“I made money from bands paying me to photograph their press shots.”
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?
SCOTT WYDEN: In high school, I actually was asked to join the yearbook committee based on my love for photography. Our task was to work on the layout of the yearbook. The yearbook crew didn’t go out and photograph everyone, as we were a very small high school and it would be difficult to get all the pictures we would need to create the book. We gathered photographs the students and parents supplied, scanned them and returned them to the students. It may have been more work but for some reason that’s how it had been done in the previous years, so we continued the tradition as requested by the school.
Growing up, my main focus was with music. I then began photograph bands on stage that definitely peaked my interest into wanting to do more with my skills. I think all photographers should start out photographing what they comfortable with. Build yourself as an artist; see how comfortable you are with the equipment at hand. Photograph everything in sight in order to know what you like and how your imagination can run with the scenery in front of you. This will help to find out what you want to do with your photography.
As a musician, I would go to various concerts around the area. In advance, I would contact the band and ask if they would allow me to take some photographs of their performance(s). I would go see a band or watch a concert with my camera over my shoulder and film stuffed in my back pocket. If there is music playing, I can get into a “zone” where it becomes just me and the band, which will enable me to really show my artistic side. My photographs became an extension of their music and my artistic ability to think outside of the box. After a while of photographing live bands, I started photographing their press shots for albums, CD covers, posters, etc… This is where my passion for portrait photography really grew. Start with something you know and build upon. Always think outside of the box using whatever creativity you may come up with.
From music bands, I progressed to models, children, and scenery. That is what I focus on today, with an occasional family function or lifetime event.
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?
SCOTT WYDEN: I don’t have everything from back in the day unfortunately. I wish I did but my family moved 4 times when I was growing up and I lost a lot of photos. My subjects from my early years ranged from bands, beginner models, families & landscapes. I have some older photos in my blog archives under the topic ‘Photo Found’ which are photographs I took years ago which I have recently found on the internet.
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?
SCOTT WYDEN: Because I was originally going to school for music I didn’t read much about photography, but when I decided to change my life and start focusing on photography I picked up Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander & Glen E. Friedman books, etc.. I was really into the black & white photography at the time and their photographs are perfect examples. Robert Franks “The Americans” ($30) is still one of my favorite photography books to date. As my passion of photography grew I started picking up Annie Leibowitz and Ansel Adams books. When you look at photographs taken by a photographer who really knows what that box is in their hands, it inspires you to learn more and grow more. It helps boost your creativity in such a way that words can’t describe. In fact, during college I had to pick a photographer from our book to replicate in our own fashion so mine was based on Lee Friedlander’s collection of self portrait shadows.
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?
SCOTT WYDEN: I made money from bands paying me to photograph their press shots. This was before considering my career change. My first print sale was so random. I received an email from someone saying they wanted a print of a NYC photograph I shot using a Sepia filter. It is one of my favorite photographs I’ve taken and I actually have it mounted on an easel in my dining room. After my initial sale, word must have spread, as I would get print requests and photo gigs all of the time. That has continued through today.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What tools do you recommend that are a must have that helped you get to where you are present day?
SCOTT WYDEN: I was pretty lucky that I was given a film camera with a pretty decent meter. My first camera (some Fujica 35mm SLR) which was my biological fathers before he died and then given to me by my grandfather. But I did say decent meter, as I actually had to calculate the difference in proper exposure because the meter was always one stop off. With that said the most important tool for anyone starting out would be a good meter. If a photo is not exposed properly then aesthetically, it may do more harm then good.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What is your present motivation to continue with your photography?
SCOTT WYDEN: Growth. Although I love my photographs I will never be where I want to as a photographer. It doesn’t matter if I sell any photos, because I am shooting for myself more than anything. If I see a mistake, I want to correct it for the future. Growing as a photographer is my motivation to keep on trucking.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What are you doing now to set yourself apart from other photographers? What is your niche?
SCOTT WYDEN: I’m sure I’m not alone by saying this but I don’t try to set myself apart. Like I said previously I am shooting for myself. I didn’t make photography my full time job because I knew that if I did it every day and each one had a new client bossing me around I would very unhappy. I will continue shooting for myself and if people like my work great, otherwise it is quite alright.
With that said, I do try to be different. I always look at a potential photograph as how it will enlighten my day, put a smile on someone’s face, or light up a room. When I walk around the block, or through a park, I see beauty in things that others just take for granted. These are the types of photographs that I enjoy taking. I use the natural light as much as possible and use my tools at hand to get the look that I am trying to achieve.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Do you have a studio? If so, why? What are the benefits of having a studio as a weekend photographer? What is currently in your photography bag? Please be as detailed as possible for those starting out photographers wanted to purchase more equipment. From your photography equipment arsenal, what do you bring most of the time for your photo shoots?
SCOTT WYDEN: I don’t have a studio. I own a condo which enables me to move furniture as needed and set up shop in any room. I am more of a location guy. I’d rather photograph someone in their element, or in a location that fits their look.
