From his personal relationships to the way he starts and runs his businesses, Gavin Wade is an all-in kind of guy. Listen in to today’s Bokeh’s podcast as Gavin shares how this hyper-focus not only led to an amazing relationship and partnership with his wife, Erin, but two wonderful businesses, and even a decision to photograph in JPEG instead of RAW. Learn how Gavin made the decision about this controversial format, and how he maintains quality and consistency in his work despite its possible shortcomings!
Podcast: Bokeh: The Business of Photography by Nathan Holritz
Episode 36: JPEG vs. RAW: The Debate Continues – Gavin Wade
Website: Gavin Wade Photography, CloudSpot
Read the transcript and show notes
Introduction to Gavin Wade [00:31]
Brand Position [16:01]
Partnership with Your Spouse [017:41]
JPEG vs. Raw [26:30]
Avoiding Overexposure [32:13]
Contact Gavin [54:53]
Nathan – Welcome to Bokeh, the podcast exploring the ever blurring lines between the personal and business lives of professional photographers. This is your host, Nathan Holritz, and I’m so excited to have you join me in connecting with photographers and entrepreneurs in the photography industry as we discuss photography, building a business and still having a life through it all. This podcast is brought to you by Photographer’s Edit, custom post-production for the wedding and portrait photographer. And now let’s dive into conversation. All right, so we are officially live again, take two. I had a little, a few technical difficulties there, but I’m here with Gavin Wade. Thanks so much for making time to jump into this interview with me for the Bokeh podcast listeners, Gavin. It’s great to actually get to know you along with the listeners because we haven’t really had much of a chance to interact. So first of all again, thank you for coming on the show, but I wanna get to know you a little bit. Tell us a little bit about where you’re from, where you live and a bit about your family.
Gavin – Yeah, absolutely, and great to be here, Nathan. Thanks so much. We kind of always cross paths with similar people in our networks, but always just seem to just miss one another, even just a few weeks ago. We were in the same room and just totally didn’t get a chance to connect, so I’m glad. This is a perfect excuse for us to hang and to get to know one another.
Nathan – For sure, yeah. I like the kind of raw element of just hey, I don’t really know you, but let’s have a conversation. I wanna get to know you, and then of course our listeners get to listen in with us. So tell us more about yourself.
Gavin – Sure thing. So my wife and I and now our one-year-old daughter, we live in southern California in Irvine and have been here, actually I was born and raised in Irvine. Went to school in Chicago actually out at Wheaton College, but then came back to SoCal, and we’ve been here ever since.
Nathan – So California life. I’ve spent, I’ve been out there just numerous times, largely for my work in the photography industry as a photographer, and then owning Photographer’s Edit, and I can’t imagine ever getting enough of that weather. Does it ever get old?
Gavin – No, no, it doesn’t. Maybe you’d want me to say yes, it really gets old, but no, it doesn’t. I love being 20 minutes away from the beach and an hour and a half away from the snow at any given point, so we’re lucky.
Nathan – That’s brilliant. So you also have the privilege of photographing weddings out there, and I say privilege. I think back to, actually I attended a workshop with Mike Cologne years ago out there in southern California, and I remember at the time I was kind of new to digital photography, shooting weddings with a Nikon D1X.
Gavin – Oh, wow.
Nathan – Yeah, so less than six megapixels, and the dynamic range was absolutely terrible. But we were out in the middle, this was about three o’clock in the middle of the day. We were out on the beach, and we were photographing this model, and every single exposure, I just had the camera I think in aperture priority, and it was nailing every single exposure. No blown highlights or anything. The light there is just absolutely stunning. So just the simple fact that you get to photograph weddings in California means that you’re privileged. Little side note there, but how did you get into photography in the first place? Tell us that story.
Gavin – Well you know, it’s really funny that you bring up Mike Cologne because he is actually our mentor, and was the person who got us into the photography world.
Nathan – How interesting.
Gavin – Yeah, so I was kind of involved with some of his workshops in the past, but not as a photographer, but more as like helping out. And heck, I even modeled my then girlfriend at the time for one of his workshops there in Newport Beach. And so I had always kind of, you know, seen the photographer world and lifestyle, and really kind of loved everything about it, but you know, I just kind other tucked that off to the side, followed my career path, which was my degree is in kinesiology, and so I was going down the human sciences route. And then about six months after I graduated, and it was back in southern California, I was working actually for Taco Bell. Not like drive-thru wise, but more in like the corporate side of things for their health and wellness, and was just, gosh, like liking my job, but not loving my job. And my girlfriend at the time, my now wife, she kind of had the same feelings about her career. She’s like eh, you know, she owned her own business, but it wasn’t exactly going the way she would want for the next 50 years at least. She just didn’t see herself going that same route. I was kind of the same way, and I looked at her, and I said hey, you know what? If you could do it all over again, what would you do? And granted like that’s a heavy question. We were dating for like three months, right, so we were still getting acquainted.
Nathan – You’re just diving right in.
Gavin – Yeah, you know what? That’s just what we did.
