After spending 11 years behind the lens, I am opening up my first professional studio in Connecticut.
Now, I don’t consider the time spent behind a camera as an indication or measure of skill for a photographer, and to some extent, I don’t believe there is any particular “level” or milestone at which a photographer should decide to open a studio. We are constantly developing and honing our craft, our style may change over the years, and technology is constantly evolving, so I consider a good photographer as one who strives to both push their craft to the limit and stay on the forefront of photo technology.
The image above displays what may appear to be a pile of junk, but it’s an assortment of items and tools I have collected over the last 11 years in my feeble attempts to shoot photography.
Some Items may stick out, (from left to right) such as the 2 stage lights, those were given to me as a wedding gift from my sister in law who proudly stated she found them by a dumpster. Next is a beat up garage dish lamp I used for my first paid freelance portrait in 2009 that I duct taped onto that music stand.
On top of the side table, you can see a square LED light, this was part of a desperate plan to effectively shoot a wedding inside of a cave from 2015. Then there is some cardboard and a car reflector, and the famous Alien Bees 800.
My first portrait client Sue (seen above with the guitar) was so supportive of my craft, and despite getting duct tape residue on her coffee table, she paid me enough money to where I could buy my first alien bee studio light.
At the time I had no bills, but no real job either. My mom was making monthly payments on QVC for my Nikon d3100 to support my craft, and I made $5 hr at an afterschool program making just enough to buy snacks or some new shoes once in a while. The night I got paid I immediately ordered the alien bee 800 and a refurbished Nikon 50mm 1.8f prime.
The 50mm 1.8f prime lens was a new world for me, I felt like a real photographer for the first time after exclusively using the included 18-55mm 5.6f and because of that experience, I call bullshit on the saying:
says everyone pretending they don’t use photoshop
Its not about having the best camera gear, it’s about the photographer
First off, that is only partially true. I agree that there is a practical side to learning photography that requires vigorous use and training with the basic camera setup, and yes, TECHNICALLY a camera is just a box that manipulates light, but I think every photographer needs to find their favorite lens. It could be a 35mm or a 90-300mm, the point is that gear DOES matter for a photographers creative development. So if you are reading this right now with a basic camera trying to learn, you don’t need to prove anything before you branch out, just get that lens you want right away. If you cant afford an expensive lens, (speaking from personal experience) there are old mom and pop photography shops getting rid of functional vintage “junk lenses” for cheap because of a single scuff or tiny mold spot on an otherwise incredible lens from the 60s, and now you can experiment and refine your composition /end rant.
I cant help but look back at the past 11 years as I am preparing my new studio, and I wonder how I will look back another 10 years from now.
Back to the year 2010, I used my d3100 and 50mm for about a year until I got married in 2011. My wife was part of a traveling band (literally). The prospect of me leaving home to travel cross country full time with my wife, lead to the conclusion that I should spend almost all of our wedding money to upgrade my camera to a Nikon D7000. It was a tough decision… I remember asking “are you sure we should do this?” to which she insisted “yes, you should invest in this as a tool to help you get better jobs and projects” So as they say:
Happy Spouse, Happy Housesimple truth
I promptly burnt my clutch on the way to the “Camera Bar” photography store in Hartford Connecticut to pick up a new Nikon D7000. And I have been using that camera ever since. (Including the alien bees, music stand, and duct tape)
Skipping 8 chapters ahead, ( have many more stories to share I will save for another time) we found ourselves 7 years later having a similar discussion as we are planning on settling down in Connecticut. Only this time the discussion was in regards to a Sony A7iii Mirrorless camera.
“Are you sure we should do this?” – “Well, you can never go wrong with getting a great tool for your trade” After much consideration, I promptly burnt a hole in my wallet, (because I have an automatic car in 2019) once again, at the same camera shop in Hartford Connecticut 7 years later.
There was something surreal about coming full circle like that, because we both forgot about the same camera shop from 2011… It wasn’t until we walked in there, eager to look around, that we suddenly started to remember the place. The owners thought we where crazy as we sat there scratching our heads trying to recollect if this was really the same place I got my D7000.
Up until now, it was difficult to invest the time and money into gear. But maybe it was a good thing because I had absolutely nothing to outfit my studio with and I found myself re-establishing my space on a clean slate. It has truly been a huge blessing, but rather than show off my new gear and studio space, I wanted to share all my old gear instead, as a way to remind myself what it took to get here, and perhaps encourage others to keep pushing their photography despite not having the gear they want. Eventually, things fall into place, but until then you need to keep taking pictures, and you cannot stop!