Charles "Chad" Etoroma
Raleigh, North Carolina
How did you get your start with photography?
It kind of happened by accident. In 2014 one of my New Year's resolutions was to stop and be more appreciative of moments around me. I was noticing too many times where I would see something or be present in a moment that I could capture and just pass by it because my friends were or because I didn't want to stand out. So, my goal was literally to just take one photo a day, whether it was good or of something "meaningful." Over the course of the year I realized that I had a pretty good eye for it. So the following year I kept up the same thing. This time, instead of using my crappy iPhone camera I got into my dad's collection of all Dslr's. Late last year, I met an amazing group of photographers at a Worldwide Instagram meetup in Raleigh. They had fresh new perspectives and they were extremely gracious with their knowledge. I was never made to feel less than even though the quality of work I was producing wasn't nearly on their level. A few months after that I bought my first camera as a symbol of an investment in myself to get better at photography. It's almost been a year since I made that decision and it has been one of the best things I have ever done.
How do you describe your photography style?
When I think about my style there are two things I focus on when shooting, creativity & authenticity. I want to be one of those people that can match an amazing image with an authentic/real moment. It's part of the reason I don't edit my photos to perfection. I love seeing the flaws in photos. It gives it a very "real" factor. I would say that my style is not at all technical and I am so proud of that. I am glad that I didn't take a class or have any formal training on photography, because I don't know or understand the constraints around the industry. I don't know what can or should be done vs. what can't or shouldn't be done. I just do what I feel. I had to improvise for a while because the gear I was using just wasn't up to date (I didn't realize that until I started hanging out with the photography meetup). I used my IPhone for a while and then an old camera so figuring out new ways to shoot things to make it stand out was what I had to do. While everyone I was shooting with was finding the perfect angle for shots, being a rookie, I stood back, watched and found different ways of shooting around them, so I wasn't in the way. (Hah) I had no idea what I was doing.
Where do you draw inspiration for your photos?
I draw inspiration from a few things, namely storytelling and lighting. I am a big storyteller so people constantly inspire me… their experiences, their struggles, their emotions. I also love the symbiotic relationship between light and dark. Shadow play is something that really inspires me as well. I think it's because each shadow created is so different and there are endless possibilities when working with shadows.
On notable projects:
I think one of my favorite projects to date is a shoot I did with some Bose headphones. The story how I even linked up with them is a big laughing point for me. I was scrolling down the #MondayMotivation on Twitter, which I rarely do anymore, and caught glimpse of an awesome caption, picture, quote combo from Bose. So, I retweet it and commented at them that I loved their headphones and that I thought their headphones were way better than Beats by Dre (I truly believe this as I am a big fan of Bose because of my dad). The tweet quickly made its way around several different people within the Bose organization and they soon reached out saying that they had loved my tweet and my vibe and wanted to send me two of their latest limited edition noise canceling headphones as a token of appreciation. After I got them, I created a mini Instagram campaign (charlesetoroma.com/bose) to highlight the story and feature their product. This was also the first time a huge brand I respected reached out to me about anything.
Which photographers influenced you and how did they influence your thinking, photo taking and career path?
That's a good question. I wouldn't say there is a specific photographer that influenced me but a collection of things. I honestly don't even know that many famous photographers. A lot of my close friends in Raleigh have been big influences. Looking at their work and how good it is continues to inspire me to get better. Plus looking at content hubs like The Creator Class and seeing the amazing talent there has been great. If I had to pick a few names of people, when I was originally starting, they would be:
The first three people really influenced my love and need to be extremely open with my audience and tell stories that could actually help inspire and be more relatable. I try extremely hard with every picture I take to have a caption that is worth reading. I want my audience to be able to take something positive away when they look at my account and it's because of those guys that I actually realized the importance and profound impact it can have. The last two photographers just have an exceptional handle on their specific photography style. I don't think I'll ever have that consistent, same-look per photo style, but seeing what these guys have done is amazing. Their work is all just so good. If I could get remotely close to these guys in terms of mastery, I'd be a pretty happy person.
What is your personal process to capture a great photo?
Honestly there isn't a personal process hah. As I have gotten more into photographing people the way I see it all is just about capturing authenticity. I don't plan shoots. I see them as a dance where I am getting to know someone and figure out how they move or what makes them works and vice versa. Once a good level of rapport has been established, creating magic isn't too far behind. Once I get into editing I view each photo as a story. My job is to figure out how to best tell that story. I err for extreme creativity when editing and I try to make it as different as I possibly can. So, my only process is to act as a conductor to creatively tell a story with each photo and help evoke an emotion from the audience.
On upcoming projects:
I actually do. I have been working on a personal project much like this called Espirer (espirer.com) where I am putting together a collection of story/interviews on young, millennial, creatives, all across the country, who are daring to forge their own path and create something of value for themselves. I have talked to people from multiple industries, doing vastly different things. I am super proud of where this project is going and want to show that creativity can be found in multiple disciplines and as young creatives we have the ability to create something of value if we believe in what we do.