How to Start a Travel Stock Photography Business

A Conversation
with Brett Shoaf
Part 2

By Andrew Hudson

October, 2006

Click here for part 1


When did you first get interested in photography?

As a child. My dad used to shoot extensively during family vacations with an old Nikon F2 and a wide array of lenses, creating beautiful, dramatic and entertaining shots that held me spellbound during the countless nighttime slide shows that followed. Man, how I loved watching these! I would sit there in my PJs on our living room floor listening intently while my dad narrated in great and interesting detail all about what we were seeing, as only a father can do. Little did he know what a strong impression his “hobby” was having on me. I was so struck by how lifelike and sharp the photos appeared when projected on our big screen, with rich colors and textures so real that I could reach out and touch them, I thought.

When did you first sell a photo?

In high school, in 1976, when I was taking a class in Black & White Photography. Our final assignment was to submit 3 framed prints of our best work from the semester. My instructor was so enamored of one of these — a simple photo I’d shot of an Iceland poppy flower back-lit by the sun in my mother’s backyard garden. All the fuzzy little “hairs” along the tall stem were nicely illuminated against a dark background, and some dew drops clung to the unopened bud drooping over at the top. He paid me $20.00 for just the print (having returned the costly frame to me). I was overjoyed and so proud that I was able to sell one of my photographs!

How did you learn photography?

I enrolled at Grossmont Jr. College and began taking classes in Art, Photography, Lighting, Audio/Visual Production, Film Production and Appreciation, Telecommunications, and Business. Though each of these might have led to a separate specialized career in the Arts, such as working in Radio, Television, Cinematography, etc., elements from all contributed nicely to my chosen profession in Photography. This was vital for me, and is the key advice I would pass along to someone considering Photography as their career — get a diversified, well-rounded education in many subjects that relate directly to your field of interest. Also, do some job-searching to get some internship experience working as an apprentice with someone in the profession you’re going after. This will really help to get your feet wet!

How did you develop a photographic style?

I first browsed through many books of award-winning photos, absorbing the visuals and just letting my mind take in the beauty. Once you’re affected emotionally, the rest will follow suit. I then read several instructional books to learn the technical side of photography, and then went out shooting around my neighborhood to put what I’d learned into practice. I can’t overemphasize how important it was to take good notes during this phase. While shooting, I logged all info as to lens type used, shutter speed/aperture settings, flash settings, filters, film type, etc. These were crucial when the time came to review the processed slide film and analyze what worked and what went wrong. By the time I actually began doing photography for a living, I felt somewhat prepared. These early experiences of honing my abilities on my own were what I relied on to land me my first job as an assistant photographer. The fellow I was to work for was suitably impressed with my raw ability from seeing the photo samples that I presented, and so he hired me on the spot. From then on, he taught me many things about shooting with medium and large format equipment, how to deal with clients, some graphic design skills, and many practical tips about doing photography for advertising — e.g., he advised me to begin “loosening up” the way I framed shots, to allow more open space particularly at the tops of my scenic photos as clients oftentimes need that extra space (usually sky) for dropping in logos and other text. What I brought to the mix of our collaboration was a thorough knowledge of lighting and a natural flair for good composition (from my college courses and my own ability).

Click here for part 3


Copyright 2006 Andrew Hudson for Photo Tour Books, Inc. Written for PhotoSecrets. You may reproduce this article for personal, educational, non-commercial and non-Internet use, such as in a local photo club newsletter or school project. No Internet publishing is permitted. For commercial use, please email Andrew Hudson for permission.

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