A short interview I was asked to answer. I hope this gives you a little insight to my madness.
Q: When did you decide to become a photographer?
A: I started shooting more than 5 years ago. I had bought a DSLR intending to take some photos on road trips and it grew from there.
Q: What does photography mean to you?
A: To me, photography is an instant piece of art, an instant way of expressing myself without words. People can view an image and immediately have their own feelings about the photograph.
Q: Can you recall the first photo you took that made you go, "WOW!"?
A: I was shooting an old, abandoned castle off of the side of the road in Arizona. I went home and made a few edits. Looking back, I remember it for how proud I was of the image. Another big one was of 2 buffalo head-butting about 20 feet away from me. People always go "Wow, how far away were you?" because it's amazing. I can't believe I was that close either.
Q: Do you have any formal training regarding photography?
A: I have never taken a single class but I have used Internet to learn all about it. But I've never really read up on how to "do" photography, mainly about gear. I always learn by experimenting.
Q: How technical is your photography?
A: It's as technical as I want it to be. It really depends if the shoot is with a model on the beach or at lowlight venue. This all really affects what gear I bring with me.
For most things, I shoot in aperture priority. I rarely go into manual mode. In all of my years I am proud to say that I have never used Photoshop. I started with iPhoto and graduated to Aperture, all the way up to version 3, which I use today.
I do know more technical facts about cameras than anyone should know, though. When I am not shooting I'm nerding out . ;)
Q: How do you feel about cropping?
A: I always take the shot I want to take and always crop in camera. I use all prime lenses so this means a lot of walking for me. I tend to pass on quite a few shots because the framing is not right. Either pass or take and never share. I am not a fan of unusual crop ratios that don't mesh well with the rest of someones portfolio. I cheer on those who can make a usual photo into something interesting but cropping.
Q: Where is your favorite place to live and work as a photographer in the world and why?
A: I have traveled quite a bit and I think I will always gladly call San Diego my home. Part of me would love to live out in a log cabin away from civilization, but the other half is so fueled by tech that I always need to be near an outlet. San Diego has a perfect climate and you're always close to some beautiful areas for day trips.
When I'm on the go, I live out of my car.
Q: How does your personality change when you look through the camera?
A: When I'm out on the job everything tends to slow down. It's almost slow motion the way I see everything, regardless if it's a rock show or a landscape. After all I have seen, I really appreciate the small things that people take for granted everyday — like showers. :)
Q: How do you feel about missed shots which cannot be recreated?
A: I never really feel much for list shots and there have been very few that have gotten away from me. I feel a lot stronger about how much luck goes into photography. The right time at the right place is a saying that most photographers can relate to. You can never predict weather or when an artist with leap off the stage.
Q: Ever concerned about failure?
A: I always go into things with certain expectation. With shows you can never predict if they will use red lights the whole time (which I hate) or mix it up a bit with something more forgiving to work with. On roadtrips I always set the bar at a certain level for how good the best photo will be. When I finally capture that moment, I can just smile and know that from there on out it will be smooth sailing.
Q: Who are your influences?
A: Thomas Mangelsen, Chase Jarvis, Art Wolfe and Ansel Adams.
Q: What has been the single biggest obstacle in growing as a photographer?
A: Like I said before, it's mostly luck. In my experience, you have to know someone to progress.
Most photographers are either bad businessmen and great photographers, or great businessmen and bad photographers. The scale just tends to tilt that way.
Q: What are your favorite subjects to photograph?
A: Two extremes: Musicians on a well lit stage or a desolate landscape.
Q: Have you ever thought about or actually stopped doing photography? What were the circumstances?
A: Once you start, you realize there are so many better photographers than you. You really have to be great at one thing and make sure not to spread yourself too thin. You will be better off if you focus in one area, becoming an amazing portrait photographer instead of just an okay landscape, wedding portrait and live photographer.
Q: Do you ever have photographer's block, and if so, how do you deal with it?
A: Not necessarily "block," but I do feel a pressure to constantly produce better images then my last. When I do get stuck, I feel it can be cured by jumping into something completely different from what I'm are used to. If I get sick of shooting live shows, I'll try to shoot portraits for a little bit.
Now, I also tend to switch from shooting to obsessively studying new styles and gear. Gear and its new abilities tend to inspire because it may be the thing that pushes you past your current block.
