There are generally two types of people in the world — people who like to talk about doing things, and people who are actually doing things. I’m part of the former, but I’d like to be part of the latter. In order to find out what makes those types of special people tick (and how I can become one of them), I’ve started interviewing people I know who’ve stopped talking about doing things and started doing them.
( ~ )
Dustin Landon is a freelance photographer and an Idaho native. In addition to photography, he attends school, travels around the world, and works on computers for the local school district. He still bears the scar of when he filleted his pinky completely open while climbing a barbed wire fence to get “the perfect shot.” His wife rolls her eyes every time he tells that story.
Is photography something you always wanted to go into, or did you stumble upon it accidentally?
More of a stumble, really. I always liked taking photos but never really thought much of it. It was more of a fun thing. I was more a computer geek that decided I didn’t like numbers and programing. So I started doing graphics work, with 3D and Photoshop. I started to take graphic design classes and trying to fill in other classes, and an Intro to Photography class came up as an open class, and it seemed like a good idea, and I did great. My images were among the most interesting in class and regularly made the top choices from the teachers. So that made me feel good and I started doing it for fun, dragged my little sister as a model all around the boonies, and people started asking me to take pictures of their families and babies and it kinda took off.
What equipment do you use for your photography? What did you start out with?
My first camera was a 3.2 megapixel Canon point and shoot. I traveled Europe with it and got beautiful shots. I still show some of them at art shows. Only drawback is I can’t print them larger than 11×14. After that, I became a Canon user. Choosing you camera brand was like choosing your religion; Nikon and Canon are the mainstays, and you use to have to stick with your choice. Now there are lots of easily accessible adapters so you don’t lose the investment in lenses. Anyway, I used a Canon 40d for the past two or three years and it did great, but it’s limited in low light, and I love nighttime photography, so I set out to upgrade and recently got a 5d Mark 2 because of its full frame sensor. It shoots like film and at 21 mega pixels I can blow my photos up to bill board size without any loss of quality, and I am pleased as punch with it.
What did you initially do in order to turn your photography hobby into a business? What worked? What didn’t work?
It just kinda happened after so many people kept saying they liked my photographs. I ordered some good looking business cards and built a web site, kept my prices low, and just kinda spread the word among friends and family. I really didn’t push hard on the business until recently. I go show off photos in markets and such and just try and spread the word. I haven’t really found anything that doesn’t work; for me so far, any publicity is good publicity.
You’ve had your photography displayed in several small venues now, each getting more traffic than the first. What steps did you have to take in order to make that happen?
Just talk to people really, but I feel it all is just coming into place. I have found that social media helps so I can stack the odds in my favor. When I have more people around, it attracts people to my venue. People, even shy people, want to know what the commotion is about when really it’s my friends hanging out.
Professional photography is a very competitive field. Was there ever a point where you thought, “I’m good enough to compete,” or do you still feel like you have a long ways to go?
After all the praise from people around me, I entered into some local competition, half expecting to fail miserably, but I won. Lots. I was showing up seniors at my school and I was a freshman that wasn’t even studying photography. That was about the time I got enough confidence to say, “Hey, I can do this,” and started putting more time into it.
As you look back now on the first beginning parts of your career, is there anything you would have done differently?
It’s all happened so naturally; I can’t say there is anything I would have done different. Most of it was such an evolution, it wasn’t me planning on it. I just liked taking cool photographs of interesting things, and as long as people like what I shoot, then hopefully I’ll keep growing.
You’ve done a lot of different jobs now, from portrait photography to wedding photography to landscape photography. Is there a favorite subject or genre you like to take pictures of? Why?
Ooh, that is a tough question. I can say that wedding is not my favorite, but they all have their perks. Beautiful landscapes to abstract macros to having a model, each one can pull a lot of different emotions and enjoyment. It really depends on my mood. Some days I’ll go out hiking because I want to see some nature; others I am looking for textures, then sometimes I want to have a person doing what I tell them. [laughs].
What is your ultimate goal or project as a photographer?
I have a lot of different roads to go. I enjoy the art of it; part of me wants to showcase my art alongside other young artists such as myself and own art galleries. I also like to travel and capture the essence of places, so I wouldn’t turn down a National Geographic or photojournalism job, either.
Your wife remarks that whenever you take a trip anywhere, she has to remember to leave at least an extra hour early because she never knows if you’re going to suddenly pull over on the highway and hike a mile to take a picture of an abandoned mill or an old barn. Is there ever a time when you aren’t in photography mode?
When I don’t have my camera? A lot of times, I have to purposely leave the camera behind, or I am going to get too side tracked. But I still see it; once you start to see how light falls on things and how colors mix and how that would look on paper, you can’t stop seeing it.