LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: In your early years of high school, were you involved in the yearbook ? What sparked your interest in photography? Do you recommend all the weekend photographers out there to initially stick with the subjects they know and build from there? Do you have any suggestions on how to build that progression? How did you progress to where you are today?
During high school I was in to rock n roll, played in a few bands, was somewhat of an outcast in high school, therefore was not involved in the yearbook. I think my interest in photography started when I was younger. When I was five, my parents bought me one of those point and shoots with the flash bulbs. Great times. My father was a hobbyist photographer and I hung out in the dark room as much as possible.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Do you still have photos taken from the early years when it all started? What were your subjects? Are the pictures online to share with everyone to compare with your work today?
Not sure where those photos ended up. My mother probably thought the photos borderlined soft-core porn. I’ve always had a way of capturing sexual energy with a camera, even at such a young age.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What books did you read at the beginning of your photography career that helped you prepare for today? Title of book, author and price of book please…just messing around, the title of the books should be fine thanks to google search. Do you recall any other resources that you referred to heavily to help you prepare for the photography business? We want to know what the must have resources are to fully equip ourselves when and if we ever plan to take that leap of faith.
I’ve always been the type to search for answers in books, however very rarely found what I was looking for. Magazines have been my favorite resources. Vogue, Nylon, Vanity Fair, Another Magazine, American Photo, PDN…
Spent a few dollars on some cheesy photo books that seemed more glamour style. didn’t get anything good out of them, however one book: The Lighting Cookbook for Fashion & Beauty. This is a must have.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What was your very first professional photography job? Was this purely out of luck that you were at the right place at the right time? Was there a hidden plan to penetrate the market from within? Would you recommend it to new photographers trying to break into the market and that are having difficulty breaking in? Once you had your first job under your belt was it difficult to get another gig? What did you do to acquire more work besides providing awesome images? Have you ever considered being agency represented? If you are agency represented how did you attract a photography agent?
I got involved with a regional magazine and was photographing a bartender at a club for a monthly editorial feature, and the club owners asked if I could photograph some advertising campaigns for them. This client became my bread and butter client. They had a restaurant adjacent to the club and I photographed everything for them. Food, product, ad campaigns, pop displays… I guess I was in the right place at the right time. However there was a huge amount of hard work and persistence that got my the editorial gig in the first place.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: After your first job, What was the next photography gig you obtained and how did you go about your execution? Did you apply all that you’ve learned in all the books you’ve read ? Did you buy more books or accessed any more resources to help you jump to your next big step in the game of photography? What tools do you recommend that are a must have that helped you get to where you are present day?
My first client kept me busy while I photographed fashion shows and built relationships with indie fashion designers. Other commercial projects included a group of Best Western hotels, a paint ball products company, an ad campaign for a cosmetic surgeon.
As far as applying what I learned, I was taking the safe route when it came to lighting. I wasn’t experimenting enough, although the quality of my photos were good, I wasn’t taking creative risks. I hadn’t learned to see light. I wasn’t controlling the mood with light. That is something that took my the next 4 years to learn.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What keeps the money rolling? Your brand is possibly a huge factor to your longevity? Am i right? Do you have any recommendations on brand building for weekend photographers and/or Photographers in general.
You’ve probably heard, “you’re only as good as your last shoot”. This is wrong. You’re only as good as your NEXT shoot. Branding is important, however building relationships is what is MOST important. Everyone you meet could have a future impact on your income. I was shooting a fashion show one time, and I pointed out to a new photographer how to let the ambient light burn in and make the photo more interesting, later I bid on an assignment where he was the art director. I got the gig because of how helpful I was. In addition, there was a girl that I dated who later on became the creative director on a series of photo shoots. Be nice to everyone.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What is currently in your photography bag? Please be as detailed as possible for those starting out photographers that want to be just like you. From your photography equipment arsenal, what do you bring most of the time for your commercial shoots?
Now before I begin to describe what else is in my bag, I must point out when I first started out, I was gadget hungry. Any remote possibility I could use something, I had it. Then I learned a valuable lesson, get insurance on your gear. I was on a shoot and had a vehicle broken into and lost everything. i spent a year and a half replacing things.
Now here goes: #1 business cards, I’ve ran out at the most inopportune times. I have a shoulder bag from Naneu Pro that holds a camera, a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm lens, compact flash cards, a card reader, extra batteries and charger, external drive, and laptop. This is my main carry on, on an airplane. This bag goes everywhere with me. The laptop is a tight fit, wish the bag was just a tad bit bigger.
My light-kit bag which is a modified large Adidas duffle bag lined with foam padding and the foam that you would use in pelican cases… includes two old school Bogen 400b monolights, (love these old work horses), two 42” pop up reflectors, two stands, two reflectors, gaffers tape, power cords, extension cords, a-clamps, a power strip, tri-pod, pocket wizards, and other stuff. The reason I went with this bag is because it doesn’t scream PHOTO EQUIPMENT, and therefore is a lot less likely to attract thieves.
