On the eve of our big camera giveaway winner announcement (update: giveaway is over, see latest promotions on our Facebook page) we reached out to a prior year’s winner to see how she has faired since winning a brand new Canon 5D Mark III from BlueHillco.com. Rachel Coward is a photographer and editor at TulsaKids Magazine, an award-winning parenting publication in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Previously she was a staff photographer and editor at the Columbia Missourian and a photographer for the University of Missouri’s alumni magazine.
BL: You had your choice of a Nikon D800 or the Canon 5D Mark III. The prior year’s winner chose the Nikon. What made you choose the Canon?
Rachel: Tomayto, tomahto. My very first camera was my parent’s Canon AE-1 film camera, so Canon is what I learned on from the beginning. It really just comes down to personal preference. If I didn’t have brand loyalty, I’d still probably choose the Mark III because of the video capabilities.
BL: Where was your photography business at this time last year versus where it is now?
Rachel: A year ago I had just graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, where I studied photojournalism and loved every minute of it. Go Tigers! This time last year, I had just begun working as a full-time freelance photographer and my main gig was making pictures for Mizzou Magazine, the alumni magazine for the University of Missouri. I’m continuing to work as a freelancer now and my business has certainly grown.
I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to make it as a professional photographer in a very competitive market. There’s a lot of talent out there but your vision makes you unique. Being a photographer has offered me a lot of new and interesting opportunities. Recently, I shot portraits of a body builder for his upcoming competition, a cover for TulsaKids Magazine, and a feature for National Geographic Traveler. I try to challenge myself creatively as much as possible.
BL: Is there something you have learned from using the Canon 5D Mark III that you’d like to pass on to people maybe considering buying (or just renting) one for themselves?
Rachel: The images coming out of the Mark III are sharper and more vibrant than any camera I’ve used before. The LCD screen is bigger and brighter, the autofocus is an improvement over the Mark II, and you can push the ISO without worrying as much about noise. As a photojournalist, silent shooting mode is HUGE for me. I rarely take my camera off of silent mode. It’s amazing how much quieter the camera is, and it’s much less distracting in court rooms, weddings, or any event where you don’t want to draw attention to yourself.
BL: Did you get any nastygrams from people who didn’t win or was it all roses? Any advice for the impending winner of the next camera?
Rachel: I never in a million years thought I would win something this big. When I received the email that I had won, I didn’t even react at first. To be honest, I thought it was spam. Earlier that day, I received one of those ridiculous emails telling me I was the only living relative of a Nigerian prince, so I thought it was another hoax. I read it 4 or 5 times before I started to actually digest it. The next day, it was announced on Facebook that I had won, and BlueHillco linked to my Facebook photography page and my website. I received a lot of positive feedback and congratulatory messages from complete strangers. It was very exciting! One guy even reached out and gave me connections for freelance work after seeing my website. Of course, there were a few negative Nancys out there, too.
There were a couple of people who commented saying that I already had a nice camera and didn’t need another and that I’d probably use it as a paper weight. I think these assumptions came from the picture of myself on my website, where I’m photographing a football game and holding a Canon 1D and a 300mm lens, which was gear supplied to me by my job. They didn’t know that the gear in the photo wasn’t my personal gear, so I can understand why they were upset. That couldn’t have been more untrue, though. When I won, I had just graduated college and I wasn’t in a position to afford new gear.
I had student loan repayments on the horizon and was just starting out in the real world. It couldn’t have been better timing for me and I haven’t taken it for granted one day. It’s been glued to my side since the day I won and I’ve used the camera so much that I had to have the shutter replaced recently. Winning was just pure luck. I can’t say it enough now: enter contests! Someone has to win. It just happened to be me last year.
BL: What are your photographic goals for the future?
Rachel: It’s still early in my career, so there are a lot of things I’m eager to do. Essentially, I want to work towards creating a body of work that I’m proud of. I want to challenge myself as much as I can and push myself to see things differently. My goal has always been to be able to sustain a career in photography and there are a lot of ways to do that. In a world that’s flooded with imagery, we need talented and dedicated photographers now more than ever.
BL: What is your favorite lens to use on the 5D Mark III and why?
Rachel: This is a hard question. I always carry a 35mm f/1.4, which was my favorite for a while, but my favorite right now is the Canon 85mm f/1.2. That lens and a Mark III are a killer combination. I had never owned a lens with such a wide aperture and the bokeh is smooth and beautiful. It’s an incredible portrait lens but I’ve also challenged myself to use it in situations where I may not have before. Photographer Chip Litherland photographed a football game with a 50mm and blogged about it a few years ago. Something as simple as a lens change can help you refresh your perspective and challenge your eye.
Special thanks to Rachel Coward for catching up with us!
Last modified: July 7, 2021