My 2018 in 5 Photos

2018 was really a strong year of growth for me as a photographer and creative. In 2017 I really built up a strong foundation in portrait photography that helped me expand and build my own style in 2018. I really meant to make this post a lot sooner but didn’t because of personal reasons. These are photos that were major milestones in my photography career. Each one defined my photography at that point or the direction that I was moving towards.


1: Nicole in Berkeley

This first one was the first and honestly last real viral photo I took in 2018. This shot was taken in Berkeley. Like many of my shoots at this point, I didn’t plan it out as much as I should have. This shot was just a vague idea at this point. I wanted to do a reaching out photo in the middle of the road. I feel like part of the reason this blew up as much as it did was the two-tone black and yellow pallets along with the reaching out. I remember being so excited for to post this shot, I edited and posted it on the same day that I took it. The reaching out was trendy at this point, and also something people were starting to know me for.

Although this photo was not my personal favorite from this shoot, it did leave the biggest impression. It basically set the bar for me for most of the remainder of the year. It also threw me off my game once again, like the photo of Nicole did from the past year. I did not want to do something similar after this. This was really the peak and the end of the reach photos for me. After this one, I tried not to take photos of it anymore. I didn’t want to be the guy who took the reach photos, even though I was for some already.


2: Hanging with Renette

Following the reach, I wanted to move into a different direction. I wanted to shift my focus to doing full body shots. I didn’t want to limit my photos to just hands and faces. By doing full body shots, I was able to add a dynamic to my photos that they didn’t have before. This shoot was almost just this photo. Prior to this photo, there was an actual shoot that did have more models to them. I wasn’t expecting to take this photo that day, but here outfit was perfect, and I didn’t want to pass it up.

I can’t remember where the idea to have her hanging came from. It might have come from someone hanging from a basketball hoop, but I can’t remember exactly. The lines in this shot set up a great amount of depth. The lights on the right did add the right amount of color spit as well. It set me up to take more low angle shots for the rest of the year.


3: Santa Monica with Rae

This one is both about this shot and this trip. I had a great time in LA taking photos. Spending so much time shooting with friends really grew my love fo the craft. To spend time shooting taking a break then heading to another shoot at new locations was fun. I got a lot of amazing shots that I could’ve added hear as well. This trip alone was one of the top shoots of the year.

I chose this single photo because on top of being an amazing photo, it was another case where I got to meet someone in person after knowing them for a long time online. I had known Rae for a long time before this, around 4 years. Although it was a simple portrait, it came out amazingly vibrant and colorful. It’s a good summary of how this whole trip went.


4: SF with Mimoza

This one was the next milestone that I hit in my photography. This was one was the one that set the bar after it. I had already been working on my full body portraits but none of them really had the impact that I was hoping for them to have. Don’t get me wrong, there were some really good ones, but not exactly what I wanted. My idea was to move towards more fashion-based shoots with creative posing to them. I didn’t want them to be overdone either. I felt as if a lot of my shots were coming out more dramatic than I wanted them to.

This shot was subtle enough but came together perfectly enough to make an impact. I really do feel like Mimoza styling and posing made this shot. A successful photo isn’t made by the photographer or the model alone but their ability to come together to create something. And I really do feel like her ability to take my vision and put herself in it was on point for this shoot. It’s a shot that left an impact on my page and really set the direction for what was to come in the future.

MTC_5471-Edit copy.jpg

5: SF with Justine

This last one was the last milestone that I hit in 2018. The shot that was a an accumulation of everything that I had built on over the past year. I really do feel like this was also the last real shoot I had in 2018 because of school. After this shoot, I had to shift my focus away from photography and towards school. It was the Monday before starting my fall semester and I had set up a few shoots to end my summer. Although I did keep on shooting a handful of times during my semester, I wasn’t able to focus or put the same amount of commitment that I had put in before.

This one had a simple idea of having her step on the lens. Out of the frame I was holding up her boot with my hand. The shot was not easy to frame the way I wanted to. The location was perfect for the outfit and the pallets that I would eventually be using. It broke any other number milestone I had on my page. It also was an amazing example of my low angle shots and new posing that I was working on. This shoot also had 3 additional locations to it which I also got amazing shots from.

It was a great way to end my photography for the year, 3 months before the year even ended. I had planned to get back into it during my winter break but wasn’t really able to put myself back together to do it, on top of other reasons. Looking back at these shots was a real reminder as to what I want to accomplish this year. I want the 5 from this year to show the same amount of success that these had from 2018.







Small Life Update (September 2018)

Its sort of a weird feeling catching up to my following through the blog. I haven’t really kept up with it as I thought I would’ve when I started it. I was expecting to make a short post for all the small trips I take. I normally take my camera, which would make it easy to have photos to post on here. But the realization that each post was going to take my work than I had thought quickly made me fall behind.

For starters, Im back in school. This is the main reason I feel like there’s been a large disconnect with my account. I don’t post as often, leaving me with long periods of time without interacting with everyone i’ve connected with through instagram. I spent the better part of a year working on my portrait taking photography skills and my instagram account. I managed to get a lot further than I was expecting over the time I had set.

Mt Umunhum

Mt Umunhum

Even though photography has taken a backseat in my life, I do still try to get out when I can. I’ve found that taking breaks in between long periods of school work helps to refresh my mind. When you go for too long focusing on one thing, you tend to lose sight of the bigger picture. They way I like to see it as is putting water in a jar. If you try to fill it up quickly, a lot of the water jumps out. When you slow down and allow it to calmly fill up, you retain more overall. These drives and small trips may not hold a lot of monetary value or productivity but they do help me out mentally and allow me to keep up my photography skills.

