The Experience – Year One

About a little over 2 years ago, I was traveling around Asia for 6 months. I was by myself taking street photos in Philippines, Hong Kong, and Japan. My best friend became my camera as I capture the life around me. As I returned stateside, unemployed, and loads of free time, I decided to take up photography. After a year of doing photography as a hobby I decided to take my skills into a more professional level.

Last year around this time I shot my first set of models. 365 days later my reputation has grown tremendously, and I am constantly booking gigs. How did I do it? It wasn’t a fancy camera, or gear…This is all thanks to my camera… A Canon T3i (600d) with a 18-55mm kit lens. All my photos I have taken to this point, I have taken with a cheapo camera, with a cheapo lens. Before you know it, I unexpectedly proved to the world that it’s not the camera, or the lens that make the photo but it’s how you work with your surroundings, and how you interact with your subjects.

Hong Kong 2013

As a photography student in High School, I learned everything from the rule of thirds to dark room development. I started just playing around at first taking city scape photos, and finding random people walking down the street, and positioning them in a shot. It all began as a hobby, then it progressed to a means of self-promotion. But after my first month of messing around I decided to start working with models to try to capture the their seduction within photos. I had no clue what the hell I was doing on my first shoot. Well I knew the basics, but it was my first time working with a model. I was taking photos from all angles, experimenting with the background, and my subject. I didn’t know what to expect from such a hobby. Maybe just this one shoot, and I’l be done after that… One year later, I have shot a large selection of models from all over, and my work has recognized.

One of my first shoots

Although my education in photography did help me learn the basics quickly, most of my shots are based from what other photographers do. I would look through Playboy, Maxim, FHM and follow models on Instagram and Twitter. I take note of the position of their body, the angle of the camera, the flash positions, and how that photographer manage to gain that exposure. I really never thought about if the photographer was using a low ISO, or shutter speeds or what kinda of lens he used. It all came down to something more basic. Understanding the photo.

One of my first shoots

As time progressed I notice that many people would ask me questions like; “What camera do you use?” or “What lens do I use” or “Man you must be good at photoshop, what do you do?”. I would always explain that I use a T3i with the 18-55mm kit lens, and I only use Adobe Lightroom to take out minor details, but I don’t do anything dramatic or crazy with Photoshop. Most people’s reaction is a slight disbelief, but as I showed them my work, it soon became apparent that it was just all in the photo. I don’t have enough money to buy a 5 grand camera, or a 24-70L lens (However if you want to get me one Il be happy with that).

Shot with my Canon t3i

Camera gear, is always a fun topic. I rented one 24-70L lens and I fell in love with it but I don’t think that’s what makes my photos pro. I believe there are some photographers out there that believe that their gear makes their photos. That you cannot become a great photographer unless you shoot at the lowest F-stop possible at the lowest ISO setting you can get. I’ve seen photographers trash about each other, saying their cheap, have crappy photos, or “oh look they are shooting in AP, or auto mode, psshh fake photographer, mind as well use your iPhone!”. Everyone has their opinions, but come on! Why pay so much for a camera with all those features if your not going to use it! I shoot with some auto functions like aperture priority when I do street shooting. It is important not to miss a shot, so don’t waste your time messing with your adjustments, and later beating yourself up for missing something.

Shot In AP Mode
Shot in AP

Now I don’t want to compare photos to other photographers, but you guys can grab my photos, and put them side by side with (insert photographers name here). You tell me which ones are better without photoshop. My kit lens with a T3i or that guy with the 24-70 L lens, that was taken at 1/200 ISO 100 with his Canon Mark III, and his Paul C Buff Strobe. Surprisingly not that many photographers hate on me because of the quality of work I manage to pull off with the camera I have. 

Another thing that I learned from photography is the power of Photoshop. With the ability of Photoshop it created a new work flow in photography. But there is a constant war between pure photos, vs photoshop photos. That anyone can take an ordinary photo, and make it into something extravagant. In my opinion there are photographers, and there are graphic designers. I met photographers that worked for FHM, and Playboy. In general they told me the same thing. FHM, Playboy, Maxim all hires photographers, and they toss them out the minute they do their first shoot. It’s because these “photographers” would take a shot, then edit the hell out of the model to make it look good. In reality they hire photographers to take good photos so that they are as natural as possible. They have the graphic team to do the rest.

I admit there are some photos that are out there, with some impressive Photoshop. But I think it takes away from the actual photography portion of a photo. As far as my pictures, I only use a healing brush to remove blemishes, add a vignetting to my photos, and fix stuff that are distracting. But I don’t make it look like a painting. My work has always been as close to true as possible.

Overall it doesn’t matter what camera you have, or lens. It’s how you create the picture. How you can capture the eye of the audience, and  make them stop for a moment to admire the beauty, and take in the seduction that got them there. So don’t over think about your gear, get out there with whatever camera you have, take photos, and be appreciative of the art of photography. Look at other peoples work, ask yourself how they pull that shot, and what you would have done differently.

It’s been one year, and I am still continuing to learn. Be patient, and start building a portfolio that people will recognized. But I think I made my point using a Cannon T3i with the 18-55mm. It’s time for a upgrade guys. Say hello to my new toy. A Cannon 70d with the 18-135mm. I can’t wait for another year of shooting, meeting photographers, models, and learning new concepts of photography. So stay tuned…

Oh yea… I still had some vinyl left… So I made sure to carry the look from my old camera to the new. Check it out!

Make sure to visit my web-portal at , Follow me on Twitter & Instagram @DjMarkyG , and give me a like on my fb page here!

-Mark Gonzales
(Dj Marky G)
Photographer, Dj, Gamer, Nerd, CEO of Enix LLC

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