Gavin – And she said well, I would love to either do real estate or photography. And it was 2008, so real estate wasn’t happening for nobody, so I was like hey, like that’s crazy, like I actually love photography, too. And like this guy named Mike, and I was involved with his workshops, and hey like you want me to like call him up? And I remember a couple people that I met there, and like you wanna just like see if it’s something you wanna do? She’s like yeah, let’s do it. And like literally less than two weeks later we had already attended a photography conference, and we had invested our life savings into camera gear, which quite honestly was just like one camera body and one lens each. But it was our life savings, right? And we said hey, you know what? Let’s see if we can do this, and well, I guess the rest is history. Eight years later here we are, oh gosh, almost nine years. Mike took us under his wing in his mentorship program, and it just kind of catapulted us in our first year. Shot like 30 weddings our first year.
Nathan – Whoa.
Gavin – Yeah, and we got married probably two months after that even, and you know just quite our day jobs after we got back from our honeymoon, and we’ve been shooting full time weddings here in SoCal and around the world ever since.
Nathan – Wow, okay so I have multiple questions now. This is fascinating to me, and for the longest time I’ve just been fascinated by relationships, the dynamics of couples in particular. But I want to take a step back first. You said that you were in kinesiology, that’s what you studied. Can you define that for us? What is that about?
Gavin – Sure, so think of like biomechanics, human movement, health and wellness, like physical therapy or some type of rehab or anything related to just the body in motion is what my degree was in. Just started out as a business major, took all of one economics class and said this isn’t for me. And loved my health and wellness class that I was in as just part of my gen eds at school, and said you know what? I’m really interested in this. And I always loved fitness and exercising and such, so I just dove into that and loved it. But coming back into SoCal because I was doing personal training, I was doing fitness consulting and such, I realized there’s kinda gonna be a ceiling. Either I become the next Billy Blanks or something like that for Taebo, or you know, I need to go back to school for an advanced degree or med school or you know, something like that. I just didn’t see the path to something that got me really excited about it. And photography, completely the opposite. I got super excited right out of the gate even though I knew nothing about it, as did my girlfriend at the time, and now wife, saying look, let’s learn this together. So we dove in head first, but really not knowing what we were getting into, just that this was something we were interested in.
Nathan – And was it the creative element of photography that drew you in? What was the big draw?
Gavin – You know what? I’m a techy guy myself, so I loved the, at the time when digital was just starting to really catch on I loved the kind of marriage of technology and creativity, you know, from computers to cameras to all of those various aspects. And then when you added the business element in there as well it just really peaked my curiosity. Wow, okay, I can ideally have the type of schedule that I can set and love, photographing couples and at places that really get me excited, and make a living for myself and my family that still provides that flexibility that I might not have with a nine-to-five.
Nathan – Yeah, there’s so many elements of running a photography business that, well that are really an easy draw. But it’s funny that you mentioned that technical element. If I look back to when I started wedding photography in 2001 or so, that was the initial draw for me. And it’s funny because when I have an opportunity to share with or speak to photographers now, one of the things I talk about is establishing kind of this big overriding set of goals, a big picture view that drives what you do in your business. But I think back to when I actually got started in photography, and I was just excited to buy an expensive camera. At the time it was film, so it was an Nikon F100. And in comparison to this inexpensive Minolta SLR that I had, that we had, it was awesome, right? It was so snappy, and the focus was faster, and even the little motor that wound the film moved quicker. You know, I was just excited about the tech, and I was lucky enough that I learned much more than just the tech side of things, and was able to actually build a business. But it’s funny the things when you talk to different photographers about what actually draws them in in the first place, I can definitely relate on the tech side. But yeah, the creative element, of course the freedom and the flexibility that comes from actually running your own business is really powerful. And I actually wanna get into, we’ll talk here in just a little bit more about your, you have an additional business that you dove into, and we’ll talk about how you got into that. But before we go there, wedding photography, I mean wedding photographers, there are a lot of them, thousands and thousands of them out there these days. What is your brand position that actually sets you apart? Because you’ve got some really stiff competition in southern California. Not only are you in one of the most beautiful locations in the U.S. to be photographing weddings, but there are other photographers out there that realize that as well. You’ve got some pretty stiff competition. What is your kind of distinct brand position? What sets you guys apart?
Gavin – Yeah, I mean you aren’t kidding. When we started in Irvine, I mean literally within a five, maybe seven mile radius we had some of the industry’s biggest trendsetters in our backyard. We had Mike Cologne, we had Jasmine Starr, we had Jessica Claire, we had Becker, we had just a lot of, you know, these people who were out and about and literally kind of controlling the pulse of the wedding world at the time. And so it’s just like okay, like we’re nobodys, like we’re just starting off, like we have one camera, one lens, like how can we differentiate? How can we get a foothold? How can we just make a living, first of all, right? While the tech side and the business side of things was the glitz and glamour that drew us in, like it’s not on the brochure when you become a photographer that hey, you’re probably gonna spend 20% of your time if you’re lucky behind the lens, and the rest is establishing great systems in place to help you succeed on the business side.
Nathan – So true.
Gavin – And so it’s one of those just how do we get rolling, right? And for us I think we had a little bit of an advantage in a couple of ways. One, the wedding photo world here wasn’t as saturated as it is now. I mean, I could chuck a rock from our house right now and probably hit five different wedding photographers, right?
Nathan – I’m sure.
