Brian has some truely inspirational and awesome photos on his website. He’s a commercial photographer out of Pittsburgh, focusing on on some interesting subjects. Brian also provides some great information in this interview, and also on his blog. Enjoy 🙂
Tell us a little about yourself.
Sure, I’m a commercial photographer from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania specializing in product/still life and photo illustration/narrative photography. Photography is actually a second career for me, I spent 10 years working in the architectural industry prior (I designed the store layouts for Rite-Aids for awhile).
What inspired you to get started in photography?
My sister was the one who really peaked my interest in photography. She was in highschool at the time and she was taking a black and white lab class. I remember she came home with a beautiful print of an elderly man picking up a large pumpkin at a pumpkin farm and I thought to myself hey that looks really cool, I could probably get into that! That was 8 or so years ago and I’ve been involved with photography one way or another ever since then.
What gear do you take to each shoot and what lens can you not live without?
The most obvious would be cameras, I don’t leave home without them. Right now I’m using the 5dmk2 and I’m debating the upgrade to the mk3. Next to that I would say my lighting setup. I’m big into lighting everything so I tend to bring everything and the kitchen sink with me on set. Right now my kit consists of 2 profoto 1200 packs and 6 d4 heads, with another 2400 pack on it’s way hopefully by the end of the summer. In the commercial spectrum of photography time is most certainly money and you can’t afford to have things go wrong on set with your equipment, therefore it’s necessary to invest in equipment that you know is rock solid and won’t give you any additional headaches. The profoto gear definitely does that for me. My lens choice changes day to day, but if you were to ask me right now I would go with my canon 100mm 2.8L lens. That thing is tack sharp and always right on the money.
How do you market yourself and has social media been an important part?
Marketing is so important and I do it in a variety of ways. First and foremost it is always about face to face networking. You never know where that next contact is going to come from so it’s incredibly important to make new connections with people wherever you go. After that, I tend to go along the more traditional route of postcard promos, email blasts, and cold calls. I do quite a bit of social media marketing as well with twitter, facebook, linked-in, and my own personal blog. These types of things tend to keep viewers engaged in what I’m doing and gives them a feel for my personality. Its definitely important to be able to connect on some level with your audience and social media facilitates that.
What’s your favourite photo that you’ve taken and does it have any significance?
Tough question. I would have to say an image I created of a knife thrower holding a “knife thrower for dummies” book is my current favorite. The reason being is that it was my first real attempt at a strong solid concept that also injected a bit of humor into the situation. It was a lot of fun to produce and I still get a good reaction out of it from my audience.
Select a photo you have taken, explain how it was taken and how did you edit it?
Sure, I do this quite a lot as my process seems to be a bit different than most other photographers. I always start with a sketch to kind of rough out the idea. From there I’m able to determine all of the logistics: lighting, props, talent, etc. Take for example the image I did of the boyscouts sitting around the campfire. It started with the sketch and from there we determined it would be best to create the main part of the image in the studio to help control the lighting and environment. From there we build out the set, research the proper wardrobe, set the lighting, call in the talent, and focus on getting the right expressions for the scene. For this particular image we shot it in two parts; the boyscouts on in the foreground, and the trees and eyes in the background. Once both plates are photographed we combine them in post and add my personal cartoony look to them. You can view the complete process on my blog, www.briankaldorf.wordpress.com. I always stress that it’s about the concept first and foremost and not the “look” of my images. If the concept isn’t strong, then the look is simply a gimmick.
What processing tool do you use and do you believe in the camera doing all the work or in post?
I work differently than most in that I combine a lot of my images in post. This workflow was something that was born out of necessity while I was in school. I either couldn’t afford to shoot in lavish locations or the talent’s schedules wouldn’t mesh with mine, so we were forced to shoot everybody and everything kind of separately in order to get it. When you’re working like this you tend to rely pretty heavily on your post process. I always shoot tethered into a computer either using capture one 6 or lightroom 3. From there the raw files are processed and I do the heavy lifting with photoshop cs5. I would love to be able to do more in camera in terms of shooting in the exact location that is needed, but the budgets just don’t add up to doing it that way.
What’s your favorite photography accessory other than your camera?
Probably the lighting. It’s such a huge part of what I do, I can’t do much without it.
Where do you prefer to post your photos online and why there?
I stick to pretty much just my website as I have the most control over them there. I will post behind the scenes pics and videos on my blog, facebook, twitter, etc. to help produce buzz about what I’m doing. Twitter seems to be great for that in that it reaches a broad audience.
Do you ever get photographers block and if so what do you do to get inspired again?
Absolutely, and it always comes at the least opportune time! A lot of the time it’s a result of over thinking something. Taking a break, playing with my daughter, seeing a movie, these all seem to help recharge the batteries. The important thing is to not get discouraged and let it happen naturally.
Is there anything you wish you had done when you first started in photography that would of made a difference?
Aside from making it my first career I would say focus more on the business end of things faster. Actual picture taking is such a small percentage of what we do as professional photographers. People don’t realize how much work goes into marketing, book keeping, website development, education, etc. I was fortunate to have a great foundation in business while I was in school, the college I went to had a great business class from an instructor who really knew his stuff. Once I graduated, the minimal business structure was in place- I just wished I had maybe prepared it a little earlier.
Any advice for new photographers wanting to go pro?
Sure, first and foremost be passionate about what you are doing. You need to eat, breath, sleep the type of photography you are interested in making a living at. This business is extremely difficult to make a living at and if you are not giving 200% to it you can rest assured your competition is. After that I would say focus on the business side of things. You could have amazing talent but if you’re not a good business person you could be out of business in a blink of an eye.