Student Success: Tim Campbell
During a difficult time in his life, Tim Campbell’s friend suggested he book a physique shoot with two of the most popular experts in Miami in an effort to highlight the progress he had made through fitness and exercise. After completing the shoot and seeing the finished product, he realized the potential skilled photographers held in completely restoring a person’s self-confidence and energy. It was then that he decided to pursue photography himself in hopes of one day offering the same to other people.
Now a student of NYIP, Tim has been shadowing a professional model scout as a way of gaining hands on experience in the world of posing and lighting. More recently, he was able to use his New York Institute of Photography Press Badge to gain access to the speech made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after the Liberal Party defeated the Conservatives after 10 years in power. We recently got in touch with Justin to chat about that awesome experience, and about what he’s learning at NYIP overall. Here’s what we learned:
1. When did you realize that photography was the field you wanted to pursue?
Growing up in a small town in rural northern Canada I honestly had little interest in photography. My experience was limited to buying Kodak disposable cameras and shooting high school memories for the yearbook. After college I began to get very serious about weightlifting and fitness. I would buy fitness magazines and follow websites and blogs, my jaw on the ground at the phenomenal physiques I’d see before me. It was inspiration to me: if those guys can look that way, I could too.
Flash forward 10 years. I was in a total rut in my personal life and career when my personal trainer suggested I go for a vacation in Miami to find myself, and while there have my portrait taken by Jorge Freire and Abel Cruz, two of the biggest physique photographers in the world. I trained hard and went, and it was one of the best experiences in my life. The sessions were unforgettable, and the images nothing short of stunning; I’d never seen myself like that before. Those photos completely restored my self-confidence when it was at an all-time low. I decided then and there I wanted to give the same enriching experience to others.
2. When did you enroll at NYIP?
I enrolled at NYIP in November 2014 before even purchasing my first “real” camera. I’d done a lot of shopping around, but liked NYIP’s flexibility. I travel a lot for work, and the accessibility and do-it-at-your-own-pace components really spoke to me. I was also impressed that the school was accredited by the State of New York. That put the program head and shoulders above other courses I’d seen.
3. What is your coursework like?
I’ve actually finished my lessons and am just finishing up my last two assignments. Whenever I travelled overseas I’d bring my laptop with me and do lessons in my hotel room in the evening. I’d also head to Starbucks on weekends and hit the books. I got so into certain sections that I’d finish the module in a few days and couldn’t wait to get outdoors with my camera to practice what I’d just learned. At one point I had to put the course up for a month, but when I came back it was easy to get re-started and everything I’d learned came rolling right back.
In addition to my coursework I managed to reach out to and shadow a professional model scout on shoots once a week to learn proper posing and lighting. I also read a never ending supply of magazines to get inspired and keep on top of the poses and looks currently en vogue.
4. Is your mentor helpful during the process?
My mentor is Alina Oswald and she has been invaluable. I’ve found her feedback to be absolutely essential to my growth as a photographer. Alina doesn’t sugar coat things, and if an image isn’t great she’ll tell you exactly why, and how she, as a professional, would have shot things differently. That’s what I needed. My mentor is able to provide constructive criticism from her years of experience that friends or family aren’t.
5. Tell us about your experience with the NYIP press badge.
I was looking for a news story to cover for my Unit 5 assignment, and wasn’t having much luck. The national election was underway in Canada, and I’d hoped to play into that somehow. I’d taken a few shots on Election Day of people leaving the voting station, but nothing spectacular. That night the Liberal Party defeated the Conservatives after 10 years in power. The next morning I got word that the new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, would be addressing party supporters at a rally at lunch time. I called my boyfriend to bring my camera to my office, and headed over to the hotel where the event was taking place. I knew I didn’t couldn’t miss this opportunity, so I threw on my NYIP press badge, my camera, acted like I knew what I was doing and walked right to the press platform to stake out a position. A party official glanced at my NYIP card and just nodded. Nobody said anything and within 15 minutes I was photographing the first speech by the new prime minister alongside the world’s major media outlets. I couldn’t believe my luck! I not only got several fantastic shots of a historical event, but an amazing story I won’t forget anytime soon.