Gavin – It’s just one of those places because as you said, it’s a beautiful location. It’s almost a year round wedding season. But for us when we got started we were in that age range where a lot of our friends were getting married. We were in our early 20s. We either through our own networks knew people who were engaged or getting married, and so we had a lot of subjects around for us to literally just practice on. And our goal wasn’t to become millionaires in our first year. Our goal was to get experience, was to learn, and was to learn as quickly as we possibly could to grow our brand to the place where we knew, hey, in two or three years we wanted to be a full go at this. So setting ourselves apart really just focused first and foremost on what our style was, was just finding our fundamentals, right? I mean, we literally brought our cameras and shot our first wedding within eight weeks.
Nathan – Wow.
Gavin – And I remember not even sleeping at all like for the night before, and just being a nervous wreck the entire day. But you know, it was low pressure. Like they were friends of our. They were getting married in like six weeks or less. Like it was the type of deal where we lost money on the whole thing. We drove eight hours each way. You know, they were totally fine with knowing we were so new, but it was just one of those things where we were like okay, we are literally getting chucked into the deep end right now. How do we swim? And in so many ways I think that was crucial for us at various points us getting started in terms of it just forcing us to learn and adapt and pushing us beyond that comfort zone because that’s what always got us to that kind of next level.
Nathan – That’s interesting that you mention that too, because as much as I was just talking about how my, a big part of my motivation getting into photography was something as simple as just enjoying the tech side of things, and it just simply wasn’t a very calculated approach to doing business. I just kind of started shooting. I photographed with my spouse at the time as well. And this idea of, I’m very much drawn to this idea of just kind of jump and build your wings on the way down approach. I know Mike even actually, we were talking about Mike Cologne, Mike has kind of a very similar approach as well, so maybe we’ve both been influenced by that. But how, do you recommend that to photographers based on your experience now? Would you recommend that they just go for it? As opposed to kind of having at least some type of plan in place before they do?
Gavin – Well you know, I think gone are the days, and I wouldn’t recommend that hey, max out their credit cards and just take the leap, right, which was kind of what Mike did in many ways at that time. And that was a different level of risk than maybe some people have. Some people may be more risk averse than that. I’m not one of those people, but we’ll talk about that later. But like it’s, you know, I wouldn’t say that now. I wouldn’t say hey, like decide you’re a wedding photographer, quit your day job and just it’s all gonna work out, right? I mean, I think that’s more of a cavalier approach to how I think a successful photography business is built now, like eight, nine years later, or even you know longer than that in your case.
Nathan – Interesting.
Gavin– So I would say right now in terms of building a photography business, you need to know the fundamentals because I think the mindset at the moment is because it’s so saturated you’re looking for any possible either edge or corner to cut so that you can get there more rapidly, right? Because you wanna kind of rise above this particular pool of people who are in your same space, and you wanna set yourself apart. And I think I many ways it’s not maybe encouraging, but it’s alluring to bypass a lot more of the technical side of things related to photography, right? Hey, I can shoot in this type of mode. Or hey, I can shoot with this type of camera. Or hey, this camera has got 15 stops of dynamic range. If I just get it in the ballpark, I’ll just fix it later, and you know, it’ll all be okay, you know. Some of those types of things, some of those types of approaches I think have changed now versus when Erin and I started it was all about the fundamentals. It was all about color, exposure, composition, all those things because back then, even with those types of cameras, even like with the six megapixels of fantastic clarity, you didn’t have as much margin or error and just various things that you need to kind of have dialed in. So I think that kind of answers your question a little bit. But it was just, I would do it differently now than back then, but it worked for us at that particular point. And I think the underlying principles of which we kind of approached really helped us get to where we are today.
Nathan – Sure sure. So I guess in the end though, just kind of bringing it back around to the original question, what would you say is your brand position? And what is that distinct difference in comparison to the photography businesses around you?
Gavin – Well, we have the husband and wife aspect, so that, you know, is a slight element. There’s a lot of husband and wife teams, which are great, and you don’t need to be a husband and wife team to be successful, but I think that is one element. The other one is truly just our approach. So you know, I think at a certain point and certain level clients can tell the difference between good and bad photos, but maybe not, at least not right away can tell the difference between good and great photos. And it’s our job to kind of allow them to see the difference and to show them the difference, and also to accompany that with an experience that exceeds their expectations in terms of what they have preconceived coming in to saying hey, I need a wedding or a portrait photographer. And so I really feel that the experience, the approach and then the end result is what sets us apart. We capture things a little bit differently. We interact with our clients a little bit differently, but ultimately just our eye and how we view certain events or certain things is just we always like to say we want you to be transported right back to that moment without any distraction of filters or effects or anything. It’s either true to life color or black and white, and it’s you guys being the center point and focal point of all of those images. So kind of telling that story with all distractions removed because, you know, 10, 12 years from now, once the memories fade this is what you’ve got. So we are always shooting with that in mind.
