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October 15, 2009

WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER INTERVIEW: Candice Cunningham

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Written by: Lawrence

I was not in photography in high school, I actually was in video production class.  I was really ahead on credits so I was able to take video production 4 hours of my day.  Now if I could just remember that for the fusion video editing.  LOL!”

PAST

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: In your early years of high school, were you involved in the yearbook ? What sparked your interest in photography?

CANDICE CUNNINGHAM:  Photography was an outlet for me.   I was diagnosed with severe dyslexia in the third grade, the doctor described it as “Pure Word Blindness.”  Photography was a visual journal and record of my life.

I was not in photography in high school, I actually was in video production class.  I was really ahead on credits so I was able to take video production 4 hours of my day.  Now if I could just remember that for the fusion video editing.  LOL!

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Do you still have photos taken from the early years when it all started? What were your subjects? Are the digital photography pictures online to share with everyone to compare with your photography work today?

CANDICE CUNNINGHAM:  In the early days I rocked it out the way most untrained and unguided photo enthusiasts do.  In my early years I took photos of my friends, family, horses, and dogs.  My early days were all about my car so, I would drive to the streets of Beverly Hills and set my car up for mini photo shoots. LOL  It was not until the birth of my first daughter Madison, that I really got the ball rolling.  I remember looking through the pages of Anne Geddes Images, and thinking WOW what lens does she have. LOL!  It was Anne who made me research the technical side of photography. “Who would have known a world without P mode”.   I got pretty good at taking photos of my children and began submitting them to online Stock houses and to date my children’s works is still being bought and published.


LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM:  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 into wedding photography.

CANDICE CUNNINGHAM: Ummm.  Well the most important thing I can give you for advise is not camera related!  Be honest with yourself and your potential clients and friends.  There is nothing wrong with being where you are at.  Actually I think there is a huge market for weekend warriors and “Uncle Bob” type market place.  Think of the benefits to being in such a position. You get on the job training, the expectations are very low.  In most cases your clients know they are not hiring the elite brand name photographer.  So your ability to really learn and play and for goodness sakes make mistakes, it comes with a much lower risk.  Everyone of you that are new to this market and are spending your nights on Google researching how to reach high end clients, with only a couple of weddings under your belt.  You need to stop! Take it down a notch.  Take full advantage of your inexperience.  And yes it is an advantage if you leverage it properly.   I remember in the early day, I was like a child with my camera, my freedom of creative allowed me to take greater risks.  I had time to play. Like a child I didn’t know any different.  I had a stable income that paid the bills and weddings simply paid for gear.  So if you are a weekend warrior.  Take the time to learn your craft before you go all in.  Don’t get caught up in what the competition is charging.  We fall prey to this blog stalking world.  “how are they getting these prices when there work sucks, mine is so much better”  Yea, know you do it ……  WE ALL DO!.


That raises me to my second point.  If you think your work is so much better why are they booked every weekend of the year and you cant get a wedding on CL?

You have to separate your business from your photography.  I know its nutz.  Really!  If you are like most of us were when we were starting out it was all about the art.  OK if you want to sell art, be a fine art photographer. But if you are wanting to be a wedding photographer.  It is so much more than the images, your clients want an experienced photographer, they want personally.  Learn your camera, take your manual out of the box read it.  After that learn how to run a business.  Take a small business class, take a marketing class.  You cant bitch about the uncle bobs that are “want-a-bee” when you are being a wannabe web designer, wannabe logo designer,  wannabe marketing person, wannabe account (totally guilty on that one till last year).  Use some of your wedding money and invest in your business not just your glass.  It will save your ….. moving on =)


Photographymentor.com  You will find no better community of people willing to help you in your business and photography.  When I first started going to PM, I didn’t really belong to any community and the more I got involved with this community, the more I became business focused, I had a supportive core group to keep me inspired.  Before I found this site I felt alone locked in my office in the late night hours editing away. I quickly began using the live chat and found their photographers in the same boat as me up late editing.  So we began editing together 100’s or even 1000’s of miles away.  Suddenly I didn’t feel alone and I was learning and laughing at the same time.  After some time I began as a moderator and now a partner in the site.  It is something I truly believe in and I think it is the best community out there.

SMUGs  Once a month I attend a local SMUG meeting.  Great way to stay involved, meet new people face to face, learn new things. I love them!!  www.smugmug.com/smugs

Books:  With out a shadow of a doubt Fast Track photographer was the best book I have ever read.  Dane Sanders book changed my life. I honestly would not be were I am at today with out Dane.  Danes book was the missing link. I dont even think you should be legally allowed to ask another photographer for help with your business until you read this book!

