My Father always had a camera with him. He was taking photos all the time, be it road trips in the summer, or just at family get togethers, he always had a lens pointed at someone or something. As a child I took an interest in this and wanted a camera of my own. Now being a kid, I would get a disposable every now and then, use up all the film and go to Walgreens to get my pictures developed. Twenty pictures of a squirrel and a few blurry, underexposed shots as well. This was the start of a life long obsession with photography.
I put off as an adult getting a camera for the longest time. I was a broke college student and wanted to become a rockstar instead. Like literally a rockstar, play guitar on stage for a living. My free time and money was dedicated to playing guitar every second I could. Now, I didn’t forget about photography, I still loved the idea of it. But, it just wasn’t in the cards at that point in time. Until 2015, when I finally decided I’m going to get a camera. It was nothing fancy or big, just a Nikon D7000 on clearance with Amazon. But it was my first proper camera. It had a kit lens and a nifty 50 (budget 50mm lens) that I had purchased with it. I was ready to go play with my new found, old hat, gizmo.
I took it with me everywhere, trying to learn how to use the thing. Mind you as a child I had point and had no manual controls. With this new camera, I forced myself to keep it in manual for the first 3 months and learn how everything worked. I had friends asking me for headshots, I was driving out around the state every weekend with my girlfriend (The future Mrs. Benedict) taking landscapes and photos of everything that interested me. It was a magical time and a lot of fun.
My cousin who was playing in a local band at the time asked me “have you ever thought about taking photos of bands with that thing?” I hadn’t thought about it before. It intrigued me, I came from a music background and loved the idea of the stage. I told him I hadn’t, but that I would love to. So he got me a ticket for his bands show and I was invited to go shoot photos of them. By this time I had become a lot more comfortable with the settings on my camera. Not a master by any means, but comfortable enough to not botch the entire thing.
After I had shot the show my cousin’s band and posted the photos, I started getting invites from bands left and right in my hometown to come take photos at their shows. It was an absolute blast! So, in a matter of a few months, I was connecting with bands all over town and taking photos at shows 2-3 times a week, getting backstage passes and accepted to shoot photos at Warped Tour and touring bands coming through my hometown.
In a very short time, I had a brand known as Hamster Age Photography. It was a goofy name, but it was relevant back to my “being in a band” days. However, at this point in time I was working for free, just completely out of passion. Then one day a band I had wanted to shoot for a while invited me to a show. I was a photography ninja, I shot over a bunch of photos and their set was over. I went outside as it was a hot summer day. The lead singer came up to me and said he was a fan of my work; he had noticed what I had been doing around town. Then he asked me a question that changed my photography career forever and vindicate me as a “Photographer” forever. “How much do I owe you?” This simple question was a shock to me. Was I making enough of a mark that I could charge for this? It changed my whole outlook on what I was doing.
Now it wasn’t an ungodly amount, we agreed upon $20 for my gas and some Mcdonald’s to have had driven out to the show when I was living about 45 minutes away. But that was the first time I had made any money doing photography. That moment was a defining milestone for me and has always been in my memory. A lot has changed since that day. The band in question doesn’t exist anymore, I don’t really do concert photography anymore, but I still take photos of the lead singer to this day. He’s grown from the concert days a little too. Now he has a family of his own.