Russian Ridge Open Space

Russian Ridge Open Space

But this isn’t really an end to my portrait or overall photography. I still plan shoots when they fall into my schedule nicely(currently doing about 1 or less a week). I also have ideas for future shoots for when I have more time at the end of my semester. My summer ended up not being as productive as I had imagined it would be, leaving me with a small list of unused shoot ideas.

Pescadero Creek Road

Pescadero Creek Road

This time has been good for reflecting and re-evaluating my photography as a whole and what it means to me. At first I thought that I would miss going out the most to shoot. But lately i’ve realized that the one thing I’ve missed the most are the people that I got to shoot with. The models and other photographers. I can go out and shoot on my own, which I have been, but I miss the interactions that Ive had with others. Talking about photography, cameras, social media or other topics with other creatives that shared the same interests is what i’ve missed the most.

Alviso Marina County Park

Alviso Marina County Park

Skyline Boulevard

Skyline Boulevard

Sorry for this poorly written blog, I wrote it over a week without planning it out like usual. It started out as me just wanting to share some pretty photos LOL

Why I like the Instagram Algorithm

Let me start off by saying that this is my opinion and I am writing this for the sake of showing the good side of the algorithm. (I've also added a couple of photos from my shoot with Ashley because it felt incomplete without some photos)

The algorithm was first introduced in 2016. From that point on, Instagram decided what posts were relevant and deserved to be at the top of your feed based on your engagement with other peoples content. Overall, the reaction to the algorithm has been negative. 

At the time the algorithm was first introduced, I was shooting landscaped and had no direction in my work. For that year, I had a net growth of 100 followers. The struggle was real, but I wasn't going to hand in the towel just yet. For 2017, I had and goal for the year, 5k(I failed). Throughout 2017 I focused on numbers a lot. I spent my time looking at which posts did better, what times were the best, what days, what colors, who to work with, who to tag and so on... Constant changes in the algorithm made it difficult to read and react to. I came to one conclusion by the end of the year: Just take good photos and let the algorithm do its job. 


I'm going to start off by listing the things we think we know about the algorithm. 

  • Engagement matters, more engagement means you'll be put at the top
  • The type of content you are posting matters. People are more likely to see your content if they engage in other content that is similar. 
  • Tags matter. This has always been true, but your chances are much higher of being on the top posts of a certain tag if the algorithm favors your work. This became even more important with the addition of following tags. 
  • The explorer page matters. This opens your content to a much larger audience. 
  • Time spent seeing your content matters. The longer a viewer views your content, the better it does.

Things that I'm not really sure are true or not but I've heard about:

  • The timing of engagement matters. According to different cites, Instagram measures the likability of your content with the amount of engagement that you receive initially before releasing it to your entire following. 
  • Fewer tags is more, filling up all 30 tags isn't the best strategy
  • Shadow banning 
  • Editing your caption is bad
  • Pods help beat the algorithm 
  • Business accounts are hurt in order to make them purchase ads
  • The algorithm favors business accounts over personal ones

For this first reason, I will be speaking as a user and not a content creator. The algorithm does clean up my feed. I think that this one is important and is overlooked by a lot of people, it does what it was meant to do. I follow almost 900 accounts and going through everyone's content is a lot. WIth the algorithm, I get the feed that matters to me at the top, the people that I engage with regularly and other content I am probably going to like. Let's face it, not everything you post is gold and not everyone is going to like it. People seem to be blaming the algorithm for their content getting bad engagement, but maybe your content is not doing good because it's simply not good. But that's just my opinion. 

Next point, quality is rewarded. This goes along with engagement mattering. Let's face it if your content sucks its not going to be shown to accounts. Speaking from personal experience, when I truly work on making a photo the best it could be to the best of my ability, it does well. I create good content because it is what I like to do, not because I want to stay relevant. Creating work that people will see and engage with is rewarded with showing it to a bigger audience in the explorer page and the top posts on tags. And I'm not saying to stop posting or to spend an absurd amount of time on your post, just to post because you want to, not because you need to. 

Because of quality mattering, this evens out the playing field. You can be a small account and relatively grow like a big account. Your work is rewarded if you know how to display it. By using tags and your followers you can make it to the top of a popular tag and even more, land on potentials followers' feeds. I've seen work show up on my feed and explorer page from accounts that I don't follow and are much smaller than mine. Speaking for myself, since falling into my current flow, I have been rewarded by having my work reach an audience much larger than my own following. 

Authenticity matter. This ones my personal speculation but I believe that your engagement should be good relative to the size of your following. It's all percentages and not the size of the numbers. For me, it makes more sense for it to favor accounts that have followers that actually engage with their work. And it would hurt those with fake or ghost followers. 

Timeliness doesn't matter anymore. Ok, this one is also just my opinion but I think its true. You don't need to post at the right time anymore. Because the algorithm rearranges posts, it doesn't really matter when you post because you could post at the right time and be at the bottom or at the wrong time and still be at the top. Time of day doesn't matter from my experience. I have had engagement on both sides of the spectrum from posting at different times throughout the day.

Finally, I don't think people know how difficult it was growing in a world without the algorithm. Most accounts I see complaining are new and still small. Let me tell you a secret, growing a new account is difficult, with or without the algorithm. You would get outshined by other content and you would have to strategize on ways to get noticed anyways. 

The algorithm is here to stay and its just something everyone is going to have to live with. Maybe its just becasue I have been benefiting from it or becasue I don't do this for the numbers but I like it. Instead of being discouraged by it, use it as motivation to take your work to the next level and show it that your work deserves to be seen. Or you can let it win and give up. But that's up to you.