Canon 5D Mark ii, Holga Toy, Mamiya 645

By: Rafael Cardenas
(This article was previously published in Brooklyn and Boyle.)

Everywhere I go with a camera in my hand someone always starts with a question like, “Is that a Canon?” and then it goes onto a list of questions about what they should do to be a photographer. So, here, I will try to answer a few questions and nudge you into photography with these words. I’m going to assume that you already have a camera. After reading this if you don’t start taking pictures I don’t know what else I can do to help you.

Ain’t nobody fresher than my mo’ fn’ CLICK! CLICK! CLICK!

Point the camera in the desired direction and press the button. CLICK! That’s it. You don’t even have to look through the viewfinder if you don’t want to. I’ve gotten some interesting photos by holding the camera above my head or at my waist. But you have to click that button. That’s how it all starts. You have to take a lot of pictures. 

Then get to your computer and start editing. Editing can be cathartic. Rid yourself of any photos that suck. The delete button is your friend. Keep only the good ones and clean them up a little. I use Lightroom to edit. But you can use Photoshop, Aperture or even the software that came with your computer like iPhoto.

If all you want to do is have fun with photos. Then do just that, have fun. But take a lot of pictures. It’s that simple.

Want to get artistic?

Find a favorite photographer. Mine is, Sebastião Salgado. His images tell an intense story every time. I try to do the same when doing my street photography. Find yours and ask yourself why you like him or her. Try to incorporate a feeling of yourself in your work. Most of my images have a tinge of melancholy.

Learn your cameras functions.

I’m not a professionally trained photographer. I taught myself most of everything I know by doing research before every shoot and watching videos on YouTube on my free time. I promised myself that I would learn my camera and I have. I still have tons to learn.

If you are not self motivated there are plenty of schools that will teach you how to use your camera and lighting equipment for a price. You can take a course at a community college or find a vocational school near you. I sometimes call my friends that have studied for advice. So make sure you make good photo friends too.

Learn to run a business.

Am I a “Professional Photographer?” I don’t know. I don’t care. Photography is not a profession like others where you have to have a degree or a license. Anyone can pick up a camera and call themself a professional. Thanks to digital photography it is now very easy to get into the trade. All you need is equipment and a small knowledge of how to use it.

What’s really important is to learn how to run a business. If you want photography to be your meal ticket you have to take the proper steps to run a profitable business. 

You can get help with that from many organizations. You can try the Boyle Heights Chamber of Commerce or walk into the Business Source Center. (1852 E. 1st St, Los Angeles, 90033. Their number is 323-264-9020) These organizations have free information and workshops to help you get started on a legit business path.

Your road is different than mine.

I’m sure I didn’t answer all of your questions but it’s a start. Once you get your feet moving and taking pictures all the answers will come to you one at a time. 

We all have different lives and each human will come across different obstacles. When you have a question, Google that mo’ fo’ like crazy till you find an answer that makes sense to you.

Have fun. Make money. CLICK!


Rafael will be hosting an Event Photography Workshop in June.
Visit me at: Facebook.com/eastlos for more info.