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Student Profile: Daezerae Gil

If you’re looking to start a career in a creative and constantly evolving industry, look no further than the world of photography! Our Professional Photography Program will teach you everything you need to know about how to use your camera (and other equipment like lights, flashes, etc), how to compose and execute shots, use software like Photoshop, and even how to run a business.

Offered both in-person at our campus in Winnipeg, and online for students in Winnipeg and Ottawa, Photography is one of our most popular programs.

Daezerae Gil is a graduate of this fantastic program and is doing really great things with her education (including teaching at WIllis!). We were lucky enough to chat with her about her education and her adventure in photography including how Willis College has changed her life.

Willi College: Okay, so to start us off, can you please tell us, when did you first become interested in photography?

Daezerae Gil: So I actually, I first saw PrairieView Photography School, which is now Willis College, back in high school. They came to do a presentation at my school, and I was really interested in the program. I thought that there was a lot that they could teach me that other programs wouldn’t, but of course at the time my parents were like, no, we want you to go to university, get a proper degree first and do all that. But at that time the only thing I want to be as a photographer, but I went to university. I still have my random degree that I got, and right after university I applied [to photography school] and I got in, which was really great for me. 

And I just found that when I did go, it felt like I was with people who understood me and I was like, okay, so you guys, you get it, you know why I need to be a photographer and what this all means. And I just felt I was with my people and, I don’t know, it was just such a great experience.

Wow. Amazing. I mean, that’s exactly what we look for, right. Being part of the program, what new skills do you gain from the program here at Willis?

I didn’t know what I was hoping to get out of it. I just wanted to become better. And I wanted to be a better photographer. I knew that you had a film program. I knew that you had a little bit of video in there, that there was just kind of a mix of everything. And I just wanted to learn not only how to properly use my camera, but also how to create those breathtaking images.

I wanted to learn how to work with people, work with clients, talk to people because I was coming from a completely different space. I went to university for four years for criminal justice. So it was just a completely different space. I was constantly looking at social media, seeing the photographers that came out of the program, and I was like, you know what? This is more and more, where I want to be. I didn’t even bother looking at other schools or anything like that because I knew that if I go here, this is where I’m going to find my people.

I even loved where the school is located in Winnipeg, in The Exchange, the art center here in Winnipeg. And also knowing that they had smaller classes was great because I would get that one-on-one time. I can do more with that. Because the classes were so small. You made these friends who knew you and knew the type of style you were looking for. And even to this day, I still talk to all those people.

Woah! We’re so happy that you had such a positive experience. We think Willis is a pretty special place too. What advice would you give someone who is looking to enter the program?

I would say, see if you can get a tour of the school, talk to some of the instructors beforehand, talk to other students that have graduated from there. I know that even as somebody who went through the program, we’re going to have different experiences. But there is opportunity throughout the program. People will reach out and ask, do you have volunteer photographers? Do you have people that you could recommend? I’ve gotten a few jobs just from staying connected with the team there.

You can only learn so much of what you read, but actually getting to know people and talking through their experiences and how they felt throughout the program; I think that’s the best way to do it. That’s what I do in any type of work.  I talk to the people who have worked with these places. If I am setting up a shoot, collaborating with a client, or collaborating with a studio, I’m talking to not only the studio or the people I’m going to be working with directly, but talking to the people who have used that same studio looking at things online, whether it be reviews or just other photos taken in that space. And so I think that it’s really important that anyone looking to go into the program really talk to everybody around it and not just base your decision off of what you’re seeing on the screen, because it’s so much more than that.

Wow. I’m getting chills from just that. That’s great! What excites you about being a photographer or working in a photography space?

I love being a photographer because I love hearing stories. I was the kid in class who got put in the corner of class, so I wouldn’t talk to anybody. I will try my best to find a connection with whoever I’m shooting, because I want to know about them. And I want to know how best to capture them in the stories. If it’s bringing my pug on a shoot and having the child pretend that it’s their dog, then I’ll do it. I will do anything because my job as a photographer is to make sure that you feel comfortable and to make sure that you feel good about yourself when I am shooting and have that come out in your photos. 

So as far as what excites me as a photographer, it’s really the people that I’m shooting. The clients I’m working with. Even if it’s product photography, if it’s something that you have made with your hands, I know what that feels like. I know what it feels like to be proud of something. And I think that is the most exciting part of my job; being able to share that moment with these people.

Amazing. I guess one last question I have is looking at the faculty and your teachers did anything stand out going through there? Did any of that extend now that you’ve graduated and you’ve grown?

So right after I graduated from Willis, I tried to branch out. I was like, you know what, I’m going to have my own business and I’m going to work this through. I had one corporate client that worked out really well for me. And then after that, I just had little things here and there, but ultimately in my mind, the way I saw it, I saw it as a failure.

I was looking at my peers going, hey, they’re doing so well, what is it that I’m doing wrong? And how can I get to that level? And so it was about talking to them. And being in that space, but even having some of the staff reach out to be like, hey, do you want to second shoot this for me? Do you want to come with me? Having people like Lauralee from the school, say hey, I think that you might be interested in this, so I’m going to forward this to you if you’re okay with that. And I’m like, yes! And I just joined the faculty this year, a couple of months ago, and it was just a simple little, hey, would you be interested in this?

And now, I have students who will reach out to me after the fact. And they’re like, hey, I’ve learned so much in this class. What do you think of this photo? I’m more than happy to give feedback on that. Absolutely. And I know that with any of the other instructors as well, if I were to send them a photo and say, hey, do you mind giving me some feedback? How do you think this looks? Do you think that we should try different things here and there? I know that would be welcomed feedback.

I said, this whole experience being with Willis from graduating, to teaching now it’s just come full circle. And we’ve really built that community. And I think that community is what makes us better in our craft. That makes us better photographers, that makes us better instructors, that makes us better business owners, is just having that community to come back to and really working together.

Become a professional photographer with Willis College!

If you’re passionate about people, art, and creativity and have a genuine interest in photography, Willis College’s photography program is the perfect place to start towards reaching your goals. Reach out and get started on your journey TODAY!

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