My First Photo Gallery (that I’ve never talked about) | 119

Feb 02, 2024

I didn’t grow up with a camera in my hands. I was a creative kid, but not in the way you might think. Rather than playing with a camera or drawing, I would play with Legos and do little science experiments.

I didn’t get my first camera until the end of 2016. I had a trip to Japan coming up in Jan 2017 and figured I should have something nice to take pictures with.

That decision to buy a camera transformed my life. I took thousands of photos (mostly bad) on that trip. But I began to fall in love with photography. I moved to Chicago and every weekend for the next few years I would go out and try and capture the best photos I could.

I sucked. But I loved the process. I stuck with it.

I’ve never subscribed to the idea that we’re born with artistic talent, so I figured I could develop it myself. I was bad at photography, and I was stubborn. I knew I could get good.

So I did what I’ve always done. I consistently put in the work.

Each weekend, I’d wake up at sunrise and capture the golden hour light on Chicago’s skyline. I’d walk around the streets and capture the action.

I would do this every weekend for a couple of years.

I started to get better each time. I learned what aperture gives the photos the look I want. I learned all about shutter speed and ISO. I learned the magic of composition.

I had no formal photography education. I went to YouTube University to learn everything I could about photography. I binged Peter McKinnon, spent money on presets, and would slowly learn how to edit photos.

Each time I went out to shoot I got 1% better. Stacked over a hundred weekends, I started to get pretty good. Friends and family would tell me my photos were incredible.

And that stuck with me.

I heard of this small gallery happening at a Chicago brewery, so I submitted my photos. Somehow, they picked me, and I was one of a handful of artists that were picked to display their work.

I knew nothing about being part of a gallery. I googled an online print shop, submitted my photos, got them framed, and slapped $100 on each one. I had no idea how to price my work, but that seemed fair.

March 2019. The gallery itself was incredible. It was a surreal experience seeing my work up on display and for sale. My parents and my friends came out to support me. I didn’t expect so much support, and it was the first time I thought that maybe I could make this photography thing work.

Maybe there’s a way to make a living from it. Millions of other people have done it. Why couldn’t I?

I was working a 9-5 through this whole process and really beginning to dread it. Photography was the way out.

At the end of the night, I sold zero prints.

But I actually wasn’t discouraged at all. I knew that this was just the first step of what would become something big. I just had to make it happen. I shifted my focus from prints to working with clients…

I spent the next year and a half figuring out what my business was going to be. I developed a systemized way to land client after client. I landed my first client in July of 2020. Then signed a new brand as a client every 1-2 weeks. All because of my proven system.

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