Nathan – Interesting. Well you know, I was thinking as you were talking to as busy or as crowded as that space is that you’re in there in southern California, what’s really fascinating these days is the very fact that we can capitalize on our immediate social network, both literally and figuratively, and focus on marketing to them. So while as you said there are other photography businesses that involve couples photographing together, or there are other photography businesses, photographers who talk about the significance of the quality of their imagery or the difference between theirs and say just kind of the weekend shooter or whatever the case may be, you get to carry that message specifically to your network, and it’s not very difficult at this point then to kind of build a business through that network specifically. And I think that’s kind of a fascinating concept. I know that I get kind of a combination of jaded and overwhelmed when I think about creating content to market my editing company because I look around and I see all of this digital noise, if you will. Everybody’s creating content, but I was at a marketing summit earlier this week. We chatted about that briefly earlier, and one of the things that I took away from that was the significance of focusing on marketing to my network specifically. That our fan base wants to hear from us or wants a service from us, or in your case wants the photography from you, and you have the ability to be able to kind of build on those relationships that already exist in that network, and then ideally do a wonderful job, and then they’re promoting you to their friends, and your network continues to grow. It’s a really exciting time to be in business, and in some ways a much easier time to be involved in businesses. As noisy as the market may be, we also have incredible tools in place that enable us to build a business even pretty quickly, and you guys are a pretty powerful example of that, so kudos to you for that. Now you mentioned working with your spouse, and I know just from personal experience that that can be a challenge at times because you’re two individual people with different ideas, interests, styles. How do you make that work effectively, and then maintain a healthy personal relationship as well?
Gavin – Yeah, we had an interesting dynamic between the two of us even right out of the gate. I mean, I met Erin on eHarmony, and then two and a half weeks later we met in person, and it was a disaster of a first date. But then three months after that–
Nathan – Wait wait wait, you can’t scoot over that. We have to know a little bit more about that. What was such a disaster about the first date?
Gavin – Oh well, you know, the eHarmony thing, we both kind of joined it on a dare because we both owned our own businesses, so we had no way to meet people. And so our various friends just said look, do it. It’s free, try it. It’s not as stigmatized now as it was like then, but even back then you’re kind of like ah, come on man, this is like such a hail Mary type of deal. But we did it because hey, I got 30 days free, why not? Like what the heck. And so you know how they make you fill out this profile thing, and it takes a long stinkin’ time. And then you say okay, pair me up with people who are within X amount of radius, right? And I said well, I’m not driving for nobody, like I’m busy, so I just made it like 20 miles or less, right? Like keep it within SoCal, and she did the same thing. Anyways, long story short, we get matched up together, we start chatting, and then it comes time to schedule our first date. And we realized very quickly that eHarmony, well maybe had screwed up from a technical perspective but maybe not in the big scheme of things because we were actually over a hundred miles away from each other.
Nathan – No way!
Gavin – Yeah, yeah. She was up in like northern Simi Valley area. I was in southern southern California. And she’s like well, I mean we’re kind of into this. We like each other, like you wanna schedule that date? She’s like I’ll come to you. I’m like sure, like no problem. She had never been down in this area. We were gonna go to the beach and hang out.
Nathan – Cool.
Gavin – Anyways she comes down, her car breaks down on the way. It literally like engine block melted as she rolled into my driveway.
Nathan – Whoa.
Gavin – And so there’s, we have a 14-hour long first date, but then she has no way to get home. So she ends up staying the night at my parents house. So she meets my parents on the first date. I then have to take her home and drive her home the next day, and then I meet her parents on the second date, second day, second date. And then we see each other every weekend after that. And anyways, it was just, and then three months after we started our photography business, and we’re now doing this long distance while at the same time trying to learn. And so anyways, we had just a super unique relationship right out of the gate. And we were building a business together while also building a relationship. So for us it worked because we were both passionate about it, and I think what really allowed us to kind of pick up along the photography side of things was because we were learning together for the first time about photography. So we were sitting next to each other learning from the same person, learning the same methodologies, kind of synchronizing our way of doing things. And so when it came time to running the business, we already kind of were just on the same page, which was a huge advantage I think such that we didn’t rip each other’s heads off, and we kind of stayed within our swim lanes of okay, these are the responsibilities you’re gonna be doing, and these are the responsibilities I’m gonna be doing. And thankfully my wife loves editing. She loves designing. I despise it. I’m a perfectionist. It takes me, you know, 30 hours other edit a wedding because everything has to be just right. But then, you know, Erin hates the website side of things. She is slower on the emails and the phone calls and the personal relationship building stuff. I mean, she’s a fantastic people person, but just that type of stuff intimidates her with strangers and people initially.
Nathan – Sure sure.
Gavin – And so I’m like hey, I love doing that. Like okay, I’ll take care of all the things before the wedding and booking, and then you can take care of all the things after, you know, as far as the admin side. And that’s just what we did since day one, and so it allowed us to get really good at those particular things and streamlined it. And then we kind of bounced it off of each other, you know, when we needed some help or when we saw some opportunities to be a bit more efficient. But we literally were in the office together next to each other, shoulder to shoulder every single day. You know, granted sometimes you need a little me time, and you need to get out, but you know, that’s what gym memberships are for. That’s what, you know, SoCal sunshine is for. We take our pup for a walk or whatever it might be, so that was kind of our dynamic, you know, and building the business together. Obviously we had some disagreements and such like everybody does, but look, ultimately our goal was the same. And so oftentimes we would just punt on the subject and say look, okay, let’s try it this way for a couple of meetings, and if it doesn’t work, then let’s try it that way. And so we just kind of A-B tested it, our own guinea pigs, and saw what worked.
