphone apps.
I hope to keep creating beautiful work that my clients will enjoy for years to come. Our pets are in our lives for only a short time but in our hearts forever. I want my photos to be the connection that keeps that feeling alive and well.