The Photography of Daniel Castro
By Brian Pitre
What draws one person to notice a particular image that no one else sees is an age-old art that we all love. True photographers not only see these moments, but they have taken time to hone their love for image production so they can capture those still memories for you. We had the opportunity to stand behind the lens of local professional photographer, Daniel Castro and learn more about what it takes to be a pro.
JAM: So how long have you been taking photos/producing images professionally?
DC: Since 2010. I first worked on freelance contracts with local venues and live entertainment. Music shows, local events, community activities and such. I even did a job for Pepsi for their Bottle of the Year program. Really cool job; it got me lots of exposure and helped me figure out what companies are looking for when it comes to images.
Jam: When did you first pick up a camera?
DC: I was very young. When I was little I had a desk that I would sit at and draw all day. Eventually, I found my dad’s camera and those doodles turned into photos. I have just always wanted to capture images in any way that I could. I can remember going to art camp and have been producing images ever since.
Jam: Are you self taught or did you receive formal training?
DC: I graduated from SOWELA and went directly to the USA Imaging Conference in New Orleans in 2012. That event is what opened my eyes to being a professional; that is where I learned a lot about business. I learned how to market, how to sell, how to price, how to use different items in the field to be better at what I do.
Jam: What where some of the first images you captured that let you know you had an “eye?”
DC: Nature photography mostly; I would go to parks and walk around with my camera and take pictures of people, squirrels and trees, and people seemed to really respond to them. So I kept shooting, following the things I love, and found myself getting better with every shot. I really enjoy going to concerts, so I started looking for ways that I could get passes to bigger shows by using my skills as a photographer. The community supported my talent, so I supported the community and that is what helped me get real jobs.
Jam: What equipment have you found that most love to work with?
DC: Prime lenses and speed flashes. I love the versatility and the ability to set up and shoot quickly. Speed lights help you work out the fine details of images without having to pull out loads of equipment; also, they are much lighter on your wallet. The key I have found in my time as a photographer is good glass. It sounds simple but simple usually work best. The better your lens, the better your photos, hands down.
Jam: When you are not working on stuff, what are some of your favorite things to shoot?
DC: I almost don’t have time to shoot for fun anymore (laughing), but I guess that is a good thing. I love taking pictures of Lake Charles and making it look more scenic. I really enjoy taking pictures of my cats, and lately I have been taking pictures of Air Soft events. I don’t know… I honestly see things and take pictures of them, and some of those pictures come out really cool.
Jam: Being a professional, you typically have to sell your art and passion for it. How do you promote yourself and your images? What is your niche?
DC: Air Soft has become an intimate part of my life, as a job, and a hobby. I am part owner of a local media company called Milsim Media that focuses on creating professional images and videos for fans of Air Soft and Air Soft media in general. Also, cigars! I recently submitted some of my art to Roma Craft Cigar Company and they have begun using my images as their official marketing campaign photos. It was honor to take two things I love and bridge them into a successful production.
Jam: What are feelings about the mobile phone photographer trend?
DC: It’s a gift and a curse. Anyone can create images on their phone and make a really great-looking photo blog, but it does not make them a professional. Images can be produced on a mobile device and made to look great; however, professionals seek the best quality in an image. Mobile-generated images look great on mobile devices, but companies that need images for marketing and publication need the best quality available. That is why they hire professionals. But, a mobile device in the hands of a true professional is a wonderful tool!
Jam: If you could give advice to anyone who wishes to maybe one day turn their passion into a profession, what would it be?
DC: Know your worth. Know when to say no to a job, and when to accept the free gig for the exposure. Be fair in what you charge, and don’t quit your day job. Don’t sacrifice your art for money. You need money for equipment, travel fees, and more. Know what kind of photographer you want to be and what you want to shoot, and set out on a path towards that goal. Find a good piece of equipment and learn how to use it in its full capacity. Shoot, learn, repeat.