1. Whats exactly does m51photo.com do?
m51photo.com is the brainchild of Virgil (me), an avid photographer on the New Hampshire seacoast. I love to teach, help people and generally just bring my ideas to the world. m51photo.com is my platform to connect with people and share photography in a way that helps. It also serves to bring my photography to a professional level, a few steps above a hobby. Here are my 4 primary areas of interest:
- Making the world a better place by providing original useful informative articles on an internet full of spam and copied content
- Helping select charity/non-profit events with quality photography
- Shooting models. Why? Because they are frekin models, duhhh… (see #12 below)
- Running Race Photography
2. How long did it take you to get your photography to this point?
About 4 years, but I’ve only been doing it part time and I don’t feed myself with it – meaning its strictly a hobby that I periodically park when it starts to wear me down. I have a lot of emotion coming out of acceptance of my work, but that’s a personal battle. I’m always trying to improve and realize even though I write a lot of articles, I’m not the number one best photographer on the planet, but that’s not due to lack of trying. I comfortable knowing I’m not a “natural” photographer. I have to work hard to make beauty, but I also appreciate beauty. Some people like my daughter have natural artistic talent and it just happens. I don’t have that, but I have a very high aptitude for all things technical.
3. How much influence did you father have on your Photography?
My dad was professional photographer in Santa Fe, NM when I was growing up. I remember having one of our two bathrooms in our house converted into a color photo lab. This was the mid 70’s and film was was king. He did custom developing, color and b&W print work. All high end out of the house with contracts from local photo stores for custom work. So I guess to that end I learned that you don’t need a fancy business front to do exceptional work. However you would think his photographic skills would have rubbed off on me, but sadly its been a solo journey. He died in 1994 at age 58 long before I got myself into photography. I’m sure his influence on my photography is in part due to his legacy, but I didn’t use or realize the important lessons I could have learned from him. I really wish he could have been here for the digital age of photography.
4. Why Nikon over another Brand?
It just ended up that way. In 2000 I bought a Nikon N80 film camera and really liked the feel, but had no photographic talent. This was about the time my daughter was born. I used it, then eventually gave up and switched to a canon point and shoot digital camera (2.1 mega pixels). Digital was just starting and I didn’t have $5000 to spend on a digital DSLR. In 2008, I was at a Circuit City and bought a Nikon D40. Mainly because at the time I think it was better than the Canon options in that price range. The D40 felt a lot like my N80 and I liked that. From there I just became brand loyal because I already had a base of gear. In other words I just ended up with Nikon. Canon would also have been a great DSLR platform to own and if I had started with Canon I would be just as happy with it today. Some days I have camera envy and wish I bought Canon, but in the end I’m just jealous of the photographers getting great photos. Great photos are up to you, not your camera brand.
5. Why do you only recommend Nikon and Canon?
What about Sony, Pentax and all the other DSLR’s out there? No dice, its a really simple equation. Those other manufactures make some great cameras, but right now the market share for professional cameras are with Nikon and Canon (excluding large format). Canon and Nikon have the most lenses, the most information on the web, the most support, the most software and accessories over the other brands. If you see a working pro using another brand, its not the norm. Ask me in another 5 years, the market may change. Concentrate on taking great photos with proven technology instead of concentrating on proving that your technology is as good or better.
6. Why no ads, or any other profit tools?
Simple, this is my hobby, I get to do what I want with it. I have a full time career that I would be hard pressed to match the income or befits through photography. I have a family and responsibilities. That said, for what I’m doing in photography, focusing on Charity, Road Races, Models and education – adding in very minimal amounts of profit would just end up being more work than its worth.
7. Should I quit my day job and go all in to photography?
I think some sites and motivational people tell you to take the risk and just go for it. I’m all for that, but spend some time before you do something that will cost you financially and set you up for a low probability of success. I’m a master at reinventing myself. I have personally changed careers several times. I have also crashed and burned. To prevent yourself from crashing and burning, spend your free time learning everything you can about photography before you take the plunge. It can only make you that much more successful later. Read and shoot a lot, understand what you like and don’t like about photography then find a way to charge for it. If you can’t do that, don’t quit your current job.
