While every successful photographer's path to accomplishment will be unique, the tools and habits adopted early on can have a tremendous impact on that photographer's career.
Consider Alex Reside, assistant photo editor for In Style magazine and frequent photography contributor to Rolling Stone. Still only in his mid-twenties, Reside hails from Springfield, Illinois. Reside got his hands wet with film photography in high school, working on the yearbook and student newspaper, which was little more than a collection of stapled 8" x 10" sheets. As he says, the experience "was limiting in some ways, but it taught me to do a lot with a little."
These experiences drew Reside to journalism and pursuing Visual Communications at Illinois State University, where he realised that digital photography was what he wanted to do with his life. Reside took every photo opportunity as a challenge to experiment and find ways of making his subject come alive within his or her surroundings. Between such work and a passion for shooting his favourite local bands, Reside developed a fledgling portfolio. The question was what to do with it and whether or not he could keep up with the results."
Beyoncé and Beyond
Well into his junior year, Reside kept watching his friends land summer internships and realised he'd better get busy following suit. He submitted his portfolio to roughly thirty publications, everyone from Spin to small indie magazines. At the end of the list, almost as an afterthought because of the impossible odds, Reside responded to an internship listing for Rolling Stone. Not one of the thirty bothered to reply. And then one day, waking Reside from a dead sleep, came a call from Rolling Stone's photo editor.
Only half-awake and mostly speechless, Reside fumbled his way through the call, which led to an interview, and soon he was in New York City. His big break had arrived, and it was time to evolve into a professional.
Internship at Rolling Stone meant going out every night of the week to shoot concerts, staying up all night editing, coming in the next morning to offer images to editors, and praying that they might actually select one. This process was even harder than it sounds owing to several limitations imposed by Reside's equipment. First, he didn't have the latest gear. He had barely moved beyond his first digital SLR. Second, it was the summer of 2009, and he was using a four-year old Apple® MacBook®, along with the small drive size and slow interfaces that entailed. His only backup plan hinged on a commodity USB 2.0 drive. Dealing with a workflow process that relied extensively on moving files between storage devices, Reside felt fortunate to get any sleep at all.
The saying goes that "luck favours the prepared." When describing his career so far, Reside repeatedly notes how lucky he's been, and perhaps no event more clearly demonstrated this than the Wednesday evening when Beyoncé performed at Madison Square Garden. Even though Reside felt that Rolling Stone was unlikely to show much interest, he got permission to cover the event.
"I was totally tense and nervous," he recalls. "There were all of these photographers around me. I was the youngest kid there, and I had 90 seconds. That's all Beyoncé's management would allow. She came out on stage, and there was this super bright light behind her. It was ridiculously blinding. Everybody was fiddling with their cameras, but for some reason, my settings were already right for it, and I just got a ton of really great shots." Reside pulled another all-nighter, turned in his picks the next morning, and couldn't believe it when his editor described the shots as "incredible." Before long, Rolling Stone's home page featured an entire gallery from Reside's Beyoncé shoot. Professionally, he had arrived.
"That was my first move from being some intern who was looking at spreadsheets all day, trying to find photo captions, to being a 'real' photographer."
Rolling Stone liked Reside's work so much that the magazine decided to keep him as a contributing freelancer after he returned to finish off his last year at Illinois State University.
Tomorrow's Storage Today
"The big thing about shooting festivals and stuff is that there's such a tight turnaround—sometimes only four hours," says Reside."I stay up all night editing, and the whole time I'm just trying to keep enough space on my computer so it doesn't die. Plus I'm constantly backing up everything. My computer that I use when on the road editing is now six years old, so I'm always concerned that it's going to die on me."
Seasoned photo and video professionals are often armed with the latest tech gear, streaming straight to RAID devices and conducting triple-backups to multiple locations. But Alex Reside represents the middle of the professional spectrum. He's young and still getting his professional feet under him, albeit with some rather incredible entries already on his curriculum vitae. Saddled with the expenses of New York living, he has to scrutinise every gear purchase and weigh it against such things as food and rent. So when he does invest in equipment, he makes sure that it not only solves his present needs but will also help his craft and career to grow.
When shooting on the road, Reside relies most of all on his G-Technology G-DRIVE® mobile, which leverages his MacBook's FireWire 800® port, and G-Technology's G-CONNECT™ wireless storage solution. These offer the right mix of dependability, speed, and capacity for his most demanding jobs. Festival shooting often starts at 10:00 in the morning and doesn't let up until well after midnight.
On average, Reside will come home with 16GB to 18GB of images spread across four CF cards. This mountain of images is hard enough to sort through in the middle of the night, but then comes tagging, editing, captioning, and other workflow steps. Everything gets copied out onto two external drives."
The G-Technology drives are fast and sleek, Reside says. "I do think they're faster than their competitors, and that helps me get to bed earlier." Because so much of his freelance work ends up on the Web, Reside uses JPEG throughout his entire workflow, even during image capture. Going the usual route through a RAW workflow would only add unnecessary hours he doesn't have to give. Yet Reside wants to grow his career beyond concert coverage. He has his sights set on commercial photography, ad campaigns, and other non-journalistic outlets. Obviously, developing a RAW workflow will be essential in these next steps, but it will also demand storage solutions capable of handling RAW's higher capacity and performance requirements. Reside is already looking to G-Technology's product line (and a faster notebook, of course) to accommodate this growth. The G-DRIVE mobile external storage solution can provide up to 1TB of USB 3.0 storage while the G-RAID® with Thunderboltwill accommodate up to 8TB of RAID-protected, top-bandwidth disk capacity for editing. And soon, Reside wouldn't mind expanding his use of the G-CONNECTto enable sending untouched photos straight from the shooting site back to both his home storage for backup as well as his clients and editors for real-time evaluation. It's all part of the growth path he sees with G-Technology that can help take his photography career to the next level. The Look "In professional circles, where speeds and feeds dominate technology discussions, people rarely talk about intangibles like look and feel. Yet any Apple user intuitively understands how important such factors can be. Artistic professionals also share this way of thinking. They know that how one's equipment looks can be a reflection of one's identity as a creative pro. "Being a photographer, aesthetics are what it's all about," says Reside." At festivals, I'm always looking for something to put people in front of for portraits, something to make the shot more aesthetic. So I'm constantly thinking about what looks clean, what's going to pop and get picked for the magazine or home page. You can grab any run of the mill hard drive, but if something looks right coming out of your bag, it makes a statement. For me, G-Technology drives have that look I want."