Starting out and charging what you're worth
Angelique style had asked how you got started in weddings and did you assist someone or did you just go for it right out of the gate um I did assist someone I've known since I was a little child I've always wanted to be a photographer I always want to be a photographer of love pictures when I was a little kid my parents want to keep me out of trouble and I was always in trouble always I've always been that kid who was just people stick their heads at and when they found that when I go to visit their family friends that if they sat me down on the couch and gave me their wedding albums I can be content for hours looking at pictures I've always loved him and to this day as soon as I walk into someone's home the first thing I do is I go and I look at all the pictures on their walls if they have wedding albums laying out I'm looking at their pictures their albums and such because I love pictures of people I think it just tells us so much about them and I just think that photographs are very...
special to me I got married in nineteen seventy five married my high school sweetheart and had a friend with a good camera take my wedding pictures as many of us have done and they were terrible and I will never forget how I felt when I sat down on my couch and looked at my pictures for the first time I'll never forget it and is important as those pictures were then let me tell you and I'm not trying to back up the hearse when your parents are deceased your grand parents are deceased your sister is deceased and many of the people that you have loved and known throughout your life are no longer around that's when pictures become treasures to you because that's what we have left of those people and so I think that it's really important for us to document you know those wonderful people that come in and out of our lives and that I think family pictures especially are extremely important not tow us as much as they are to our children and the generations that come after us and the cool thing that we have the ability to do today that they didn't have one hundred years ago when we look at pictures of our great grandparents from one hundred years ago we could tell by looking at them very few things with you tell what they wore we could tell maybe whether they were richer poor but we could tell nothing about their personalities you see today we have the wonderful privilege of not on ly documenting what a person war on their wedding day and you know the fact that they had a wedding cake and that they danced at the reception we have the opportunity and the privilege of being able to document who they were and all of the wonderful nuances that made them those quirky people that they were, you know, like grandpa that's just dancing with a lamp shade on his head, out in the middle of the dance floor or father that is break dancing, you know, spinning like a top on the dance floor at his son's wedding. I mean, there's all these crazy things that happen at weddings that because we are where we are in the scheme of time, we have that wonderful privilege of going farther and documenting the human spirit, not just the shell of that person. So that's, how I kind of got started, I did apprentice under a local photographer and and let me tell you a little bit about that experience because it really is who I am today. When I moved to california in nineteen eighty two, I started off as an executive secretary, that was before spell check and anybody that knows me knows I can't spell worth a darn and but I'm not stupid. I just wasn't interested in that, and I worked for this company in san francisco for a year, and my boss loved me because I'd go get him coffee, I was from the south house from george, and I'd come in in the morning hey, would you like you some coffee and he would go? I love that girl it's awesome, you know, because I'd go do all the stuff that none of the other women in the office would do, but that only lasted about a year, and then he really figured he needed me learn how to type so beds in the last one, but thankfully, by that time, I had a girlfriend who worked for a photographer, and she said, bambi, I know you have a good camera and you like to take pictures. My photographer I'm working for is looking for someone to photograph weddings. Why don't you go talk to him? So this was truly a fundamental moment in my life. I have pivotal moments in my life when my life changed because of the actions that I took. Absolutely they changed. I'll never forget it. I was it was dawn gerhard. He was a photographer in walnut creek, california, and he had an upstairs studio and he had pictures on the wall as you as you walked upstairs. So I had my little terrible portfolio underneath my arm, and as I walked up the stairs to his studio, I promise to god, this is exactly what happened. I put my hand on the door knob of his studio space to walk in and I was so terrified that he would turn me down. I took my hand off the door knob, and I ran down down the stairs and out the building, and I went all I went down the block, I was so afraid that he was going to say no, and then my next steps are why I'm here because I turned around, I sucked it up and I just said, hey, you know what? Being the worst thing he can say is no, thank you. So what? I'm not going to get cancer for that? Just get, you know, suck it up, swallow your pride and just move forward. And that is what I've done my entire life is I just take an focus on where I could possibly go, and I do not get hung up on what could have been and what didn't happen because if you don't ever try, you are never going to get anywhere. You can be assured if I did not walk through that door, I would not be a photographer today. And who would I be blamed for that? Well, you know, you know, you know, I did