Mark Toal - PortraitMark Toal is a longtime photographer and Lensbaby enthusiast. He shoots with all the latest Lumix Micro 4/3rds cameras as part of his role in Panasonic’s sales division. We caught up with him to hear how he got interested in photography and what he sees as the future of camera design.

Getting Started – When did you first become interested in photography?

My interest in photography probably began 100 years ago when my grandfather went to work for George Eastman at Kodak. Almost everybody in my family worked at Kodak at some point in their lives. It’s just in my blood.

My father brought a twin lens reflex camera home from work and I haven’t been without a camera since!

As someone who has been in the camera industry for a long time, what do you see as the future of photographic gear?

Since I work for Panasonic and shoot with small Mirrorless cameras I see the future going the way of the small camera. People want to have a camera with them all the time but a camera phone doesn’t have the quality or lens choices to be creative. I also think cameras will have to become more Internet and app friendly to compete with phones.

Will larger sensors and brighter apertures (or other “pro” features) become more common?

I think cameras will either be large professional full-size sensor models or small interchangeable lens compacts. Larger apertures won’t be as important with increased high ISO quality in cameras.

Advice – with technology improving quickly, what can pro photographers do to distinguish themselves from everyone else with a camera?

That’s the hardest thing these days. With everybody shooting and sharing photos it’s extremely hard to be original. I try to never shoot or show something that I’ve seen before.

Avoid the cliché photo but always carry a camera.

What’s one thing you’ve learned that has most improved your photography?

When I learned to stop shooting photos that I’ve seen before. Looking for unique, interesting views and subjects allowed my photography to improve and I became much more excited about shooting. This is one of the many reasons I love Lensbaby lenses: They let me see the world in a unique way.

Nostalgia Time – tell us about your first camera.

My first camera was a red plastic toy that I talked my mother into buying at the grocery store when I was 12 years old. She took me to get some film and the salesman said I had a choice of 24 or 36 exposures. He told me it took him an entire year to shoot the 36 exposure film, so I chose the 24 exposure roll and shot it all in one day!

railroad tracks under hazy skiesCafe Scene PhotoFighter-Plane_Mark-Toal

More of Mark’s work can be seen on his blog or Flickr page.

Find interviews with Kevin Kubota, Plywerk and more in our Photo Industry Friends category page.