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David McCammon's Recommendations for Aspiring Professional Photographers

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David McCammon Photographer Books InterviewDavid McCammon discovered photography as a teenager and has been photographing professionally for over thirty years. After graduating from Ryerson University with a photography degree and student loans at 21 percent, he found that studios were going out of business. His first photography job was at a huge studio in Toronto, producing flyers for Sears, Eatons, Canadian Tire, Clinique, and others. After also working as a corporate photographer, he started David McCammon Photography, a business he runs with his wife Julia. Their studio became well known for wedding and portrait photography throughout the region. David photographed products, food, staff, and stores for Zehrs Markets for over fifteen years.

The McCammons built a home studio on a five-acre property in Kitchener, Ontario, and first went digital in 1998. David has taught at several Ontario colleges, including Introductory Photography, Studio Product and Portrait Photography, Photoshop, and the History of Photography. He has exhibited and sold his art and landscape photography in Quebec and Ontario. David McCammon Photography has been a great success in Waterloo Region for over twenty-five years.

His experience includes portrait, marketing portrait, industrial and product photography and his work has been published in several magazines. Using his thirty years experience, David launched “Image Power: Balancing Passion and Profit in Business”, a book whose aim is to help photographers succeed in the business of professional photography.

Keep on reading our interview and find out what books helped David show more empathy and authenticity towards his students, discuss some of the myths of professional photography and also what he thinks are the three biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make.

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

Pick one? Always a challenge. I love to read and read every morning and a little when I go to bed at night.

Currently, I’m finishing up what is fast becoming a favourite: “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday. This book is great for anyone who cares to take a good look in the mirror and own your stuff. Early on Ryan states, “The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.”

Holiday consistency challenges the reader to look at problems from a different perspective. A great read for entrepreneurs and those in pursuit of personal growth alike.

A business book I have referred to frequently over the years is Jeffrey Gitomer’s “Little Red Book of Selling”. It’s full of simple, straightforward sales ideas many of which can take on a different degree of importance at different points in one’s career.

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?

Let Your Life Speak” by Parker Palmer. I was teaching at the time and Palmer provided insight into reaching my students with empathy and authenticity. I was facing life challenges of my own as well. Palmer’s book gently gave me pause to consider where I wanted to go from here without imposing the how. Let Your Life Speak reminded me changing direction is a great choice throughout one’s life. I revisit this book at least once a year.

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What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)

Not exactly how I look at it. There are so many books I have read that gave me wonderful insight into what I was experiencing at the time. It becomes a part of me and my process – a long slow build if you will. Early on 2 photography books grabbed me by the collar and tossed me around. Ansel Adams’ “The Camera” and “Images 1923-1974” and Yousuf Karsh’s “Faces of Our Time” both showed me what I wanted to do with my life. They set the bar incredibly high for technique and expression. There have been many others since who stand beside them.

I recall reading Dylan Thomas in university. It was the first time I truly heard poetry. I haven’t read Thomas for years, I still look at Karsh and Adam’s work for inspiration and yet that moment of awakening opened my mind to a form of expression I couldn’t hear until I heard Dylan Thomas’s voice.

What five books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)

Five Books for Photographers

I’ve already mentioned a couple of business related books. Crush It speaks with Vaynerchuk’s typical enthusiasm to selling yourself online. Fundamentally important in today’s business world.

The other 4 books? It is crucial to understand where we came from photographically speaking. There are other history books, but Newhall’s a great overview of the early days up to the 1950’s. It’s a beginning.

The Karsh book gives great insight into how a very successful photographer worked. There are some wonderful stories from how he created his famous portrait of Churchill to some excellent business ideas.

Looking at Photographs” lets us begin to understand the language of photography and how we can talk about our images. And we must know how to talk about our work or find someone else to do it for us.

Ways of Seeing goes beyond photography and will continue to develop your language around images.

I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?

I start every morning with 30 – 45 minutes reading. I also read when I go to bed at night though it is often brief. I read mostly on my Kobo these days. Any art books are preferred in book format though the very best way to see any art whenever possible is live and in person. I very recently started exploring Scribd’s subscription service.

How do you make time for reading?

Reading is a commitment. If I don’t block off the time it doesn’t happen with the same regularity and continuity which is invaluable.

Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?

I take notes in a bound book. I highlight passages in digital formats. And I transcribe some passages using “Speechnotes”.

How do you choose what books to read next?

I have a list of books on my phone and computer I want to read. They come from friends, references discovered in other books, interviews I listen to. There are a few I missed in my youth I would like to explore at some point. There are a couple of newsletters I receive where I discover a title or 3.

What book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?

As mentioned, I’m currently reading “The Obstacle is the Way”. The quote referenced above drives the book and is a huge reminder while embarking on something new. It has caused me to reflect upon where I would like to take my business next – always a good practice. I also added a book to read from it by Marcus Aurelius.

What do you think are three common mistakes made by entrepreneurs?

Three Common Mistakes by Entrepreneurs

  • Failing to create value around what we do.
  • Not thinking from our customers perspective.
  • Becoming stale.

I have failed and fixed all 3 at various points in my career.

What common myths related to your industry do you encounter on a day-to-day basis?

Myths around the photography industry?

It’s easy. It’s easy to take a photograph. It’s an amazingly democratic medium. The challenge is to make a photograph on any given day for a client with specific needs.

The whole business model has changed with digital photography. I’m constantly reminded how much remains the same. Like any business, relationships are fundamental.

Nearly no one agrees that it is a huge mistake to give away our digital files. It doesn’t serve our business and most importantly we are doing a disservice to our clients by doing so. It’s a lengthy conversation.

What is something you believe that nearly no one agrees with you on? (Peter Thiel’s favorite question)

Nearly no one agrees that it is a huge mistake to give away our digital files. It doesn’t serve our business and most importantly we are doing a disservice to our clients by doing so. It’s a lengthy conversation.

Let me add, I have 2 framed portraits of my Dad. One taken by Karsh and the other by his brother before they went off to WWll. They are there for me to take in on a regular basis. Not hidden away in the cloud or an external hard drive somewhere. Digital files can be great, but the power of the printed image is what makes photography so special and powerful. The printed photograph connects us with our history, imbued with emotion while compelling us to take another look.

Links where you can follow David McCammon or find out more about his projects:

All books mentioned by David McCammon in this interview:

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