Nathan – And some I’m hearing kind of three main principles there that are pretty powerful. One was just the simple fact that you guys grew together. I think that is a, and I’ve learned more and more over even the last two or three years the significance of growth, certainly as individuals, but then as a couple or somebody in a relationship growing can really stimulate a connection, especially if you have the opportunity to grow and learn together. So fascinating that you had the opportunity to do that, and how that actually encouraged and built a healthy working relationship. You also mentioned staying in your own lanes, kind of figuring out what you’re good at. And this is a business principle that really applies across the board, I think it’s really great, but the fact that you figure out what works for you, what doesn’t, what you enjoy, what you don’t, and separating responsibilities that way. That’s really powerful. And then the significance of, and this is also something I’ve learned more about in the last few years, is the significance of independence, still making time to be an individual, even if it’s something as simple like you said as going to the gym or taking the dog for a walk, getting out and having your own space. Being an individual, still maintaining a certain level of independence can ultimately kind of drive you back together, you know. If you’re always in the same space, always doing the same thing, and you don’t have that independence, it can ultimately be a bit frustrating. And so I think those are some really great recommendations and advice, and you guys are making it work in a really beautiful way. I look at the pictures of the two of you online, and there’s a certain, I mean, it’s one thing to look at a pretty picture, and even a picture of a couple, and you’re like wow, that’s a great picture, but it’s another thing to actually see kind of a light that comes alive in your eyes together, and you guys seem to have a really beautiful dynamic. So kudos to you for the way that you’ve made it work. And I love the fact that even, you know we talked about how you just kind of dove right into the photography business. I mean, that’s been a theme apparently for your whole relationship. You just dove right into that relationship, too. It’s pretty great.
Gavin – It is. It all happened pretty fast, and you know the old cliche when you know, you know, and that kind of happened with us, and you know, we’ll still waiting to see if eHarmony wants to pick up us for the Super Bowl commercial spot, but we’ll see about that.
Nathan – That’s really great. Well, I love all of this personal conversation. I think Bokeh should be more about this. I love getting to know you guys on this level, so I really appreciate you sharing that. But in getting ready for this conversation for our Bokeh podcast listeners, one of the things that we talked about was the fact that you photograph in JPEG. Now I though that the RAW versus JPEG conversation had kind of died off a long time ago, but I love that we’re gonna dive back into this because–
Gavin – That’s right.
Nathan – I did start on film, but then ended up moving into digital, and as you pointed out, back then in the kind of early to mid-to-late 2000s the cameras just weren’t as good as they are now. So something like a Nikon D1X with very limited dynamic range, when we were shooting in the Tennessee Valley in Chattanooga area, and you’re trying to shoot in the middle of the day, in stark contrast to what it’s like to do that in southern California, here you got this kind of harsh overhead light, and it’s casting shadows in the subjects eyes, and you’ve got wedding dresses that are getting blown out, and you’re losing shadow detail and all of this kind of thing, shooting in RAW was a much more important element of photographing digitally at that point. Times have changed. The technology has improved pretty significantly. But then, storage is also cheap, and I personally, I mean I’m not actively shooting weddings anymore, but I personally still love the notion of having the freedom and the flexibility after the fact that if for some reason, even if I’m proactively shooting well, very conscientious about the way that I’m approaching exposure and white balance and so forth, that I still have that flexibility on the back end that if I accidentally overexpose a bride’s dress, or if I totally screw up the white balance, or I lose shadow detail, that I can go back to that RAW file and pull that image back to where it needs to be. I like that safety net, but I’m really curious to understand why you’ve chosen to go the JPEG route versus the RAW route. So just kind of tell us a little bit about that, if you don’t mind.
Gavin – Yeah, and I realize this is a very polarizing discussion. I saw something even pop on Facebook a few days ago, you know, within minutes there was a hundred something comments about, you know, shooting JPEG is dot dot dot, whatever, right?
Nathan – Yeah, yeah.
Gavin – You just kind of filled in the blanks. Some people said, you know, shooting JPEG is lazy. Shooting JPEG is unnecessary, you know, blah blah blah. You know, I think honestly just like when it comes down to any business practice, there is no two thoughts alike, but also there’s no two, you know, ways to skin the cat as far as what works for you. And so Erin and I learned that way. We learned to be, as you said, very conscientious about color, exposure, everything like that, and I think we really just kind of found it to work the best for us, for our business, for our post-processing, for our turnaround times, for our style. It just all led us to that, and we always, you know, with our business, it was always kind of like hey, you know what? We’re not going to just change something just because we feel like we need to change something. We’re gonna change something because we see we need to change something, but we’re not going to, because you know if you always kind of chase shiny things in business, not saying you know this is necessarily one of those cases, but you know you can constantly always feel hey, you know I need to change my website. Why? Because everyone else is, or oh, it’s been a year, and so I just need to change it. I don’t know why, I just feel like I need to, right? I need to sink thousands of dollars into this, that or the other. So for us, you know, when it comes down to shooting in JPEG, two things have kept us shooting in JPEG. One has been just the post-processing time for us, and for what works for our various swim lines. You know, Erin’s got a wedding out the door in less than, literally a whole wedding out the door delivered to our clients in less than three days, and that’s with having a one-year old now, who just naps twice a day. So the wedding is culled, edited and delivered inside of that time period, so super, super fast. And then also the second thing is that we learned very early on to, you know, pick places, pick environments, pick spots where we photograph that allow us to succeed. So it’s not forcing a square peg into a round hole for us. In some cases yes, with the spontaneity that wedding days sometimes incur, you know, we can’t always pick and choose. But for really the parts of the day that truly, truly matter we have learned to know exactly where we can be, what we can do, what lighting scenarios, you know, what various foreground, midground, background types of stuff, what things we can do that will allow our images to obviously not be overexposed or constantly adjusting our kelvin white balance all the livelong day. Communicating with each other such that it’s very sync’d up, looking at skin tones, blinking highlights, our red and green channels and our histograms. Just constantly, you know, making a hundred different assessments at every given moment just to make sure that when it comes time to that post-processing we’re able to rock it out. And so with the type of in camera stuff that JPEG can do with us manually adjusting all those other things, it just became to the point where we were never needing to have that extra latitude. I mean, maybe once every 10 weddings or something there was maybe something where we were like ah, I wish I could have pulled that back a bit, but not to the point–
Nathan – Gotta convert it to black and white now, right?
