Radio Interview Transcripts

MorePhotos Radio - Blink Photo


ANNOUNCER:  Welcome to the More Photos’ Radio Photography Spotlight brought to you by helping professional photographers with all their internet needs. Also brought to you by Finally, an e-commerce solution for professional photo labs that makes sense. Now here is your host, Damien Allen. 
DAMIEN: Good morning and welcome to More Photos Radio. My name is Damien Allen, and joining me today on the phone is Brendan Eisen of Blink Photo.  Good afternoon, Brendan, welcome to the program.
BRENDAN: Good afternoon, Damien, how’s the weather where you’re at?
DAMIEN: Very cold because it’s Michigan and that’s 9 months of winter.
BRENDAN: Well then I won’t bore you with my 65 and sunny weather here. 
DAMIEN: Yeah, I get the same thing from my oldest when he calls me everyday, and he goes, “Hey Dad, it’s 70 degrees down here in Tennessee when are you coming to visit?
BRENDAN: Great. 
DAMIEN: We’ve been looking at the website, you’ve got some awesome images on your site, . How did you get started in the business?
BRENDAN: First of all, thank you. I got started as a photographer very young. I realized very early on that if I didn’t take pictures of family events, then no one was going to, because I don’t think either of my parents owned a camera, and I just absolutely loved it. So I saved and saved and bought my first little Kodak camera with a little square flash cube, and I would just send the film off and every couple of weeks it would come back in the mail and that is basically now I got started. How I got started professionally was after college I studied photography in college where I worked on a cruise ship for a couple of years and it was at that point that I met my first business partner, and he and I hatched a plan that someday we wanted to own our own photography studio, mini-lab. We really had big dreams for a cruise ship photography concession and sort of the rest is history with what happened to me back east.
DAMIEN: So where is your studio currently located and how long have you been in business?
BRENDAN: Well I’ve been shooting professionally for 25 years, and my location is in Los Angeles, but I don’t have a studio. What I do is I rent studio space now as needed. There are just so many cool places and studios between downtown LA to, you know, just funky hip stuff out at the beach that depending on the clients’ needs and budget that’s what we will do. I do a lot of in-home or location work.
DAMIEN: That seems to be a developing trend especially for out west, you’ve got everything in the LA area to go and do. You’ve got just about any kind of environment you want within a quick drive and you seem to do everything from advertising to fashion, pets, and creative shots. What do you find is the most inspirational  type of shoot for you, Brendan?
BRENDAN: It’s interesting you bring that up, because over the years, you just have to diversify now-a-days. Especially with the advent of digital photography. I found that a lot of my corporate work suddenly office assistants were running out buying digital cameras and calling themselves photographers and starting to shoot corporate events and parties and that lasted for about 3 years until they realized it involves a whole lot more than just being able to go buy the equipment and take a picture and download it. There’s still a fair amount of technical acumen that you have to possess and the big key for me is that I’m good with people on the spot, and you have to be able to pose people. So it’s a lot more than just running out and buying a camera and shooting. The type of stuff that I find inspirational to shoot personally, I like portrait work, and I like creating sort of unique, interesting, whether I’m filtering in or using Photoshop Layer. I like pieces of photographic art, if you will, and I sell it sort of as where art becomes you. And that’s what I like. I like doing big pieces, 24x24 and larger where it makes a huge statement on people’s wall.
DAMIEN: Is that your favorite type of photography overall then?
BRENDAN: I guess it depends on my mood. I like shooting late, you know, when I’ve been shooting, and one of my favorite things to shoot are sort of street scenes. So lately I’ve been shooting a lot of street artists’ work where, I travel a lot so I’m in San Francisco or New York, you know I live in Los Angeles and there is a lot of it as well, and then recently I was just in the south of France this summer and I got some really great stuff. It’s just kind of fun to document and show the different styles, I mean, street artists and taggers in Europe are like artists. Here in California, at least, it’s art, but it tends to take on a more angry, vial kind of scene. So that I really enjoy. I like doing my personal thing.
DAMIEN: You’ve been running all over the world and running from one end of the country to the other. What’s the most difficult type of a location to shoot?
