Soo...forever ago we posted our first interview aaaand now months later, we're officially posting our second interview. I really enjoy learning/getting inspired from other creatives, especially when the topic is photography; both Michael and I love collaboration, and we think it's essential to the creative process.
But on to the featured artists...Kelsey and I were honestly nothing more than acquaintances in college. She was roommates with one of my best friends and so we just knew each other by association. The two things that I remember most about her was that she loved "I Love Lucy" and that she loved taking pictures. Anyway, towards the end of college we didn't talk much at all and it wasn't until recently that a friendship budded, thanks to our mutual love for photography. Even though we're far apart geographically speaking, it's nice to have someone to talk to about this stuff, and she and her husband, Blaine, have really been an inspiration for me and Michael in terms of business and creativity.
So, without further adieu, I introduce to you the master minds behind Wright Photographs: Blaine and Kelsey Wright. Aren't they cute?
PRELIMINARY | just the intro
Q. How long have you two been photographers?
A. I (Kelsey) have been photographing anything and everything since I was little, but that was all with disposable cameras and such. Side note: I actually won a photography contest in first grade with a disposable! During high school I would talk friends into going out with me on photo “adventures”…it was quite fun but nothing too serious. In college, my parents bought me my first nice camera and I started doing some projects on the side and on weekends and it just grew from there. Blaine was never really into photography before we started doing this together. He was really into graphic design, so he would edit the pictures I shot. When we did our first wedding, we thought it was probably time he learned how to shoot. He’s picked it up extremely fast, and we have been photographing together for almost five years now!
Q. Where are you centrally located?
A. We are located in Champaign, IL. We serve east central Illinois and central Indiana primarily. We love to travel anywhere and we’ve had the opportunity to shoot from Delaware to Tennessee thus far.
Q. How long have you had Wright Photographs?
A. We have had Wright Photographs a whopping 3 weeks now! Ha! But seriously, our previous name was Studio Alive Photography. At the time this was chosen I never believed we would come this far. I thought it was all just a hobby still. Blaine picked out the name and drew up the logo and we went with it. We weren’t even engaged yet! Up until a month ago, we have been working other full time jobs (in my case) or going to school full time (in Blaine’s case). Since Blaine has gradated and we have made the leap to do this full time we needed something more “us.” That’s the best way to describe it. Wright Photographs describes us much more accurately as the artists we are and still hope to become; it’s also something I can grow old with!
Q. Describe your style.
A. The way I like to describe our style is organic. We don’t try to pose too much when it comes to lifestyle sessions. I mean there are times that call for poses, don’t get me wrong, but we try to get those moments whether posed or not that are so natural and raw; my goal is that there’s no trying or forcing within the relationships we photograph. But we also like to shoot artsy too; we like to create really dramatic images between people and couples especially when it just feels right.
GEAR | a lot of photographers like to talk gear…I know Michael does, so let’s get to it
Q. What kind of camera bags do you guys use?
A. We use the ThinkTank camera bag; it’s really a suitcase that I cannot even lift. I also use a Shootsac (by Jessica Claire) at weddings. I never have pockets and I’m always in need of another card. It gets heavy by the end of the day but it’s nice to leave the suitcase in the car. The ThinkTank is nice to have though because it holds all of our equipment securely in one place.
Q. Tell me what’s in your bag?
A. We have a Canon 5d and Canon 5d Mark II as our primary camera bodies. I use the 5d…for some reason I just love it, and Blaine uses the 5d Mark II. I will say the 5d Mark II handles low light WAY better. Our main lenses we use are the 70-200 2.8 IS II, 24-70 2.8, Sigma 50mm macro,and fisheye lenses. Also, tons of 4G and 8G CF cards, Speedlite flashes, pocketwizards, and some backup camera bodies and lenses.
Q. What’s your ‘go-to’ lens?
A. Mine is the 70-200 and Blaine’s is the 24-70.
Q. What do you have your eye on right now? Another lens? Camera body? Accessory?
A. Unrealistically, the 1D Mark IV and the 200 f/2 and realistically, another 5d Mark II, a 90 tilt shift, and an 85 mm.
ADVERTISING | some would say that advertising is the most challenging—yet most important part of owning your own photography business.
