A self-made Photographer who has built a legacy from scratch, Chris Burkard is someone who took the leap at 19 when he realized his love for photography. Going against all odds and making his mark in the industry Chris Burkard mentions hard work, persistence, and passion as the 3 driving forces that helped him in his journey and also encourages other budding photographers to create their own style and strive to perfect it.
In this interview, Chris Burkard speaks about his life, journey in photography, his style and his love for the outdoors and the environment. Chris Burkard also mentions how Chris Burkard uses and plans to use his social standing to do good for the environment and make a difference.
To know more about the artist himself. Read, PhotoWhoa interviewing Chris Burkard!
1. Having a strong inclination towards nature you love to capture landscape, adventure, outdoor and a lot more. Which type among these can you pinpoint as your favorite?
I would say the outdoors in general. My goal is to inspire others to get outdoors and seek out rugged places. I hope to push people to seek out the unknown and allow a bit more uncertainty in their lives as this is how you grow the most and ultimately develop a closer relationship with nature. Everything listed above is similar but my ultimate goal is to push people towards the outdoors in whatever way that might be for each individual.
2. It takes efforts to maintain a social media presence while also running your own business. How do you prioritize investing time? Do you have dedicated people looking after your social presence?
Social Media has created a platform where I’m able to have an extensive body of work that acts as a living portfolio. Companies consistently contact me after having viewed my account with partnering offers due to my high level of engagement. It’s one thing to have a million followers, it’s another when a significant percentage of those followers actually engage with the content you are posting. Often times companies or brands will reach out with a proposal to collaborate on a social post in some way, and it’s not uncommon for the same companies and brands to hire me on for a full-fledged project or campaign. Throughout the years some of my biggest and best jobs have come through my social media channels. I couldn’t be more grateful for the awesome opportunities I have been awarded through my social platform
But over the monetary aspect of social media, it’s a way to show MY favorite work. When you’re shooting for an editorial feature or a commercial client it’s not always your visions that getting out into the world. It’s a client’s or an editor’s. Social media is a direct way of putting your personal favorite work out into the world and telling the story that most accurately how you as a person and brand want to be perceived. I choose to run all my social media as I feel like engaging with all the people who follow and support me is a special part of my job.
3. A philanthropist at heart where do you see this world heading considering the radical climate changes? How do you think can everyone contribute to stopping it?
This is a question and idea that keeps me up at night. I do think we’re at a point where we’re going to see some major changes take effect, things that can’t be reversed which saddens me. I think sometimes people feel as though they need to make some major changes to make a difference, and I like to remind people that any positive behavior is a step in the right direction. Whether it be eliminating single-use plastics, picking up trash on the trail, or riding your bike to work it ALL plays a part. Everyone and their situations are different but any little thing we can do is helpful.
4. Can photography play a key role in driving towards a sustainable earth? Any thoughts and ideas for the photographer out there?
I absolutely think photography can play a key role in driving towards a more sustainable Earth. People respond to visuals, whether they’re positive or negative. I strive to show the beauty of places around the world but also promote that they are only going to remain beautiful if we make sustainability a priority in our lives. I think showing people the beauty of places around the world will make them care more about living a sustainable life and protecting the planet. I also think photos that highlight the damage that is being done will be a powerful mechanism moving forward.
5. Which is your favorite photography gear which you can’t leave the house without?
I shoot with the Sony mirrorless systems. I have shot with Canon, Nikon, and Sony in the past 11 years and have settled on what I believe to be the best system available for lightweight travel and astrophotography. I typically use the Sony A7RIV for about 70% of my work. The Sony A7sii is what I shoot for my night and Astro images. This camera was built for sensitivity at High ISO. The A7RIV is my go-to for commercial work, the R stands for Resolution and provides unparalleled reproduction for large prints and clients needs. When I want to strip down and go super light I use the Sony a6500 as well as when shooting in the water. This camera is perfect for sports photography, hiking, climbing and anytime you need to be weight conscious. For post-processing, I always use Adobe Lightroom.
6. Are there any specific actions or presets you use as your go-to quick fixes?
Nope! I don’t use photoshop and try to edit photos as minimal as possible, keeping them realistic and true to what the scene really looked like. Almost all my photos are solely edited in Lightroom with contrast, temperature, and the tone curve.
7. At the age of 33, you have written over 9 books and won over 20 prestigious awards. How did you prepare to be the person you are today? How young did you begin your journey?
At 19, I enjoyed photography but the idea of turning it into a career was overwhelming. I knew I had to give it 100% if I wanted to make it into something so without any formal training I quit my job (at a magazine store) and started shooting anything for anyone. I would go and shoot surfers at the local beach and try to sell them pictures on DVD’s… I shot weddings and senior pictures and interiors store photos. That obviously wasn’t my end goal but I had to start somewhere. I wanted to learn more about action sports and landscapes photography which is what I was excited about but didn’t know where to turn so I started applying for internships. I finally got an opportunity to intern with Michael Fatali, a large format landscape photographer, and I got an internship at Transworld Surf magazine which was an incredibly valuable experience. Through trial and error, I taught myself and began to develop a style. Hard work, persistence, and having a passion for what I do has taken me a long way. For the first part of my career, I slept in my car a lot, so nothing happens quickly. I would say it was about 4 years until I really started making an income. During my transworld internship, I commuted 5 + hours every week and lived in my car. I really look back fondly at those more challenging times because it makes you appreciate having to work for what you have and giving something of yourself for your career.
8. Are your kids influenced by your art and your ideologies or are they willing to be trailblazers in a different field just like you?
To be honest, they’re still pretty young to answer this. They definitely love the outdoors and to be outside exploring, as many kids do. I love to take them to the beach, hikes or camping trips and they’re starting to take interest in these things on their own. However, they’re young to be interested in photography or art. When people ask, I always tell them I’ll be happy with whatever they want to do, I just want them to develop their own passions. If they want to be trailblazers great, if they are inspired by photography, great, but I won’t push them in one direction!
9. Summing the interview, what would be your advice to the people who are beginning their careers in this field?
The best thing that you can do as an aspiring photographer is to identify a style that represents you well, develop within that style, and keep shooting to perfect it. It’s super important to have your images be recognizable by editors and others who are looking at your work. With a large number of photographers that are out there now you must find ways to stand out. The best compliment I can ever receive is when people know my photography work instantly when they see it. Diversification in your work is great, but it’s important to remember that often you are hired by a client or a magazine because you are a specialist at something. That is a good thing! It’s good to be known very distinctively for something and it’s a great way to get your name out there. Start with what you know and only put the work out there you are truly proud of and willing to show the world. Then work on the other aspects and over time they will be at the same quality. If you are great at one thing and mediocre at many others it often drags down the great work in your portfolio. I have spoken to many editors about this and it’s one of the things that I have heard over and over again.
A humble, passionate, distinct, and aware photographer, we loved to interview Chris Burkard.
You can check out the work of Chris Burkard on his website.