BRENDAN: I would say for me the most difficult kind of location as in a client paid location shoot, we’ll just start with that. It’s where I show up and the conditions have changed. When I’m shooting in a studio, I have absolute control over space and light and who comes and who goes and that’s one thing, but sometimes you get out on location, whether it’s an advertising client or even a wedding, and you think you’re going to shoot one thing, and you’re going to have this condition, this lighting situation, you’re going to be indoors and bla, bla, bla, and the next thing you know it’s something entirely different. So I guess the key is just after years and years of experience is you have to be a little prepared for just about anything they can throw at you, and one great example of that was one of the most difficult situations or could have been potentially difficult was back east, it was spring time and it was New Jersey and the weather report all week long up until 24 hours before the actual shoot on the wedding day, we had this place picked out in the park, beautiful portrait work, brides. We had it all set up. I had my assistant ready to go. I woke up in the morning to 8 inches of snow, and a freak snow storm blew through which is not uncommon on the east coast, and I called the bride to try to calm her nerves, because I knew she was going to be a mess and she was in tears screaming hysterical, I threw a bunch of white sheets in the car so we could pack the snow down, grabbed a snow shovel, told all of the bridesmaids and the bride to wear rubber goulashes under the their dresses and we just, I had my assistant at the last second grab everyone’s coats and I made everyone hold their breath so there was no steam and think warm thoughts and we got some of the most stunning outdoor group shots I think I’ve ever had, and that was just by keeping a cool head.
DAMIEN: Nice. Now we’ve seen Arnold Swartzanager and Mrs. Marcos on your website;  and being in California there must be lots of celebrity opportunities. How did you get to be the photographer in these situations?
BRENDAN: Gosh, again that just takes doing it long enough and having a big mouth. I could talk my way in to just about any situation. Imelda Marcos that was a bit notorious as you well know with what happened with her late husband, Ferdinand, and that was actually in New York City and I had befriended through my photo lab here attorney, and he saw my book and some of my work, and one day he popped into my office and said, “Listen, we need a photographer at a private event in her quadroplex in New York City, would you be interested in coming?” And I had to pass security checks and a whole bunch of stuff and that was quite an event. I won’t go into it here what happened at that event, but needless to say, it was a real cultural, eye opening experience, but I did have cart blench and I was able to sit with her and be with her and in a private ceremony for her late husband. I photographed her singing and numerous things. It was pretty exciting and as far as LA goes, Arnold and Maria, the way I get into a lot of my celebrity stuff is I like to volunteer. I used to volunteer at various locations and do some photography work for the staff and head shots and that kind of thing free of charge and then what would happen is when they got ready to throw their fundraiser, of course, I was always the person they called, and then of course there was a budget and I would get paid for that, but the one caveat was that I required I would be the only photographer. If we needed two, I would hire that other person. So I was always the exclusive photographer in those kinds of events.
DAMIEN: Now we notice your portraits are very unique. How do you manage to capture such essences, especially with kids?
BRENDAN: Gosh, I have just always loved kids. Even when I was a kid I liked shooting kids. It was really funny and then, of course, when I first started, my nieces and nephews from the time they were babies up until very young, I would shoot and shoot and shoot those kids until they just thought Uncle Brendan had a camera sticking out the end of his face, I’m sure. I don’t know, I treat children with respect. I don’t goo, goo, ga, ga with them and I have found over the years that in a studio environment, it doesn’t matter, studio location that when the parents are there and there is too much going on I usually will just throw a parent off set, you know, ask them to please go sit in the waiting room or in an office or go to Starbucks around the corner, whatever. I just talk to them like little adults, and I try to find what interests them, and I think part of what works for me and what makes me good with kids is that I think they trust me. I connect with them and talk to them on their level. If they are having a bad day, I just go with it. I don’t try to force a smile. As you know, sometimes the best portraits aren’t always the ones of kids looking bright and cheery and happy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked the parent, “Well does he or she smile at home a lot? Are they giggly, bubbly, happy at home? “Well no not really.” Then why would expect them to do that here on set with cameras and four people staring at them? It’s intimidating. I love shooting kids. Kids are probably one of my favorite. For me it’s a fun feel good experience.
DAMIEN: Brendan in your opinion what is the single most important skill a photographer needs  to capture that perfect shot ?
BRENDAN: In a word I would say, “Fearlessness.” I think you just need to just pick up the camera and start shooting. I used to teach a beginning and intermediate photography course for a junior college in New Jersey, and it was an offsite instruction I got the school to let the students come to my studio. I had a big studio with multiple sets and in that studio, I then turned numerous photographers from very, very accredited art schools from around the country and it’s great if you have 6 months to develop a couple of shots for your portfolio for school or whatever, but it’s a totally different thing when you are on set and you have a real world environment going on and it’s unfolding right in front of your very eyes and you have to be fearless. I can teach you all the technical aspects of what a camera does and how to set up lighting in various lighting techniques, but if you’re afraid to pick that camera up and shoot and maybe you’re not getting the right thing or what are they going to think or what is the client going to think or what is somebody else going to think, it’s not going to work and I see that a lot where people pull up the camera and they let too much of what they think other people are going to think of an image before they have even taken the image, and you can’t do that. You have to be ready to grab that sort of moment before, during and after, and I would say this to anybody especially with digital. Just shoot the heck out of it. We’re photographers, now-a-days you can buy chips that just hold thousands of pictures. So what if you take some. Learn to bracket. When you’re on a location and you’re shooting photo journalistic style, you have to know enough about your equipment and the technical aspects of your equipment to sort of be set up for any situation as lighting conditions and things change, but  fearlessness. You just have to shoot. You can’t be afraid and have fun.
