I've been toting a camera since they required rolls of film... But here's the more recent story of how I became a professional...
Not long ago, I bought a new lightweight digital camera to have something better than an iPhone to capture a trip to Southeast Asia. I traveled four countries and captured hundreds of photos of beautiful places and things. Along the way I also learned a few basics about my new camera.
Two months later, I was traveling to Dominican Republic and mentioned to a friend that I could shoot headshots for her dance company while I was there. That was my first official shoot and my second was an impromptu follow up a couple hours later with one of the dancers, Nathali, who is the face of what has since become DKSnapix.com.
After my trip to DR, I realized I felt something completely different photographing the people of DR than photographing places and things in Asia. But it wasn’t the locations. It was the subjects. As beautiful as they may be, old buildings and vast mountain ranges never smiled and celebrated after seeing themselves in one of my photos. That was when I realized in decades of travel photos (literally 1000s), I had been missing the most important thing: The people, the faces, the eyes, the emotions, the life. I was photographing rocks and ignoring the people.
When I returned home I decided that I enjoyed photographing people so much that I wanted to do it more. But I thought it would be creepy to ask a stranger if I could photograph them if I didn’t at least have a business card. So I went to work... Then I realized I couldn’t have a business card without a website... So I went to work. And I realized I couldn’t have a website without links to Instagram and Facebook... So I went to work! Before I knew it I had a full business backdrop and all I wanted to do was take pictures.
So I took more pictures. I started with willing family. Then a few brave friends. Then a few adventurous strangers. Then came a few amateur models. Then professional models. And then people started asking to pay me to do the same for them.
Wait a second! How did I go from buying a single-use vacation camera to becoming a professional photographer?!?! 😮😳... Oh yeah... I’m in the middle of explaining that...
So three months (and 100s of YouTube videos) after buying a new camera, I officially became a professional photographer. I didn’t own Photoshop and I definitely didn’t know how to use it. And then magically two months later I had shoots booked every other day and photographed 45 people over the course of a single month!
I’ve learned with every person who’s stepped into my studio and every press of the shutter. I’ve shot headshots and portraits for many of people and every shot and shoot is better than the one before it.
So here’s why I’m write this... Today, I was humbled to realize that though my photos are not the best out there, for many of the people I’ve photographed my photos are their best. And that is an honor I am humbled to carry. The opportunity to show someone themselves in a way they’ve never seen.
When I see someone share one of my photos with thousands of people and get hundreds of likes, it is encouraging. But more than that... When I see someone make one of my photos a profile photo representing themselves for every person who visits them, I realize I captured the essence of that person in a way that perhaps sparked a new sense of confidence, pride, or even self-worth. That image could be the first step in a new career, new community, or even new a relationship. And that is something my photos were never able to do for a mountain.
I am not against photos of things. And I’ll definitely take more. But for now my primary goal is to capture and inspire emotion through people.
The lesson: Chase what you love and worry about the details later!
Here’s to great images. Here’s to capturing a better you! And here’s to your next best shot!
Darnell Kemp - DKSnapix