Last month I had the pleasure of chatting with Bokeh Magazine. Although I find it a little awkward to talk about myself for extended periods of time I did find that through the process I was able to look back on reflect on where my photography has came from and where it might be headed. Here is that interview
Q. How did you get into photography?
A. My interest in photography began when my wife and I started dating, about a decade ago. She was away at University, so when she would come home for the summer we would spend as much time together as we could hiking and getting to the mountains. This is where it all started. I just wanted to take photos of our trips and try to capture the beauty of the Canadian Rockies.
Q. What was the journey like transitioning from being a photography enthusiast to a photography professional.
A. That’s a tough one because at times I still feel I am making that transition. Becoming a better and more well rounded photographer is an ongoing process for me. I think this transition really began when a mentor of mine lent me my first pro lens, it was the Canon 17-40 F4 and some graduated filters, I still use that lens and I am pretty sure I still owe him some cash for those filters. After that, I took the time to learn the ins and outs and study the art of landscape photography. I then started to produce some images that were pretty good and that got me some attention on a variety of social media platforms. That was the definitive moment that I decided that I would start taking things a little more seriously. Photography went from a hobby to a passion that was as important to me as being outside. Having the confidence to believe in myself and start representing myself as a pro photographer was a little nerve racking at times, but the feeling I get when I capture an epic sunrise or an amazing wide angle shot of an ice climber makes that small amount of self doubt disappear.
Q. Were there people who didn't believe in your passion or photography endeavors?
A. At the time I decided to start a company and really start pushing my photography I was also just finishing up University. Besides my photography business, I am also a teacher. This drive in me to try to push two careers made my wife worry a little. Her concerns lied in not only how it would affect my workload and sanity, but also how it would affect our bank account. As we all know, good gear is not cheap and when I started upgrading to pro level equipment she continually cringed at the enormous dollar amount that came with it.
Q. How did you deal with them and their criticism?
A. It was difficult at times for sure but I always tried to convey to her how important it was to pursue passions even if sometimes it seems crazy. I wanted to show her that I was willing to work hard for this and make it a success. In the end she has come around and she is now fully on board and is a big part of the team. She has even recently taken on the role of editor and partner in Tyler Weber Photography. With the amazing support from my wife and of course my 15 month old daughter Hazel, the vision of the company and my photography has been able to reach new heights.
Q. Did you have mentors or any formal education in photography?
A. I have zero formal education in photography, although I do have a few key mentors who have influenced my work. First off, Jean-Paul Gaboury has had a great influence on my work. He has and continues to teach me so much about the craft of making a great image. One area where I specifically consider JP to be a strong influence is when it comes to the technical aspect of imagery. “If it’s not tack sharp then I am sorry it’s crap”. Words I vividly remember when I started learning from him. He is a real technician when it comes to making sure all the technical aspects of an image are considered. He is also a great influence when it comes to my post-processing. He helped me realise early on that getting it right in camera is an important part of landscape photography, and that photoshop doesn’t make an image the photographer does when they release the shutter.
Rob Wiebe is another person who had a great impact on my photography. Sadly, Rob recently passed away after a long hard fought battle with cancer. Rob taught me that it's not always about taking pictures, and that we need to be a part of a larger community. He legitimised what we do, when I often wondered why the hell I was doing it. “Do it because you love it and not for anyone else”. Although I didn’t spend too much face time with Rob he was constantly checking on me and my journey, whether that be my photography or just to see how our new newborn baby girl was sleeping. He was a great man and I miss his shoves of encouragement.
Q. How did you start your company?
A. It was quick, people started to hire me and buy fine art so I decided I’d better go legit. After about a year of taking it as it came I went in and got a business licence and made it official.
Q. What is the main industry Tyler Weber Photography?
A. At this point I would have to say there is a distinct split. Family photography and fine art print sales divide my work.
Q. What makes your business unique?
A. That’s the million dollar question I think. At this point I believe it is that my business is small, kind of a mom and pop shop, if that makes sense? A lot of the people that enjoy what I do, know me on some level and if they don’t know me they are a friend of a friend. It makes for a relaxed vibe when someone I have no connection to at all contacts me. They see that I am an easy going guy that is just doing what he loves. I think it’s that easy going mentality between me and my clients that makes what I do unique. I would like to keep it that way, no matter where things go.