I didn't pursue that what's my excuse. I got afraid and we all get afraid at times, so I literally walked to the door, I sucked it up, I ran up the steps and I walked through the door and I said, hi, I'm bambi cantrell I'm here to talk to you about coming to work for you. He hired me right on the spot. But how could he not? I told him I do it for free, but I did it. I worked for him for a year without pay, but I'm telling you that was the best year of my life and that's. Why? My motto is humility over ability, because if that man told me to go park the car for him, I parked his car. If he wanted me to jump jump, I said, how high do you want me to go? Because I really wanted to learn and I'm one of those people. I couldn't learn it from a book, I couldn't do it, and I just could not deal go from plan a to I couldn't do that, so I needed to see it and I carry his equipment every single wedding that he did for a year. I schlepped his bags, I made myself so valuable to him. That he had no choice he didn't want to lose me so he had to hire me and that's why I say humility over ability I did not know in f stop from a bus stop I'm telling you I was such a complete green person but I made myself valuable I would think ahead of time what do I need to do to make him happy what's going to really help out in this scenario what would help him out right now so he's going to think back and go man am I glad I got her I cannot let her go I cannot let that woman leave my building I gotta pay her to work for me and that's exactly what I did. I worked for him for a year without pay and I did anything that he wanted me to do include clean the bathrooms because it was that important to me to learn my craft and sometimes especially some of the kids coming from school and I'm not knocking formal education there are many, many things I wish I had gone to university to learn, you know business especially but the one thing that I find that seems to be were a lot of people that are the more experienced photographers that have it schooling they think that that's it that that's what they need to learn that that's it that's all they need when in reality there are so many other more valuable things that you need to learn, like how to communicate with people, how to maneuver among people in a very soft sided way, to get them to do what you want them to do without looking like the queen, you know, nasty person of the universe, learning how to have the art of communication with people, and learning how to knowing when to back off and knowing when it's time to put the camera down, because there are times when it's appropriate for us to back off, and we need to give him breathing room. And so I would say to those younger in experience ones, suck it up because you may know one f stop from a bus stop and you may know all that technical stuff, but what you miss, what you don't have is you do not have experience in the real world, and you see, the real world is photographing perfectly under the set of circumstances that you are given that's the difference in school, we learnt theory, we learn perfect lighting, absolutely perfectly wayto light any object, anything at all, how perfectly photoshopped images and how to do this or that, but what we miss and what we what is really important that we need to do in spreading our education and learning mohr is learning the finesse learning went to back off and learning went okay, I only have this much time I only got five minutes and I can't don't have that two hours that I thought so those are some of the other things that we have to learn that I think are really really important so sorry for that long winded common dissertation on that but but I tell you what I know for myself that I absolutely would be where I'm at today if I didn't do two things if I listened to negative people who said you can't do that when I got started in photography there were like three women photographers in in the photo business there was none of us there were no women it was all men and if I listened you know to the negative talk about you can't do that your woman or you know, you know you need to raise your family you need to do this that which I did I did both of them and I did them successfully and I'm very grateful um that I have a wonderful wonderful child and family but you know, listening to people who are negative you'll never charge that much you'll never get that much when I started charging when I started realizing that I was going to have to make an actual living out of being a photographer my first year I did exactly what everybody else did which was I called all the photographers in town said hi I'm getting married could I get a copy of your price list? I did it I'm sorry to tell you that's what did it? I did it just like everybody else has done. The problem with that mentality is that's what everybody does and so we're all starving to death not because because we we don't want to talk about money photographers or artist and so we think that that other photographers already done all the leg work on learning about how pricing things goes and when in reality all they did was call up another photographer figure that out that way so they did the same exact thing and so the first year I was in business I literally could afford to hire myself and I was so cheap that I literally almost went out of business I was literally starving to death and if I had listened to my old boss who said nobody will ever get that much money to photograph a wedding nobody everyone guess who's not in business today he's no longer a photographer see because it was a logical decision he was basing it on logic and weddings are any portrait is not a logic based this is not logic you cannot look at it logically you have to look at it emotionally and if you get your client emotionally involved