My first camera was a plastic, rectangular cube with a slide advancer and held 110mm film. I carried that camera with me everywhere. The best part of taking pictures was going with my dad to pick up the prints from the photo lab in the grocery store. The pictures were usually of the ground, human torsos, or things moving really fast, but I thought I was a pro.
Working at Picture People is what really sparked my interest to be a photographer. I wanted a little extra cash at Christmas time so applied as a seasonal associate there. I was already managing a few photo labs in the Raleigh/Wake Forest area so I applied to be a lab technician. At that time, they shot with medium format film, cameras that had no autofocus and were attached to heavy, rolling tripods.
Running the lab was always fun for me. I had my own space, my own system and I was fast. In those days, 7 rolls an hour, processed, printed and packaged was amazing. It was my job to look at the film and select the photographer’s best shots for printing. Obviously I saw lots of great photography and also some not so great photography come through my lab. I learned how to recognize good poses, good composition and if the image was properly exposed just by looking at the photographer’s film.
In May of 2005, the company that I was working for was bought out and I was given the option to stay and change my employer, or look for something else. I chose “something else.” I went back to Picture People and applied for the Senior Manager position. I got the job but I still hadn’t taken a professional portrait yet. My manager taught me the basics and I worked with the photography staff to really hone my skills. I learned something different from everyone. How they controlled the mood in the camera room, what sounds or faces they made to get a reaction and even how they gathered information about the session from their clients. Once I mastered the senior position, I moved on to manage my own studio in Cary, NC. I managed the Cary Town Center location for 5 fun years. In 2011, the company closed their doors suddenly and the following day, I went to work as a small business owner. I have no hard feelings: in fact it’s been great so far. I have been given the opportunity build a company from the ground up. It feels good to make decisions with clients in mind, not a corporate office.