8. Can you still make a living with photography?
I honestly don’t know. I don’t make a living with it and I don’t have a proven method to do it either. I don’t think photography is dead. On the contrary we’re taking more pictures than any other point in the history of mankind. The problem is that everyone has a camera on them all the time and 9 times out of 10 (remember this) the most important thing is capturing the moment regardless of quality, followed by sharing those moments with friends and family quickly. iPhones win hands down. My advice is don’t fight that battle. Traditional family portraits and weddings are evolving. You need to focus on what you can do better. Provide high quality where high quality is needed. There are plenty of customers where an iPhone won’t work. You won’t see major companies in print or on the web with crappy photos. Victoria’s Secrete is a prime example of photography making a company. Take the high quality photography out of VS and I would venture to say they would only be 1/10th what they are today.
9. Do you plan on having a profit model for you website?
No time soon. As with everything, if I had enough demand I could that changing. So – maybe someday, but I’m not planning on it. In a purely esoteric way, its awesome having a site where I only do what I want and have no boss. If I ever get a significant following, I’ll probably ask for micro donations to offset some of the cost I put into this.
10. Whats your take on internet trolls and naysayers?
You must mean the people who haven’t actually put years of effort into anything, but think they can bash you and your work because they don’t care for it? My opinion, build your own damn website and tell people whatever you want. I’m not going to waste my time trolling your site to criticize you, so leave me alone. I’m busy making content that I hope people like and will help them. Not everything I do is perfect, I’m human. Trolls who feel like criticizing, consider taking that energy and offer it in the form of some constructive criticism. Its never too late to change and its never too late to add real value to the world we live in.
11. How has your charity work recently changed?
I realized that everyone has an iPhone. The majority of people take a selfi at the race, post it to Facebook and they have what they need. Not that I didn’t already know that, but in the realm of non-profit/charity shooting, initially I would try to shoot everyone at the event, keep the photos locked up and have them contact me if they wanted a copy. From there I would tell them to donate to the event before giving them a photo. Thats a lot of work, but not a lot of value. I realized my real value in charity photography is giving the event organizer stock photos they can use for promotion in the future or shortly after the race/event. I take photos that show off the event making sure it looks active and full of participation. I now take the photos with the event in mind as opposed to the runner. I open them all up for free download non-commercial use. If anyone finds something they want I then ask in addition to the race fee to donate some more to the charity. I get the experience of the shoot, the charity gets something they can use, some people get a bonus photo or two and everyone is happy.
12. Why shoot models?
You need to ask why? I think that’s obvious. :- ) Seriously though, it wasn’t until I did my first group model shoot that people looked at my work and said, “Oh, your a photographer!”. Their reaction was markedly different towards my hobby after that, it was no longer a hobby, I was a professional photographer. Because of that I knew I had to shoot more models. Just as importantly I have learned soooo much from shooting models who have had the patience to work with me. I love the fact that in a model shoot you both have a vested interest in making the outcome of the shoot the best shoot possible. A lot of people don’t actually like being photographed and you only get a few frames to work with. Model shooting builds your photographic confidence, you learn skills that you can take to any portrait session anywhere. You learn lighting, Photoshop, Lightroom, client delivery, posing, makeup, props, backgrounds. As long as you are willing to continue to grow your skills its worth the time to shoot models.
13. Why don’t you shoot nature or landscapes?
Everyone has something they love. More power to landscape shooters. Its hard to get up two hours before the crack of dawn and hike in somewhere to shoot at minus 10 degrees with 40 lbs of gear on your back. I know there is a ton to learn from landscapes or nature shooting, but it doesn’t interest me as much as studio/model and charity work. I’ll probably dip into it now and then, but its not my primary interest.
15. Why shoot 5k road races?
Road races allow you to ease into it. You can get as involved as you want or just be in the shadows and no one really cares. If you have a race of 1000 people, you get 1000 chances to perfect your technique. And you can do it week after week. Especially if like me, you like photographing people. You also get to learn a LOT about action photography, shutter speed, focal length, aperture, ISO, panning and planning. Its a great learning tool and its free. As with photographing models, there is so much to learn. To top that off, most races are for a good cause, when when you feel confident enough in your work, you can give something back to the event and society as a whole.