“I was intent on being an event photographer. Dunno why. But that’s where I was headed. “
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: In your early years of high school, were you involved in the yearbook ? What sparked your interest in photography? Do you recommend all the weekend photographers out there to initially stick with the subjects they know and build from there? Do you have any suggestions on how to build that progression? How did you progress to where you are today in photography?
CHRIS MONCUS: At about the age of 5 my parents got me a Mickey Mouse 110 film camera. It was blue. I remember going through so much film that my mom decided it would then have to bought from my allowance. I think I might have run them bankrupt otherwise. So my love for the camera came early.
After running cameras for live broadcasts and shooting/editing videos for a summer camp, I decided I would be a video guy. That desire kinda faded until I got an SLR (a Canon Rebel XT) for a wedding gift. I rediscovered a passion for photography on our honeymoon in the Smoky Mountains in TN. From there I dug into every book and online course I could et my hands on. I shot anything I could. I knew I didn’t want my first paying photography client to get crap so I learned ad much as I could through study and experience. Those are probably my biggest pieces of advice: Never stop learning and don’t enter the market until you’re equipped to achieve awesome results. I still learn as much as possible. Even though I’m a “professional full time photographer”, I will never stop being a student. It’s people who feel like they have arrived that find themselves left behind. Whether you are full time or part time in your photography venture, you have to treat every client like they are your only and you have to keep honing your craft. Those are two things that have kept me moving upward as far as increases in business and ability.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Do you still have photos taken from the early years when it all started? What were your subjects? Are the pictures online to share with everyone to compare with your work today?
CHRIS MONCUS: None of the early ones are online but you can come dig through my shoe boxes if you’d like. Just a bit of fear thinking someone might see a photo I took in 2006 and think that is representative of my skill now. I’m paranoid.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What books did you read at the beginning of your photography career that helped you prepare for today? Title of book, author and price of book please…just messing around, the title of the books should be fine thanks to google search. Do you recall any other resources that you referred to heavily to help you prepare for the photography business? We want to know what the must have resources are to fully equip ourselves when and if we ever plan to take that leap of faith.
CHRIS MONCUS: KelbyTraining.com, Lightroom for Digital Photographers (Kelby), Photoshop for Digital Photographers (Kelby), Digital Wedding Photography (Johnson), Fast Track Photographer (Sanders), Mike Colon DVDs, Photoshop World
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What was your very first professional photography job? Was this purely out of luck that you were at the right place at the right time? Was there a hidden plan to penetrate the market from within? Would you recommend it to new photographers trying to break into the market and that are having difficulty breaking in? Once you had your first job under your belt was it difficult to get another gig? What did you do to acquire more work besides providing awesome images? Have you ever considered being agency represented? If you are agency represented how did you attract a photography agent?
After a concert I was asked to photograph, one of the guitar players approached me and said he liked my concert work. He then told me he was engaged and wanted me to shoot his wedding. I said no, of course. I was not going to shoot a wedding. That is way too much pressure. I wasn’t ready. He said I was shooting his wedding. No questions asked. I had 5 months to prepare. I told him I’d get back to him soon. After talking with my wife, Amanda, we decided we would. We decided $500 would be good and give us enough money to buy some equipment I needed. I spent the next few months preparing, practicing, and studying. At the wedding I had Amanda second-shoot me in case I missed something important. As it turns out, she was incredible and from then on, she was my second shooter. We think we did a good job and after that, they told friends and their friends told other friends. We stumbled upon the secret to running a successful photography business – make your clients happy. By making them happy, we didn’t have to tell people we were good photographers. They told people for us. Even when our skills were lacking, people liked hiring us because we showed up on time, took good photos, got them edited and delivered in a timely manner, had great attitudes, and treated our clients like they were our favorite people on earth (because our clients deserve it).
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: After your first job, What was the next photography gig you obtained and how did you go about your execution? Did you apply all that you’ve learned in all the books you’ve read ? Did you buy more books or accessed any more resources to help you jump to your next big step in the game of photography? What tools do you recommend that are a must have that helped you get to where you are present day?
CHRIS MONCUS: More or less, we just kept doing what we had been. We are still to this day driven by a pursuit of greatness and “don’t screw this up”. We still buy books, DVDs, and learn with other photographers in our area.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What keeps the money rolling? Your brand is possibly a huge factor to your longevity? Am i right? Do you have any recommendations on brand building for weekend photographers and/or Photographers in general.
CHRIS MONCUS: Determine your brand and stick with it. Don’t deter from it. Consistency is key – style, editing, marketing, attitude, colors, logo, attire. A client should be able to order off your “menu” and know what they’re getting.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What is currently in your photography bag? Please be as detailed as possible for those starting out photographers that want to be just like you. From your photography equipment arsenal, what do you bring most of the time for your wedding and portrait shoots?
Two Canon 5D Mark II w battery grips, Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS, Canon 24-70 f/2.8L, Canon 16-35 f/2.8L, two Canon 50mm f/1.4, Canon 100mm Macro f/2.8L, Sigma 85mm f/1.4, Sigma 15mm f/2.8 fisheye, four Canon 580EX II w Paul C Buff wireless triggers, Powerex AA rechargeable, three LED video lights, mints.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What is your favorite image in your current portfolio and why? How did you approach the execution? Give us a glimpse on how you construct an image from scratch.
CHRIS MONCUS: My approach was to wait for the right time in the reception and then lead the couple to a field very close to their reception location and get a photo of them in the grass/flowers. I knew flowers in the foreground was imperative, so onto the ground I lay to get the perfect angle. This was all natural light.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Is having your own studio space essential for any commercial photographer. Do you have a photography studio of your own? If so, what do you look for in a photography studio?
CHRIS MONCUS: I’m not a commercial photographer, but I can say that this choice is one that defines your brand. You don’t need one unless your brand needs one.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What are your immediate goals as a photographer and artist? Are you planning on releasing any how-to books? What are your recommendations to people thinking about starting a photography book?
CHRIS MONCUS: My goal is to expand our reach a bit and book weddings in other states. We have seen a bit of expansion but would like more. I would also like to hire another photographer to handle some of our families and assist in editing so we’re not stuck at a computer all day.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: A lot of professional photographers are starting to run workshops. Will you start offering workshops in the future? I know TIME is not your friend, but there are ways to get around that maybe offering internship opportunities to intern with you for a small fee during one of your paid shoots. Or maybe provide an opportunity to be a spectator for one of your weekend shoots?
CHRIS MONCUS: No plans as of yet.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: I am sure you’ve read many articles discussing how in the future videography and photography will be one? What are your thoughts on that and how will you evolve to the new morphed medium?
CHRIS MONCUS: We’re doing it. Having both Amanda and I at shoots, one can video while the other photographs. It’s a great addition and increases our value.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Ok so thinking about the future and how it is very important in any endeavor especially the photography business. What do you suggest photographers do in the future to solidify their presence in the industry? What will you do to ensure that you remain on top, not taking into account your photography niche?
CHRIS MONCUS: Always be learning. Be ready to embrace change and newness. Don’t blindly follow fads.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Thank you again for your time and giving back. What would you like to leave for us photographers to think about when moving forward with photography for the future? If you have any words of wisdom will be appreciated.
CHRIS MONCUS: Build community and don’t be a lone soldier. Develop relationships with other photographers and help sharpen each other. Get and give honest feedback. Never stop learning.