How I became a media producer.
Dear upcoming media producers, not all heroes wear capes.
Some teach students.
Some tell stories.
Some bake cookies.
Some teach journalists/media.
Some capture pictures or encourage you to record oral history+.
When you all grow up, you will realize how teachers, professors and your colleagues have impacted you — and look back on it as a foundation for your future success.
You might not appreciate your teacher’ or the lessons your colleagues give you now, but you will in 10 years from now.
In high school, I was thankful to have two excellent teachers: Mr. Scott Masters (A Governor General Award-Winning History Teacher) and Mr. Ronny Wan (an award-winning Photographer), who introduced me to my overall love of media, and being involved in the press/news/documentary, commercial photography, and videography.
I always loved Mr. Master’s and Wan’s classes, and working with both of them changed my life. When I started taking pictures or recording oral history, I immediately loved it but learned so much more from actually doing it, and teaching others myself.
I have also been fortunate to be surrounded by creative individuals who inevitably experienced similar or different barriers than me, but never ceased from continuously creating media. Therefore, to remain innovative and foster creativity is never impossible; I believe it is a necessary skill to acquire, and regardless of your barriers, you can embrace creativity in many unique ways.
The sensation you get of pushing a button to share an impactful story through an image or video speaks volumes, especially at such a young age.
I didn’t practice and become good at the whole process of media production until I got older, graduated and moved into professional education and work.
I got into the media industry the odd way and stayed in it in an even more unconventional way.
I started capturing pictures on this old beat-up Olympus camera right before my twin sister was about to perform in the Nutcracker for The National Ballet School of Canada at around age 7, and that’s where my true love of it began.
My grandparents were both artists and always had an impact on me creatively as well.
It wasn’t until I got to high school, and doing media relations work in university where I began taking media production, and marketing seriously as a career.
I would occasionally go out of my way to take pictures outside of what I was usually comfortable with to get the experience. I encourage all new media producers today to do the same. In high school, I was lucky enough to go to school with many other gifted Photographers like Josh Moshenberg.
Still, it often became super challenging, getting recognized for my work individually and showcasing my unique perspective. I knew I had to be different and share stories my way, and I found that in part to my involvement in extracurriculars in capturing and documenting Holocaust survivors, war veterans on day’s like today’s Remembrance Day, and community leaders in the community and working when I could. My grattitude is immeasureable .
I didn’t go to University to study Photography and instead went to business school for three years (graduating with a Certificate in Marketing Management in 2021, from Dalhousie University) and studying photojournalism (at The University of King’s College) before transferring to a purpose-led career in the Media industry. I was largely self-taught before being professionally trained while I currently complete a Bachelor of Arts in Media Information and Tech at The University of Western Ontario’s Faculty of Information and Media Studies.
However, I didn’t start getting recognized for my creative work until I got to University and got some profound life experience.
Eventually, my work started capturing national media attention from editorials such as The Canadian University Press Wire, The Charlatan, The Dalhousie Gazette, The Fulcrum+, or The Western Gazette, where I currently work. But building your portfolio takes a lot of time, hard work and dedication.
Photography is not only an craftful art but a skill with so many different moving parts, and they all take consistent practice, failure and hard work to get to where you want to go.
Half the battle is just showing up.
As well, being a good photographer is not about the right/newest gear, but how and why you use it. It’s about creating beautiful compositions and sharing unique stories that resonate with and represent people cross-culturally. Being a good photographer requires patience, practice, feedback, consistent failures, and passion (lots of it).
I wanted the best when I was younger, but I couldn’t get the best gear due to costs. After working with some of the best equipment in the world for work, from Sony PXW-Z190s, Canon 5D/R’s, Nikon D850s, FUJI X10’s professional cameras and lenses, I can honestly still say that professional gear is for the pros for two reasons: Professional Expertise, and Efficiency.
If you don’t need to produce work, for instance, on the clock for breaking news, or you aren’t in the studio producing commercial/editorial content, I bet your current camera is more than good enough (in fact: old gear and film is the newest trend these days — be advised). If you want to get noticed for more of your work start capturing on 30 mm film before switching to a new Hasselblad, Leica or Canon R. I suggest using the same camera and seeing how it holds up year-over-year. You’ll be surprised by the results you get.
Once you have maxed out a camera’s capabilities, upgrade lenses before the body and your camera gear. I used the same camera for over seven years (a basic DSLR) before upgrading my equipment.
If you want it bad enough, you will make it happen.
Being a photographer takes much more time, practice and hard work, primarily as a passion project, but as a career, it takes long hours, lots of feedback, and lots of experience to move up. Don’t dream of being published in one day; I wish I had that luxury; focus on building your skills now and your resume and portfolio of work later enough to capture editorial attention within only six pictures. That’s my challenge for you. Then find a way to back it up with proven results.
If you ever have any questions about Photography, media or my experiences, feel free to use me as a resource in the future, and I’ll be happy to answer them.
All the best,
Aaron L Greenspan.
BA in Media Candidate | Staff Photographer at The Western Gazette | Certified Marketing Management Professional, Dalhousie University | Former Marketing Team Lead at Wasserman/Riddle&Bloom/Amazon