Q. How did you grow your business back then?
A. I just said yes to everything I could. Even though my passion lies in outdoor adventure photography I have yet to have a bighorn sheep or a bull moose pay up for the portraits. The neat thing about taking on work outside your area of passion is that you learn a ton, and you end up being a better photographer. I have learned so much in the last couple of years due to being a yes man when it comes to taking on jobs.
Q. Were there any specific marketing strategies that have worked well for you?
A. Quite honestly I have yet to really market myself. I use Facebook and Instagram and between these two social media platforms I stay busy enough. I try to funnel all my posts on social media to my website. I find this brings people to my portfolio which is my best work, and in the end that’s my main goal: to have people see the best of what I do.
Q. Have you done any commercial work, and if so how did those opportunities come up?
I have done a little commercial work but it has been very limited. I have been hired to design websites as well as provide images for websites, among other things. In most cases these opportunities arose from the owners of the companies being fans of my landscape images.
Q. What do you do to keep yourself inspired?
A. I read a lot about the outdoors and I am constantly seeking out amazing photographers. Books that talk about big mountain adventures and magazines that map out amazing places to climb, hike, fish, or canoe keep me thirsty for outdoor adventure and epic landscapes. In addition to this I am always inspired by the members of our local community of photographers. There is so much talent concentrated in a relatively small area and seeing how much passion they put into their work makes me want to work that much harder.
Q. Who do you look up to?
I look up to people who have the guts to just go for it. Those who have went all in on their photography career and are successful. Guys like Paul Zizka and Dave Brosha who are doing what they love everyday. Those guys have worked hard to get where they are today and I can appreciate that.
Q. Describe your photographic style and has it changed over the years?
A. As photographers and artists I think we are always trying to separate ourselves from the pack. I think the biggest thing is that I am always trying to convey a strong sense of drama in my landscapes. I think that is what draws people in and makes them love my art. It’s exhilarating when I see that raw image on the back of the camera and I know I captured something special that will translate to my fans. I achieve this dramatic style by knowing how to set up for the shot. Considering things like time of day and weather, as well as a few other tricks are key to my style. I would also like to think that my attention to detail and quality of images over quantity is appreciated. If an image is not perfect in my eyes it does not get pushed to my website portfolio. I think people see the level of quality that I ask of myself and that it comes out in my images and they respect that.
Q. What are some of your favourite photography related websites?
A. I find websites like Petapixel, 500px, and B&H to be one’s I regularly visit. However, they all serve a very different purpose for my photography. Petapixel is a great place for photo news, reviews on gear, and general photogeek stuff. I use 500px for inspiration. I love that I can go there, type in a place and it pulls up hundreds of images. From this, I can get ideas for locations and conceptualize future images. B&H is a place where I go to dream and fantasize about the possibilities of new gear. I think my wife is always a little unnerved whenever the new B&H catalogue arrives on our doorstep.
Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A. That moment when you realise you just captured something amazing. That reward is an addiction and it’s a feeling that can only be repeated when the next great shot comes around.
Q. What is the most difficult part of your job and how do you deal with it?
A. Balancing everything is for sure the most challenging aspect: photography, teaching, family, my own well being. This is compounded by the fact that I am a perfectionist slash overachiever. It can be tough, and I am very grateful to have a good wife that has the ability to pull me back to reality when I am stressing about it all.
Q. Have you ever said no to a job assignment, and if so why?
A. I have twice and both times it was because I was booked up. I really try not to say no at this point in my career. I want to do as much as I can and learn as much as I can. This can only happen if I continually say yes to opportunities that come my way.
Q. What are some of the greatest hurdles you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?
A. I think one of the biggest hurdles for me is having the opportunities to get out and shoot a variety of amazing locations that help me build my portfolio. Last year my wife and I had our little girl and she is amazing. I want to be there for her and my wife so at times this desire to be a good dad can limit my time in the field. It’s all a balancing act. I overcome this lack of quantity in the field by going hard when we do get out. I try and focus on quality of the images I am taking versus the quantity of images. When we plan a trip I try to pack as much shooting in as possible and pray for good light.
