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Meet Mark McInnis

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mark McInnis.

Mark, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started this journey, like most, I’d say, in high school photography class. I had a crush on my friend Megan Rosch and she invited me to take photography with her, which her mother taught. So, it was a no brainer. I figured it was an easy “A” and more time with Megan. Done deal. What I didn’t know is that my crush was going to completely dwindle as I fell head over heels for the act and art of photography. It would be by my side as a hobby and passion until I decided to give it a go professionally at the age of 28. I was living in Portland at the time and was doing anything I could to make money: senior portraits, corporate headshots, automobile photography, etc., etc. I even helped a guy build a giant studio in his warehouse so he could shoot the life-sized carvings of African Serengeti animals he was importing from India. Like I said, I did it all.

One day, while out on the Oregon Coast for a surf, the waves were way out of my league, but all the elements came together to create unbelievable imagery. I remember taking photos that evening. The wind was howling offshore, creating big plumes of spray of the crest of the wave. And the waves were violently hollow and emerald green; backlit by the setting sun. With every click of the shutter, I began thinking to myself, “This is it. This is my calling. I’m going to be a surf photographer.” So that’s what I put every ounce of energy and every dime towards from 2008 to 2013. It wasn’t luxurious. A surf photographer probably makes less money than the peddlers at your local stoplight, but it was beyond fun and I learned a lot about my coastline and those on distant shores.

Then 2014 came and I got offered a job to shoot Body Glove’s new activewear line. You know, clothes for active people that run, do yoga and torture themselves in CrossFit. This was my introduction to commercial photography and sparked a new addiction: clients! It’s harder than hell to get a client base, but through countless hours of nose-to-the-grind hard work, I’ve done just that and couldn’t be more thankful. I think people that only know my work from what they see online would still call me a surf photographer. And that’s fine because I am a surf photographer and hope to always be one. It’s my favorite. But I’d say I do more commercial work now than surf photography. And you know what? That’s just fine with me. I love working on set and getting to know everybody that is also putting their heart and soul into one goal: create a beautiful image. I love the teamwork, the camaraderie and the selflessness that goes into it. It’s beautiful and I feel lucky do be on every single set both past, present and future.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The road to where I am now has been anything but smooth. In fact, I honestly don’t know if the guy sitting here today could go back and do everything I did back in the day to get to where I am. The work you have to do to get over that initial hump is just relentless. It takes a lot out of you. That said, I still hustle super hard. There’s no other option, but luckily I’m a little more established and have a little more street cred when it comes to approaching new clients. That said, however, I am in a bit of a transition phase. Two of my long-term clients pulled the plug this year. One due to a new creative director and one to new licensing. So, that’s rough and I’ll be losing about 50% of my income due to it, but that’s why I’m hustling still! I actually feel like it is 2014 again and I’m frantically hustling for new clients. But that’s ok. It’s exciting. It’s ridiculously stressful, but in some weird way, it’s fun to find that grind inside of your gut and give it everything you have to make it work. So smooth? No. But fun? Absolutely.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’m a professional photographer specializing in fashion and outdoor lifestyle imagery. As a photographer, we have to realize that we are a dime a dozen nowadays. Sure, there are some people that have an uncanny gift to set themselves apart and create one of a kind imagery, but I truly believe a lot of still comes down to who you know and how well you do with people. So I think what I’m most proud of is my ability to connect with people on a human level. I might be the guy hiding behind a camera and making a weird face while I compose the shot, but I”m also the guy that will laugh with you, cry with you, hug you, celebrate with you and do anything I can for you. I think that goes a long way with clients, models, assistants, producers and basically all of humanity.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Not one thing. I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, actually, in hindsight I might not photograph some of the surf spots I used to. I pissed some people off that I shouldn’t have and I do wish I could take some of those moments back. I really don’t like to make people mad, especially at me. So yeah, I think I would think twice about photographing certain parts of the PNW. But other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing. It has been a wild ride and hopefully it keeps ongoing for many, many, moons.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
All images © Mark O. McInnis

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