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Rising Stars: Meet David Lopez

Today we’d like to introduce you to David Lopez.

Hi David, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I fell down into the photography rabbit hole during a family Christmas trip to Big Bear Lake back in 2013. I started off shooting gorgeous Big Bear landscapes on my iPhone 4S and uploading the images to flicker and Instagram (back when it was all about photography, lol). When I returned from the trip, I purchased my first camera to learn the basics. At the time, I thought this was going to be a hobby and not actually turn into my career.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
In the beginning, the struggle I had was getting enough experience to be able to eventually book paying gigs. I have always been a firm believer of working for free, especially if you have zero experience in a particular style of photography. My first real paid gig wasn’t until 2016, nearly 3 years after I started learning photography. I’m 2020, the pandemic severely affected my business. At the time, I was primarily shooting events such as debutante balls & weddings but the pandemic caused them to be canceled. I also lost my day job but thankfully I was able to qualify for unemployment, so that covered my bills. I decided to start learning product photography during the stay-at-home orders and learned how much I enjoyed so I pivoted my business specializing in product photography. During this time, I also started to learn how properly shoot and edit video.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
My business primarily specializes in product photography, coffee photography and videography (corporate, event and weddings).

The thing I am most proud of is the documentary that my friend Nicole Funes and I filmed during the pandemic. It was for the College Women’s Club of Pasadena Centennial. It was a fun collaborative process and I want to thank Sandi, Judi, and Kathy for all the help they provided during the making of the film. We also took a lot of precautions such as getting weekly Covid tests, wearing masks if we conducted in person interviews or utilized zoom calls for some portions of the film.

I think what sets me apart from others isn’t my style, technique or anything like that. It’s my humility, my honesty and the fact I never forgot where I came from. I’m always honest with my clients because I don’t like to bullshit or waste everyone’s time by pretending to know or specialize in something I have zero experience in. Unfortunately, in this industry, there’s so many people with egos that give photographers and videographers a bad rep. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard from my clients about working with photographers with inflated egos and the horrible experience they’ve had.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
while I do think qualities and characteristics such as humility, honesty and remembering my beginnings did play a role in helping me achieve success. I firmly believe it’s the people I have surrounded myself with that have helped me get to where I am at today.

People like my friends; Manny, Neto, Jaden and Peter. We all help out one another from time to time either with business advice or just hang out and go do some street photography.

People like Juan and Lorena from Espresso Cuts who helped me get into Coffee Photography during the pandemic.

My mentor Mark and I met at the coffee shop I was working at back in 2015. I struck up a conversation with him about cameras because he had his gear with him. I mentioned how I wanted to get into the wedding business, so we swap contact info and he later gave me the opportunity to be his wedding photography assistant. That opportunity later led me to working with my other mentors Nick and Glenn, photographing events or assisting during debutante balls.

Now coincidentally, a few years after I quit the coffee shop, I stopped by the same coffee shop (which was now a blue bottle coffee) and I met my friend Adrian Cortes, who asked me about my camera gear since I had my camera with me. He also asked me about getting into photography, so we swapped contact info and mentored him in learning the basics of photography and video. We booked gigs together and worked together up until he moved to Texas in 2020, where he is now the owner of his own creative business doing what he loves. I am so proud of him.

In 2015, I began working at a place in Pasadena called Neon Retro Arcade. The owners, Mark and Mia Guenther played a huge role in helping me advance my career. Not only did they let me photograph the business for their social media (which I still do today!) but also networked or they’d introduce me to people that helped me go to the next level (pun intended). Like my friend Javier Cabral, I met him playing Street Fighter 2 (Team Ken baby!) and after learning I did photography, he hired me for my first paid gig for Vice Munchies. Or my friend Eddie Zamora, who I met thru a gig for got Milk, which was thanks to a munchies gig from Javier. Or my friend Sarah, who helped me book the College Women’s Club gig. No matter where my career path has taken me, it always leads back to Neon Retro Arcade. It’s thanks to them I have met so many people and have made some awesome connections and I am grateful for the friendship we’ve developed over the last seven years.

Also, shout out to the Neon Crew: Cristian, Adrian, Thania, Bailee and Leeann!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
All images copyright David Lopez

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