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What was your very first professional wedding photography job? Was this purely out of luck that you were at the right place at the right time? How did you get your first wedding photography job? Once you had your first job under your belt was it difficult to get another wedding photography job? What did you do to acquire more work besides providing awesome images?

CANDICE CUNNINGHAM: I am truly a believer that you go out and get what you want out of life.  I decided I wanted to be a wedding photographer after “uncle bob’ing” it at a friends wedding.

After that day I was hooked.  I emailed and contacted every single wedding photographer I could find, begging to work for free 3 months went by and not a single taker.  I decided that I would do it myself. I took out a CL ad may of 2002. That say this.  “great children’s Photographer with no wedding experience would be honored to photograph your wedding”.  I met a really nice couple online and explained to them I have ZERO experience in wedding photography  and we agreed on 35.00 to cover gas and the cost to mail them a CD.  I showed up to the wedding with a D100, a flash, a 70-200 2.8 and a one gig micro drive card.  Only to show up to a bar lit room at the Santa Barbara Court house,  with no flash allowed and no monopod.  Truth be told I blew it.  I got 3 good images. BUT because I was 100% honest with my clients.  There was no backlash.  I made it up to them by photographing them outside in the gardens.  As of today I have received 13 wedding bookings from these “clients”.  Honesty goes a long way.  There is nothing wrong with being where you are at.  Just make sure you know where your going!


I bought a monopod and my next crigstlist wedding was for  100.00   I shot 4 weddings that year all for under 500.00.  I truly believe my drive and my honest approach is why I am not burned out and still shooting weddings today.  I worked my way up from 35.00 to a price point to where I am today.  So I say build yourself honestly, to many photographers “Want It” to happen yesterday and try to skip alot of steps in between.  Relax there are people getting married every year… I promise!

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What did you do to acquire more work besides providing awesome images?

CANDICE CUNNINGHAM: I treated my clients like royals even though most of them were on a “budget”.  I truly appreciated being at each and every single one of their weddings.   I treated my clients as if there were my only clients.  Even though my first batches of brides had little money for photography. I treated them better than any other vendor they hired.  Which lead to referral after referral!

PRESENT

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What keeps the money rolling? Your brand and reputation in the wedding photography space is possibly a huge factor to your longevity? Am i right? Do you have any recommendations on brand building for weekend photographers trying to get into professional wedding photography?

CANDICE CUNNINGHAM:  What keeps the wedding photography money rolling in?     Me.  I think I am pretty good at what I do, but I do think there are a lot of other photographers that are better than me in a lot of different areas, my clients book me for me.  I think my personality and my super sexy wedding style attracts my clients.  But I am the one that gets them to sign.  My level of customer service is super high.  When I first meet with a client on the phone, I get general notes as to their wedding day, time location, colors ETC.  Then before our meeting I gather information.  I look up the time of sunset.  I custom make them a welcome package in their wedding colors with their names on the folders along with their date.  My clients know I pay attention to them. I request them as a Friend on Facebook.  I built a brand not just a photography business.


Have a professional looking site and blog, update your blog on a regular basics.  Have professional business cards made.  Use the power of having two streams of income to make sure you have enough gear to make it though a wedding.  It doesn’t have to be “flagship” bodies and lens.  But make sure you can shoot in a low light church with no flash. Have back up gear and insurance.  Take the time to learn the business side of running a  business and paying taxes.  Use your day job as advantage to learn before jumping off the deep end.

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. Are you mainly doing digital photography? From your photography equipment arsenal, what do you bring for your photography engagement sessions? What do you bring for your wedding photography sessions?

CANDICE CUNNINGHAM:

In my bag

100% digital

1DsMarkII

5D Mark II

70-200mm IS L

20MM 1.8

85 1.8mm

28-70mm 2.8 L My fave

Just ordered my 15mm Fish

50mm 1:1 macro

2 580’s

2 550’s

4 Pocket wizards

power pack

230gigs in cards

mic for the 5DMII

Mono/tripod

Glide Cam pro 2000 for the 5D

and of course  THE CAMERA SLINGER  =)

I keep a “oh Crap!”  bag in the car, if for some reason my bag gets stolen during a wedding I have an XTI a 50mm 1.8  70-200mm and a 550 flash I keep in the car as a third back up.

For the E-session I keep it lite

I ALWAYS just roll with my Camera Slinger.

Mark II and the 70-200 on one side and the 5DMII with the 28-70 on the other side  extra set of batteries in my pocket, and my card holders attaches to my Camera Slingers. So I am pretty feel to move around during the e-sessions.

One wedding day I have an assistant Susan (she is amazing!)  I keep pretty much the same set up and Susan is right there if I need to change out a lens.

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What is your favorite image in your current photography portfolio and why? How did you approach the photographic execution? Give us a glimpse on how you construct an image from scratch.

