Many talented people who begin their day as a firefighter, an attorney, an engineer, a student, or a stay-at-home parent, have a dream of making photography a bigger part of their lives. They are deeply passionate about pictures and they are often more gifted than even they seem to realize. It’s amazing to see their joy when they discover that they can be the photographer they always wished they could be.
As a new year arrives, it always seems like the perfect time to look at where we are photographically and where we want to be. Can we become the photographer we dream of, and what do we need to do to make that dream a reality? My search for that dream began in elementary school.
“I was immediately fixated on the cameras in the display cases.”
When I was 11 years old, I was out with my mom during the holidays and we happened to pass a camera store that had an amazing window display of photography equipment. What I saw in the window was absolutely fascinating. I left my mom, wandered in, and was immediately fixated on all of the different cameras and lenses in the display cases. The pictures on the walls that were made with those cameras and lenses were amazingly colorful, crystal clear, and unlike anything I’d ever seen. When my mom came to retrieve me, I didn’t want to leave.
From that day, I knew that I always wanted to hold a camera.
The next morning I jumped on my bike and headed back to the store to learn more about those pictures on the wall. In a camera store selling fine photo equipment, an 11 year old wandering about is usually thought to be lost. But I wasn’t lost at all. I loved the place. The people behind the counter were understandably curious why someone my age was essentially lurking in their store, but they tolerated me as long as I didn’t ask too many questions. Pretty soon, I did ask too many questions and wore out my welcome.
The next day I embarked on a 20-mile bus ride to the legendary Studio City Camera Exchange where I hoped to find out more about photography—and, if I could reasonably put an expensive camera on my holiday wish list.
I learned that a camera with interchangeable lenses was the thing to have—a big ask for a holiday gift. A few weeks later, my supportive parents surprised me with a 35mm camera and a 50mm lens. The next year, I received an 80-200 zoom lens. These were not the pro-quality Nikon cameras and lenses like I use today, but they led to my first published picture while I was still 12 years old.
“Photography isn’t something you do, it’s often who you become.”
Every year reminds me of how photography isn’t something you do, it’s often who you become. The quest to learn new things and discover new techniques is just as fresh for me today as when I first walked into that first camera store. The desire to grow as a photographer simply never goes away. And that’s one of the greatest qualities about photography: It never needs to go away. Becoming the photographer you were meant to be is always a possibility.
Connecting with people and helping them become the photographer they were meant to be has truly become one of my greatest pleasures. Seeing the awareness in a photographer’s eye that they instantly understand a lighting concept, a composition technique, how to use a specialized piece of gear, or the recognition that their portfolio is exceptional, are wonderful emotions to witness.
Primarily through workshops, I plan to connect with many new photographers this year. There is also a very good possibility that I’ll be mentoring a small number of photographers one-on-one. Both opportunities are deeply exciting because witnessing talented people find their path is unlike anything I experience through shooting.
Quality workshops are a fantastic opportunity to learn new techniques, meet other photographers, try new gear, and enjoy the company of other photographers who share your passion. It may also be where you discover the photographer you were meant to be. I truly hope to meet you at one of the workshops I’ll be a part of this year.
Joey Terrill is a Los Angeles-based photographer with clients that include American Express, Coca-Cola, Disney, Golf Digest, Major League Baseball, Red Bull, and Sports Illustrated. He teaches workshops and speaks at seminars including the Summit Series Workshops, WPPI, Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, UPAA Symposium, World in Focus, and Nikon School.