Gavin – There you go, there you go. When it’s out, just black and white. But no, for us it just never was a necessity. And maybe I’ll eat my hat in a year when we figure out you know what? We need to make a change, but thus far there hasn’t been anything that’s driven us to do that. And never once have we, you know, knock on wood, not delivered an image to a client or missed a moment or anything like that in shooting JPEG that RAW would have prevented.
Nathan – Wow, well that’s impressive, and that speaks very highly for your case. Now a couple of questions or a couple of notes there. First of all, the point that you made about not chasing whatever the latest shiny object is as you put it, I love that. And again going back to this idea of kind of a big picture view, I think it’s really important that photographers are clear in their business about what it is that they are working toward. And actually you’ve made a point about this in discussing you and Erin’s relationship earlier, the fact that you were working toward the same thing. And I think that’s really great, but to actually have a clear goal in mind of what your business is about and what you’re working toward, that helps minimize the potential distraction, we’ve got a lot of them these days. Technology is constantly changing and improving, and you know, there’s the latest gear and the latest software and the latest light room presets. It’s easy to get distracted as a business owner if you don’t have that overriding kind of big picture view of the long-term big picture goals that drive what you do on a day-to-day basis. So beautiful point, I’m so glad that you made that. But the other thing that you mention, and this kind of has me curious, you mentioned all of the different elements of those settings. Everything from simply adjusting kelvin white balance constantly on the fly to looking at the histograms and so forth. How do you have time, or how do you find time to do that while simutaneously photographing a wedding day and not get distracted I guess in the process? How does that work for you?
Gavin – Sure, sure. Well you know, as the husband and wife aspect that’s kind of great because you always have two eyes on a given scenario at one time. So one can be positioning our couple, and the other one can be dialing in those settings, right? And so when the other one comes back and we’re ready to photograph, it’s just a quick hey, I’m at X-Y-Z, and we’re off and running. And so you know, we’re able to adjust those settings based on the location that we’re at, right? And very rarely on a wedding day does something change so quickly that you can’t sight up, with experience sight up and know hey, this is what my white balance is gonna be, this is what my exposure is gonna be, you know, during the ceremony let’s say. Like they don’t move, right? They’re coming down the aisle, that’s a certain exposure and temperature. They’re down the aisle and at the altar, that’s a different exposure and temperature, and it’s really not going to change much. You just have to be cognizant of if a cloud comes over, and you know what that adjusts and does. But you know, but with just practicing that you know 400 and 500 times, you know, you kind of get to the point where you know, you can recognize those shifts and adjust very, very quickly. We shoot Nikons as well, and so I love that the white balance controls are very much, you know, a button and a toggle. So that allows us also to, you know, kind of quickly adjust those things versus dive into menus. But you know, that is we’re adjusting aperture, shutter, color, composition, ISO, like we just learned straight out from the gate. We had never shot in program mode or aperture or anything like that even from day one.
Nathan – Wow.
Gavin – So I don’t know if we were gluttons for punishment or not, but it’s just what we’ve done, so it’s what we’ve forced ourselves to hone, I guess, that skill over time.
Nathan – That makes sense, and wow, what discipline though to start out that way. And like you said, you then develop experience over time that enables you to almost kind of do it automatically, which is pretty great. What would you say to photographers who are curious about getting into that shooting style? That they want the simplicity of JPEG. They don’t wanna have to worry about conversion later. What are maybe the top two or three things that they should keep in mind if they wanna go down that road?
Gavin – I would say like, I would say the big thing that we have taken away from it is know what types of lighting situations you can achieve the look and feel that you want for your brand. So for us that’s very much a certain look. For others that might not be. Some people say hey look, I love super like bright contrasty photos. Like I love direct sun with dark, dark shadows, right? Well, if that’s the case then perhaps maybe JPEG’s not right for you because, you know, pulling back really, really dark shadows you don’t have as much leeway to do that, so maybe that’s not a good decision for you. For us we are very much backlit, you know, high contrast type of situations where, you know, there’s very clear differentiation, but we’re shooting usually wide open almost all the time with a longer lens so the compression is there. We’re not really shooting a ton of primes. Like there’s just various things of our style that makes sense from a JPEG perspective in terms of how we kind of approach wedding days and for portraits. So I would definitely say if you’re, you know, I definitely say JPEG and RAW is not the first decision you need to make when kind of picking your style I’d say find what types of things you are drawn to creatively, and then let that kind of guide what format really works for your workflow. So if we change things up, and if our style changes and we need to do RAW, of course we’re gonna do it, but we’re, you know, one doesn’t necessarily dictate the other as far as JPEG RAW.
