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How I Became a Professional Photographer and What I Saw Along the Way: My First Photo

May 9, 2011

Welcome to the first part of what I hope will be a never-ending series on how I got from Point A (newborn) to Point B (someone who makes his living from photography). I will jump around throughout the years, highlighting milestones from my journey. Really, I can skip ages 0 through 6 because I didn’t take a single photo during those years. I wasn’t one of these 21st century kindergarteners using his parents’ newfangled iCamera devices, carelessly clicking away at anything that passes him by. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, we had film, which meant there was a financial commitment involved with the taking of each photo. Who would waste perfectly good film on a boy who still had to use the “double bunny ears” method for tying his shoelaces (as opposed to the far more challenging “through the rabbit hole” method)?

I very vividly remember taking my first photo: I was 7 years old, the subject was my father and the camera was of the 110-format variety. And remember those 4-sided disposable flash cubes? You would plug it into a socket on top of the camera and it would automatically rotate each time you rewound the camera after taking a flash photo. After four photos, the cube was used up and it was trash. Well, the camera was decked out with one of those too. I was given VERY strict instructions to hold the camera as still as possible. I used all my concentration to hold that camera rock-steady, thinking that even the smallest movement would ruin the photo. In retrospect, I didn’t need to hold it still at all because it was a dimly lit room and flash durations are very short, even on cheap flash cubes. But apparently my instructors (my father and 10-year-old sister) weren’t armed with this knowledge. I gently pushed the button, saw the bright flash, and then quickly checked the back of the camera to see if the photo was worth keeping. What? Oh yeah, this was film. That meant I had to wait until the 24-exposure roll was eventually used up, the film was taken to the photo lab, and my father returned with the finished product: a 3.5″ x 5″ print. And here it is, a scan of my masterpiece:

Avi Gerver's first photo

I will never recall what my second photo was, but this one is etched in my memory forever as my first. Do you remember yours?

Other posts in the series, How I Became a Professional Photographer and What I Saw Along the Way:

28 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2011 10:40 am

    Great story. I remember those days as well, I was about 10 when I started with one of those same cameras, then I had the luck to take composition and film developing classes at a community center where my mom worked. I learned to develop 35mm B&W film and how to make enlargements and the development of these. For me the moment that I saw an image appear on the photo paper submerged in chemicals on the tray, was the day that marked my life and make me a photography lover. It is not same with Digital cameras, you view the image instantly on the LCD, but to see it appear slowly on the paper, when it was developing is other thing. These are experiences that most of the people NEW to photography don’t have and maybe never will. Keep up the awesome work.

    • May 9, 2011 10:56 am

      Thanks Nestor! There was definitely an excitement and anticipation between when the photo was taken and when you could actually see it (via a photo lab or processing it yourself in a darkroom), an element missing from photography today. On the other hand, we’re probably all better photographers because we can try out new techniques without wasting film, and immediately correct mistakes when we make them. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to start out in photography in this digital-only world. They probably said the same thing about 35mm film when it was popularized 100 years ago!

  2. Sasha permalink
    May 10, 2011 10:24 am

    Avi, it is a wonderful first photo!! Your talent has continued.

  3. Angela permalink
    May 13, 2011 1:39 pm

    I just happened to stumble upon your blog and I’m glad that I did. It’s really interesting to read your story of how you came to do photography professionally. I am trying to get a photography career going as well, and I have to say that I’m having some frustrations with that. I’m wondering if I need to go back to school for photography or if it’s possible to become successful trying to do it all on your own. Any thoughts?

    Thanks much!

    • May 13, 2011 2:02 pm

      You definitely don’t have to go to school for photography to become a professional! I’m about to run out the door, but I’ll check out your photos and get back to you…

    • May 14, 2011 8:00 pm

      hi Angela! I went to school for photography, and while I learned a lot there, I can honestly say I learned SO much more after I left and started working for myself. That’s not to say you should leap into a business without education, but the wonderful thing about the Internet is that you can learn pretty much anything you want about photography… provided you put in the time and effort to improve your skills. Try joining a club of other photographers; my husband and I host photo school every week with a couple of friends who want to learn more, and we learn a lot at each class too. no one knows everything; my goal as a photographer and businesswoman is to always learn new things to improve myself. Good luck!! :-)

    • May 15, 2011 1:22 am

      Well put, mrspix. Angela, you should also check out John Harrington’s book, “Best Business Practices for Photographers.” It has a wealth of information about the business side of photography.

