MANILA, Philippines – After flunking art class, doing part time work as a janitor while in high school and being rejected by the college camera club and school paper, Glenn Palacio’s dream of becoming an international fashion and advertising photographer is finally starting to take shape.
Palacio, 26, is among the winners of Microsoft’s Upgrade My Business promo which will entitle him to a one-on-one mentoring session with Harvey Chua, General Manger of one of the country’s top advertising photography studios.
He will also receive a free copy of the New Microsoft Office, a Windows 8 device and a one-year subscription to Globe Tattoo Plan 999, greatly boosting his six-month old photography business in Cagayan de Oro that he runs from his bedroom.
“As a professional and an entrepreneur, I want to improve my business [and I want to] shoot for magazines, that way I can make a name for myself, and the business will grow,” Palacio said in an interview after the awarding ceremony.
His business includes photo shooting of weddings, debuts, birthday parties and he also does studio portraits. He has three digital cameras that were bought with the support of his parents and a laptop where he does post-production of all his photos.
“There aren’t many large clients yet, but it’s getting there,” Palacio said.
Palacio said that his love for photography first started when his father came home from Saudi Arabia and brought with him a film camera.
“I started there, I developed a liking for street photography, then my friends were telling me, why don’t you try portraiture, and they were paying me already so that’s when I fell in love with photography even more,” Palacio said.
“I’m a frustrated artist, I always wanted to draw but I can’t. I failed art class when I was in grade 5 because I couldn’t draw other than stick people,” Palacio recalled. He said his parents were even called by the school because of his failing grades.
That was just the first of his trials. During high school, his family encountered financial difficulties because his father did not have work for a few years.
“The only thing on my mind that mattered was to provide for my family,” Palacio said.
“After school I used to do janitorial services every day in a place just outside the school [and I] walked five kilometers every day to get to school and going back to our house,” he said.
Then during college his scholarship with CAP was beset with problems so he had to transfer from Ateneo de Cagayan-Xavier University to Informatics where he took up computer science double major in programming and multimedia. His relatives supported him financially.
In his first year he tried to apply for the camera club and the school paper but was rejected.
“I didn’t get accepted because they said I wasn’t good enough. It was a good thing that it happened because it opened my eyes that I really need to improve every day, in every photo,” Palacio said.
“So the hunger and desire for improvement started there, whether in taking photos or in post-processing,” he said.
Enjoying what he loves
After he graduated in 2008, he held various jobs from being a writer, graphic designer, search engine optimization administrator, to web developer until he eventually decided to quit and
go full time into photography in 2012.
“It was really a risk. And my parents kept blabbing: ‘photography is only for those in the park!’ That’s the kind of mentality of the older people, that it will not lead to anything,” Palacio
“A few months later, I [was hired to take pictures of] a wedding, which had a considerable budget. Ever since then they (parents) shut up about it (photography),” he said.
The amount that he earned in one day was equivalent to a month’s work in the office, he said. “And I’m enjoying what I love.”
Palacio said that there were times when he had to work for three days with little to no sleep.
“It became a fad in Cagayan de Oro before to do sunrise pre-nuptial photo shoots. So we did the shoot at 4 a.m., then by 9 a.m. there was another shoot for a birthday and in the afternoon there’s a debut, then I go home to edit and tomorrow there’s another shoot,” Palacio said.
“I think that’s the difference between a job and a career. In a job you have a lot of time, but when you have a career, it’s like there’s never enough time, you need sleep [and] you’d rather go to sleep than go out with your friends,” he said.
He also said it was an added difficulty in Cagayan de Oro (CDO) because there were so many photographers setting up their business.
“The competition in CDO is very tough, so many photographers have set up shop everywhere [and] every month you get to hear new names,” Palacio said.
“You always have to stay sharp to be ahead. You have to invest more in yourself. Even if the competition has an established name, you always have to offer something new on the table,” he said.
Pursuing his dream
When asked what his life ambition is, Palacio said: “To work in New York and to become an international photographer in the business of fashion advertising and portraiture.”
He also said that he wants to conduct photography seminars back home.
“I want to help out the younger photographers in Cagayan de Oro by trying to learn what I can and try to relay what I can to them by doing workshops and seminars,” Palacio said.
He believes that the mentorship he will receive from Chua will become a great inspiration for him to pursue his dreams and to grow his business.
“[Chua] has 40 years of experience, of course, that’s something that I would like to go into with her when it comes to the business, what not to do and what to do [in the business]. Those are the things that I really want to know,” Palacio said.
“Like what she said earlier, it’s not just about talent but it’s also about knowing your right perspective, equipment and knowing the business side,” he said citing her advice.
Other winners of the Microsoft Upgrade My Business Promo are Lileth Leynes Gonzales of “Sizzling Lomi Restaurant” and Jacklyn Colmenares Zapatos of “I’m Handmade by Mom” dolls.
Their mentors will be Janice Crisostomo-Villanueva of Mommymundo.com and Bam Aquino, founder of social enterprise Hapinoy.