Currently in my bag is one of my Nikon D700 bodies with the extra battery grip, the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 lens, extra batteries and memory cards. I was doing a Central Park Zoo photowalk with some friends this weekend so I brought minimal gear.
For photographers just starting out I’d say to save your pennies and learn with the equipment you have on hand. Master it! Have your current camera as an extra body part. Never let it leave your side. When you know your gear you can then better yourself as a photographer. If you keep switching gear you will never be comfortable enough to learn. Most of the time when I shoot portraits I have both of my camera bodies, a 50MM f/1.4 lens, the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens and a 70-200 f/2.8 lens. If I can tell starting photographers anything it is to be prepared. Think about what and where you will be shooting and prepare for the worst. You do not want to leave anything out but you don’t want to carry too much with you on location.
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? Who are your inspirations in the photography world?
SCOTT WYDEN: I really like this question! Besides from consistently checking out their new photographs I read most of these blogs. There is Nikon master Joe McNally ( HYPERLINK “http://www.joemcnally.com” http://www.joemcnally.com), the incredible Chase Jarvis ( HYPERLINK “http://www.chasejarvis.com” http://www.chasejarvis.com), the all knowing Scott Kelby ( HYPERLINK “http://www.scottkelby.com” http://www.scottkelby.com), the talented and very useful knowledge base of David Hobby’s Strobist ( HYPERLINK “http://www.strobist.com” http://www.strobist.com), the incredible works of David Tejada ( HYPERLINK “http://www.tejadaphoto.com” http://www.tejadaphoto.com), the amazing and beautiful Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir (http://www.rebekkagudleifs.com), and the HDR master Trey Ratcliff ( HYPERLINK “http://www.stuckincustoms.com” http://www.stuckincustoms.com). However, I can’t leave out John Milleker (http://www.johnmilleker.com). I met him through Twitter and I’m so glad I did because his work truly inspires me.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Do you have any photography projects? If so, what is it and why? If not, why not?
SCOTT WYDEN: I had a project I was going to do where I would photograph a devil duck toy in odd situations. I created a website devilduck.net and started working on the project. I received numerous emails, tweets, facebook & flickr messages, etc, stating that other people were working on the same exact thing. That ruined it for me and I decided to sell DevilDuck.net and try something else. So as far as a shooting project goes I do not have a specific one, just shooting in general. However, a few months back I launched Photowalklist.com and IShootInRAW.com which are pretty intense. Photowalklist.com takes up some time where as IShootInRAW.com pretty much runs itself.
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?
SCOTT WYDEN: My goals are to keep shooting. In fact since January 1, 2009 I said I was going to take a least one photograph a day even if it is a silly shot that means nothing. This gets the camera in my hand and my eye through the viewfinder. I don’t have plans for a how-to book but once I get my ‘Object’ project underway I will be working on a photo book. I have even been considering putting a book together of my favorite “Naturescape” shots. I can’t really give any tips on creating a book since it’s my first time doing it as well. However, I can say that doing mock layouts in iPhoto, Aperture and other book designing applications really helps.
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?
SCOTT WYDEN: I actually teach photography at a local Public Library every few months and have been for about three years. I also have been giving private lessons for even longer and try to share my knowledge with friends, family and anyone who needs help.
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?
SCOTT WYDEN: I’ve tried video myself and I’ve never really gotten much into it. I could see myself using a video feature here and there just because, but not professionally. I do think it will be a great step for the industry. Wedding photographers will be able to offer video without outsourcing or having extra expenses. Less gear but with high quality and done easily. Why not?
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?
SCOTT WYDEN: In my future I just want to travel and see the world. I want to capture everything I can and share it with the people. Ideally I’d love for a magazine like National Geographic to approach me and say ‘Hey, we’ll pay you to travel and photograph everything’ but we all know how unrealistic that is, but one never knows. I honestly don’t have a place that I can say I will definitely be at some a future point in time but I can tell you that as long as I keep shooting for myself I will be happy.
The word professional gets thrown around a lot. In my opinion you don’t have to be a full time photographer to be a professional. In my opinion you have to know your job, know your equipment, understand what has to be done and then make it happen.
At this point in time I am very happy with my job at Mack Camera & Video Service. It’s a full time position in the photo and electronics industry, but also gives me the ability to be creative. At Mack I work in the repair department but am also in the design aspect of the company. I’m laying out ads, posters, brochures, and banners. I’m working on the website, shooting product, etc. Although I don’t photograph full time, I consider myself a professional. Others might not see it that way, but that is quite alright.
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.
SCOTT WYDEN: Lately, I find myself shooting more nature type landscapes (what I call “Naturescapes”) more than portraits. I don’t know where it came from or why but it is there and I’m trying to pursue it. If there is anything I can say that will help photographers it would be to follow your heart. Don’t photograph something just because it can make you rich. Photograph something because you love it. Most important is to never stop trying to learn more about your passion because you got into photography for a reason.