Photography and Me

Thought I’d give a little personal history with photography.

You know I used to be a professional portrait photographer? Really, got paid for it and everything. Here’s the story.

I have a degree in Mass Communication Radio/TV from ACU, which means I was trained to be a journalist, specifically a broadcast journalist. Now when I was getting this degree I wanted to be a film director, but that’s a story for another time. As part of that training I took photography. There I learned the basics of how to use an SLR.

Fast forward to graduation. I just met the woman of my dreams and she is going to school in Indiana. I am looking to work with a church in Seattle Washington, but that isn’t working because I’m not getting support (which is how missionaries get paid). Then something happens that never happens in broadcasting. Someone calls me up out of the blue and asks if I want a job in Ohio. So I say yes, because it puts me a 4 hour drive from my future wife, which for a Texan is nothing, which I promptly prove by driving it every weekend.

This job was an internship and ended in a few months. I get married at that time and move to Indiana where the new wife is going to school. But I need a job. I find one at a one hour photo place. Part of the place is a portrait studio, and given my extensive history in photography, including a college degree that required learning how to use a camera, I’m the second string photographer.

Most of the time I’m just developing people’s pictures, but when there is someone who wants a portrait and Monty – the first string photographer – isn’t around, I take people’s pictures. And they get back their proofs in an hour. Mostly I sucked, but the process was pretty cut and dry, and we produced OK portraits. About what you’d expect when you go to a place like that. Have to tell the story sometime of when we shot the pictures for the local prom, but not today.

Eventually we decided to move back to Texas so I could go to grad school. We ended up spending one summer back in Indiana for her to finish up and I worked the photo lab again, but it was part time and I also worked a McDonalds, which is another story for another time. (Maybe my life hasn’t been so boring after all).

Despite my denigration of my photography career I still like producing good pictures. Don’t do it very often, but I like it. Part off the reason is I don’t have a photographer’s eye. Monty was a pro, only working at the photo lab to support the beginning of his own photography business. He could look at people and see what needed to change to make the picture better. He was creative, making pictures out of ideas. I never had that. Now is that because I don’t have enough practice, or lack some innate artistic ability.

Related to this was Monty knew what his pictures were going to look like when he took them. I often see great pictures, but when I take them and get them printed the exposure is wrong, or the focus has a different depth than I saw through the viewfinder, or a soft light isn’t so soft. This is one of the reasons I’m excited about digital photography. Because I can take the picture and see how it looks right afterwards. Then if I screwed it up I can take it again.

But then again I promised the Mrs last night I wouldn’t buy a motorcycle or digital camera in the next 6 months because we can’t afford it. So there will be no new equipment for awhile. Of course if I was willing to get a non-SLR it would cost less, and I might be able to use money I make from writing to pay for it without it having to come out of the budget. But if it is a non-SLR then can I do all the cool stuff I can with an SLR? Will I see what I’m getting ready to take a picture of?