Q. What are the top 5 things that you attribute to your current success?
A. 1. Putting out quality work
2. Staying passionate about what I love to shoot
3. The support of my family and friends
4. Working hard and continuing to refine my style
5. My supporters and clients.
Q. What are the 3 most important areas of your business right now?
A. Marketing, traveling to expand my portfolio, and keeping it a passion.
Q. What initiatives are you working on to improve those 3 areas?
A. With marketing I am just trying to learn more about the business of photography. It is easy to get out and take a great image these days but it’s knowing how to broadcast your work and brand yourself in a flooded market. When it comes to planning trips I am currently planning a few different trips in order to strengthen the portfolio. Iceland is on the list as well as a comprehensive list of locations along the west coast of Canada and the US. Keeping things a passion is very important to me. I got into photography because I loved to be in the mountains and I want that to remain the biggest reason I get out to shoot. When things like hiking and climbing start to feel like work I begin to ask myself why I am doing it in the first place. Passion is always the biggest motivator for me and keeping focused on what I love will always make me a better photographer.
Q. How important is having goals to you and what are some that you have at the moment?
A. Goals are very important to me in all things. In the past year I have been able to accomplish and check off many goals that I had set for myself so that has felt really good. One of my goals at this point is to be able to diversify my role in the photo community through writing, teaching and mentoring. Another goal would be to bring my work to new audiences and present my images on a global scale.
Q. How important is networking in your specific photography niche?
A. I think it is very important but I find it frustrating at times. It is often the networking and business end of things that makes photography feel like work. Sometimes, I wish I could just do the shooting and editing and have someone else deal with all the other noise. On the other hand I have met some of the most amazing people through photography and it is a beautiful thing to share a passion with another person that is on the same level.
Q. What do you recommend to someone getting started in the photography business?
A. Have some general direction of where you want to take things. Always be learning and improving and only put your best work forward. Most of all, be passionate and do it for you. If you love what you do then the rest will fall into place.
Q. What is something you wish you did differently when you started your photography journey/business?
A. One thing I wish I would have done differently in the beginning was ask for more constructive criticism from my mentors. It’s hard to hear your work stinks but often when I look back on some of my early landscape images I wish someone would have told me that they were not very good.
Q. What equipment do you use?
A. I am a Canon shooter. For camera bodies I use a 5dmrk3 and a 7dmrk2. My glass consists of the Canon 17-40 f4, 50mm 1.2, and the 100-400 mrk2. Recently I have been super impressed by what Sigma has been doing with their Art series and have picked up the the 20mm 1.4. This lens is sharp, fast, and really suites my style.
Q. How do you plan and set up for a shoot?
A. Usually, it starts with a location, then I try to think of a unique way to capture it. I use the Photopills app to help me plan most of my shots. I love this app and would highly recommend trying it out. The next phase is scouting the location ahead of time. It is important to be rehearsed so you are not scrambling around in the dark while the opportunity for great light passes you by. The last step is to arrive early so you can set up with any unexpected changes in the environment.
Q. What type of post processing do you do?
A. For the most part, I like to keep things simple in Lightroom but on occasion I will use Photoshop for a little cloning. I really don’t like to over process my images and for this reason Adobe Lightroom is the perfect tool. On occasion, I use Nik effects to add a few finishing touches to my images.
Q. Do you see any trends developing in your field of photography?
A. Recently I have noticed a couple of trends in landscapes photography. One medium that is becoming a popular way to capture great landscapes is through aerial imaging using drones. This style of photography is super intriguing to me and I believe that it is only a matter of time before I begin to experiment with drone photography. The second trend I am noticing more is the increased use of social media to promote and brand new and up and coming photographers. I think this is a great way to build community and find new contacts and has been very beneficial for me. I have received a lot of work and made great connections through this platform.
Q. What can we expect to see from you in the future?
A. In the future I am hoping to add more diversity in regards to the locations of my landscapes. Traveling is key at this point in order to create a stronger portfolio of images. I am also beginning to explore time lapse photography and want to add a drone to my gear in the future.
Q. Do you have anything else you would like to add?
A. Being a photographer is being passionate about capturing an image. Do what you do because you love it and for no other reason.