My name is Dave Dornlas and I started my career in photography many many years ago with my mom's brownie box camera taking vacation shots and generally wasting film in Northern California.
Some how I managed to became a better photographer using(or at least owning) better equipment. And of course the purchase of each new camera was hailed as "the last camera I'd need to buy". Well that didn't seem to be true then and probably is even less valid today. More on that in a future article.
I majored in Sociology at UCLA and worked for the school paper, the Daily Bruin. My school paper gave me a chance to make a picture that appeared on the cover of a major American magazine at the ripe old age of 20. It was a very exciting moment and one that defined the direction I'd take after graduation. I think it's fair to say that the editor of my first newspaper in Livermore, California was won over by it.
For the next 12 years I worked as a photojournalist. It was fun and gave me the chance to make friends and see what happens every day through the eye of a camera. For the most part I did "grip & grins". To me and other photographers they weren't exactly what we set out to do with our photojournalism careers, but what I learned was they were very important to the community I worked in.
Reality finally set in. Living in an apartment wasn't where my wife and I wanted to be for the rest of our lives. All my photographer buddies insisted that doing weddings on weekends was a quick and dirty way to earn extra cash for a down payment on a house if we really wanted to stay in the San Francisco Bay Area where we both grew up.
What I actually learned from doing weddings was I really enjoyed working with folks who wanted their photos made. Enough of photographing crooks and others who really didn't want to appear on the front page of our newspaper. I started to build the weekend photography business while doing the newspaper work on weekdays.
I finally got to the point where I could transfer my part-time wedding business into a 1700 sq foot studio. Then I had to learn how to do studio work which was a new experience and a challenge I happily took on. I withdrew from the newspaper business after 12 years and became a studio owner for the next 16 years in Burlingame, California.
It was one of the best experiences in my life. I met many great folks and became an important part of their lives recording the growth of their families. Even today a lot of them come up to me to share stories about their families and too often beg me to come back into the portrait or even more often the wedding business.
During my studio years I started to play with computers and in the process became involved with an online service called GEnie which was a unit of General Electric. It was fun having conversations with other photographers through a keyboard. It was a great way to exchange ideas and information we could all use.
I also found that I could do it between studio sittings and my other regular studio chores from the back room of the studio. Looking back, GEnie was very primitive technology, but it was the basis of several very good friendships and a major stepping stone to future jobs.
In late 1994 Microsoft presented a chance for me to manage the photography community on their new online service MSN. It was fun and exciting for the next five years and once again I was able to do it from the back of my studio.
During that period I worked hard at making contacts with the major photo equipment manufacturers like Kodak, FujiFilm, Agfa, Contax, Pentax, Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Minolta, Konica and many others. I became a regular at the Photo Marketing Association's annual trade shows and absorbed as much as I could so that I could keep my MSN Photography Community informed about the changes taking place.
As folks say Microsoft has a way of rethinking things every six months or so. One of those decisions was to eliminate community managers, the title I held. So in the fall of 1999 they opted not to renew our contracts. That of course made me think about what I really wanted to do at that point.
The photography business was just starting to go through significant changes. Kodak had produced a kiosk that could copy my studio photos which was starting to become a problem. Digital was just starting to act like a real usable technology. The photography community was starting to see that it was going to be a major factor someday and most of it looked expensive.
The question was how much was it going to cost to convert, were the results going to be good enough and could we afford to not get involved. It was a very perplexing situation for someone who was starting to enjoy the online world and its future more all the time.
I figured out that I really enjoyed what I had done for MSN and was ready to get out of the studio photography business so I called in an auctioneer and sold everything I had in the studio. Which in hindsight was the right thing to do. I caught the market at the top for analog equipment.
Less than two weeks after my contract ended with Microsoft and the studio was cleaned out and returned to the landlord I was working for PhotoPoint. I was very lucky. One of my favorite PR persons from Olympus introduced me to one of PhotoPoint's two Canadian founders.
He told me about their internet startup that allowed folks to share their photos with friends and family over the internet. He figured I'd fit perfectly in the role of their community manager. I took the job and went on to help over 1 million members as we grew to be one of the largest photo sharing sites on the internet.
My final title was Director of Editorial and Member Content. In this job I was responsible for our newsletters and online magazines as well as trying to keep our members out of trouble. Unfortunately, we were probably a year or two too early and ran out of money before we figured out a way to make money. Still, the experience was worth every long day I put in and once again I've come out of it with friends who are far more valuable than those 40,000 options would have ever been.
All of these experiences have given me insight and knowledge that I want to continue to share with folks who find this site. I understand the new digital world can be exciting, intimidating and just plain frustrating for a lot of folks.
While I don't pretend to have the answer to every question, I'm going to try to help you figure things out. This site is targeted at those who just want to preserve their memories to those who've elected to face the challenge of making a living from photography.
I hope I can achieve this goal by bringing you useful information, ideas, product reviews, suggestions and occasionally my views on where photography is headed.
Once again, welcome to Phototoday.net.