Nathan – I love that, and yet again we’re back to that very poignant point, which is be clear about what you want, and let that determine what you then do. As opposed to kind of the other way around where you’re just haphazardly trying this thing and trying that thing, and letting whatever the popular culture momentum drive you. You’re actually making decisions based on what it is that in this case your business, your brand is about. And I think that’s just a beautiful, beautiful lesson for all of our photography business owners, so thank you for that. Speaking of business owners, kinda wanna segue here to this idea of entrepreneurship. I know personally as I guess a self-proclaimed entrepreneur, I was a wedding photographer for about 10 years, and in that timeframe ended up starting an editing company, Photographer’s Edit. Now we’ve been in business almost 10 years as well, but I have a strong desire for, an interest in, a passion for seeing business opportunities and going after them. And you had the opportunity to start a company called Cloud Spot. Tell us a little bit about that back story, kind of what inspired that. You already had a wedding photography business. What inspired you diving into something on top of the wedding photography business? What drove that? And I guess just kind of the back story as a whole. I’d be curious to hear your take on that.
Gavin – Absolutely, and it is quite a story, but I’ll give you the Readers’ Digest version.
Nathan – That’s a throwback reference for sure.
Gavin – Yeah, right. But you know, I’ll definitely say that Cloud Spot started out of just a sheer need in my own business, right? Maybe that’s a cliche, maybe not, but I had an itch. I needed to scratch it, and there wasn’t a big enough scratching post out there that worked for us, and so I just went out and created it. And I just, you know, it was one night. Again, it always go back to this impulsiveness I guess, but like I was at dinner with Erin one night, and I said look, I am like, you know, this is an aspect of our business that I’m responsible for. I’m pulling out my hair over this. It’s taking me so stinkin’ long. I hate the way it looks. You know we’re delivering images to our clients digitally, but our brand isn’t following along with it, and it’s taking me forever to do, and it doesn’t really come across in a way that looks like we’re this high end brand. It just looks like a here’s your link, have a nice life like peace out type of thing, and it just doesn’t feel like it’s conducive to growing our business. And yet I’m still spending a junk load of time just doing it. And so I was just venting pretty much at dinner, and you know the question was well then, what would you want? Like what would be something, what would be a tool that fulfills all of the needs that you have for, you know, our brand, for our delivery needs, etc? And I said well, here they are. And you know, I pulled out a legal pad the next day and started jotting things down. You know it went from a napkin scribble to a legal pad to lots and lots of notes to full wire frames to then finding a developer and then multiple developers and then, you know, saying hey Erin, do you mind if I, you know, dip into the savings a little bit for us to tackle this? And you know, didn’t know what we were getting into, but it truly started out with a means to, you know, streamline our business a lot more. And here we are, gosh, almost four years alter, and you know with a lot of twists and turns and such, but ultimately stemmed from trying to solve a very, very specific problem in our business related to digital delivery.
Nathan – That makes sense. And just to be, for the sake of context of the conversation because I wanna kind of dive back into that process, but tell our listeners what Cloud Spot, what the brand position of Cloud Spot is.
Gavin – Absolutely. Cloud Spot was built to be the fastest, most customizable way for photographers to deliver, share and sell their photos. And really it’s kind of like the kiss Dropbox goodbye type of thing to where Cloud Spot is completely invisible to your clients, and it allows the photographer’s brand to shine. And so their logo, their branding is injected in every way, shape, form, as far as the end client is concerned, but it still streamlines the photographer’s ability to deliver images not just to clients, but also to vendors and to market their work out there because I was personally just so trapped in this eh, it just takes me forever to get my images to my images to my clients, or I make them jump through a bunch of hoops to go and request the download link to get something from somewhere else. It just was still looping back and more work for me, and because of that I wasn’t, you know, keeping in mind the long play when it comes to marketing your photo business, which is especially in the wedding world, hooking up your vendors that you work with every single weekend. And so they are at your mercy. They are at all photographers’ mercy to show the fruits of their labor, and I just wasn’t getting it to them because I just straight up didn’t have the time. And clients were higher priority over our vendors, which is a short-sighted view in my point from a marketing perspective, but it just look, it was reality. I didn’t have a chance to do it. So you know, I was spending 80, 90, 100 hours just in digitally delivering to clients every year, and not even my vendors. And with Cloud Spot it allowed me to share images with clients and with vendors, and have the experience be way better, and I was spending less than five hours combined.
