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Photography students learn the business of taking photos

POSTED: November 13, 2017 2:00 p.m.
Tiffany King/

Local photographer Rayfield Gilyard (seventh from left) takes a photo with Liberty College and Career Academy photography instructor Caryn Brown’s (middle, in white) morning photography class, after sharing his experiences as a photographer and business owner.

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A picture is worth a thousand words and could open just as many doors of opportunity.

Photography students at the Liberty College and Career Academy Oct. 30 heard from local photographer Rayfield Gilyard, owner of Rayfield and Son’s Photography, who talked about his experiences as a photographer and business.

His son, Jalen Gilyard, a photographer, also shared advice.

Gilyard started taking photos in high school with a 35 millimeter camera and learned from hands-on experience. He took his camera everywhere, including abroad while serving in the military. While in Iraq, a friend looked at his photos and encouraged Gilyard to open his own businesses.

When he returned in 2006, he opened up his photography business. Gilyard retired from the military after 20 years.

The first years of business were tough, he said, because he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. One of his sons was playing soccer at Liberty County High School and he noticed that no one took photos.

“So I started to take photos, then soccer turned in basketball, football and softball,” Gilyard said. “I found myself not only loving to shoot still photos but my heart is with sports.”

Gilyard has shot for the Recreation Department, photographed Dale Earnhardt Jr. while standing along the track at NASCAR and Raekwon McMillan, now linebacker for the Miami Dolphins, when he was a student at LCHS. Ohio State University, where McMillan played collegiate football, contacted Gilyard asking to use his photos of McMillan.

 “Those kinds of doors opened for me,” he said “but you have to figure out what you like to shoot.”

Gilyard showed students his cameras, lenses, photos, talked about different types of photography, customer service, using social media and how to earn money.

“There’s a lot of money in photography. It depends on where you land, your work ethic and how bad you want it. Here at LCCA they’re giving you a foundation and when you walk into a job and people start asking you about depth of field and analyzing a photo, you can sit there and say hey I can do that,” Gilyard said.

He shared a story of a friend who persistently sent her resume and photos to the Florida Times-Union. She did it for almost 4 years and her package was always returned to her. Eventually she was hired and now shoots for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“She’s the first female to ever shoot professional football in Jacksonville on the sidelines. That inspires me that you should never give up. That’s where the camera will take you,” he said.

Students shared what careers they want to pursue. Careers included photography, fashion, forensic science, psychiatry, ghost hunting, business and music.

“If you’ve got a dream, follow it. You can do it. Don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s not going to happen. Look beyond where you’re at right now,” Gilyard said. “You can’t get sidetracked. What’s inside of you has worth to it.”

Photography is one of the new courses offered at the Career Academy.

Instructor Caryn Brown was excited about teaching the class. She had her own photography business, specializing in portraits and pregnancy photos, and taught English and communications in college. When the position at the Career Academy became available she said “it was like both loves coming together.”

Brown incorporates writing in the curriculum to help build students’ English skills.

“So not only are they learning the principals of visual art, the skills, knowledge and how to use the camera and edit, they’re also learning the background of photography,” Brown said.

Students will soon have 35 millimeter cameras, a semi-dark room and will build a pinhole camera.

LCHS sophomore and photography student Paden Fitzpatrick will participate in the SkillsUSA regional competition for photography in the spring. 

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