Radio Interview Transcripts

MorePhotos Radio - Blair Phillips for WPPI


ANNOUNCER:  Welcome to the More Photos’ Radio Photography Spotlight brought to you by helping professional photographers with all their internet needs world wide. Also brought to you by Finally, an e-commerce solution for professional photo labs that makes sense. Now here’s your host, Damien Allen.  DAMIEN: Good morning and welcome to More Photos Radio. My name is Damien Allen and today joining us on the telephone we have Mr. Blair Phillips of Blair Phillips Photography in Landis, North Carolina, just north of Charlotte, North Carolina. Good afternoon and welcome to More Photos Radio, Blair Phillips.
BLAIR: Thanks for having us. I’m really excited about the interview and hopefully being able to help a lot of people.
DAMIEN: It’s a pleasure to have you today, sir. You’re going to be speaking at the upcoming WPPI Conference.  Could you tell us what will your class be about?
BLAIR: It’s really just about breaking the mold. There are a lot of us that may when we start our that are kind of against the odds, you know, we don’t really have the equipment, you know, the most beautiful locations, and the perfect settings, and things like that. And that’s what I found in my little town. I’m from a mill town, and there’s not a lot of thriving opportunity here so breaking into the market, getting behind the 8 ball I just kind of had to develop my own style and follow my heart and go with what I thought would make me the most happy and that would really appeal to my clients and just become the stand out in my town, and I’m just going to share on how in just a short period of time we have been able to do that, and I really make an impact here in our town and just make our business and our work really shine and make it really recognizable and it’s just worked out really well and I can share a lot of small things that will be super effective to really help you achieve that.
DAMIEN: What do you hope your participants to your class are going to take away at the end of the day?
BLAIR: The biggest thing is just I know from seminars, you know, people get kind of frustrated whenever speakers come in and they say they want to show a bunch of pictures of their studio and talk about how much money they made last year and things like that, and I always told myself, if I ever get the opportunity to help people, I’m not going to really get into all that. I want to get down to the nuts and bolts of what people come for and the biggest thing right now is in this economy you really need to make yourself stand out amongst your competition and if there is 15 other photographers in your area, what can we do to make our images really stand out and that’s just exactly what I’ve had to do in such a small town, and I guess one of the biggest things is just the element of lighting I use. It’s so foolproof and so simple to use, you don’t really need any assistants or you don’t need any other people to help you. It’s basically a one person lighting system that I have come up with and I’ve used the past year for pretty much all of my weddings and it’s really added a sense of dramaticy to the weddings that I felt like I was lacking and also whenever you see people’s websites and things like that, you normally see their glory shot. And by glory shots, I mean the wedding they landed in Mexico and at this Mayan Riviera that is just beautiful and we get back home and we’re like well that speaker all of his things were very beautiful, but I can’t recreate any of that. So what I want to share with people is I’m just like a lot of people sitting in the audience. I show up to these churches and a lot of times it could be a VFW metal building or it could be a really quaint church under construction or just a venue that when you get there you would be pulling your hair out saying, oh my gosh how in the world am I going to make this work? Well that’s how a lot of the places in my area are so we have had to come up with ways to still create something that we’ll be super proud of and sometimes it takes getting away from the location where we are or just basically turning nothing into something and that’s what I want to help people see that I’m just an average guy just like they are, but I can show you some things that you can take home and make a very big difference right off the bat and it’s very practical that anybody can do it.
DAMIEN: What day and times will your seminar be held during the conference and how can participants find you at the conference?
BLAIR: It’s actually Wednesday, March 10th and we have an 8:00 class and I’ll be available, I’m one of those kind of guys too that if you see me out in the hallway or you see me somewhere, I’m not looking for reasons to get away. I’ll be glad to hang out after the class. You can always contact me even at my studio. You can send me an email, you can call me. I try and be real open with everybody just because I know how it is to kind of struggle almost be there, but you just need a little more inspiration and knowhow just to kind of break through and break out of your mold and I spend a pretty good amount of time at the H and H Booth. So if anyone has any sort of questions about pretty much anything I may be able to help you with, believe me between my wife and I we have been through a lot of different scenarios with photography, and we have only been in business for 5 years, but we’ve grown leaps and bounds. We went from our first year of maybe doing about, I would say we did about 6 weddings, and then this past year we did 60. So it’s just the two of us and we get it done, and we have a tremendous amount of studio knowledge too. We do probably about 200 studio sessions a year and I don’t really specialize in any particular area. Again, I try to be really diverse and be able to hit on just about anything. So we’ll be spending a lot of time in the H and H booth and if you want to contact me through our website or email or whatever; Facebook, we’re always open to help. So any time someone mentions Blair Phillips that’s kind of what I want people to know me by is oh that guy was real informative and always wanting to help people.
DAMIEN: How did you get started with WPPI?
BLAIR: Actually a great friend of mine, Doug Gordon. He is a photographer that has done a lot of remarkable things with WPPI. I think he was actually part of opening night the year before. I met him down in Georgia at a little seminar he was doing, and just kind of on a whim I said well I need something to kind of jumpstart us here and drove down to Georgia, and I really liked his style and we hit if off. He’s a super nice guy and again very informative with what he was doing and he actually I guess kind of took me under his wing a little bit and introduced me to a few key people there at WPPI and everybody was just willing to give us a chance. I feel like I can help people with and everything is genuine so. I got started with Doug Gordon, actually, he’s the one that turned me onto WPPI.
DAMIEN: I’ve been checking out your website and you’ve got some fabulous photography up there, very, very awesome website, very unique lighting and posing. And one picture you have a model sitting on a tire in a beautiful yellow gown, and we can see her reflection in the mud. How did you get a shot like this and get your subject to pose in an unconventional way?
