By Mr. Joe Walker
His clients call him the best. His peers call him “The Master”. And for 20 years both have been able to access the services of professional photographer Doug Sims via the Internet.
With an incredible career that spans nearly 4 decades, his “Doug Sims Photography” has benefitted from 2 decades online. DougSims2.com launched January 1, 2000. Here in 2020 it’s still going strong.
“Over the years I’ve done it all, seen it and created it all,” Sims reflects. “I’ve shot some of everybody. I’ve photographed hundreds of stars, entertainers, authors, and celebrities.”
Known professionally as a celebrity photographer, Sims takes a moment to name a few notable standouts. “Steve Harvey, Shuckey Duckey, Jagged Edge, Boyz II Men, Brian McKnight, Ice Cube, Ice T, Erykah Badu, Nikki Giovanni, President Barak Obama, Busta Rhymes, Method Man, Redman, Fred Hammond, Kirk Franklin, Gerald Albright, Najee, Boney James, Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks … a lot in Dallas, TX.”
Sims studied at The Art Institute of Dallas. He also got an education serving in the US Army. His camera enlisted with him.
“I’ve been to the Gulf War and I had my camera,” he recalls. “I was 19. I’ve always had my camera no matter where I was – Paris, Amsterdam, London. I actually learned how to do darkroom in Germany before I actually went to an art college. The photo lab was directly across the street from my barracks. I spent a lot of time there processing and developing film and learning how to shoot.”
A native of Muskegon that spent 9 years in Dallas, Sims returned to Michigan to start his business. He opened his photo studio in downtown Muskegon Heights where he regularly captured athletes, high school seniors, and families. Being proficient with graphic design allowed him to offer artistic enhancements to client photos.
Sims says his unique creations and posters where consumer favorites. “I did memorable State Championship posters with Muskegon Big Reds, Catholic Central Crusaders, Oakridge Eagles, you name it!”
Sims’ skill, creative flair and entrepreneurial success made him a welcomed member of Professional Photographers of America, National Association of Photoshop Professionals, and Great Lakes Institute of Photography.
The benefit of being with those organizations, he says, is to “keep me sharp and keep me up on my skills, and to pick the brains of the leading photographers in the industry. Styles are always changing, lighting techniques are always changing, equipment is changing. So, you have to keep up on your education.”
Now relocated to Grand Rapids, MI where he still operates a studio, Sims’ experience has also allowed him to integrate everything he’s learned into his lifestyle print publication Grander Magazine which launched in 2018. Sims also created and published LiquidAE.com, an arts and entertainment web magazine launched in 2014 that generated more than a million views a year for 3 consecutive years – 2016 – 2019. “It’s been a great ride,” Sims says. “I still love photography since the first day I picked up the camera.”
Sims’ son Dillion loves photography too. At 16-years-old, Dillion has his own equipment – lights, stands, and a preferred camera. “When he shoots, I am actually his assistant,” Sims says of his son. “It’s pretty fun! I get to watch him pick up the craft that I enjoy so much, and he enjoys it as well. He’s off and running, making a name for himself at an early age which is great to see.”
Sims, who grew up as an art student, used his first camera while in high school. Coincidentally, he was 16. At the time he was focused on painting, sketching, and creating with clay until he got introduced to the Cannon AE1. “It was my mother’s camera which she still has to this day and she refuses to give it to me,” he says with a laugh. “I fell in love with it! From that day on I’ve been the camera guy.”
“In today’s world everything is digital,” Sims says, “but a lot of times I can just look at the lighting situation and pick how to set the camera without being able to look at it.”
When Sims learned to use film, he says there was no looking at a screen to determine if the photo was usable or not. “You had to know the camera settings that you would use to obtain a decent image,” he says.
For 20 years now, anyone wanting to know the quality of Doug Sims’ images would only need to visit his website.
“Man, 20 years on the Internet …” Sims pauses. “I may have been one of the first Black-owned businesses in Muskegon to have a website! That’s a feat in and of itself. A lot of people are familiar with me. I’m a household name in Muskegon. I’m looking forward to knocking out another 20 years; no matter how old I get I’ll always work in photography doing something creative and staying in a creative space.”