Q. You recently relocated and up-and-moved your business, so tell us a little bit about your new advertising strategy.
A. We moved closer to a market where we were already known and where a majority of our business already existed. We are in a city about a half hour away from there so our goal is to gain awareness in this market and get involved in the community. As for advertising, we will keep that to a minimum with occasional mailers for seasonal promotions and maybe a Facebook ad or two. As for the rest of our promotional strategy, we will try to stay on top of social media and make sure our name is getting heard in the community.
Q. Have you found that your advertisements have yielded any kind of return in the past?
A. Up until this month, we have done virtually no advertising what so ever. But other than advertising, word of mouth has brought in the bulk of our business. We try to keep up with our blog and Facebook page to help increase the word of mouth.
Q. If there has been ONE method of advertising that has been the best for you, what would that be (ie. word of mouth, social networking, print materials, running special deals, etc.)? On the flip side, has there been one method of advertising that you could officially call a “waste” in your experience?
A. The best method of advertising for us is word of mouth. It has been since we started photographing and even now as we are intentionally advertising, I still believe word of mouth will bring us the most appropriate clients for our business.
Q. What’s your experience with bridal shows or bridal expos? Do you find that they bring you a lot of business, or is it not worth the time/investment?
A. Ohhh my! Our first bridal show we worked SO SO SO SO hard to make everything perfect. I mean we created so much stuff…samples, info sheets, and on and on. We even had tables, couches, lamps, everything! It was not quite what we expected it to be. It rained that day and most brides are browsing just to get ideas. I wouldn’t say it was a waste of time but I don’t think I would put it as my number one priority. It’s a good way to meet people in the community, raise brand awareness and so on, but I wouldn’t expect to bring in a bunch of new clients. This may only be true for where we were at the time though.
ORGANIZATION | let’s face it—you HAVE to be organized if you have your own business. Honestly, we have found this part to be somewhat of a challenge.
Q. Enlighten the readers a little bit with your organization process as far as the “paper work” goes—even if you do everything electronically, do you have a preferred piece of software that helps you to “file” everything and stay on track with all the processes?
A. This is something we are STILL working on. It’s my least favorite task but as you said, it’s a MUST! We haven’t even had time to go on dates the past three years we’ve been so busy. We’ve done a pretty pathetic job when it comes to organizing, unfortunately. I am still working on it right now but it’s going to be organized for the 2011 tax year for sure! I have found, for us, that because we traveled so much for sessions in 2008-2010 that it was wise to keep a commission of every wedding or session we did. It was just a small piece of paper that I filled in with basic client info and then it stated whether we traveled to the session and where it was. I don’t think we will be traveling as much now but I still plan on doing this so I can stay organized. We are currently using ShootQ as our means of filing electronically. It’s a learning process, which honestly I haven’t quite figured out yet but like I said, I will! So for now, I am glad I still have everything the “old fashioned” way, with paper, order forms, file cabinet, and folders.
Q. How do you keep track of all your different post-work processes with different clients/projects? Do you use charts or big calendars, do you just keep all the deets in your head, or do you use any online organizer?
A. I keep track of all the editing I have to do right after a session or wedding in my head, after that it goes on the calendar on the computer for Blaine to edit the special ones. All other related business tasks, I usually just type in what needs to be done for the week at the beginning of each week (or as it comes up), splitting it evenly between the days. I keep all sessions on the same calendar. We color code things too, whether it’s business, personal, Blaine, or Kelsey related. We have a small folder system that sits out all the time for orders. Top bin is always “orders to be placed”, the second shelf is “orders ordered”, and last shelf is “orders to be delivered.” After orders are delivered they go into the file cabinet.
Q. Let’s be honest—RAW images are not small at all. Do you have any tips for image archiving? How long do you keep a client’s images? Do you ever delete any archives after a certain period of time?
A. Oh, RAW! We get rid of RAW the moment I have exported, what we call, the originals. The originals are the images I have chosen to keep; these will be the images the clients have to choose from. I have done basic editing to these, exported them, and marked the ones that Blaine will special edit. These then become the client’s proofs. We immediately put originals onto a hard drive (we have a Drobo). After Blaine has edited some special images those go onto the Drobo as well. We leave the image files on our computer until the client’s orders have been placed, then they are only on the Drobo. Eventually the Drobo will fill up and we will start burning all images to disc and store them in a fireproof safe, and just the most recent files will stay on the Drobo for easy access.