BLAIR: That’s a really good question, because there are a lot of folks that are doing these sessions now that are called stress the dress or better known as trash the dress. Well that was actually with a high school senior we had and there again we do a lot of high school seniors and it’s kind of interesting, because I’ve carried a lot of the high school senior look has kind of carried on into the weddings a little bit too. So doing both of those kind of helps hand in hand, but the way that image worked was basically one of my biggest things is following your style and I get a lot of inspiration. There’s a photographer, actually his name is David Chappell. I’m sure a lot of people have heard of him. He is pretty out there and a lot of his stuff is very impractical to the common photographer, but I’m always looking for inspiration from other folks, and I ran across some of his stuff and I just really liked how he would put people in settings that didn’t seem like they belonged. So I started doing that and I tested it out with a girl and she was open to it, yeah I want to do it, and I’m a real believer in you need to show what you sell and by doing this over the past year, just kind of jumping out and doing things in a whole different fashion. Now we still do your practical things as well. I think it’s important not to lose sight of that and just go out there and be very outlandish and over the top. Now I still do very average things too, but we light them in a way that makes them un-average, but that particular shot we told her to bring a dress she wore to prom last year so that way that takes, you know, the whole thing about what if my dress gets messed up. And the biggest thing is I think we have created a market now that our customers come to us, finally, and they say, you know what, Blair, I want you just to do your thing. I’ve seen your website, I’ve seen what you do. I’m ready for something different and that’s what I want so I lead by example and I basically put myself in that position, in that situation, and that’s how we get people to do it. They just trust you, and that’s the biggest thing. Just getting that customer to gain your trust.
DAMIEN: As photography is so much about the lighting and the capturing of the image and the way light interplays, could you share one or two tips on lighting for the photographer?
BLAIR: Yeah absolutely and the way, there’s really not a huge secret of my lighting that I use. I think it’s very important to have a system that you can use that one person can operate. And when I say one person, I always work without an assistant. Is that the smartest thing to do, maybe not, but that’s just what I’ve had to do so I came up with a system that was really easy for me to use and basically you don’t need to be carrying around a lot of equipment. It’s a portable system that I use, like I said, it’s so easy, so fool proof. One of the biggest things I want to share with people is how you can add the dramatic element of lighting to your outdoor scenes. When I first started, I relied heavily on natural light, and if I would go out some days to do a wedding I was always searching for shade, you know, where can I go and find some shade. Well a lot of times shade wasn’t available in the most perfect setting so I got to thinking, why is my background blown out? You know, my subject is exposed properly, but my background all the detail is gone. So by underexposing the background and then adding in just enough strobe light to balance out the two, the first day that I used this system actually I was doing it with a high school senior, and I went outside and the very first image that I took, it just about brought tears to my eyes, because I thought to myself, how in the world, I never in a million years thought that I would be capable of doing such an image. And then from there it just exploded so underexposing a sky and then adding in just enough light to properly expose your subject has been the biggest accomplishment with lighting that I have come up with that has been outdoors for me that, like I said, I use it on every wedding. I even use the lighting indoors, outdoors. That way you can create whatever lighting situation you want and there are no excuses that, you know, I’m sorry it was raining that day and we didn’t really have a lot of opportunity. As a wedding photographer, we all know that there are no excuses so by using this element of lighting it really has backed that up 100%
DAMIEN: What’s going to be new in 2010 for Blair Phillips Photography? Are there other workshops and conferences that you will be holding or attending? Do you have new projects that you’re working on?
BLAIR: Yes. As far as workshops and conferences, we’re doing one in Michigan which is February 19th – 21st, and I’ll actually be speaking on the 20th and that’s a senior high school program. We’ll be actually part of the opening night for Sync this year and as far as what’s new for us in 2010, we’re just going to be starting and coming on kind of pretty strong, we pretty much put the cart before the horse and that’s pretty much how my life has been, because there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity to plan and didn’t have it really paved out perfect. I’ve kind of had to pave the road as I go, I guess you’d say and one of the biggest things now after 5 years is a management software for us, because I find, I want to know when I stick my key in the door and open up this studio, I want to know exactly where I am every single day, every single minute. I want to know how much my operating costs are per day, I want to know exactly what I’m bringing in every week to get myself some goals. So now I think it’s really important for me to start setting some financial goals so I think the studio management is definitely going to help us with that. And then also extra efforts on marketing. With everybody buying cameras now, you know, the economy is kind of sour so there is a lot of women and a lot of men that are out of work and they can run down to Sam’s and buy a nice digital camera and with Photoshop Elements, hey man, they are working right out of the back of their van or their car, and they are creating some pretty decent elements. So we all have to just keep moving forward with our marketing to create an experience for that customer that they can’t get from this lower priced person and that’s where I think the extra efforts from marketing is what a lot of people are kind of losing track of and you have to appreciate that customer and really value their business, because with the economy the way it is, we can’t take it for granted like, unfortunately, you could do a few years ago, and I think a lot people have kind of lost sight of that. So that’s where we are just extra efforts on marketing and the studio management software.
DAMIEN: Could you kindly share your website and contact information for the listening audience please.
BLAIR: Sure it’s and then if you ever need to email us it’s You can look us up on Facebook as well.
DAMIEN: We’d like to thank you very much for joining us today, Blair.
BLAIR: Thank you for having us, man, and I’m really looking forward to helping a ton of people at WPPI. I really appreciate the interview.
DAMIEN: We strongly encourage our listeners to attend Blair Phillips’ workshop and to attend the WPPI Conference in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada, March 10th – 20th, 2010.   We’ve been speaking with Blair Phillips of Blair Phillips Photography in Landis, North Carolina, and you are listening to More Photos Radio. My name is Damien Allen. Everybody have a great afternoon.
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