Talking shop with Pat Patterson, owner of Pat Patterson Photography

Monday, July 2, 2012
Cape Girardeau photographer Pat Patterson in his studio. (ADAM VOGLER)

Pat Patterson has been in the business for 30 years, but his interest in photography started at a young age. Now the owner of Pat Patterson Photography, he takes senior, wedding, family and special event portraits for the Cape Girardeau area. He has created a collection of 60 images of Cape Girardeau, which are available for purchase in various formats. Although the vast majority of his work is digital, he does have the capabilities to produce film photographs.

Q: This is your 30th year in the business. How did you get started in photography?

A: High School in 10th grade with a couple of buddies that had transferred to our school and they were into photography. There was something about it that just appealed to me and clicked with me, so for Christmas when I was 15 I got a 35 millimeter camera and flash for my Christmas gift and it just took off from there as a hobby.

Q: What is it about photography that has made you stick with it for these 30 years?

A: The enjoyment of making the pictures and the reward of the satisfied customer. Some of the challenges that we are given. It provides an opportunity to be creative and be paid for it. I have always had kind of a creative mind in lots of ways. Creativity started when I started building model cars. I did want to mention one other thing about how photography always piqued my interest. Every year my mother would take me to Goldsmith's department store in Memphis to have my Christmas card portrait made and I can remember, I always wondered if, when the photographer stood behind the camera and fiddled with all the dials and all that stuff on the front of the camera, just what in the world was he doing? There was something about it that always piqued my interest. When he would pull the focusing cloth over his head I kind of stopped and just kind of wondered what was going on back there. The story my parents told me about me taking my first steps as a toddler, mama was holding me up and daddy had a camera. He wanted to get a picture of how tall I was and I let go of mama's hands and I walked to my dad with the camera. I suppose that camera must have caught my attention and made me forget about the possibility of falling down. So, there has always been an interest in photography in some way. I've heard that story from them several times, so it must be true.

Q: How has technology changed since you've been in the business?

A: It's changed radically. I would say that the digital revolution is to film what film was to glass plates. Because the first photography was done, they were called daguerreotype. The photographer would go into a dark room and paint this solution on the glass plates and then load it in the camera. Camera's were cumbersome and all that. Then, when Kodak and George Eastman invented film, it brought the camera down to a size that the average person could hold. That was real revolutionary. I think the digital photography is now for the 20th and 21st century as film was in the 19th century. The evolution of digital photography is still evolving, but it is been very rapid. For example, six years ago, if you had a 10 megapixel camera you really had something. Now, you can't find very many 10 megapixel cameras. It's basically 16 on upward to at least 50 megapixels. But, those are very expensive cameras and not everyone has one. That alone, and then we've gone from cameras that just did still photography, but now cameras will do digital video as well. That is all combined into the same thing.

Q: What are some of the challenges of owing your own business?

A: Keeping the customer happy. There is an inherent challenge in creativity. You challenge your thinking and your methods so you don't stay in a rut and you are always doing something differently and new. There are the challenges of dealing with the public. There is the challenge of turnaround time for pictures, keeping people happy that way. Keeping up with changing technology because it changes quickly. Changes in social media, changes in Photoshop, changes in camera operating systems and changes in what the customer desires. Keeping up with what is popular now and what was popular in the past. Keeping up with the changing demands in the market.

Q: What are some of the rewards?

A: The greatest reward would be a job well done. Taking a challenge and seeing everything come to fruition the way you would like for it to. Seeing customers come back. For example I have a portrait shoot with a 1-year-old child who is wearing the same outfit as his two brother wore when they were 1 year old. It will be with the same prop and the same background, so that when these pictures are all displayed together in the customer's home, all three of the boys will be 1 year old, they are all in the same outfit. There is a similarity and a continuity for all the pictures. When customers come back for that sort of thing, that is good.

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