4 minute read. Cover image by my dad.
My first experience with photography was having my picture taken by my dad’s film camera. I wasn’t allowed to hold it, being a toddler still coming to terms with flimsy grip-strength, but I was fascinated with the ritual of squeezing together for group photos, collectively saying “Cheese” despite some of us being lactose intolerant, and bracing to be inevitably blinded by the flash strobe light.
I would imitate how my dad would put the camera up to his eye and click the shutter button, to the entertainment and delight of my parents. I like to think that this is when I first found an interest in cameras and technology.
Building Up My Art Collection: Save Image As
Later on in the early 2000s, when we finally managed to secure a dial-up connection, I made a hobby out of scouring websites like DeviantArt and Flickr, and Save-Image-As‘-ing my own personal art collection onto the family computer’s 128 GB hard drive.
I saved hundreds, if not thousands of photos, digital art, and illustrations. I remember feeling a growing appreciation for art and the artists who invested time into it, and I would spend every day browsing and collecting.
Some time in high school, I got my first camera phone – a black and chrome Nokia flip phone with the antenna thingy that you can pull out.
At this time, photography wasn’t universal yet – it was still reserved for pros and enthusiasts who went out of their way to purchase and carry a separate device that was only meant to capture stills. My “camera phone” could only take photos that were probably 640 by 480 pixels in resolution, max.
My first photo was on a hike at the Pleasanton Ridge trails. I was very proud of it and I saved the blurry, pixelated image as my cell phone wallpaper. I unironically identified as a landscape photographer.
My First Camera: Exploring Visual Expression
When I turned 18, instead of buying a scratcher, I bought my first DSLR camera – an entry-level Nikon D40 – and took my first photography class, aptly named “Exploring Visual Expression”.
The course description reads like an art exhibition:
Exploring visual expression through the photographic medium.
Understanding of basic principles of perception, light, color, composition and visual awareness.
Development of critical thinking skills to express aesthetic, intellectual and emotional concerns.
At the end of each week of class, we would submit photos surrounding a specific theme or project and the professor would present a slideshow of those photos to the whole class as he relayed his feedback and critique.
I remember a great sense of pride and anticipation when my pictures would appear on the big screen. His words of encouragement made me feel like I had an eye for photography, and that I could develop my skills even further.
Getting Paid: Not Just By Exposure
Later in university, I would take on photo gigs for the school newspaper, student housing socials, and once for a concert.
The concert featured Mac Miller as the headline – he was touring for his debut album, Blue Slide Park. I remember feeling very official going into the concert; I received a media badge and was ushered to my placement in the very front, between the crowd barriers, security and the stage.
When Mac Miller finally came out and started his opening song, I remember between the music blasting from 6-foot amps, the electricity of the crowd behind me, and the awesome performance of the live band on stage, I could hear my internal monologue so clearly: I wanted to make photography a bigger part of my life.
Fast forward to today, I’m a photographer based in San Jose, California. Photography isn’t my main hustle right now but I still enjoy shooting portrait sessions.
I always say that my favorite thing to do is to make everyday people look awesome.