6. What qualities do you think a successful, aspiring photographer needs?
If there are two things I’ve learned you need to succeed in photography, its confidence and patience. At this point I’m still building my portfolio and doing a lot of free work to get some “street cred” and a social media following. I really needed to build up my confidence to approach the bodybuilders and models I wanted to shoot. I’ve also been building up my equipment and gear as I can afford it, so patience has been a virtue. I’d easily get frustrated at the beginning because I didn’t have the right lens or the right light kit. I’d miss out on shooting people I wanted to because I couldn’t afford to miss work or to rent the equipment. I’d also get frustrated in having to take jobs I didn’t really want to do because they were paying gigs. That frustration served no purpose other than causing me to get stressed out. Patience became a virtue, knowing that I might not be where I want to be today; but if I pay my dues now I’ll be where I want to be soon enough.
7. After graduation, what are your plans?
Actually, it’s more education! I’m planning on taking NYIP’s course on Photoshop and Lightroom to bring my images to the next level. I’d eventually love to have my work appear in fitness magazines or as ads for supplement companies, but that will take a lot of dedication and networking to achieve. I’m in talks with a few swimwear companies to have my models use their products, leading to increased exposure. My plan is to slow down my workload after getting a comfortable base, being more selective with whom I choose to shoot, and doing these gigs bigger and better.
8. What do you always carry with you in your camera bag?
Haha, my camera bag isn’t that interesting. I like to travel light. I have a Nikon D7100 camera and a 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor lens, and a Profoto B2 lighting kit and accessories. I rent anything else I need. I find travelling light makes me more creative on the road instead of relying fancy gear.
9. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned so far at NYIP?
I’d say the most interesting thing I’ve learned at NYIP is how to develop my eye. I know that’s priority number one for NYIP, but I’d never thought about photography that way until I began my course. Recognizing how to spot the little details that make a shot great has made all the difference in my experience.
10. If you had to pick one, what was the most memorable photography project you’ve ever completed?
To be honest, it was my first “real” fitness shoot with a friend of mine, Gab Franchi, who is a big-named local athlete in my city. I was a nervous wreck during the shoot, trying to remember everything from my course and what I’d seen in magazines. Having modeled a ton before, Gab was actually the one who put me at ease. We had a fantastic shoot. A crowd gathered on the beach to watch what was going on, and it was my first “This is real. This is really happening.” moment in photography. I think I shot about 600 frames that day, but in the end 4 of the shots became legendary. It was that day that really got me started; after that shoot I gained credibility as a fitness photographer and clients began reaching out to me.
11. Describe a day in your life as a photographer.
I still have a day job, so my photography is usually reserved for the weekends. I usually spend my mornings doing two things: checking out Instagram and Facebook for potential athletes I could shoot in my city, or heading to the gym for a workout with business cards in my pocket in case I come across any interesting looking people. I find 15% of the people I reach out to actually contact me to follow through with a shoot.
I’ll usually do my shooting in the afternoon. I’ll usually meet the athlete at the beach and we’ll do a 2 ½ hour shoot with bodybuilding poses and lifestyle/swimwear shots. The hardest part is keeping the momentum high as the athletes usually get tired out from flexing. After the shoot (and usually a beer with the model to celebrate) I’ll head home to review the images and select the best ones to edit in Lightroom. About a week later the best shots are posted on social media for everyone to enjoy.
Right now to earn some extra cash I also photograph events at nightclubs in the evenings, or products for restaurant and small business owners looking for images for their websites. That usually eats up my evenings, but the extra publicity these jobs generate is worth it in the long run.
12. What’s the most rewarding part of studying photography?
I’ve gotten to meet and hang out with some incredibly great people while taking their portraits. I’ve taken absolutely stunning photos of some people, and there’s nothing more rewarding than hearing someone say “I never knew I looked like that”. Letting people see their inner beauty as I see it is important to me.
Studying photography has also lead to surreal moments. Like when I asked someone at the gym if they’d model for me and their reply was “Oh, you’re that big photographer. You’re asking me? Wow!!!”
13. If you could give one piece of advice to our current and prospective students, what would it be?
My biggest piece of advice would be “Don’t get discouraged”. I don’t even want to think of the number of times I almost washed my hands of the whole 9 yards. A million things will go wrong: models you want to shoot will turn you down or not show up; an entire shoot goes terrible; having to take jobs you don’t want. Just remember that things will undoubtedly get better if you stick it out. You have to experience the bad to know when you’re riding high on the good. It also makes your successes all the more valuable to you too.
Richard Higgins got his first SLR film camera when he was a teenager. Noticing his natural eye for photography, he continued to pursue this passion, eventually enrolling as a student of NYIP. Since then, he has gone on to teach seminars for the North American Nature Photography Association, to be featured in The Smithsonian and to win numerous awards from…