Q: Describe what black and white photography means to you.
A: In everything with photography, from lighting to printing, each step has a large learning curve. Black and white photography is one of those things. I feel there is a lot more to it than just applying a black and white filter to the image.
I believe black and white photography has a lot to do with feeling and raw emotion. You use the dodge and burn brush to attract the eye and give definition to the image. Overall, it's hard to explain and to implement well, and very underrated.
Q: What do you think of the word artist? Do you think of yourself as an artist?
A: I do think of myself as and other photographers as artists.
I feel we create art; art that can be hung on walls and admired in the most simplistic to the most advanced ways. People love photography. Also, I feel like the word 'artist' should be used more and the word photographer should be used a lot less when it fits.
That being said, too many people consider themselves photographers when in reality they are just a "person with A camera."
Q: How would you describe your photographic style?
A: Aside form my HDR work, I am very into natural and realistic images.
I tell everyone who ever asks about my images that I've happily never used Photoshop. In fact, you would be surprised at the little amount of editing that I do.
As far as looks go, my close friends who know my work well can look at an image, regardless if it is actually mine or not, and say "That looks like a Peter image," which is nice. Having a style and consistency your own is important.
Q: What has been the most surprising and the most predictable reaction to your photographs?
A: I usually get a "Wow, you took that?"
I think most people just don't get that I actually took the photo. I was there and I did it. I am not sure why I get the reaction though, maybe my age (23) or the fact that I just dont talk about photography unless it is brought up. But I truly hope it's just because they really enjoy the images I've captured.
Q: Who or what would you love to shoot that you haven't already?
A: When I think of someone I would want to shoot, I first think of all of the faces that show so much story. By which I mean people in National Geographic-type images. People from small cities, off the beaten tracks, who are still faithful to old traditions.
On the other hand, I always say how easy photography is, if you put a beautiful model in front of the camera I promise it will be hard to take a bad shot. Most images of models are so simple to take, just add your own spin, and poof, instant pro.
Q: What would you have done differently during your photography career so far? Any advice for beginners?
A: I wish I would have had someone like myself willing to teach and inspire younger photographers; that's something I strive to do often.
I am about to spill a theory that I hope you pay attention to.
If you take beautiful gallery quality images, then turn around and sell your images at a stand, or at a street fair, or in a mall, you become a street fail/mall photographer.
You have to have higher standards. If you set the bar so low, it Will effect you later. The same goes for wedding photography, if you are looking to start in the business, and you only charge $500, congrats, you are now a $500 wedding photographer.
This logic may seem extreme but when you think about it things tend to be clear — how you value your own work is very important to how others will see you.
Q: What are your thoughts on the paparazzi and their effects on photographers and photography in gerneal?
A: I dont think that paparazzis give photographers that bad of a name. When people tend to think about photography, they think of great pieces of art.
Yes, I agree that the aggressiveness of the paps can be ridiculous and no one is denying that. Bur I don't feel like people generally think a photographer with a flash on the top is a paparazzi. Sure, I have had the name thrown at me but not everyday.
If a single group of "photographers" are bringing down the art as a whole, it would be a special group dubbed "GWC." GWC, or "Guy/Gal With Camera," is a term in the business used to describe photographers who buy a camera with the sole intent of shooting naked girls. This usually happens in a very tasteless way (as in porn), and is then called art by the creator.
Q: How do you feel about digital manipulation and to what extent do you utilize it?
A: As I mentioned before, I do very little manipulation.
I have never used Photoshop on any of my images. I am a photographer because I share the natural beauty that I have captured which I then lightly touch up in post.
When most people use Photoshop, especially some of the features in the upcoming version like "content aware fill," you are no longer (in my opinion) a photographer, you are a digital artist.
I would gladly show before and after for any of my images, something I feel a lot of photographers today wouldn't dare to volunteer.
Q: What other thoughts would you like to share?
A: This business is dog-eat-dog. No one really wants to help out the competition. So many people own digital cameras that will do crappy work for free that they undercut the pros in the field.
Why should a Band Agency want to pay Photographer A to shoot a show, when there are 20 "photographers" begging to shoot the show for free? This plays into every market.
And that's why it's very important to charge and make money, and to prove that you are worth the money by your portfolio. If you can find mentors, listen to them because we have been doing this a long time.
Oh, and go Nikon. ;)