In Case You Missed It Learn how to get started as a concert photographer with Adam Elmakias! Adam is a music photographer based in San Diego who got started in the business at a young age and has learned the ropes from spending time in the trenches with bands on the road, and in all kinds of venues. In this class Adam will teach you all the tools you need to be a successful artist today, from how to get a photo pass to the importance of networking, and from how to build your brand to how to find balance with social media. The photo industry is constantly changing, and one of the most important things you can do is position yourself to be an influencer within your photographic community. Adam addresses all of these points and so much more!
How I Became a Pro Never in a million years did I think I would become a professional photographer and shoot for brands like Sony Electronics, 1800 Tequila, Pei Wei and Toyota. Being a first-generation immigrant from China, I was always told to play piano or violin, or I would be beaten mercilessly with bamboo reeds. In 1985, my parents left a country where they didn’t have much and moved here with nothing but a dream. Even though they had no formal education, they were entrepreneurs and always believed they would succeed in America. These principals have always stood with me and guided me when I most needed it.
My foray into photography is a story that will make most photographers cringe. When our daughter was born, we wanted professional pictures taken. At the time, I didn’t realize how much photographers charged and thought they were wildly overpriced. So the next day I decided I’d just do it myself, and went out and purchased my first DSLR. The irony of this is, of course, that I entered photography as the epitome of everything a photographer despises – someone who undervalues the art and thinks they can do an equally good job on their own.
Thankfully, my ability and appreciation of photography steadily grew from that point. At first I used it as a stress reliever from the everyday trials of the corporate world until I realized I had a true passion for it. I would head out on my lunch break and after work and just shoot whatever I could find. I worked on my compositions and shot everything from landscapes and cityscapes to portraits and street photography. I just loved learning about photography and would spend countless hours on the internet watching YouTube tutorials and reading forums for tips and tricks.
Education has become an important element in my life. I went on to earn a Bachelor in MIS and Master in Business Administration. I was never a great student, but always remained driven to complete my degrees. I went on to work for a few Fortune 500 companies in different areas: sales, education, and healthcare. Each position taught me extremely valuable lessons in how I apply myself to my everyday life and business.
As my passion for photography and content creation grew, so did my urge to leave my 9-5. Conventionally, I had a “great job.” I was the Director of Marketing and Operations at a multi-million-dollar company with benefits and flexible hours, but it just wasn’t fulfilling. I was doing some freelance work as a creator, but I still felt like I was a slave to someone else’s dream. So I started my exit plan and waited for the perfect opportunity to present itself.
With a wife and two young children to think about, there was a lot on the line. But about two years ago, I decided to take the leap to become a full-time creative. Thankfully, I was able to take a lot of the lessons I learned from the corporate world and apply them to my new life as a full-time creative.
Here are some things that have helped me through my transition:
Five Ps – Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance Have a plan of action. It’s a lot harder to jump into things and try to make it work, so I plan before I jump. Ask yourself, how will you quit your full-time job? Do you have enough money saved? What is your plan to scale your business? Do you even know what type of photographer you want to become?
Hustle Understand that your talent alone will not make you successful. The business side of things is a lot harder than you think. Remember you have to do your own marketing, accounting, and creative work.
Network Building relationships and networking is probably the single most important aspect of your business. Get out to networking events and talk to people. Everyone needs a photographer for something. Understand your niche and where your business will come from. Bring business cards or create a vCard.
Be Social Many people use social media in different ways. Take advantage of it and create a brand that represents you. Having a great portfolio will go a long way. Also, keep in mind that the images people respond to on social media don’t necessarily translate into commercial work. Editing and shooting for social media and what agencies look for are two different things.
Know Your Value At first, you may feel you need to undervalue yourself to get business. Stay firm in your self-worth. But at the same time, remember this is an incredibly saturated field. In short, be honest with yourself, and you’ll arrive at an honest price that properly values your work and time while still staying competitive in the market.
When did you fall in love with photography? Can you remember the moment of perfect cohesion when your brain and heart infused the clunky object in your hand and the wild world was captured through a lens? It stirred something inside you and you realized, “There’s my voice. There’s my sight.”