with your pictures you want that heart to override the logic process logic process is three dollars and twenty five cents is what I took you know what that it by ten cost me to have printed you know oh my lord, if I charge two hundred twenty five dollars that oh my goodness you know everyone's so we'll have all of somebody will say you know, baby, you know I love your photography but you know, I could get I can get a photograph for, you know, a dollar seventy nine at costco and minor a lot more money and I say to them, this is exactly what I say and you know what? I could give you a photograph for like, seventy nine cents would you like me to give you one? Yeah, absolutely love so I walk in my office, I get a piece of photographic paper, I bring it out there and I hand it to them and it is blank and you know why? Because the paper is seventy nine cents or a dollar twenty nine, but guess what? If you want my image on that paper, you want one of my pictures it's going to cost x amount of dollars to get that because you can't buy me for seventy nine cents, you can get that blank piece of paper, but you cannot get my talent for that you can't do that, you can't get it because this is our art form it's not you're not buying a carton of eggs in the grocery store, but it is a little bit like buying free range chicken. Think about it. Isthe it's totally like buying for your range chicken. Would you agree? Thinking about how brilliant is that marketing? Ok, you go to the grocery store you can buy, you know, foster farms, chickens that are supposed to be not shot with hormones and everything, right? And they don't they plump them up with water and everything, and they're like, you know what? A dollar a pound or two dollars a pound or whatever, but if you want the free range chickens and those are the ones that get to run around the yard all over the place and do whatever they want, right, the free range once that still end up dead, you know, you know, then you then you have to pay like ten dollars a pound, right? We see that's what I thought I decided I wanted to do, and I literally went, I reinvented myself in one year I absolutely, absolutely reinvented myself. In one year I went from being the cheapest photographer in town that I could afford to hire myself to being the most expensive photographer in my community, what did I do? I just made the decision that I was no longer going to work for free, and so I went to my studio, and I told my system that says, you know what? I've decided that it's, not about what you give people it's about what they it's about perceived value are a pair of gucci sunglasses, really worth three hundred dollars, for a pair of plastic sunglasses I wanted to gucci, and I bought a pair of sunglasses, let me tell you should go there and buy a pair of sunglasses and say they're a gift, I can promise you that will be the most beautifully wrapped package you have ever seen. When you go to the gucci store, it is gorgeous the way that they package it, but you see what they're doing is they're validating you, buying that beautiful pair of sunglasses they're making you feel special, and then I won't wait a minute that paris sunglasses is probably, you know, ten dollars, and you could go down on forty seventh and broadway in new york city are no twenty ninth and broadway in new york, so he could buy you a pair of fake gucci sunglasses or a fake louis vuitton handbag, right? And it looks just like the real thing, but would you dare give that to your wife as a gift for hot for christmas? No yeah, and you better not buy her a cubic zirconia ring for for a wedding present every you know, for you know, well, you know, you wouldn't do that anyway, mike, but the moral of the story is that there are times in our lives when it's appropriate and it makes us feel better to spend more money. I think I mentioned this last night a little bit about how important it is. And so it's funny. My photography buddies when I raised my rates substantially the first time, the first time I raised from my top coverage and I hope I can talk about that or not, but just a lot like in the was a fifteen thousand banana range. Okay, I want you to know that every one of my photography buddies that this show that because they would always come up and still my pricing they came up to me afterwards and they're laughing at me, baby, you know you're you know you're right somebody here is going to pay that much to hire you, right? Well, you know what I found out I found out something really funny by may I looked at once by july I booked it twice. Do you know why I booked it? Because it was in there and it's been my experience that if you want to hire the if you want to, if you want to hire, if you want people to hire you that have money and that have you have that kind of, you know, mohr influence have more, more dollars to spend there's no way in the world, they're going to hire you if you were to cheat, because if they're spending more on their wedding favors that on you, they wouldn't even consider it because you are there's two, your two chief there's something wrong with that picture? And so, you know, I feel that if you produce a unique product, I'm not saying you have to be the very best photographer in the universe, but you'd better no one have stopped from a bus stop, and you better be really good at communicating and and creating unique images and then charge a decent amount to make a very nice profit for your family and, you know, let let those people that want to do the shooting burn kind of thing, let him charge five hundred dollars, you don't want that client anyway. That's not the person you want because that person is the same person that's going to ask you to make those stupid christmas cards for them for three dollars and twenty five cents or some crazy amount.