An essay for one of my college classes.
Photo by Lady A
A Photographer’s Journey
A Photographer’s Journey
Today, I am going to shoot someone… and they will love me for it! I have been working as a professional photographer for eleven years, but what many people don’t know, it’s because I can’t get a regular job. I’m not sure why this is. I apply for jobs all of the time, and I go to every single interview I get. You would think by now I’d be an interviewing expert, but I still get nervous. I say to myself all that nervousness will go away once you get started. After every job, I don’t get I seem to land a big client, and it’s been that way for 11 years. In 2009 I made $80.000 as a wedding photographer. Maybe it’s meant to be this way. I’m going to give a quick overview of my journey of becoming a working professional photographer.
It didn’t happen right away; in fact, I started at the same level that everyone does, trying to figure out how to turn the camera on, how to load the film, and asking what does this button do? It wasn’t long till I purchased my first digital camera off eBay. It was A point-and-shoot two-megapixel digital camera by Sanyo. I would take pictures of things I found exciting and publish them on websites like Deviant Art and Flickr but was not satisfied with the way they looked. I wanted to learn how to enhance my photos by making the colors as vibrant as the other photographer’s photos that were published on the website. I knew of a program called Photoshop, but didn’t know how to use it. I took a Photoshop class at Antelope Valley College in Lancaster, California; which I liked a lot and I did pretty well in the class–solid “B” but only because I had my own computer and did not want to go to the required labs.
That summer of 2002 a friend invited me to her wedding in Lake Arrowhead, California while attending, taking pictures of friends with my little camera another friend of mine let me try out his Canon DLSR camera, and I loved it. I liked it so much. I saved up and bought my own camera–a Canon Rebel from Circuit City for $350.00, and I took that Rebel everywhere with me.
In that same year, thinking I was a Photoshop ninja, I landed a job at a graphic design and printing firm in downtown Los Angeles. I only took that one class so I might have exaggerated on my resume a little… well maybe A LOT, and I was in way over my head because I didn’t know the other programs like Adobe’s InDesign or Illustrator. But I was not going to let that stop me. I bought a book, the same style book they teach you in Photoshop class, and I taught myself the other programs on the two-hour commute on Metro link train commute to downtown Los Angeles. It was probably the best thing I did because I came close to getting fired many times from my mistakes and lack of knowledge of the other programs.
With the experience, I gained from this job went to work at Arvato Digital in Valencia, CA. not only was my commute an hour less, but they also offered me more money. I loved working there and got really good at my job. I worked with clients like Microsoft and Apple and employees from there would come to me asking me for help. But then work started to slow down, and one morning while working on a client’s file I was called into the HR office. They sat me down, and they told me, Donte we love having you here, we love your work, but the work here has slowed down, and they had to lay me off.
During that time I was still taking pictures and posting on Myspace and photography websites. My photos published in The Los Angeles Times, a couple of 1st place at the AV Fair, the cover of JPG magazine, and Italian Vogue website. With nothing to lose, I decided to take a risk and see just how far this photography thing could go.
In 2007, I was photographing small weddings around Los Angeles and Antelope Valley. I got my first big wedding from a client Samara and Euric, who had I befriended on MySpace a few years before. Samara’s family couldn’t afford a wedding photographer, so she asked if she could fly me, New York, where she lived to photograph her wedding. A month after I started, I was getting pricing requests for my weddings, which I didn’t have so I made some up.
I continued doing weddings, working on fashion stories and personal projects. I shot twenty-six weddings. In 2009, my price went up from $200.00 a wedding to a starting price of $3000.00. I got to travel and see and do so many things just by photographing weddings. I’ve traveled to different States from New York to Hawaii. Weddings took me as far as the Greek island of Santorini. I got to watch the sunsets and see how the light and colors change over the white buildings with bright blue roofs. However, weddings starting to get repetitive. Shoot the bride getting ready, the groom getting ready, then the bride again because it’s all about the bride, the ceremony, the formals, the reception… Done!
With weddings, I liked what I was doing, that feeling of not having to clock in and out every day or answer to anyone but myself, plus the money was good, but I didn’t love what I was doing. One of my clients asked if I would do a boudoir photoshoot of her for her fiancé. I told her, of course, I would, at the time I didn’t know what it was I was more nervous than she was because I did not want to mess this up and disappoint her. I mentioned to her I’ve never done a photo shoot like this, looked at me, and said: “ don’t worry I’ll be gentle.” I loved it. I loved it because I get to be more creative. One of the many things I love about this is the reactions of my clients when they see the photographs of themselves. I started booking fewer weddings and more boudoir photo sessions. Even though I make less than half of what I was making shooting boudoir vs. weddings, I have more time for personal projects.
One of my favorite and longest going projects is Portraits For A Dollar where I walk around downtown Los Angeles exchanging a Dollar or two for a story and a portrait. I always carried my Polaroid camera which prints out the picture right away. I would say to my subjects “here you go, keep this.” Seeing how excited some people would get just by having a photo of themselves makes me love what I’m doing even more than ever.
I’d like to think that I see things differently, and through the lens of my camera, I see life through angles and lines of perspective. I can officially say, “I am doing what I love, and I love what I do.” When I get asked what I do for a living I can say with certainty; I am a photographer.
Donte Tidwell Photography is a Los Angeles Photographer.
Donte Tidwell Photography specializes in boudoir, portrait, fashion, and fine-art pictures. To see more work from Photographer Donte Tidwell, check out his website at http://www.dontetidwell.com or visit the facebook http://www.facebook.com/dontetidwellphoto or instagram http://www.instagram.com/dontetidwell. Contact Photographer Donte Tidwell by email.