For Dre Wheaton, a picture is about more than just looks.
“It’s easy to take a picture, but everything behind it — like stylizing the shoot, getting the right concept going and trying to figure out what you want to portray in the images — is actually the hard part,” he said. “I like to portray emotions. I want somebody to stop scrolling on Instagram and really look at the picture and see how it makes them feel.”
The independent photographer and owner of Dre Lamar Photography draws inspiration from everywhere, but his peers are his main source of motivation when it comes to getting the perfect shot.
“I think the thing that motivates me the most is having friends who do the same exact thing,” he said. “Some of my friends are so amazing and it sparks a healthy competition. We support each other and are never jealous of each other, but when they post something or they share their work with me, I’m like, ‘My goodness … how did you do that?’ That’s what motivates me to keep going, just to create. Also, when I’m shooting with a client and I see their expression after they look at the photos — they’re so excited and happy. You can tell they love it; that motivates me to keep going as well.”
Wheaton lives in Fountain and works in the Springs but has plans to expand his photography business to the nearest creative and fashion hub — Denver. He sat down with the Business Journal to discuss his long-standing romance with photography, the mentorship that changed his life, and the shift in his identity as a photographer.
How long have you been in Colorado Springs?
I’ve been in Colorado Springs since middle school. My dad was in the Army, so we moved back when I was getting ready to transition from the fifth to the sixth grade, so I’ve been here awhile.
What is your educational background?
I went to Fountain-Fort Carson High School. After that, I went over to [Pikes Peak Community College] to get my associate degree. Then I transferred from there to UCCS to get my bachelor’s degree in business management with a minor in human resources. I work on Fort Carson … my main occupation [is as a] Fort Carson Youth Sports assistant director, so we organize sports for the kids all year long. On the side I do photography and videography.
Have you always been interested in photography?
Yeah, I have always been interested. When I was in high school, I bought my first point-and-shoot camera, which was a Sony Cyber-shot. I thought I was the man. I was walking around the school and taking pictures of my friends just for fun. Sometimes I would take pictures of myself, but for the most part it was pictures of them.
I would just try to have some fun with it. I met my mentor back in 2015 and he owns a studio Downtown. He brought me on, but at the time in 2015, he was telling me to take it more seriously. And that’s really how the whole journey began.
How did you meet your mentor?
I met my mentor through Fort Carson actually. Through our sports department, we have to hire a photographer to shoot our kids for every sports season, like soccer and basketball or whatever it may be. Marketing actually brought him on board to come and take pictures of our program and that’s when I met him and began talking to him. I asked how the photos were coming along … this, that and the other. Ever since then, we’ve just been really close.
Do you have a specific style?
To be honest with you, I think I’m finally starting to get into my specific style. It’s hard. They say when you first start, you’re trying so many different things. You’re trying to find your style, find what you like to do, and I think that I’ve finally picked up on my style. ... It’s edgy and a bit more editorial. I think that for right now that’s the style that I’m liking, but that will probably change in the future. For right now, that is the look that I’m in love with.
What advice would you give amateur photographers?
Don’t stress yourself out too hard about trying to find ‘your’ style or trying to get a bunch of social media followers. Just fall in love with photography and keep shooting. The more you shoot, the better you will get. … Keep an open mind and learn from your peers to help you build a foundation.
How has coronavirus affected your business and your photo shoots?
When everything was shut down initially from March to April, I couldn’t shoot and I was just staying at home and learning. I mostly shot my dog and my fiancée ... just trying to stay in practice. But right after that month, I’ve been so busy this year and I didn’t think I would be. I’ve been the busiest I’ve been since I’ve started, honestly. It’s really cool; God has been good.
Where do you typically do your photo shoots?
I have a studio Downtown — the same studio my mentor brought me to when I first started shooting. When it’s cold outside, I’m inside the studio. When it’s warm outside, I like to do some stuff with natural light and be outside to get the scenery in the background.
What are your goals for your business?
I really want to expand with more businesses. As of right now, I’ve been working with a few beauty and clothing brands that come down from Denver and they shoot with me. I really want to start to transition over to the branding side — more business, professional headshots. The family sessions, weddings, senior shoots and individual sessions are cool, but I want to expand and do more and open the door to do more videography.
How should people show their support for the arts at a time like this?
I think that they could show their support just by liking a picture or sharing one of my posts (@dre.lamarphoto) on their social media outlets. Go and support as much as you can right now with everything going on. I know that everybody’s situation is different right now — so if people cannot support financially, they could support by sharing a page or photo or telling their friends about it.
Is the art and creative community here in the Springs thriving?
Yeah. In Colorado Springs, the creative community is growing. It’s not as big as Denver; Denver has a huge creative community, but the Springs has its own little community as well. It is thriving and growing slowly. There aren’t too many experienced models here in the Springs. It’s not like Denver where they have fashion shows or modeling agencies.
What do you do in your free time?
I like to play basketball. When we could play ball, that was my go-to. I would go to the gym and go play ball. Now, I shoot around and do non-contact, or I just go and lift. I play video games a bit, but I’m deep into my business now so I don’t play as much as I used to. I’m always trying to learn more about the business aspect.