Alright, folks, this post is gonna be a long one. So get comfortable, and enjoy the ride. I'm going to tell you how I became a professional photographer. And if at any time you have any questions, don't hesitate to shoot me an email!
The goal of this post is to share with you what has led me to today. Perhaps this will inspire aspiring photographers, or perhaps this will provide insight to those wondering what being a photographer is all about.
As the title says, my first camera was a neat little Pokémon frame polaroid I had when I was like 7 years old. I don't remember much about it, but it was a long ways from my Nikon D750. My journey in photography thus far has had several beginnings, but the most concrete one, one which has brought me to where I am today, was in my freshman year of college.
But before I get into that, I'd like to give you a bit of background.
Growing up, I always said I wanted to be an artist. I loved drawing and painting, and all that jazz. My dad raised us on various arts and crafts, and these things shaped a large portion of my childhood life. I took art classes in school up until 8th grade.... but that's when things changed.
In 8th grade I also took a marketing class as an elective, and something about that class inspired me. It was at that point I decided I wanted to be a wealthy business owner. I became motivated by money. My upbringing wasn't particularly wealthy, and so if I wanted to have things, I decided I would have to get them myself. That, coupled with the fact that my 8th grade art teacher was totally uninspiring, led to me not taking any art classes in high school. I decided to pursue business/marketing, and computer science. Two fields I thought for sure would prep me for my future as a millionaire. And I loved those classes. In my marketing classes I got involved in DECA, an organization which has definitely done a lot to shape me into who I am today, and my computer programming classes were interesting and enlightening as well. I took these classes every year until I graduated, and then I got accepted into VCU's school of business where I enrolled in the fall of 2011.
At this point, I was still high on the lure of business venture and success. I was excited to pursue my degree in entrepreneurship. But even so, I dabbled in creative efforts. I would get bored in classes, and proceed to doodle when I should have been taking notes. I wrote short stories, and even a (very amateur) novel. I was always creating. But I wouldn't realize for several years that that is what I wanted to do for my career.
I was fortunate enough to have some extra financial aid money my freshman year of college, and decided to get a camera on a whim. I had remembered my Young Life leader, Kyle, being a photographer, and both he and a few others inspired the idea. I figured I had an eye for it, and it would be nice to have a better tool to record the events and memories I experienced. I bought a dinky little Canon Powershot from my friend, Emily, and I loved that thing (for a little while, at least). My friend, Drew, called it a "Digital Dan," which is a term I still use today.
I used this camera for all sorts of things! I walked around campus and took pictures of buildings, of fire hydrants, of trees, etc. I took this camera to school events, and I used it to record my first Notochords concert (a group I became rather loyal to over the years). I think I used this camera for about 3 months before I realized I needed something more. I got frustrated by the delay between pressing the button, and then the picture actually being taken. So I did some research and learned that what I wanted was a higher shutter speed. What I needed was a SLR camera. I researched different cameras for weeks, and asked friends of mine what they thought. During this research phase I discovered Ken Rockwell, whom I now know as a great resource for all things camera/accessories. And then I stumbled upon ThePhotoForum (TPF). ThePhotoForum.com became one of the biggest factors in my growth as a photographer, but I'll get into that later.
I ended up going to eBay where I found a cheap Sony SLR for about $100. I bought it. And quickly realized after buying, that what I purchased was from the "for parts" section of eBay. I blame my eBay noob-ness at the time. Anyway, after receiving the camera I was quite displeased, as it had a dying sensor, and could barely take a photo. So.... being the entrepreneur I was, I ended up selling it on Craigslist.
I got rid of that thing and started looking on Craigslist for replacements. I wasn't too strict about what I wanted. I wanted something that could take pictures fast, and had good image quality. I didn't know anything else. And finally I saw someone selling a brand new Nikon D5100 with warranty for just $500. At the time, that deal was worth about $800, so I jumped on it. I met the dude at Rite-Aid, where I learned he had bought it to take pictures of shoes, but decided after a week he didn't want it anymore. I was happy to relieve him of that burden. And it was at this time, I became a Nikonite.