Knoxville-based travel photographer Corey Wolfenbarger worked on four continents with several popular companies. He still does not understand how he earned his opportunities.
“Sometimes you do not know how these things happen,” Wolfenbarger said.
Wolfenbarger, 24, visited the University of Tennessee Wednesday, Jan. 31 for a talk in Lindsey Young Auditorium at John C. Hodges Library. He shared his photography journey and a few photo editing tips from apps on his smartphone.
Wolfenbarger got his start on Instagram and Tumblr in 2012. Now, his portfolio contains photos from companies like TOMS, Urban Outfitters and Holiday Inn.
Equipped with only his iPhone 5, he set his sights on the Blue Ridge Mountains and took as many photos as possible.
“I was sharing them on Instagram and getting twenty likes,” Wolfenbarger said. “Nobody was hyping my stuff but I was still really hyped on it.”
Wolfenbarger’s life revolved around photography during his college career. He often skipped class.
“I decided that if I took photos at sunrise or sunset then my photos were going to be way better,” Wolfenbarger said. “So, I would make the executive decision to not go to class anymore.”
In 2014, he decided to drop out of college. He moved in with his parents and turned his scope to the Great Smokey Mountains. Almost every day, Wolfenbarger took trips to the mountains. His photos gained popularity on social media.
New Year’s Eve 2015, something clicked to Wolfenbarger.
Surrounded by talented and successful photographers, he knew he could make a living by taking photos.
“I saw that if I work as hard as I can and stay humble and realize that I don’t know everything… give it my all and that I can do this and people will pay me eventually,” Wolfenbarger said. “If it was little at the time or whether it as nothing. I can make a living with this.”
By 2016, Wolfenbarger’s popularity increased, and he received requests to take photos. All he had at the time was his iPhone.
“I just had an iPhone,” Wolfenbarger said. “I was not going to out myself so I would make up some obscure excuse why I could not do it.”
He decided if he wanted to receive serious pay-work, he should buy a DSLR camera. New technology became a setback for Wolfenbarger because he only shot photos from his iPhone prior to requests. He knew he needed to progress.
“The DLSR was terrifying for me,” Wolfenbarger said. “I did not know how they worked. I did not know how I was going to edit my photos.”
Wolfenbarger initially struggled to learn the basics like aperture and shutter speed.
“When it clicks for you, it’s the most beautiful moment of all time,” Wolfenbarger said.
Wolfenbarger received many opportunities to work with companies in 2016, a “dream year” full of travel and unexpected chances.
Wolfenbarger continues to learn and strives to improve his photography. He is currently working several booklets and plans to travel to Yosemite National Park.
“It is very frustrating and it does have a lot of setbacks, but it is where I am at in my work right now in my photography,” Wolfenbarger said. “I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon.
Edited by Chelsea Babin
Featured Photo by Sage Davis