Were you once too shy to step out before you allowed your camera to become a buffer, a connection when you felt so disconnected? Were you too unrestrained and scattered, yet the camera benevolently forced you to slow down, listen, and compose order from chaos?
Yeah, me too.
And then there was this one day in 2009 as I sat on the floor of an orphanage in New Delhi, India. I handed my Canon 30D to an 8-year-old named Simon and taught him the essential functions of the camera. I watched him move about the room, interacting with his friends, and focusing with such intent concentration for an 8-year-old. I saw this familiar spark begin to grow in him and expand with each shutter click and smile as he viewed his images on the dusty camera screen.
“My God, he gets it too,” I thought, amazed.
And though I was in India to use my photography as a “voice for the voiceless,” Simon helped me discover that he already had a voice, he just had no way to express it.
Over the next few years, my job title shifted from photographer to educator to non-profit-person in rapid succession.
I founded Picture Change in 2011 in response to the realization that the people in front of my camera were able to tell their own story, they just lacked the education and resources to do so.
Picture Change invests 6 – 10 weeks in students living in areas struggling under poverty or social injustice. We begin with photography basics and then move into documentary storytelling technique and basic business skills. They choose someone in their community to feature in a photo story, implementing listening and interview abilities they’ve learned while documenting the lives of their subject.
The students facilitate a “giving back day” in which they use their new photography skills to benefit others, such as photographing and distributing family portraits or“glamour pics” for widows in the village. For many recipients, it was the first printed photo they had of themselves.
To conclude each project, we host a community-wide gallery show championing the students’ hard work and celebrating the lives they have documented in a fun, public event. We make every effort to bring in local professional photographers during the project and connect our students to further opportunities in the months following. The donated gear is entrusted to our partner organization so the can students continue their photography and have an opportunity to earn their own camera. Thus far, Picture Change has worked in India, Montenegro, Uganda, four unique projects in Nicaragua, and with refugees resettled in Nashville, Tennessee.
Most of our students have experience being in front of the camera and though, undoubtedly, most of the photographers/missionaries/NGO’s were well-intentioned, the results left a negative impression.
I asked our students in Uganda, “Based on what you see on social media and the news, what is a stereotype about Africans?”
“That we are all poor! We are all dirty beggars! That we all have HIV!” they responded.
“Is this true?”
“Then show me with your photography what is the truth. Show me Africa by Africans.”
One of our students has taken her photography education further than anyone ever imagined. Rosa Lisseth Umanzor Diaz lived in a small fishing village in Nicaragua and had learned English by attending school in El Salvador. She was my translator and first photography student in the village of Padre Ramos, Nicaragua, our flagship project in 2011. With the skills she acquired and equipment donated by Picture Change supporters, Rosa adopted the vision of Picture Change as her own. She built a business as a freelance photographer, taught classes in her community, and has been hired by international companies and photojournalists. We also recently hired her as Picture Change’s social media manager.
In 2017, Rosa flew (for her first time) to Uganda to work as an assistant teacher with Picture Change. She was a true cultural ambassador and an incredible inspiration to our African students. She, like them, grew up struggling to meet day-to-day needs and overcame enormous obstacles for an education or finding a decent job. Yet, because of photography, she has been able to support her family, meet needs in her community, and eventually found herself traveling halfway around the world to share her skills and story with others.
In fact, Rosa recently told me, “I have only cried of happiness twice in my life. The first time was when I had just finished a photography job in the northern part of my country and was on the bus coming home. There I was, a Nicaraguan woman traveling alone, earning my own money, and using my skills to help others.”
Photography is communication without words. It can be a tool for empowerment and activism, bringing hope that things can change and YOU have a role, a voice, in changing the world for the better. Not all of my students become professional photographers but all learn to see themselves and the world around them with more clarity and greater understanding. It is my privilege to work with (rather thanfor) those in poverty and share this gift which has changed my life – the power of storytelling through photography.
