From hobby to Dwayne K. Smith Photography
“Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby.” This euphoric sentiment expressed by Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist George Bernard Shaw is reflected in the beautiful images of Dwayne K. Smith Photography.
Dwayne Smith, engaged in one-on-one session with Outlook Magazine’s Beyond the Lens, where we went behind the camera to find out more about his insightful story. Raised and still residing in Old Harbour, St Catherine, he had a fun childhood. He is introverted by nature, but the moment he picked up photography as a hobby, he broke that mould, interacting with people in order for them to feel as comfortable as possible. The plus to his quiet side, however, is that he is able to listen and observe more, to better understand his clients’ needs.
So how did this become his snapping undertaking?
As a youngster, he would carry around his little ‘point and shoot’ to church trips and cadet camps, capturing the merriment around him. His interest peaked as he grew older, when the Internet provided an avenue to view works of both local and overseas photographers. After he flexed his clicking muscles, the proof being in the stellar pictorial ‘pudding’, he was encouraged by other veterans in the field, now his peers, to consider a professional pursuit into the business.
“They believed I was producing good-quality work and it was at a level that I could offer service to the public. At the time, I didn’t think I was ready, because I felt that my work was nowhere near the quality of work of the local and overseas photographers I admired,” he said.
He eventually came to the realisation that they were seasoned and he was being unfair to himself by even drawing a comparison. As he conducted more research, assisting other photographers on their jobs, he progressively built up enough confidence to handle his own clients. Since answering his photographic call four years ago, he has not hung up.
Deeming himself the ‘explorer photographer’, Smith exposed himself to as many genres as his gears would allow. But he focuses on four areas: portraits, architecture, weddings and events.
“Each genre of photography has its unique learning points, whether it be shooting or editing techniques, and I try to do cross application of these lessons which has allowed me to approach and execute differently,” he revealed.
The journey, he says, has been awesome: meeting interesting people, making friends who are like his family, and visiting enchanting places all across the island. But he has learned major lessons along the way.
“I have learned that your success is highly dependent on you. The level of success you want will require you to learn as much as you can, apply what is learned, and constantly seek to be better.”
He continued, “Another lesson is that a good support system is also very important. My wife and sister are my key motivators. They are always supportive and seeing the depth of my potential. There is also a small group of photographers that I’m part of that I consider family, constantly encouraging, supporting and pushing you to produce better with every press of the shutter.”
A subjective art
He views photography as a subjective art form: an individual’s interests and experiences, interpretation of a subject or scene can be depicted in so many ways.
“If you have three photographers shooting the same subject in the same environment, you will get three different set of resulting images.”
The dedicated photographer credits patience and a thirst for learning as his working strengths.
As far as misconceptions go, he shared that photography isn’t valued by the general public as it was in the past.
“I think advancement in mobile phone technology is a major contributor to this. Because you can hold up your phone, tap a button and get decent images, it is thought that all a photographer does is just that – press a button.”
As a result, individuals and companies will have unreasonably low expectations for the cost of executing a project. Smith tries his best to incorporate education into his workflow so that there is an understanding of the processes that goes into delivering a final product.
With most of his photo shoots executed outdoors, he will engage in studio sessions as per request. Outside of photography, Smith is an information technology systems administrator in the hospitality sector. He plays the balancing act with family time.
Photography is expensive, so Smith recommends that aspiring photographers do the math before starting.
“Don’t be caught up in the excitement of the latest and greatest gear. Do your research, lots of it, and from multiple sources, if that’s your learning style. Knowledge is key. Master the basics of your camera and know its limitations and know how far you can push it, as well as understanding light and how you can manipulate it. And have fun!”