Photos Courtesy of Mark Wangerin
Scott Anderson: You’ve been a Pictage photographer since the very beginning. Tell us a bit about your recent transition from wedding & portraits to fashion and high school senior photography.
Mark Wangerin: When I joined Pictage, I was strictly a wedding and product photographer. As I progressed in skill and artistic sensitivity, I found more satisfaction in the connective process of shooting people for portraits, publications and fashion. Although I don’t consider myself a “fashion” photographer, I do consider myself a more mainstream commercial beauty and glamour photographer.
Of course the more I was involved in beauty and glamour, the less time and emotional energy I had for weddings, which as most wedding photographers agree is more about energy management than being immersed into a conceptual, creative project such as magazine submissions and portraits for publication.
SA: I’m particularly interested in how Pictage fits into your new workflow? Can you explain how you optimize Pictage to work best for you within these markets?
MW: I’m a creature of familiarity and comfort. I only change when I’m forced to. So rather than using Pictage for my wedding events (which I still do on occasion), I now am starting to use Pictage for proofing and ordering my senior portraits and some commercial portraits and very soon for my modeling portfolios. It is a very simple process that allows me to step aside from the negotiating process when it comes to print buying. We all know that everyone wants a “deal” and we photographers work a little too hard to be constantly engaged in a bargain matinee scenario.
By setting my prices reasonably, I have found that I really make more by letting clients order through Pictage in the comfort of their own home than to have to sit down with a client, go through proofs, then sit with them while they agonize over their budget.
Consistently, I find that the customer always wants my opinion. Within their event, I can easily make a folder of my favorites to help them in their selection process. Sometimes, I retouch one or two to give them an idea of the finished product. When my wife creates the event, she sets it up with a subtitle stating “Proofs only – not for purchase – please select favorites.” She also sets the event with a special Price Catalog for Proofs Only, which has only one size available for purchase, that is a 3.5 x 5 for $125 – this is to guarantee they don’t order in accident. (Pictage has always been excellent with quick resolutions when requested – maybe they’ll provide in the near future a way to create a generic “proof” catalog in which no products are available for purchase.) Once they choose their favorites, I retouch them and upload them to a new event from which they can make their final orders of prints, albums, etc.
When I go through a session, I use Adobe Lightroom 2.0 for almost the entire editing process. And now that Pictage and Lightroom are in a collaborative team effort to streamline the full workflow process, I can now complete the entire process in Lightroom and upload straight to my Pictage FTP account without having to break my editing stride. It’s all done in the Adobe Lightroom 2.0 environment.
SA: It appears that your high-end fashion and glamour work greatly influences your senior business model – is this a distinguishing marketing driver for you?
MW: Completely. Since I have gone with a more commercial look while remaining to a certain degree a “portrait” photographer as far as my marketing presence is concerned, I attract clients from everywhere. Most recently I did a senior portrait session for a young woman from Nebraska whose parents are in the clothing industry, supplying such outlets as Nordstrom. They wanted a senior portrait session that looked like a fashion editorial. I was their guy.
SA: What advice would you offer for those that aspire to break into the senior and/or fashion market?
MW: That’s an easy one. Seniors are not interested in the traditional portraits that we were suffering through in the 80s and 90s. They are getting their cue from the fashion magazines and the like. A photographer who wants to please today’s generation has to be tuned into the magazines and not their local competition. Study commercial fashion techniques, look at how the ads are utilizing composition, contrast, color saturation etc, etc…
SA: What types of similarities do you see between the fashion and senior photography markets? Do you find that the style and technical skill-sets are transferable between the two (i.e. working with models vs. seniors, etc).
MW: Seniors normally demand some coaching and time to loosen up to feel more confident in front of the camera. To have a more successful and fun shoot, I often encourage the high-school seniors to hire hair and make-up artists. It makes an all-around better shoot and definitely, a better finished product.
SA: Your work is very stylized and definitely non-traditional. How would you best describe your style?