If you’d like to help Picture Change empower more students to have an impact through photography, you can find out more about donating equipment (such as camera gear, smartphones, or laptop computers) or financially right here.
You can also help Picture Change by using your voice via business connections, relationships, or social networks to raise awareness of Picture Change and champion the work of our students.
Hands On With The Canon EOS R: Everything You Need To Know To Get Great Shots with Scott Kelby and Larry Becker Join Larry Becker to learn the ins and outs of the amazing Canon EOS R! Whether you just picked one up or are thinking about adding one to your kit, you’ll want to learn all the hidden features and pro tips that set this camera apart. From features such as programmable controls to flexible priority mode to shooting video, Larry teaches you how to set them up (and more!) and get the most out of them. Larry wraps up the class with three interviews with professional photographers, Joel Grimes, Roberto Valenzuela, and Rick Sammon who have a lot of insights to share from their early hands on experience with the EOS R.
On My Birthday, I Am Deleting My Instagram as a Gift to Myself. When I was approached by Brad to be featured on this guest blog a few months ago (back in June to be exact) I had a whole different set of ideas for what I wanted to talk about to a community of photographers and photography lovers alike.
Well, when I sat down to get to it in the more recent weeks, I realized how ever changing our entire worlds can become in just a matter of months, and where my head is at now…it is a very familiar place for all of us creatives in 2018. This may feel a lot more like a journal entry then advice about photography or a career related conversation topic, but I think that is what we all seek anyway when we create anything; a way to connect to others, to empower each other by sharing stories, and share things that we feel are important to us.
I spend the last minutes/hours of my night like a lot of you, on Instagram. Getting inspired, growing upset, laughing, sending memes to my best friends, or all of the above. I was born in 91’ and am a millennial through and through. BUT I am a millennial type who has hopes and intentions of using my technology powers for good in this world, and not to replace life happening in front of me, or a reason for utter laziness.
As some of you can likely relate, how I feel hours after perusing “the gram” is really just a crap shoot, it could be wildly inspired or it could be utterly disgusted at my own pathetic work. It really started to grow increasingly upsetting night after night to find pages of models, photographers, actors, and just humans in general that I had never heard of with millions, MILLIONS of fans/followers. Most of whose posts felt contrived, ad-based, and disingenuous in content. It is not some ground breaking social analysis to say that we have in large part come to the conclusion that a social following doesn’t equate to success or happiness.
But in my world, as a full-time freelance photographer, and maybe in some of yours, it does mean visibility, social currency, more potential clients, and some validation that your imagery/work is widely liked. That being said, I jumped for joy when my photo page it 1,000 followers this year… and I have spent the last 6 months toying with the idea of deleting my account all together.
I can’t seem to settle on some middle ground of using it for work, but ignoring the temptation to scroll endlessly and not to let comparison day after day steal the joy of where I reside in my own journey. Which at the very least is as a full-time photographer making a living! BUT, I have settled on a birthday gift (on October 15th) to myself, of removing it from my phone, I will keep it on my iPad to continue sharing work I am excited about.
Here Is Why: I need to feel free again. To be on my own journey. To stop comparing myself to every other creative person out there and wondering why I feel stuck at times. I need to stop looking for validation and visibility and magazine covers and stick to shooting endlessly and growing my network along with my technical tool box. Making local connections. Keep finding what is beautiful in my world and capturing it. Collaborating with people that I am inspired by. Leaving my phone at home and taking a friend and a roll of film out to a new place. Making mistakes, ruining a roll or 2 and feeling that sting. I need to be intentional with my composition and make technical choices that make the photograph work for me.
And so do you.
I guess I am here to say, wherever you are in your journey, that is my wish for you. That you can take a moment and look at how your work has grown over the last year, or 3, or 5 and be excited for what is to come without worrying about your age or your own personal timeline compared to those around you. Keep sending emails and taking meetings, reaching out to people you think may never respond.
My most successful shoots have been where preparation met luck in some sort of creative sweet spot. I am going to keep chasing that magic pocket, and peddling along, and not worry so heavily about what external validation I can find from the work. I hope you find your magic often enough to never grow tired of looking for it too.