Every photographer tells their own story through photography. Some do it because they enjoy sharing their creative vision, while others do it for recognition and money. I take photos because it allows me to express myself creatively while also being able to recognize my surroundings.
My photography journey started with my phone, taking shots of the trees and plants in a forest or nature preserve. The view of the cool patterns that the trees made and the sun shining through a flower intrigued me to do more. For my Bar Mitzvah, I asked my uncle for a DSLR camera to have more control over the little things that go into taking a photo. With that Canon SL1, I continued with the nature theme, but I experimented with the settings to change it up. Over 2 ½ years on and off, I kept on taking photos of nature and honing my skills with my SL1. But, I also took a change and tried taking portraits.
My first model was my friend. We were at a convention and saw the sun was setting across the lake at a cool angle. He was leaning on the fence looking at the sunset, and I decided to take the picture. The picture was my gateway into appreciating the model being there to make the picture feel alive.
While still growing in photography, I took a class at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design called DIY Lighting in Photography. Being the only teen with five adults who were art teachers or freelancers, I had the chance to learn about how to correctly light scenes with a cheap worklight and the settings on the camera. Some days it was learning how to light objects, other days it was with models. I learned that I didn’t need to buy expensive equipment where there are other options that are cheaper or free. With that knowledge, I had better looking photos.
In 2019, I had my first official photoshoot. I started off easy and took my model to a local park that had a bluff. We did some forest shots and some from far away. From that shoot, we established that I would be his photographer. The next shoot I went with him to an industrial area downtown with some abandoned buildings. As we did these shoots, I created a system to have the best outcome.
Consultation - I usually have a conversation with the client by texting, calls, video chat, or in person. I let them tell me their vision for their photos. Dates, themes, and time of day is all exchanged.
Planning - With the ideas, I go right to Google Earth and scan the local area for potential locations. If I have time, I visit the place and see if the location is usable. Then I send the location’s to the client for their signing off.
The Shoot - Most of the clients I’ve had are teens in my town. So, I usually drive them to the locations. This for me is easier than having the client meet me there because a client could get lost and run late. With us driving together, we can go to an assortment of places. And the client could see something out of the window and want a photo there. The car is set up in a way so my gear is easily accessible. In the trunk it’s all laid out to grab and go.
Post - After the shoot, I usually discuss the distribution. If they need the photos ASAP, I'll upload on the laptop in the car. If they want me to edit certain things, I’ll give them a time period of when they will receive the finished product. Most times I only need to touch up little things in Lightroom. I pay attention to the details in the settings before taking the photo so I won’t have a big editing job later. The photos are uploaded on a website that is custom to the client. Each page is only for the clients eyes and they are available for download to use in anything.
This journey from using my phone to take pics of nature, to using my resources and getting to bring people joy by having a nice photo makes me want to continue into the future. Even though this is not what I want to do as a job, I enjoy this hobby because it allows me to explore my creativity.
Benji Lookatch is an Aleph from Wisconsin Region and a drummer.
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