Given a camera for his birthday. Much later, photography became his profession after his wedding.
Take us back to you as a kid. My creativity developed when I was very young. You could often find me drawing away for hours on end. I loved creating my own characters, writing short stories, and even sketched my own comic books from time to time. While my love for art was immediate, photography didn’t start until a little while later when my parents gave me my own film camera for my birthday one year. It wasn’t much – just a point-and-shoot – but the ability to freeze real life became an obsesssion. Before long, I was taking pictures of friends, family, pets, and our family vacations...the camera practically never left my hand.
Walk us through the days leading up to starting your own thing. As I said, I was creative at a young age and always loved art and photography...so much so that I started into a career as a graphic designer working for an insurance marketing company. During this time, I didn’t do photography as much and ended up feeling empty in some ways. One day, I decided to take it up again as form of creative expression to help me break away from the constraints of the corporate work environment. During this time I shot anything and everything, but eventually focused in on portraiture and off-camera lighting.
Eventually, I met the woman who was to become my wife and during the wedding planning process, it was my job to select a wedding photographer. When I had my decision made, the photographer saw my work and asked me to begin second shooting weddings with her. It was at that point that my journey truly began as I feverishly worked to learn the tricks of the trade and ultimately start my own business a year and a half later.
"I’d be lying if I said that giving up hadn’t crossed my mind."
What have been the challenges? Who and what has helped? The challenges in the beginning were formidable. As you’d expect, there were a lot of technical aspects of photography to learn such as the settings on the camera, how to recognize good natural lighting, how to put your subjects at ease, learning to anticipate moments, and how to adapt to work in a variety of environments. However, I think the greatest challenges for me in the beginning were building a reputation, marketing myself, and convincing people to have faith in me to capture one of the most precious days of their lives. The learning curve was steep and trying to figure everything out was a seemingly impossible task. I’d be lying if I said that giving up hadn’t crossed my mind. However, I stuck with it and, after paying my dues, came out on the other side with the knowledge I needed.
I’m most thankful for my wife, Cathy. If not for her encouragement, sympathetic ear, and understanding in the beginning, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Not to mention letting me live when she saw the cost of all my new photo equipment.
Aside from that, I’d like to thank my first clients for placing the trust in me to capture their special day. I didn’t have much of a portfolio to show and my experience was minimal, but they believed in me and that was all I needed.
Talk to us about one of your good days this week. This past Thursday I had an outstanding day in that I bought a new car to replace the one that was totaled in an accident two weeks prior. On top of that, I received some new equipment to improve and automate my photobooth service that I offer to my wedding clients to help them add more life to their receptions. I’ve also been getting some wedding inquiries for some beautiful weddings with some great people. Overall, I guess you can say it’s been a good week.
"Des Moines has a perfect balance of that big city life with a small town feel no matter where you go."
Someone is starting a project for the first time, what would you want to say to them? I suppose it would depend on the kind of project they were starting...but most likely I would tell them to take their time and do their homework. Fully research what you are getting into to ensure that you are taking all necessary steps to complete and be successful with your project. Also, while there may be a lot of work envolved, make sure you take a step back and have fun with it. There’s no point in doing it if you’re not enjoying yourself or letting your passion drive you.
Why Des Moines? I was born and raised here and just fell in love with it. Des Moines has a perfect balance of that big city life with a small town feel no matter where you go. People here are just kinder, more accepting, and more down-to-earth. I love the vibrant culture that our city has to offer and also its love for the arts.
"The most underrated thing in Des Moines by far is the people."
Convince someone new to DSM your favorite place to go on your day off. One of my favorite places to go in Des Moines is the East Village. It’s a fantastic place to visit and there is almost always some event going on during the weekends. You can find various festivals, great places to eat, local shops to visit, and even some live music at certain venues. It’s a great area to sample the vibrancy of Des Moines culture.
The most underrated thing in DSM is ________. Why? The most underrated thing in Des Moines by far is the people. Everywhere you go, you’re surrounded by some great people. I’ve done my share of traveling and when telling people that I am from Des Moines, IA, they all assume we’re corn farmers...but it’s so much more than that. People from Des Moines are compassionate, well-informed on our nation’s issues, and have a strong sense of community/family. I’m lucky to work with so many great people.
What are you most proud of and why? This question is two-fold. Personally, I’m most proud of my daughter. She’s the greatest blessing in my life. She’s got such a big heart, she’s very intelligent, and loves all forms of art. I’m so proud of the girl she is growing up to be.
Professionally, I’m proud of my business and the reputation I’ve built. It’s amazing to see how far I’ve grown as a photographer in both my quality of work and my interaction with clients.
"I’m most proud of my daughter."
What’s one thing people need to know you really care about? I honestly love what I do and the clients I work with. When I’m working with couples, I develop connections with all my clients and relate to them on a personal level. I love hearing their stories of how they met, how they popped the question, funny inside jokes, their favorite activities etc.
In spending so much time with them on their wedding day (sometimes 14-16 hrs), I get a really well rounded view of who they are as people and it’s really a wonderful thing. Their stories become my stories and at the end of it all, I consider them no just clients, but friends.