An Ahwatukee Foothills resident is earning some recognition for his work behind the camera.
Mike Benedetto, a 29-year resident of Ahwatukee, was recently awarded the title of "Best Photographer- Events" by Arizona Foothills Magazine for 2011.
Benedetto, who moved to Phoenix from Chicago to escape the cold weather, said his passion for photography began in 2003 when he made the switch to digital cameras from film.
"Digital made it easy," he said.
More than simplicity, Benedetto said the transition allowed him much broader options and settings for his camera, each bringing a different effect to his shots. In addition, the ability to see his photos instantly allowed the photographer to work on camera techniques more quickly.
"Digitals today rival and in some cases beat film resolution, clarity, and the things you can do with them are phenomenal," he said.
The photographer said he began by shooting "macros," or close-ups. Eventually, he moved up to taking photos of events. Benedetto said he has been an event photographer for Arizona Foothills Magazine for approximately a year. His work has been in other publications and several of his photos will be featured on Home and Garden Television. Even now, though, he said he isn't trying to make a living off his photography.
"I don't do a lot of work," Benedetto said. "For me it's an advanced hobby."
Although Benedetto covers a variety of events across the Valley, the photographer said he tries to avoid shooting weddings. He said they are often too much pressure for him, and that those types of events generally prevent him from getting the candid shots he enjoys.
In addition to candid photos, Benedetto said he likes to take his time in order to get good shots. This stands in direct contradiction with the "shotgun" approach of taking a large number of photographs and hoping one will turn out well, Benedetto said.
"I'm actually trying to think about what I do and not just take a million photos," he said.
Jade Edwards, a friend of Benedetto's who first met him approximately four years ago, said the photographer's biggest asset is this attention to detail.
"I've seen how he takes pictures," Edwards, 47, said. "He takes his time. He looks into details."
A photographer herself, Edwards said the focus with which Benedetto takes his shots proves he knows what he's doing.
"For me as a photographer, I like that," she said.
Despite the photographer's hesitation to cover weddings, Edwards, who is getting married in several months, said she hopes the photographer will agree to work there.
"He's the only friend I'm going to ask to do that," she said.
Melinda Mehlau, Benedetto's girlfriend, said she enjoys spending time with him when he's working. His work occasionally gives her an opportunity to accompany him to special events, she said.
"Sometimes it works out quite well," Mehlau, 45, said, adding that occasionally Benedetto's love of photography can be overwhelming. Mehlau joked that, in 90 percent of the photos he takes of her, her eyes are closed or her tongue sticking out.
"He drives me a little crazy, sometimes," she said.
Despite the "candid" photography, Mehlau said she was excited for his "best photography" win.
"I think it's wonderful," Mehlau said. "I'm very proud of him."
Josh Snyder is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a senior at Arizona State University.