Ultimately...Have Passion and Have Fun!
15 Mar 2010
As I wait for my mentor Randy to arrive, let me outline his background to give a glimpse into his work ethic and commitment to his craft, why I was drawn to his work and ultimately chose to ask him to be my mentor...
Randy became interested in photography about six years ago (early 2004) as a hobby. Like most things, as Randy got more involved in his "hobby", he hungered for more of a challenge and pushed himself to be the best. He chose to make the leap from hobbyist to "serious amateur" about year 3½ (late 2006) and at year 5 (early 2008) decided to establish his own photography studio and work part time as a professional photographer. In his day job, he is the Chief Technology Officer for an international corporate real estate firm with 20+ years of technology experience. He leverages those skills in his photography, and as a result has been able to advance his understanding of cameras, shooting techniques and post processing in record time. To demonstrate his commitment to going the extra step to his clients, Randy pursued his Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) designation and achieved it on his first attempt in late 2009.
It's 8:58pm and Randy is due to arrive at 9:00pm. Knowing how punctual he is, I pour his sparkling water so it's ready for him when he walks in, and read over my questions one last time to make sure I'm not planning to ask him anything we've already discussed in our year together as teacher and student. Precisely at 9:00pm, Randy appears in the doorway, crosses to his favorite chair, and grabs a handful of the sweet and salty treats next to his water, correctly assuming they had been set out for him. He gets comfortable by raising the foot rest and announces, "Ready when you are."
Tell us what drew you to photography.
Realizing that I could see, and capture, expressions/moments that only last for an instant through the camera. I like having the ability to elicit a visceral response from people that they wouldn't normally have to a photo.
Why did you pursue the CPP? You can bring out those reactions without it.
Mainly to challenge myself; if I'm gonna do something, I want to be as good as can be at it. Now, my images and skills have been compared against the best in the country. To me, the CPP carries an air of capability, experience, creativity and ability to distinguish me and my work from others.
What is your education as a photographer?
I'm self-educated; I immersed myself into the art by reading, watching and listening to anything and everything I could, and tried out what I learned. Believe it or not, I would go to sleep thinking about, and subsequently dream about, different scenarios to achieve, as well as camera settings in order to memorize them. You need to know the camera inside and out to shoot the way I shoot.
Speaking of "the way you shoot", how would you categorize your photographic style?
No specific style...more of a broad brush approach to my work. I don't like limiting myself to one or two genres; I would get bored. I tend to see things differently than most people, including other photographers, and can usually anticipate and capture some change in position or expression, most lasting just an instant...making the ordinary, extraordinary regardless of the subject.
Do you consider yourself more technical or artistic?
I think I'm both. The technical aspects (e.g., composition, framing, lighting, etc) have all become second nature; I am now comfortable with the camera and other equipment so I am able to focus more on creatively depicting the subject, and changing various aspects on fly so I can capture unique shots.
So just what is the "camera and other equipment" that you're "comfortable with?"
I use the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, with a secondary Canon EOS 5D; the primary lenses in my bag are a 70 - 200L f2.8, and a 24 - 70L f2.8, as well as a 16 - 35L wide. I also like a 100L for macro shooting and either a 135L or 85L for portraits. I shoot in natural light as much as possible but augment shots with flash when necessary, especially when creating a specific look (hair highlights, corporate headshots, etc).
When I post process my photos, I use a Wacom 4.0 tablet connected to a Mac Pro with a 30" calibrated cinema screen monitor; my workflow is driven by Adobe Lightroom 3.0 and final processing is done in Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended with various plug-ins.
Do you photograph with a purpose in mind, or do you let yourself go with the flow?
Obviously for a planned shoot I create a framework from which I conduct the session; however, I still like to keep a flexible mood so I can capitalize on moments created out of spontaneity with and among the subject(s).
On days when I head out for enjoyment, like when we shoot, I take more of a situational shooting approach...I shoot what presents itself. Sometimes I see a photo I really like that I go out specifically to recreate, but in either case, I gain experience, which I file away to use in the future.
What subjects do you like to shoot?
I have a wide variety of interests so I shoot a lot of different subjects. I like shooting just about anything, but it needs to be interesting to me. This allows me to see the world around me; I stop and look at things I previously would have walked past...like a bug, or a leaf, etc. I especially enjoy shooting people, particularly their faces, to capture unique expressions.
How do you devise your subject matter?
Many times I think of subjects when I'm asleep; as you know, my mind is always working. Other times, a shot is a spur of the moment idea...I think "Wouldn't it be cool to take a picture of that."
What keeps you motivated and inspired to shoot?
My overall motivation is the constant drive to explore and learn something new. I get inspired by photographing a wide range of subjects, challenging myself to always do better, and capturing a shot or moment I hadn't caught before.
Which photography websites do you frequently visit?
I stay current in forums like dgrin.com, photoshopuser.com, ppa.com and the like.
Are there any photographers that you admire or who have strongly influenced your work?
Any photographer that can elicit the same response I'm looking to extract from others has my attention, but I think everyone has to create their own style. Some who have influenced my post processing techniques are Scott Kelby because of his easy going approach to photography, as well as Joe McNally since he is a master at controlling light, and photography is all about light.
Have you received any awards for your work?
I have received ribbons of merit and recognition from my local PPA affiliate, an "Image of the Week" on the NAPP site, some winning shots for "Picture of the Day" on photographyvoice.com and shutterbugs.biz, and a top 10 finish in a national LensProToGo.com contest. I have also been published in The Boston Globe, various local and regional newspapers, as well as wickedlocal.com. In addition, I have had pictures featured on Chronicle (a local tv news show), on our local Channel 5 news affiliate and our local Fox news affiliate.
Just recently I was selected by Kennedy Publishing in Virginia to be one of 200 photographers in the US to be included in their upcoming publication, "Best of America: Photography Artists & Artisans Volume II".
What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?
I've never really thought about my work in terms of accomplishments, because I enjoy it so much! I guess I'm pretty proud of the fact that I traversed the timeline from hobbyist to serious amateur to award winning, published, certified professional faster than the norm.
What would you like to photograph that you haven't shot yet?
I guess I'd like to shoot anything I haven't done yet, at least once...like a maternity shot, a boudoir shot and product/food shots. I'd really like to do more "action" style sports.
What advice would you have for other photographers who are considering becoming professional?
Make sure they love what they do otherwise, at some level, it will translate into their images. Learn everything they can, and use the knowledge to develop their own style.
Join PPA and their local PPA affiliates, and then utilize them to expand their knowledge base.
Consider CPP certification to differentiate themselves from other photographers...it shows a desire to go an extra effort for their art.
Learn about running a small business; there are a lot of pitfalls that can be time consuming and expensive if things aren't done right the first time.
As I always tell you, be open to learning and to new ideas...you don't always know what you don't know but when you're presented with an opportunity you need to be ready to capitalize on it.
Ultimately, have passion and have fun! It will make your pictures GREAT!
Randy's work can be seen at www.brogen.com, also on jpg, as well as Facebook under Photos by R. Brogen.