He Shoots People for a Living
While digital technology has changed the way photographs are taken, proofed and stored, they’re still the favorite way to chronicle a special event like a wedding.
By: Kim Cassell
Looking back through old family photo albums sometimes makes us laugh. Sure, the fashions and hairstyles are different, but so are the settings and poses. Most often, a studio setting with a generic monotone background was used or the photos were taken at the altar of the church.
Photographers nowadays have turned wedding photos more into an art form. Sure, depending on the couple’s tastes, photos may still be taken within a church or reception facility, but nature also plays an important supporting role.
Mike Anderson is owner of Michael A. Anderson Photography in Concord. He can’t remember a time when he wasn’t taking photos. “Whether it was a little Polaroid or an Instamatic, I liked taking pictures of trees and buildings. I used to draw, sketch, paint and do calligraphy,” he says.
Even with the passing of many years and having initially taken a different career path, Anderson still embraced photography as a hobby. That evolved into working full-time and booking photo shoots on the side.
“Once I started that, the photography business slowly grew and the balancing act was impossible. I would get off my job and go directly to a shoot. I just took a leap of faith,” Anderson says.
That leap of faith saw him quitting his day job and leasing a studio in historic downtown Concord. “Having a studio gives me a business side; a lot of photographers don’t have studios. I believe you separate that from your home. Being in downtown Concord, I knew, was something that would fit me best. The old buildings and brick, the way they decorate the trees gives me a canvas just outside my studio,” Anderson explains.
Anderson is self-taught, utilizing events like the annual Imaging U.S.A. Expo to hone his craft and learn about the latest trends and advancements in technology and equipment. There, he is able to participate in workshops and “just meet with the other people who love this art as much as I do,” he says.
“Trends change yearly,” he adds, “especially with weddings. But I don’t follow the trends. I shoot like Mike Anderson. When I shoot, before I click the shutter, there are three basic things I consider: lighting, composition and thinking 3-D. You’re taking something that’s three-dimensional and putting it onto something that’s two-dimensional; you have to create depth.”
While Anderson considers himself a minimalist and wants the image to be about the subject, he does utilize a few props – both humorous (like a box of Bojangles’ chicken) and touching – saying, “Whether it’s a baby in a basket or a picture frame for a couple, it’s symbolic. A prop can speak to you and give you instant meaning of a photo. And if the client brings one they want to use, I’m not going to say no.”
He also likes to break some rules. “You don’t shoot up at anybody. Not me, I’m shooting up at the bride because I want that sky!”
This serves as a good segue into one of Anderson’s favorite techniques: the manipulation of light…even when it’s raining. “I can use ambient light, but I also use my own lights to change the photo. I can’t count on Mother Nature to do everything for me. I can change daytime into night, knowing settings on the camera and how light works,” he says.
“When I talk to clients, when they’re looking for a place to shoot, I ask if they want rural, urban or small town,” Anderson explains. “Gold Hill doesn’t get any better for rural; I’ve shot there almost 300 times. Fences, tree lines…but it got oversaturated with photographers. For small town, it’s just outside my studio. For urban? No Da, Freedom Park and uptown Charlotte. (If it’s just me and myself, I find a mountain and a stream and I’m in heaven. Those days are rare.)”
Another advantage of digital photography is the ability to edit the image. “Your imagination is only held back by your equipment,” Anderson says. “When I edit, I enhance what’s already there. I don’t have a fake sky or backgrounds; I enhance certain aspects. It’s all about perspective. I see the final image before I ever click the shutter.”
After editing, Anderson sends his clients digital, watermarked proofs. This allows family and friends to view the photos as well and declare their choices. “They can buy some or all, but it’s all initially through email. It’s easy,” Anderson says.
In 2015, Anderson sees himself continuing to photograph weddings and utilizing fellow local photographers for bigger shoots, like a wedding he recently had at Duke Chapel. “I want to transition somewhat into commercial work or sports-related…pro-level stuff, headshots. I’m trying to diversify just a tad,” he says.
Anderson has become a fixture in downtown Concord. Spot a fedora and you’ve most likely tracked him down. He says, “I portray myself as downtown Concord. I have attached myself to my community and do things to promote the city and the county. I’ve lived here all my life and I finally feel like I have something of value to give back.”
He also loves his work, and it shows. To view past shoots, check out Anderson’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Michael-A-Anderson-Photography.