By Kennedy Gayheart
Paul Laurence Dunbar High School
He started with a mobile phone, then moved to higher quality Canon cameras. Then Ronald Wagner Jr. created his own photography business. He was 15.
Wagner, now 17, believes that photography is an essential part in creating memories and being able to cherish them.
His first experience with photography was through a class at school.
“But the rest is self-taught,” said Wagner, a rising senior from Crossroads College Prep in St. Louis, Missouri.
He started with the basics, taking pictures using his iPhone. When his interest in photography kept growing, he asked his dad, Ronald Sr., for his old camera, a Canon Rebel T2i. Now, the camera he uses most is a Canon 80D.
Wagner has no problem working by himself. He even prefers it. He learns most of his skills on his own through experience and trial and error.
“Anything that I can pick up and try and learn that’s physical, I’m going to try and do it,” Wagner said, “Luckily, photography and a camera has just been that thing.”
As he developed more skills in capturing special moments, he considered making it a career. He created his own photography business, Ronald Wagner Photography, shooting weddings, senior pictures, landscaping and real estate.
“I don’t see myself wanting to ever have to start my first job being at Schnuck’s (supermarket) or McDonald’s,” Wagner said. “I don’t want to work for people. I want to work for myself. I can pay myself, I can employ myself, and I can’t ever fire myself from my own job.”
He has been working for himself for about two years and plans on going to the University of Memphis to study photography and further his skills.
He said he’d also like to start advertising his business. At present, he hands out business cards and advertises by word of mouth. Wagner said he has an event to shoot about once a week.
Wagner added that he also makes twice the money that his friends make at other part-time jobs at fast food restaurants.
The thing Wagner likes the most about having his own business is “telling people that I have my own business,” Wagner said, laughing.
Wagner also enjoys being able to combine a hobby and a career. Editing his own photos is cool, too.
“Editing is about 60% of the fun to me, shooting is actually 40%,” Wagner said.
“I like giving clients their pictures and watching their face light up.”
Photography gives Wagner a way of expressing himself in a way that words can’t.
“There’s so much power in a picture and I like having that power,” Wagner said, “kind of strokes my ego, but whatever.”
The love of expression has driven Wagner to find a possible career path. Photography is a universal art that everyone can relate to at some point.
“At the end of the day,” Wagner said, “I think everyone needs a photographer.”