Behind The Lens

There are many different photography professionals throughout Metro Detroit.  We chose to interview Mr. McDaniel because of his dedication to his craft, admirable values and talent for capturing art from behind the lens.  Here in this candid discussion, you will get to know more about him, and some of his work.

DCEO:   Who is Calvin McDaniel?

CM:       I am a lover of Christ, a husband (for 31 years), a father (of two young men, one is a graduate of Michigan State University, the other, a Senior at Saginaw Valley State University).  I am with family values, and I am a photographer.  I love to take/create images that will be memorable for a long, long time.

DCEO:   How did you decide to start in the photography business?

CM:        I developed a need to have a camera in my hand based on having two boys, who were always very athletic.  Even before they became athletic though, I just felt the need to document their lives through photos.  Just having them around and seeing them grow into men catapulted me into wanting to make a profession out of photography.

DCEO:   Is there any additional motivation behind starting CC Photography Enterprise, LLC?

CM:      The desire to be an independent business owner, free from being under the thumb of someone I’m “employed by”.  I had my own landscaping business for about 10 years, and the freedom to go by my own schedule was very attractive to me.  Though I love that ideal, that (landscaping breaks the body down after a few years.  I’m striving to accomplish that feeling again with my current business venture.  I haven’t gotten there yet, but through lots of prayer, family support and continuing education.  I’m hopeful that the freedom, once again, will become a reality. I have the desire to make CC Photography Enterprise, LLC my sole livelihood.

DCEO:   What challenges do you face working a regular 9-5 AND operating a photography business?

CM:        It’s difficult to do so.  I desire to shoot 24/7.  I don’t currently have the opportunity to develop a specific genre of photography because I’m not in the position to shoot the way I would like, in reference to frequency.  Having a 9-5 limits me, but also inspires me.  It creates an increased desire to build my business to consistent and sustainable profitability. 

DCEO:   What are then pros and cons of being a business owner in Metro Detroit?

CM:       The Metro Detroit area is beautiful.  There are lots of different backdrops to use.  Location shooting in the area is awesome!  As a bus driver for SMART, I’m all over the place.  The pros are being able to find those unique areas to shoot in.  As far as cons are concerned, based on the economy, people just don’t have the wherewithal to be able to afford a personal or private photographer.  You can try to tailor packages of photography work that is affordable, but on the backside of that, you’re not making a lot of money, so one has to have a love for their craft.  I shoot a lot of times for little or nothing, first of all just to be able to shoot and secondly to generate some revenue.  If the economy ever does turn around, then there won’t be any cons.  People will be able to afford a good photographer that loves doing what they’re doing and is going to give them the best product possible.

DCEO:   Do you self-market your business, or do you use an outsourced medium?

CM:        I do self-market.  Social media sites such as Twitter/Facebook prove valuable to display my work so that people may see it.   I have my own website, and I have done some smaller scale advertisements, but at this time, it’s not practical for me to spend a lot of money to advertise when social media sites work just as well, especially when I don’t yet have the revenue coming in from the business.

DCEO:   What type of support system do you have?

CM:        My wife is my biggest supporter.  When I decided to go take the step out into photography, we sat down and talked about it. She knew I loved photography, but stepping out as a business was something totally different.   Photography equipment is not cheap, but after talking about it, we decided to take a leap of faith and see where the Lord would lead us. I get a lot of support from my church family and immediate family.  Surprisingly, I get a lot of support from other photographers in the Metro Detroit area. I don’t consider myself to be the best photographer in Detroit, or Michigan for that matter, but the accolades from others in the industry motivate one to want to work that much harder to improve their craft.

DCEO:   Do you feel that, because you are fairly new to the scene, that there are those that think your intention is to step on some toes?

CM:        I haven’t really experienced that, however, I do believe, to some degree that there probably is a competitive thing going on in the industry.  There might be those that want to know “who is he”, “why is he at this or that event”.  I don’t feel that any photographer should by threatened by another photographer.  Whatever your niche is or whatever you do, you should do it to the best of your ability. If you are sincere and humble about what you do, whether there are 10 photographers in Detroit or 1000 photographers in Detroit, people will appreciate your individual work, and you don’t have to worry about stepping on somebody else’s toes.

DCEO:   Do you maintain a professional atmosphere with your subjects?

CM:        Yes. I like to have fun during my sessions, and when I shoot with models specifically, I try to make them as comfortable as possible.  I like to build a rapport with anyone before we even shoot. In our pre-shoot discussions, I like to disclose that I am a married man, and that my only desire is to capture your image.  You can help me get to where I want to go, and I can help you get to where you want to go, and that’s only by you being in front of the lens and me being behind it.

DCEO:   Do you believe in mentoring?

CM:        Actually I talked to my pastor on a couple of different occasions about implementing a program at my church.  Specifically, I want to be able to take a couple of kids out who are interested in photography, learning about the art of it, and just allowing them to shoot.  I want to teach them how to create an image, how to compose it, and just teach them some of the things that I’ve learned in the industry.  Though I haven’t learned everything there is to know about photography as of yet, I am interested in sharing the things that I do know to a child whose eyes light up when they see a camera.

DCEO:   Do you have any aspirations for expanding the business?

CM:       I kind of have an itch for videography.  I want to learn the ins and outs of filming.  I’ve had different ideas about doing short films.  Another idea that I’ve had is to do a short film with the children of my church that would teach them how do produce a film from beginning to end.  A studio is probably one of the next most important things for me.  Having a studio would just add to my creative juices and allow me to be “Dr. Frankenstein”

DCEO:   What advice would you offer to up and coming photographers?

CM:       Go back to school.  Learn what photography is.  Study other photographers because you can learn from them.  I personally marvel at the work and techniques of other photographers because some of their images are stunning, and I wonder,  ‘how did they do that’?

DCEO:   Are your rates fair?

CM:        Yes. I try to make it as affordable as possible.  It’s absurd to me to charge a family $200-300 for family photos.  In order for me to generate business, I have to be fair.

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Calvin McDaniel can be reached via Facebook at Calvin McDaniel Sr., on Twitter @ShutterbugMcD , and his website is www.ccphotographyenterprisellc.com.

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