DAMIEN: Now I notice the website offers a virtual photo studio. What the virtual photography experience with Blink Photo?
BRENDAN: That was set up years ago sort of with the advent of digital photography. Now it seems to be just sort of motes aperendi. I mean everybody is doing it. At the time we set that up, it was the fact that we could come to you, say on location, or you could come into the studio, we would shoot, and then you would go home and in the comfort of your own home sit down and make selections much like clients used to in the old days coming into the studio, and then of course the e-commerce site, and when I first moved everything to an e-commerce site, I used to offer many more products and all kinds of things that photos could be put on and sort of gotten away from that a little bit, because I really just like selling big pieces of photographic art, and the virtual experience I find to be not quite as personal and all honesty as the good old fashion sit down with the client, talk to them about what they are looking for, what their needs are, I have up-sold many, many, many people who in the past may have ordered an 8x10 or an 11x14 for the wall, and then I would just say, “You know what, why don’t I come out to your home, you show me where you want to hang this, and let’s just see what an 11x14 looks like.” And I would bring various size frames actually out to their house and hold up an 11x14 above the mantel and it looks like a postage stamp on the wall and that’s when they realize they really need more like, you know, a 24x36 up there. So that’s worked out best for me. The virtual aspect of the site was originally just set up just specifically for proofing and ordering for those people who preferred that as an option to sitting down in person.
DAMIEN: And it’s gotten to the point where the technology allows you to do all the other things, but you need to be back, get the face time, and do a face-to-face with the client.
BRENDAN: I personally, that has been my experience.  I think we have gotten so electronic and so technologically advanced that it has made some, I don’t want to say photographers, because it might be just the studio assistant or somebody involved with the up-sell of that, I think it’s made a lot of people lazy. I will always use the e-commerce site of my website for corporate stuff or for weddings where I’m being requested to take, you know, can you get a picture of me and the husband and the kids, you know, we’re never dressed up like this. So I’ll use that a lot and I’ll flip them a card and say, “Hey go to this site, and we’ll have everything posted.” When I can’t get to somebody, because some people come in for these events from all over the country, you know, I can’t be whipping off to Des Moines from LA every time I want to show somebody their proofs. So in that case, my website and the e-commerce site is fantastic. I use it a lot for corporate stuff. In that case it’s great, but I’ve kind of gone back to old school and had much bigger success sitting down and face time as you call it. I think it’s essential. I think people still like to feel that the person they were with at that shoot and created and spent that intimate time with is actually there showing them their work. People feel insecure, and are like, “Oh no, I wish I hadn’t done this.” Or “Look at me like that.” And it’s my job to ease them through that.
DAMIEN: Right and the best of both worlds available either way. Lots of awesome stuff. What’s going to be happening in 2011 for Blink Photo, Brendan?
BRENDAN: Well Blink Photo, specifically, is just going to focus more on the corporate work. I’m right now in the process of making a big push. I have somebody that I have hired to market specifically for corporate work. I’m going to shy away a little bit from the kids and the pets and the family stuff. I am going to try now going after the corporate market. It’s nothing that I’ve done in the past too much. I’ve done a lot of corporate work, but not specifically marketed just for the corporate arena. I want to do the corporate head shots and some of their marketing pieces, and I like shooting interiors and exteriors and different aspects of that particular company from maybe annual report work. That kind of stuff where I have a little bit more time to work with people and there are some bigger budgets; just a little bit different arena for me. Personally, I’m going to continue shooting my art work. I have this goal to try to shoot as many cities as I can and just some of the more interesting tag artists out there and just really do some photographic study of their work. I find that really fascinating and I think it’s very interesting. There are some really cool stuff out there.
DAMIEN: Well if someone is wanting more information on Blink Photo and your services and how you can be reached,  what is the website and contact information they need?
BRENDAN: They can call me directly, Brendan at (818) 623-9980 or check us out at
DAMIEN: We’d like to thank you very much for joining us today, Brendan.
BRENDAN: It was my pleasure. It was nice talking to you.
DAMIEN: You too. You’ve been listening to More Photos Radio.    My name is Damien Allen. We’ve been speaking with Brendan Eisen of Blink Photo in Los Angeles, California. Thank you very much for joining us today everyone, we’ll catch you next time.  
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