MW: I think a photographer is the last guy you should ask to describe his style. But, the feedback I get besides being fairly progressive in my lighting technique, is that I am very relational and connective. I am able to get a great moment on “film” because I relate to my subject very well. I direct to a certain degree, but more over I set up a scenario and start communication with my model. I use real conversation. I make them laugh. Since my professional background was in classical music, I see myself as a musical conductor. My model is the music and I just conduct.
SA: What do you find especially unique or rewarding about being a Senior and Fashion photographer?
MW: First, I especially love the fact that so few are doing it. That translates into a pretty exclusive market. Most commercial guys won’t do senior portraits because they are too proud, quite honestly. Since I shoot commercially and get published, I’m an obvious choice since, so far I have had not much in the way of competition.
Secondly, I love to see the look on the face of a senior when he or she sees themselves as fashion plates. Professional models see themselves this way daily, but a senior who will not likely have the ability to pursue a modeling career is pretty thrilled to see themselves in this way, and be proud to show their friends the results of our collaboration. Of course, this certainly helps the word-of-mouth marketing strategy.
SA: Where do you turn for inspiration?
MW: Artistically I don’t get inspired by art or photography. I get my inspiration with music and my spiritual beliefs. Music, as I said before was my profession for almost 20 years. I listen to a lot of music and my mind is constantly creating scenarios to go with what I am hearing. I get my spiritual inspiration from the Bible. It is the most dramatic source of human drama that I have ever come to be acquainted with.
SA: How do you go about scouting locations? Do you make this a collaborative approach with your clients, or do you have preferred shooting venues.
MW: I love to travel and sight-see. So scouting to me is a joy and I am always engaged in the process of finding great locations. I will catalog different locations that I think make a great scenic backdrop then use them when they fit my needs. I don’t usually involve my subject in the process unless they seem to be discriminating in this area.
SA: What kind of marketing do you do?
MW: None. I don’t market at all anymore. I am strictly word-of-mouth outside of a few public presence placements around the community. Getting involved with the right circle of people, venues, etc. always helps word of mouth, but since it doesn’t happen overnight, that is where advertising comes in. Personally, I think we did best when we started “big” with advertising with a photo ad, then dwindled our advertising to next-to-nothing once word of mouth kicked in.
SA: What tools do you rely on to get your work accomplished efficiently?
MW: This is simple, really. On location I prefer to work with a camera and a reflector. On rare occasion I will utilize studio lighting on location to get a dramatic effect such as day-for-night -making the scene look as though it was shot by moonlight but capturing in broad daylight. This involves a good working knowledge of synchro-sunlight, which sometimes tends to be a bit complicated even for some seasoned professionals.
SA: You are co-leading an exclusive 4-day workshop in Brazil featuring a combination of high-end models, amazing shooting venues, and hands-on workflow and technical demonstrations. Can you tell us about this great opportunity?
MW: Yes, Louis Gabriel and I are taking a caravan of talent to Brazil to conduct a 4-day intensive workshop. Although the workshop will concentrate on teaching technique as far as camera, lighting and editing, we are going to be joined by a couple of exclusive models. Melissa Baker, who has been featured in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issues and will be again very soon, is joining us, as well as, Nazanin Mandoghumi, an amazing Persian model that I have worked with on more than one occasion but most recently for a fashion article in Artimus, a Miami based fashion and art magazine.
We will do a demonstration shoot for our attendees. Melissa and I will be shooting for submissions to Sports Illustrated and this will be a great education for those whom are struggling to understand this highly commercial process as well as mentor them for a full day on location in beautiful Bahia in Salvador, Brazil. I think the photographers will find that this scenario will give them not only a great education in technique, but they will also be able to have two very exclusive and famous models in their portfolios which will certainly help boost their credibility.
SA: Who should attend this workshop?
MW: Anybody not struggling with the technical fundamentals such as f-stops and shutter speeds. This is going to be a four day event and will be packed with very useful information geared more toward the working professional, although one need not be a professional to attend.
If you are serious about furthering your career by looking more commercial and actually making money, this is for you.
I will also be demonstrating my editing techniques along with my workflow which includes Pictage’s and Adobe Lightroom’s seemless integration.
All images copyright Mark Wangerin
Written By: Scott Anderson (Pictage Blog Team)