With a passport book already filled up, you could say Kevin has a bit of wanderlust. His primary gig as an Architecture photographer takes him all over the world where he not only takes the most captivating photos, but experiences the essence of each culture. Check him out below.
Say hello to Kevin:
Where are you from? Where have you been?
Originally, I’m from a small suburb town of Chicago called Lake Zurich. Currently, I live in Scottsdale, Arizona. As for where I’ve been – well, let’s say I’ve filled up one passport book already, and currently working on my new one. I have a pretty unique job where I photograph hotels/resorts around the globe, which has allowed me the opportunity to travel a lot.
What’s your favorite place in the world?
I honestly get asked that question all the time, and it’s such a tough one to answer. I usually tell people that I don’t have a favorite place, because for me, it’s not always about the destination or beauty of a place, but more the people, culture, and experience of a place. Because of my job, I’ve been to some of the most beautiful destination resorts in the world, but I didn’t necessarily have the most amazing time. My favorite places are where I experienced the warmth of the people, where I’ve made genuine friends, and have gone on spontaneous adventures that are outside my comfort zone, where when you smile, someone smiles back. I would much rather judge a destination off of that rather than the surface beauty of a location.
How would you describe your visual style?
I would say I have a very clean visual style – I like the challenge of being in places that are so grand or so beautiful to the human eye, that the term “the camera just doesn’t do this place justice,” is something I want to prove wrong. I very much love natural light and will mostly work with those conditions. However, I do also enjoy the shaping of light through lighting equipment.
How do you find your inspiration?
Actually, a lot of my inspiration currently comes from Instagram – there are so many amazing adventure photographers to follow now and so much talent. I wouldn’t say it inspires any style or technique for me, but more so, inspires me to get out and photograph more.
Do you get photographer’s block? If so, how do you overcome that?
Sometimes I do, and what solves that for me is getting out in nature without my camera. Or sometimes, I only go out with my smart phone camera and turn it into a challenge. Taking a break from the camera once in a while also helps – even doing other creative stuff outside photography helps, it leaves you more open to stumble upon new ideas.
By trade, you are an architecture photographer – how did you get started in that niche?
How I became an architecture photographer is a funny story, mostly because I never shot architecture prior to taking the job. I became a Architecture photographer when I found an ad on Craigslist for a Hotel/Resort Photographer and sent an email with only a link to my website. I wasn’t expecting much, but I must have sparked some interest because they responded back two weeks later. The only issue was I had no architecture photography on my site, in which they responded back with wanting to see my architecture work. So basically, I followed the “fake it till you make it” mentality. I went out to downtown Phoenix and shot a bunch of interiors/exteriors of buildings, edited everything, and sent it back. Fast forward a month later, and next thing I know, I’m off to another country starting my training. Eight years and a full passport later, I’m still traveling the globe and photographing amazing architecture.
How did you discover your passion for adventure photography or had that wanderlust always been in you?
I think wanderlust has been in me since I was a child. When everyone had the first Nintendo and only wanted to play video games, I was that kid building tree forts or climbing trees. Even in school, I remember frequent parent-teacher conferences and the concern that my head was always in the clouds. I was a dreamer, not a bookworm. I think I always knew I viewed the world differently than most, and when I found photography, I was finally able to express my vision. Later on in college, I really got into rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, and pretty much anything involving the outdoors. This fueled my wanderlust and love for adventure photography.
What was the moment you decided to become a photographer?
The moment I decided to be a photographer was about half way through college. I started college as a Graphic Design major, thinking it would be a more reliable career choice. Also, my dad wasn’t the most supportive with thinking I could make money in photography. After two years in the Graphic Design program, I realized I wasn’t passionate enough about it (and frankly, wasn’t that great at it). Without telling my parents, I changed my major to photography, and after a semester in the photo program, I knew I had found my calling.
What has been your biggest setback as a photographer?
My biggest setback as a photographer is…I suck as a businessman. When it comes to running a business, I really struggle at admin-related work such as content management, expenses, billing, emails. I feel most creatives struggle with this, and it’s always something I’m working to improve upon.
Photography is competitive. How do you stand out?
Photography is extremely competitive, indeed. I think with all of the advances in technology, cameras have become almost foolproof. Anyone with a high-end smartphone or even a basic SLR camera can set it to auto and take a good photo. But one thing the foolproof camera can’t do is teach the operator to take a compelling composition. How I stand out is by continually training my eye to see things differently, to reading light, to understanding composition, to continually educating myself. I also find that if you can produce top notch work that is consistent, you will always stand out and have work. Clients like new talent, but in my opinion, they love reliability and consistency more. Also, having a niche helps. Being a jack-of-all photography trades is a good thing to know, but not necessarily a good thing to practice. Sometimes, being good at many things isn’t as beneficial as being great at one thing.
