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February 21, 2010


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Written by: Lawrence

“At that point, I was still shooting my hobbies but I would try some artsy stuff that I had read about in that book occasionally. Then I found and my interest took off.”


LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: In high school, were you involved in the yearbook ? What sparked your interest for 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?

I went to vo-tech for graphic design and then after high school went to a design school. While I was there a classmate got me into photography and how seeing things through a lens could improve your graphics composition. So I begged for an SLR that christmas (Canon Rebel S, longtime fanboy I guess. Lol). I had one book on 35mm photography and I think I read it over and over for like 5 years or more.

I started off shooting the sports I was into. I raced motorcycles at the time so I would take the camera to the track or I’d setup the bikes or cars I had and took pictures of those. It was never anything “artistic” but I always enjoyed shooting.

When I worked at an ad agency, I would volunteer to shoot some in-house design projects that we had no budget to hire a photographer for. That’s probably what really got me into shooting more of what I do today. I tried doing high-key isolation with a single daylight bulb and learned the hard way about color temp mixing. In 1997, I paid WAY too much for an Olympus 1mp Point and Shoot, but I calculated that I could shoot 25 rolls of film and it would pay for itself.

At that point, I was still shooting my hobbies but I would try some artsy stuff that I had read about in that book occasionally. Then I found and my interest took off. At that time, the community seemed like it was people like myself, Graphic Designers who took decent pictures and would help each other out and exchange images for a low overhead. The competition fueled everyone to be better and shoot better images. That’s what was the focus for me to get better.

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?

I have some, but the are mostly just snapshots. Nothing much worth sharing.
[note: If I can find something good I’ll include it here.]

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM:  What books did you read when you first got into photography? 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 grow as an amateur photographer?

That first book that I read over and over was Micheal Langford’s 35mm Handbook.  When I got into istock and was studying lighting I relied pretty heavily on Christopher Grey’s Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers. The other was a website,  Over the years, I’ve learned from various photographers we interview on our podcast, LightSource at After getting a really good handle on the fundamentals it was really just a matter of getting some good lighting equipment and making a lot of bad photos to get to the better stuff.

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM:  Have you made some money from your photography as an amateur? What was your first photo sale? How long was it after that first sale you sold your next photo? If you haven’t sold a photo, do you have any plans to do so?

Well, I currently make a pretty good supplemental income from and I shoot a couple weddings a year. Weddings are nothing I solicit but I end up doing them by referral.

When I started selling images on istock, I figured I’d see if I could earn some money to get some download credits for the websites I was working on. After I saw I could make some money, I decided to let the balance grow. Now it’s pretty decent money. It’s not my “day job” so I’m happy with how I’m doing.

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM:  What tools do you recommend that are a must have that helped you get to where you are present day?
A  good SLR and the best lens you can afford to put on the front of it will take you a long way. The quality of the current crop of cameras is amazing. If you want to do studio style photography a single monolight is hard to beat. A single strobe will teach you a lot about exposure and light position. Strobist kits are nice and portable, but really focusing on manual mode and flash exposure teaches you a lot.


LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What is your present motivation to continue with your photography?

That’s in interesting question because I’ve kind of lost motivation for the last year. I have a pile of images sitting on my PC that I’ve done nothing with and I had no desire to do any new projects until I got my “pipeline clear”.

I’ve listened to a lot of our photographers on the podcast talking about shooting what you love. And I’m doing that again. I’ve started shooting some cycling images and sports that I take part in. It’s kind of back to where I started years ago. I think I got feeling like I was shooting only to “make a buck” and got creatively drained.

Now that I’ve been doing shoots I want to do, I’m starting to see images in my head again that I want to take. A creative director I worked with was guiding me through directing a radio commercial one time. He said, “read the script in your head… hear how it’s going to sound. When the talent reads it, just try to match it.” Sounds simple but that’s kind of how I approach photo too now. I see stuff in my mind and sketch it in my moleskin book and then try to match it.

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM:  What are you doing now to set yourself apart from other photographers? What is your niche?

I’ve always considered myself a humorist. I think some of my best work were some photo illustrations I did where I either poked fun at myself or try to inject a little bit of fun into the images.

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM:  Do you have a studio? If so, why? What are the benefits of having a studio as a weekend photographer?

I used to. It was a small room in a local warehouse. It wasn’t pretty but it was a place to work. I decided to not renew my lease this year for various reasons. It was great to have a space where I could just leave and lock the door and not have to worry about breaking all my softboxes down or put backgrounds away. I could just roll them up and leave.

Previous to that, I was shooting people in the basement or on location. That limited me to shooting in good weather or my light setup because of not having height. The other nice thing about that was not having to worry about models or strangers coming by the house to do a shoot. I could keep the family separate from whoever I might be working with. Luckily, there isn’t anyone I’ve worked with that I wouldn’t mind coming to the house, but you just never know. For the time being, I’ll do location for a while or there are a few places not far that I’ll schedule a studio for a day and just stack shoots back to back.

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM:  What photography resources do you consistently refer to date ? Can you name at least 5 websites you refer to religiously for your photography?

HYPERLINK “” (for the occasion I’ll read up on gear)

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Do you have any photography projects? If so, what is it and why? If not, why not?

I have a couple I’ve recently started to plan for…


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 as a weekend photographer/ part time photographer?

My immediate plans are to produce more. My portfolio could certainly use some refreshing. I’ve toyed with a book, but my wife has authored a few and I know the work involved behind it. Granted they aren’t photography books, but it’s a lot of work and I wouldn’t tackle it unless I had something unique or new to add to what’s available.

My friend Tyler Stalman ( has a couple books he’s put together through blurb and they look really cool. Something like that might grab my interest, but it’s not on the table at this time.

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Would you ever consider doing a workshop and share your knowledge on the weekends? If not, how do you plan to contribute to the photography community?

We tried it once, they are a lot or work. We are talking about doing some photowalks or something informal like that. Our podcast is our major contribution to the community. People seem to get a lot out of those.

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?

It’s hard to ignore that and there will certainly be some merging of the two, but there will still be a call for either one. And to be good at either one, you’ll have to know the medium. When I worked at the ad agency and was exploring photography, my official title was “Multimedia Art Director”. I had a pretty good video editing system for the day and I did all of our TV commercials on it. I’ve done video production at every job I’ve had since then, so I have an interest in it.

I don’t currently have an SLR that shoots video but I have been playing with a small FlipVideo HD Ultra for grabshot stuff and playing around. It has a kind of “lomo” or “iPhone photography” feel to it. I’ll probably do some playing “behind the scenes” and stuff like that.

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Where do you plan to take your photography passion? Are you planning on going pro one day? If so, which area of photography are you planning on getting into professionally? If you don’t plan to go professional one day, what are you aspiring to as an amateur photographer?

I’m happy to just shoot more often, earn some more income, and have a good time doing it. That’s the big key for me. As my day job seems like it is getting more into coding, photography has become my creative artistic outlet. So having fun is the big key to enjoying what I do!

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM:  Thank you again for your time and giving back to the photography community. 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.

Just make it fun and like so many photographers before me have said, shoot what motivates you. Shoot what you enjoy. Not only will you enjoy it, but it’s the key to getting those types of jobs.


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About the Author

Lawrence Atienza is a Jack of all Trades and Master of ALL. Whether it be in the realm of Advertising/Advertising operations with over 10+ years of experience to dabbling in the creative realm of photography and founding/writing for, Lawrence Atienza gives his all. You can find him on Google+,Twitter and the major social media outlets.




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