Arts & Entertainment

Trial and error: learning to master photography

Photos courtesy of Mark Patton

Thanks to smartphones and Instagram, almost anyone can take and share a decent-looking photo. But every once in a while, scrolling through social media, there are certain photos that just look different. Maybe it’s the lighting or the candid subject, but something about the picture has a higher level of quality. There is a definite difference between someone who wields a camera and someone who can be called a photographer. Sophomore Ad/PR major Mark Patton is one of the latter.

The 20-year-old Lexington, Kentucky, native found his passion for photography during his sophomore year of high school while enjoying a family vacation in Costa Rica.


Photos courtesy of Mark Patton

“I took pictures of pretty much everything,” said Patton. “From there I kind of learned to love it and … it just took off.”

Though he didn’t take an actual photography technique class until his senior year of high school, Patton was busy perfecting his own personal technique — relying on the “trial-and-error method.”

Since coming to Loyola, Patton has taken only one course for his minor in photography. His freshman year he took Photography I, which is basically “the darkroom stuff,” said Patton.

The darkroom process for creating photographs is time-consuming and may feel a bit archaic to our generation, which is used to the immediate printing services at local pharmacies. But Patton said he believes there is still value in the method.

“I think it makes you realize the importance of what you are doing because you are putting a lot of effort into it, so you want to make sure that it is good from the beginning,” he said.

Although Patton owns a Canon 6D, the digital camera he uses most often, he recently reverted back to the use of film, enjoying the aesthetic his Canon A-1 can produce. He even has his own film scanner that he uses to scan the images from the negatives directly onto his computer.

Recently, Patton also acquired the key to every hipster’s happiness: a Polaroid camera that his friends got him for his birthday.

Patton’s friends are often the focus of his photos, and people in general are his favorite subjects to photograph. But if faced with the opportunity to take a photo of something non-human, Patton has a few creative stipulations.



“If I do take a picture of a place, I like to think of it as something memorable,” he said. “But also if it’s something that is unique. I think that unique things are really beautiful.”

Remembering a time when he photographed a sculpture of two lions where one unfortunate feline had lost his head, Patton spoke about the importance of going with your photographic instinct.

“If it catches your eye — most of the time, take a photo of it,” he said.

But is it really that simple? Just point and shoot? There are hundreds of manuals and textbooks that offer techniques on how to correctly take a photograph. Whether it’s how to get flawless lighting or the mathematics behind the perfect angle and ISO setting (how sensitive the camera is to incoming light), there are a lot of technical aspects that need to be considered.

“I don’t want the photography people to come yell at me,” Patton joked. “But you can know all of the settings and you can know everything about your camera forwards and backwards, but if you can’t tell what looks good — you know how to work a camera, not how to take a picture.”

He admires the unique look of his favorite photographer and, in his opinion, the “pinnacle of awesomeness,” Annie Leibovitz — the woman behind the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts “Year of a Million Dreams” campaign series, which featured elegant photographs of various celebrities dressed as popular Disney characters.   unnamed-3

“All of her work is pretty much amazing,” he said. “Whenever I take a photo I’m like, ‘what would Annie do?’”

While he aspires to be more like Leibovitz, Patton also has his own aspirations in photography. Last summer he got his first taste of commercial photography, after having mostly focused on portrait work (including senior pictures, family photos and weddings) previously.

“We did a shoot for one of the [haunted] trails in the summer in promotion for it. We were in the middle of this giant field/farm taking pictures of werewolves and zombies,” he said. “So [it was] like the weirdest thing ever, but definitely something that will stick with me.”

As an Ad/PR major, with minors in photography and marketing, Patton is looking to incorporate his photography into a career that puts his Loyola  education to use.

“I always thought it would be really cool to work for some company designing the posters for movies,” he said.

Despite his love for movies and the movie industry, Patton has his reasons for staying out of videography.

“I think there is something more intrinsically valuable about a photo,” he said. “I think that a movie can convey a message perfectly, but something about a photo leaves it up in the air, which I really like.”

unnamed-1As for now, Patton hopes to acquire a summer internship that incorporates all his interests. In the meantime he is spending his free hours photographing himself.

“I don’t want to sound self-centered, but I feel like that’s the way you learn,” he said. “You are your biggest critic, so if you think you look bad in a photo, you learn certain tricks … and I feel like that’s been very instrumental.”

You can view Patton’s photography on his personal website,


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