  4. Angela permalink
    May 13, 2011 1:43 pm

    Hi again,
    If you’re interested, I’ve also got a blog on wordpress – and some photos on Tumblr –

    Have a great day

    • May 15, 2011 1:25 am

      Great pics Angela, you’re definitely on the right track. Keep at it!

  5. May 13, 2011 2:25 pm

    Those fabulous flash cubes!

    Such a lovely smile on your father’s face and what treasure for you to have as a wonderful first photo!

  6. May 13, 2011 4:15 pm

    Your blog caught my eye on Freshly Pressed as I logged into my own WP blog. But, I’m not a pro photographer, I’m a writer. I’ve just started a book about a woman who wants to go pro, so your blog was a perfectly timed insight. I’ll be following you for more inspiration. ;)

  7. May 14, 2011 9:13 am

    Great article!

    Unfortunately, I can’t. My parents said that even when I was 4 or 5 I’ve been insisting to get to shoot using the cam. Occasionally they do let me, that’s why I don’t exactly remember.
    The thing is, I got to become MORE interested in photography when I won a film camera as the grand prize on an affair in school. Unfortunately, too, I wasn’t able to keep the camera because a great flood came and nearly destroyed all our stuff. I wish I got to keep those. It would have made a difference.

    • May 14, 2011 4:08 pm

      I’m so sorry to hear about your bad fortune. I wish you all the best in the future!

  8. May 14, 2011 8:47 pm

    I liked what you said about not wasting the financial commitment on a child –this concept is so hard to explain to children these days, because they are growing up with so much that is “disposable”.

  9. May 14, 2011 9:53 pm

    I have a little mini pink album full of first photos. My mom would let me use up the last of the film rolls on our disposable cameras after a trip and I would arrange my stuffed animals exactly how I wanted them for the picture. I was in kindergarten.. I was one of those weird quiet kids. Thinking back it seemed there was nothing more fun…aside from the park.

    I really enjoyed reading this! Its kind of inspired me! I might make my own “first photo” post.

    Isn’t it crazy looking back?

    • May 15, 2011 1:29 am

      I would love to see those first photos, I hope you’ll post the link here once the blog post is ready. It’s pretty cool that you did that when you were only in kindergarten. Very smart of your mom to let you get your creative juices flowing!

  10. May 15, 2011 12:46 am

    I laughed when I read “a boy who still had to use the “double bunny ears” method for tying his shoelaces (as opposed to the far more challenging “through the rabbit hole” method)”. What a great way to illustrate how young you were xD

    I’ve just seen your blog for the first time and must say that your photographs are really beautiful! So I’m gonna suscribe to this blog right now :)

  11. May 15, 2011 3:19 pm

    I think one of the first photos I took I was about the same age but my photo was really horrible.

    The first ones I really remember were from a schooltrip to a steam railway. I had some naff Barbie disposable camera and I remember taking a very blurry of one of my (at the time we drifted apart a few years later) best friends. No idea if I still have the photos anymore.

    • May 15, 2011 8:48 pm

      If you find the railway photos, I hope you can post a couple for us to see.

  12. May 16, 2011 2:30 am

    I wish I remembered my first photo… I remember taking a lot of photos in our hotel in Rome when I was ten, but I’m sure that wasn’t the first time I ever used a camera.

  13. lizdriedger permalink
    May 27, 2011 5:36 pm

    You post inspired me to find my first photo (with some brain racking to figure out what it was first!) And yesterday I found it!! It’s not half bad I have to say, I may even blog about it.

    Thanks for the fabulous idea!

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