Additionally I carry the deluxe background support system from calumet in it’s nice travel bag. Which includes two heavy duty light stands, 4 sectional cross bars, and two 60” shoot-through combo umbrellas fit nicely inside.
This is what I travel with. Nothing too fancy, not the latest and greatest, but enough to accomplish what I need. I rent additional gear as needed. I’m a HUGE fan of the Hasselblad H3D II, and rent it any chance the budget permits. My insurance premiums are lower, I’m not going broke with gear I don’t need.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What is your favorite image in your current portfolio and why? How did you approach the execution? Give us a glimpse on how you construct an image from scratch.
The tighly cropped denim image with holes and honeycomb stockings beneath. I felt this image at the time defined my style, defined me as an artist, my passion. Execution was simple. Get closer, find something sexy about what you’re shooting and capture it.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Is having your own studio space essential for any commercial photographer. Do you have a photography studio of your own? If so, what do you look for in a photography studio?
I had my own studio in the beginning before I started traveling more. It gave me the opportunity to just create. However soon I was bored within limiting myself to what could only be done in studio. Through the relationships I have built, I have a number of locations across the world available to my use. Including large commercial studios. This allows me to keep my expenses down and gives me the opportunity to be more mobile. Recently I’ve started feeling the need to plant some roots and figure out where is “home” Once I determine where I want to be. I’ll find a good live/work location that can accommodate everything I want to do. High ceilings, large open space, roll up doors are a prerequisite for me, now. When you select space for a studio for fashion photography, make sure you have enough room to photograph three or four models, full body with a 70-200mm lens, comfortably.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What types of commercial gigs are you currently involved in now and how did they surface? What are your recommendations on how we photographers diversify their product offering from Commercial and stock in today’s marketplace?
Upcoming commercial gigs include a few cosmetic lines, hair products, and clothing lines. I’m currently working on an ongoing assignment for a salon, also. How did these projects surface? I chose these types of projects, and through word of mouth, networking, and knocking on doors, they came to being. In serious actuality, the law of attraction. Shooting for the purpose of stock? I just haven’t been inspired to do so. I’ve had a few images that I offer via rights managed licensing that would fit stock, but they were shot part of a commercial project.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What are your immediate goals as a photographer and artist? Are you planning on releasing any how-to books? What are your recommendations to people thinking about starting a photography book?
Immediate goals: I’m enjoying shooting more beauty photography. Love photographing hair and make up. As far as books and workshops, at this point in time, I’m not interested in the business of how-to books or workshops. However, I am interested in sharing my knowledge in which could be accomplished with books or workshops. I guess, I’d be willing to contribute to someone else’s book or workshop. I guess I just don’t want to lose sight of my goal: to create images for clients.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: A lot of professional photographers are starting to run workshops. Will you start offering workshops in the future? I know TIME is not your friend, but there are ways to get around that maybe offering internship opportunities to intern with you for a small fee during one of your paid shoots. Or maybe provide an opportunity to be a spectator for one of your weekend shoots?
I think I answered this in the last question. I’m very approachable and willing to share my knowledge. I’m not looking at it as a way to produce income.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: I am sure you’ve read many articles discussing how in the future videography and photography will be one? What are your thoughts on that and how will you evolve to the new morphed medium? I know you currently do some video work but how do you plan on taking that to the next level?
I think still photography will never die. If every image was video, there would be a lot of “noise” or clutter… information overload so to speak. However, many more clients are wanting a one stop shop for both still and motion photography. It’s amazing what the RED camera can do. I think the technology will advance to provide the ability to use one capture device, however, it really is two different art forms. Personally, I may decide to do more motion photography. We’ll see what evolves.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Ok so thinking about the future is very important in any endeavor especially the photography business. What do you suggest photographers do in the future to solidify their presence in the industry? What will you do to ensure that you remain on top, not taking into account your photography niche?
The marketplace is constantly changing. The best advice I could give someone starting out, is learn your own style ,learn how to sell your images. Learn who your customers are, and learn how to price accordingly. I’ve built my business on building relationships. It because of those relationships that clients keep coming back.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Thank you again for your time and giving back. What would you like to leave for us photographers to think about when moving forward with photography for the future? If you have any words of wisdom will be appreciated.
I think I answered this with the last question. I’ve learned that I’m not out there competing with other photographers, I’m constantly competing with myself. Always trying to do my absolute best, always trying to improve both technically and creatively, and always trying continue developing my style. Words of wisdom: Don’t get caught up in the “only if I had this piece of gear, I could shoot this…” get out there and shoot it with what you have available to you. Learn to work around not having something. Do whatever it takes to get the shot with the resources at hand. You’ll learn so much more.