CANDICE CUNNINGHAM:  I have two favorite images. The first is the first photo that comes up on my site.  It is of the tear rolling down her face.  I think that image is so powerful. I can “feel” that photo.  Every time I see it I can remember the wedding like it was yesterday.  I am going to have a hard time giving you the construction of the image.  The composition has become second nature at this point.  But I do remember manually focusing that image.  I try to follow the rules of composition as much as possible.

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Do you have a photography studio? Is having your own photography studio space essential for a professional wedding photographer? Has any of your photography engagement sessions ever take place in a studio? If not, where do you mainly photograph the engagement sessions? Could you reveal to us 3 of your favorite locations and why?

CANDICE CUNNINGHAM:  I do not have a studio.  I love to take my couples out to the city or to the beach or the best a place that means the most to them.  My favorite places to shoot is El Madador beach in Malibu Ca, Montaceito downtown, and West Hollywood.

FUTURE

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What are your immediate goals as a wedding photographer? Are you planning on releasing any how-to books? What are your recommendations to people thinking about starting a photography book?

CANDICE CUNNINGHAM:  I think one day I will do a book, because this has all been one wild crazy ride.  With Camera Slinger’s overwhelming success and the insane backstory behind it. I think one day I have an amazing story that will inspire people.   But for now I am busy enough with my weddings, cameraslingers, Photography Mentor,  The Photo Fusion Tour, SMUG’s and a couple of other side project not to mention my children.  But maybe some day =)

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: A lot of professional wedding photographers are starting to run workshops. Will you start offering workshops in the future?

CANDICE CUNNINGHAM: Yes I am.  After Romancing the Storm, I will be running a storm chasing shoot in Tornado Alley!  Each May.

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?

CANDICE CUNNINGHAM:  “Fusion” is here and it is not going away.  I think this is the same argument that once was with film and digital.  I think we have to embrace new technology.  I think this is an amazing new technology to embrace.  Should we as photographers try to replace videographers?  NO.  But add video to showcase the photos absolutely!  The problem I am having and I am sure TONS of others who rushed out in November to pick up their Mark IIs is the editing and understanding of Video itself.  I am the coordinator for the Photo Fusion Tour.  www.photofusiontour.com  The tour is being lead by the superstar Team and my good friends Curt Apanovich and Robert Evans sponsored by Smug Mug.  We are going to 9 cities around the country, holding a intensive fusion workshop of editing the footage and the process of creating a Fusion Video.  No matter how you feel about it, for it or against it, it is here and it is not going away and I firmly believe that you will either embrace it or fight it.  I think the ones who learn it now will have a BIG advantage as more and more of the general public becomes exposed to the concept.

LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Ok so thinking about the future and how it is very important in any endeavor especially the professional wedding photography business. What do you suggest wedding photographers do in the future to solidify their presence in the photography industry? What will you do to ensure that you remain on top, not taking into account your photography niche?

CANDICE CUNNINGHAM:  Keep yourself involved in a community, let that community feed your natural competitiveness to push yourself!  Think outside the box, try new things, get a dress and a friend and go out one afternoon and just go play!.  I think of how I would photograph a wedding any and everywhere. I know how I would ROCK! a wedding at Costco.

That is how Romancing the Storm project came about!  Go to www.romancingthestorm.com to see images and details from the crazy shoot!


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 wedding photography for the future? If you have any words of wisdom will be appreciated.

CANDICE CUNNINGHAM: Get involved with a supportive community

Pick just one of your photography projects that you have been thinking about doing for goodness knows for only how long and make it happen.

Read one branding or marketing book, even if you get it from the public library or “borrow” it.

Take a good hard look at your website and logo, does it reflect you.

Take the time this week to help just one other photographer, even if you don’t think you’re good enough to help anyone.

Practice one act of random kindness.  I practice random acts of kindness just about everyday.

Set your dreams high and if you don’t think you can reach them, build a ladder.

HELP ME KEEP THIS RESOURCE FREE

A huge way to help is to use any of these links when you buy anything regardless of your location in this world. It really doesnít cost you anything but means the world to this site for support. These places have the best prices and service and I recommend each and every one of them.

http://photographysilo.com/discounts-and-support/

If you’ve purchased gear using any one of my links or helped otherwise, I really appreciate it and just know you are amazing and a huge help to the growth of the site.

Thank you!

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About the Author

Lawrence
Lawrence Atienza is a Jack of all Trades and Master of ALL. Whether it be in the realm of Advertising/Advertising operations with over 10+ years of experience to dabbling in the creative realm of photography and founding/writing for http://www.PhotographySILO.com, Lawrence Atienza gives his all. You can find him on Google+,Twitter and the major social media outlets.




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