How I Became A Pro Photographer – Through the Years with Canon
The Year was 2002, and I had begun working on my first book – a self-published eBook about the Invicta Watch Company. I quickly came to the conclusion that for this project to be successful, I needed A)good photographs, and B)hiring a photographer was not in the budget. So I purchased my very first Canon DSLR – the Rebel 300D, and the kit lens (18-55 EFS):
The Rebel 300D wasn’t my first camera (I’d owned a few point and shoot, as well as 35mm SLR bodies) or my first digital camera. My foray into digital photography was the *ahem* 1.3 megapixel Sony Cybershot DSC-P30:
The Sony “wet my whistle” photographically, but I outgrew it’s capabilities quickly. Now you’re average cell phone takes better photos than what that P30 could deliver. I soon jumped to my first Canon digital camera – the Powershot G3:
The G3 was quite a bit larger than the P30, but packed with features – a mind-blowing 4 megapixesls!! Quite impressive for 2002! It had a 35-140 equivalent lens, and threads which allowed you to attach auxiliary lenses. The G3 is what I used when I really started getting serious about macro watch photography, and my love of Canon equipment. To this day, the G3 is regarded as a classic point-and-shoot. Still, the G3 wasn’t delivering the results I needed for my book, which pushed me to the then-new DSLR segment and the Digital Rebel 300D. Not long after getting the 300D, I purchased the Canon 100mm USM Macro which I’ve used for the vast majority of my published watch photography. The Canon Rebel bodies are such great products at a great price point for consumers – I used several different Rebel DSLRs over the years as “back up” cameras, including the Rebel XT, and the XTi. But I digress….back to my story of getting into professional photography.
I wrestled with my new Rebel DSLR, and some rudimentary photo editing and got enough useable photos to finish by book about Invicta. I published my Invicta book in 2003, and it didn’t exactly set the world of fire commercially. But it did get me noticed by INTERNATIONAL WATCH magazine (now known as IW). As it turns out, having knowledge about luxury watches, having the skill to write about them, AND being able to photograph them was a bit of a rarity in the early 2000’s. I started doing freelance work for them, and after about a year was offered the position of Technical Editor to CHRONOS magazine. It was during these early years of my “freelance photojournalism” career that I learned a great deal about photography. Keep in mind, I’m completely self-taught. And while I was already earning quite a reputation both in the print world as well as online as a top-notch photographer of watches, I knew next to nothing about other types of photography. So I bought books, watched videos, talked to other photographers, and asked a lot of questions.
More and more lucrative freelance work started coming my way, and in late 2004, which allow me the opportunity to invest more in camera equipment. I’ve always had a nice “day job” so my freelance income has been “play” money for me, so I could justify the expense. I even started a family of websites about wrist watches (LUXURY TYME, THE SEAMASTER REFERENCE PAGE and WATCH TALK FORUMS) which gave me the opportunity to publish work outside of what I did for the magazines I worked for.
With a nice stream of freelance income behind me, I continued to invest in better camera equipment. In retrospect, my upgrade path was born more out of my growing love of and interest in photography than by professional need. My 2nd DSLR body was the Canon 20D – my first “prosumer” body:
I also began expanding my photography beyond just macro product photography. Watch companies began requesting my presence at events which I covered as a photojournalist, and I got to try my hand at sports events which were sponsored by various companies in the luxury wrist watch industry. I wrote a couple of articles for ROUNDEL magazine (official magazine of the BMW Car Club of America) which gave me a little automotive photography experience. I even gave wedding photography a shot (pitiful pun intended…sorry). I even published a few articles in some photography magazines, and did a couple of camera reviews – fun work.
I think I really began to “hit my stride” photographically with the introduction of the Canon 40D:
It was about this time that I began really thinking of myself as a real, no-foolin’ photographer. I had some great experience behind me and was learning more, and making great contacts every day. I’ve taken more photos with the Canon 40D than any other camera body – it paid for itself many times over. I used the 40D for over 2 years (an eternity in the lifespan of electronics) from the day it hit the US Market (September of 2007 I think) until the Canon 7D I pre-ordered shipped to me in October of 2009.
The 7D is the ultimate APS-C sized sensor camera – without a doubt, the best I’ve owned to date. I plan on doing a more in-depth article on the 7D in a future article here on ThruMyLens so keep an eye out.
Now I find myself delving into the world of full-frame photography with the Canon 5D Mark II.
Again, there’s less professional need for me to have a 5D Mark II, but I wanted both the capability and experience shooting with a full-frame body. In some circles, as silly as it may sound, you simply aren’t taken seriously as a photographer unless you shoot full-frame. I actually purchased a 5D Mark II prior to purchasing my 7D, but ended up returning it and purchased some additional lenses instead. To that point, I shot my entire DSLR life with “crop sensor” bodies, and for the type of shooting I do, I had never before seen the necessity (again based on the type of work I do) to go full-frame. But I’m again taking the plunge, so look forward to 5D Mark II photos soon!
John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.