PROCESS OF PHOTOGRAPHY | no two photographs are the same—even from the same photographer. That’s what’s so awesome about this genre of art.
Q. What is your preferred piece of editing software?
A. For editing, we use Lightroom and Photoshop.
Q. Do you have a ‘go-to’ post-processing move?
A. The Rock’s “The People’s Elbow” works best for us. Post processing consists of RAW tonal color adjustment and a few of Blaine’s favorite secret recipes in Photoshop for our vintage vibe.
Q. I love the locations you guys use in your shoots. Can you describe your ‘Location Scouting’ process (anything specific that you look for, etc.)?
A. We love to drive around and look for places to shoot! We see potential in almost everything, I think. We gravitate towards open areas and urban areas a lot. Also, my dad’s a farmer and has a lot of land and knows a lot of people so we use those spots sometimes too! It’s great. We really try to think of what works for each client too. We get to know their personalities and choose a location accordingly. We also try to be really accommodating for kids; we cannot expect to shoot a one year old in towering grasses…they HATE it! For weddings, it’s a lot trickier. We just have to work with what’s there so we pray for awesome lighting, because it brings the FABULOUS. Overall, lighting trumps location, but we try to find BOTH as much as we can.
Q. When shooting as a team, what is your process of distributing the shooting load between the two of you? Is one of you better at composition, and the other one better with tiny details or are you both awesome at everything?
A. Blaine always shoots the details at weddings. The only detail I focus on at weddings is the wedding dress before the bride puts it on. Other than that, Blaine just does a super job with details, I think it’s because he’s more patient. At weddings, it’s a given that he’s taking detail images and I will be taking all family and bridal party images. He still shoots family and bridal party while I do, but he’s just waiting for the perfect candid shot, while I am making everything a bit more formal. We kind of just know the types of angles and shots one another will get. I am known for getting a lot of up close ones while he tends to shoot the more far away (and because I have a tele lens and he has a wide lens), but not always! We just crazily shoot everything together.
Q. Do you currently outsource your RAW images for formatting/exposure correction? If not, have you thought about doing that?
A. We’ve outsourced once! We used Fotofafa. We really liked them and it was a great experience. We needed to catch up desperately during the move, our full time jobs, and photography. We are back to doing it ourselves currently but that’s one area we are okay with outsourcing if we have to. We will see how much time it takes when we are really booming.
DELIVERY OF PRODUCT | there are so many unique methods to deliver the final product to you clients—fancy disc packaging; cute little flash drives w/custom logo on it; etc.
Q. What have you found to be the easiest way to deliver your images to your clients?
A. Depending on the session type (out of town/local) or wedding, it really varies. We do not give any digital files for lifestyle sessions; therefore, all client orders are packaged “pretty” like with materials resembling our organic feel. As for large products (like gallery wraps and custom framed images) we usually deliver those. We try really hard to meet up with clients to deliver orders, have them pick them up here at our place; anything other than mail. We do mail smaller prints and we, again, just make them “pretty”. As for weddings, we just started giving digital files with the delivery of an album; we put those on custom DVDs in tin cases.
Q. Do you guys use an online image gallery (such as Pictage)?
A. We do provide both our wedding and lifestyle clients with online proofing. We do an album consultation for wedding clients and an ordering session for lifestyle clients prior to receiving an online proofing gallery. After their consultations/ordering they receive the information for the online galleries. We only offer prints online, none of our products. We use Vend from Intothedarkroom.
Q. We go back and forth on the issue of printing—we’ve talked to some photographers who say printing is where you make all your money—would you agree with that?
A. We are a full service studio, meaning we plan for what we are shooting and design custom products for our clients. And yes, without product orders we would be out of business. It all really goes back to our values that we are touchy, feely people and want the tangible art in our homes. We really encourage our clients to order complete products and smaller prints just as an extra (like for the office or as gifts). We want our clients to walk away with finished products, not having anything left to do. They order something amazing for their walls and then we even hang it for them. There’s no thinking or planning once their orders come in, it’s all been done in their planning and ordering sessions. We try our best to keep our session fees low so clients can invest more on products and images for their homes.
Q. Talk about your wedding albums. Do you outsource to another company or do you design them yourselves?
A. Blaine designs all wedding albums. He starts designing as soon as we are finished with the images and goes by what the couple has said they liked during pre-wedding consultations. We use Finao for the printing of our albums.