What’s the best advice you can think of for someone just starting in photography?
Shoot one thing everyday. They say it takes ten thousand hours to become a master at something. It’s like learning to play a guitar for the first time – you’re learning to play chords, how to strum the guitar, to keep rhythm. Each day you get better, you start to flow naturally, even experiment with different techniques. If you play everyday, you’ll improve quickly, but as soon as you walk away from the daily practice, you start taking steps backwards. Photography is no different – you have to continually train your eye, experiment, and practice. Eventually over time, you start to see the world differently. You’ll be surprised at how fast your photography will improve if you shoot something everyday.
What was your most memorable photoshoot?
I would say my first photoshoot outside of the States. For me, it was not only a big photoshoot, but it was my first time to another country. What was even more crazy was the randomness of the country I photographed in. I was sent to Sarajevo, Bosnia, probably the last place I ever expected to go. In fact, I’d never even heard of it. What made it so memorable was not the fact I got to go to Europe, or the hotel I got to photograph. It was the warm and welcoming Bosnian people, more so the clients I was working with. I not only got to photograph a great project, but I also got to experience the culture of Sarajevo. Best of all, I made lifelong friends on that photoshoot that I still keep in touch with today.
If you could photograph anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Oh man, I don’t think I can even answer that. I have way too many places I want to photograph. I would absolutely love an opportunity to work on an ad campaign with a client like REI. If Patagonia, Iceland, or New Zealand were on the roster… let’s just say I already have a bag packed.
What’s your philosophy when it comes to being a great photographer?
Have fun and be yourself. I’m just a big kid at heart – if I can’t make you laugh in the first hour of meeting, I need to step up my game.
What’s a deal breaker for you when deciding to do a shoot?
If I find it compelling, or if I have a passion for it. Even if it’s a great paying gig, I’ll turn it down if it’s something that I’m not passionate about.
What photography advice do you wish you had when you were first starting out?
Learn the business side of the industry. Any photography program in college should have a business class, that was something I didn’t have while in my photography program. When I graduated college in 2005, I was under the impression that I could just print my artwork and sell it to make a living. Boy, was I naive! I would probably be much further ahead in my career if I had learned the business side earlier on.
What are 3 tips you have for aspiring photographers?
Assist a professional photographer. You’ll honestly learn more in one year of assisting than you probably would in a college photography program, but having the degree does help in some cases. Shoot what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life. Don’t settle with something you’re not passionate about. And don’t give up! A career in photography isn’t easy and will take a lot of work, but if you keep at it, I guarantee the work will flow in.
What kind of gear do you have?
I shoot with Canon gear 5dmarkIII with a few L series lenses. I wouldn’t say Canon is my favorite, but it’s what I know. After 10 years shooting with Canon, I’ve developed muscle memory with all the functions of the camera, which has allowed me to capture moments instead of fussing with the settings.
What is your most life-changing event?
I would say when I lost my mother three years ago. It changed me in a way where I realized life can sometimes be so short and that it should be lived to it’s fullest. It pushed my career in photography, to go for the things I’m passionate about, and to not listen to the negativity that can sometimes hold you back in life.
What has photography done for you as a person? How has it changed you?
I would say photography brought me out of my shell first and foremost. It has exposed me to so many life experiences and has allowed me grow into a confident person. The confidence I lacked in my normal everyday life would get washed away once I got behind the camera. Photography brought out my true colors and allowed me to express myself in a positive way.
Who’s your biggest hero in your life?
I would say my Mom is my hero. Her warmth, kindness, and support for me was neverending, all the way till the day she passed away. I’ve never known anyone who no matter how bad she felt with the decline of her health, she would always put others first, in front of herself. The guidance, the support, and the love I always got from her will forever be the lessons I practice in life – that makes her my hero.
What will you be doing five years from now?
I wouldn’t consider myself a five year planner. I more or less would rather live in the now and be surprised with what the future has in store with me. One thing I can say for certain is, I’ll still be behind the camera lens on some kind of adventure.
For anyone that wants to get in touch with Kevin, here’s some contact information:
Kevin, thanks so much for sharing your story with us! 🙂
If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.