JUST FOR FUN | just some questions that couldn’t be categorized above, haha.
Q. Where do you see your business in 5 years?
A. Business in 5 years…WOW! Crazy to think that in five years Blaine and I will have been photographing together almost ten years….that’s a crazy thing to imagine. I think our business has come a lot farther in the last five years than I expected. I hoped that we would be able to go full time, but it was more of a dream than anything. Now that we are at this point and going for it, I hope in the next five years we feel stable within our business. I hope to have built a reputation in the community that we care about our clients and we shoot honestly. I would like to be into a more secure setting, speaking house or studio. Either in a house that allows us to do anything for our business or a studio space that allows us to expand ourselves.
Q. Do you want to focus more on one genre of photography, or will you continue to do a variety of genres?
A. As of now we are wedding and portrait photographers. I cannot imagine shooting inanimate objects right now, I love interacting with people and hearing all about their lives and what they live for. We would love to do commercial shoots for places like Urban Outfitters or Anthropologie. But we will just say that probably won’t ever happen.
Q. Describe your “dream shoot." Is it the most perfect wedding? Would it be commercial photography for a magazine? Somewhere in another country?
A. For me, the dream shoot would be a whole project of shooting different relationships (families and couples) in all different countries, at least 12 different places. I love seeing the differences in relationships, rather than just in Illinois and Indiana, I think I would learn so much from shooting so many varieties of people….or an Anthropologie catalogue shoot or a Band of Horses shoot.
Q. You recently went full-time, so can you tell me a little bit about what that means for your daily schedules?
A. Every day or week is different depending on the previous weekend. We work solidly Monday-Friday on album designs, print and product orders, advertising ideas, meeting with clients, and shoot sessions when scheduled. We sometimes take Fridays off if we have a loaded Saturday of sessions or a wedding.
So yeah...I think the pictures speak for themselves. Thanks SO much, Kelsey and Blaine, for participating in this interview. Hopefully one of these days we can do a session swap! We'd love to come hang out with you guys sometime.
But anyway, if you're reading this right now...
You should probably check out their work in the next 5 seconds
You should probably follow them on twitter in the next 5 seconds &
You should probably be their bff on facebook too...
I was SO excited to be able to shoot Kristin and Travis' wedding. We all went to college together, and although we weren't in the same circle of friends, I feel like we're pretty tight now...*ahem* don't judge me for my cheese.
The ceremony and reception took place at the beautiful Valhalla Vineyards in Roanoke, Virginia which literally sits on top of a mountain...it was gorgeous; and the weather was PERfect.
Michael and I were talking after the festivities were over about how genuine Kristin and Travis' love was. The way they looked at each other the whole day was just the sweetest thing I've ever seen. We both felt so honored to share their day with them and we hope that their shared life just continuously explodes with love :)
The reception was SO fun. It was challenging for me to not jump into the cha-cha slide...but I refrained. When I was first looking through the reception pictures I almost died laughing at some of the dancing faces...so, of course, I have to share...
Honestly, I think one of the best parts of the night was when the groom and his mom really got down on the dance floor...
Good thing the Vineyard was at the top of the mountain in the middle of nowhere because those guests loved to party...
Sadly, the night had to come to an end. We honestly had the best time and I'm so happy to have been part of it.
Portland OR wedding photographer | Portland Oregon indie wedding | Portland wedding photography | Portland OR indie wedding | Portland wedding |Artistic Photography Portland Oregon | Indie Photographer Portland OR
So my parents came to visit this past weekend and to see the new digs/place of employment. We had a great time together and they helped us spruce up the loft a bit. I had some small pots that I wanted something green in to set on our deep window sill, so they helped me pick out a couple things that wouldn't require much maintenance. I've honestly never tried to grow/keep something alive so we'll see where we end up...
And since they love me soooo much they also wanted to buy us something that we needed, so they decided to buy us an area rug for our living room...I was hesitant of the colors at the store, but it's pretty much a perfect match...and it's so soft on the toes, ha! Thanks mom and dad. Love you :)
Last week...more specifically, 2 days before we moved to SC...we squeezed in a shoot with the family that I used to nanny for. They are awesome people and their kids are hilarious--I'm definitely going to miss seeing their cute faces every week. Anyway, just wanted to throw up a couple of my favorite images from their shoot at Festival Park.