Nathan – Wow, that’s a significant value add to your business, and then certainly to those that are now using your service. That’s really, really powerful. I also love the fact that you were so clear and simple in your so-called elevator pitch, if you will. I think kind of traditionally the elevator pitch has been anywhere from like 30 seconds to 60 seconds, but that first section or segment of your explanation of what Cloud Spot is about only took about five seconds. And I think it’s really important, I mean I know I asked you about your brand position for your photography business earlier, and now about Cloud Spot, but I think it’s absolutely vital for photographers in starting a business, again especially in this day and age where there are so many out there, that you have to establish a really, really clear, ideally even a niche brand position that clearly sets you apart from the so-called competition. Otherwise you can just be another photographer. And I’ve told the story before, and I think it’s a very poignant one. As a wedding photographer I would go to wedding vendor networking meetings in the local area, and there might be five, six, seven photographers there that would attend these networking meetings. And it came time for introductions, and we’d go around, introduce ourselves, and the average photographer there would just say hey, I’m so and so photographer or photography, and I shoot weddings, portraits, babies, families, commercials, sports, and they’d go down this long list, but they’d say that I specialize in, and then they’d make that long list. Well, the reality is it’s tough certainly to specialize in a long list of types of photography. Certainly it can be done, but the idea of specialization is ultimately a big part of what helps set you apart. And I just remember, you know, these photographers, they’re communicating or trying to communicate what their business is about to these vendors who are looking kind of tired eyed at them or listening to them as they’re explaining this, and really all they take away from that is oh, there’s just another photographer. And so I think it’s so important to have a, not only a clear but easy to understand brand position, and you did that so well in communicating what your brand position is about at Cloud Spot. It’s really exciting to hear too that it’s saving you so much time, and I know that translates to your users. That’s really, really powerful. That’s what the Photographer’s Edit brand is ultimately about. We’re about saving photographers time because hey, yeah, sometimes we have to throw a lot of extra time into running a photography business. It takes work, but in the end part of the major benefit of running a photography business, being a business owner is at least potentially anyway the freedom, the flexibility, the time that we can have to focus on other things. So any tools that we can utilize that will save us time so it frees us up to focus on certainly doing things that will actually build our business, but then also in the relationships in our lives, the important people in our lives, man, the more of those, we certainly need more of those in our lives, and that’s really, really vital. So exciting to hear what you’re doing with Cloud Spot, but just to kind of take a step back real quick, especially for photographers who are like, you know what? I have this business idea. I’m curious to explore that. What would you, what are two or three things that you would recommend that photographers who have an idea, that they should consider if they’re toying with this idea of going after starting an additional business on top of their photography business? How would you recommend they approach that?
Gavin – Oh gosh, I think you and I both could write a book probably on that now in hindsight, and you know, it’s a couple of things because, you know, thankfully in my situation, and you know, it was a big, big leap, you know, especially in software development, right? It always, I didn’t realize it at the time, but it always takes longer, it always costs more, and there’s always more things kind of hidden under the surface than you can possibly imagine just because it’s the nature of the beast, right?
Nathan – For sure, for sure.
Gavin – And I think that applies to any type of new business that you’re thinking of doing, right? Unless you’ve already done it before, or have somebody who’s done it before who can help you navigate some of the pitfalls of just going into a brand new realm of things. You just gotta be able to cut yourself some slack, but also give yourself some buffer to know that you’re gonna be learning either on your own dime or on somebody else’s or whatever it might be, there’s going to be an additional cost associated in some way with your getting, you know, your feet wet in what you wanna be doing. And for me I had never been the CEO of a company before. I had never known anything about software development. I have really never known anything at all going into what I wanted to do. I just knew that I had a problem, I wanted to solve it, and this is how it looked in my head to bring it to fruition.
Nathan – And you knew what it meant to just kind of dive in. It seems like again we’re continuing with that theme, right?
Gavin – Yeah, exactly. And I think, you know, it’s very important, you know, something that I didn’t do that I wish I had done was take a very analytical and data driven approach towards measuring early milestones in bringing this idea to life.
Nathan – So so true, yeah.
Gavin – And then there were books that I should have read that I read after the fact. There are people that I realized I should have and networks that I should have reached out to and learned from before diving in, but hey look, I was just this, you know, kid, this guy in an office with his wife who had an idea and thought I just had to do it all on my own. So I would say go out there. First of all, do your research, right? Get as much information about what it is that you’re wanting to do for your side hustle or for your new hustle or for whatever it’s going to be, for your new passion or for the next stage of your business. Get as much information as you can because sometimes just diving straight in and doing is a recipe for disaster. And so get as much info as you can. Lay out as much as you possibly can lay out in terms of planning and timing and milestones and goals. And then just do a straight up business analysis of hey look, is the juice worth the squeeze? When it comes down to it, in the early days, in the mid days and in the later days, you know, where is my exit here? What is the end game? And also I think it’s important to say hey, when X-Y-Z red flag pops up, I have to be, you know, to the point where I can say look, this is just not worth it, right? Because a lot of times you can invest a lot of time and passion into something, but you can just hold onto it for the sake of holding onto it, right? But you know, like the writing’s on the wall, it’s not happening, it’s not going to work, it is a money pit, it is, you know, just going to drag you down ultimately, but it’s that pride element that just says look, I’m gonna make this work even if it kills me type of thing. So it’s important to be invested, but also disconnected enough to analyze it from a business perspective of saying look, is this a worthwhile endeavor? Is this an idea that actually fits a need? Or is this, you know, a solution first, and I’ll find the problem later, right?
Nathan – Yeah, so true. And again it brings us back to this, the importance of that kind of big picture view, the long term goals. And you said what is my end game? And I think that’s a great way to sum that up. And so whatever it is that you’re doing in that business or any business that we start and dive into for that matter, if what we’re doing doesn’t ultimately live up to the end game, and certainly there are going to be end games as far as our businesses are concerned. Hopefully we’re actually setting goals and we’re working towards something. But ultimately these are businesses, and so there’s again hopefully a personal end game. And if the business isn’t ultimately serving that personal end game, then that would probably be good indication, certainly not without putting some effort and time into it, but it would be good indication that hey, maybe this wasn’t quite the right fit for what I want in my life, and then you know to get out at that point. But on a more positive note, that also helps then drive what you’re doing in the business, and I think that’s really, really important. It can’t be emphasized enough because I see way too many photographers just again running haphazardly. And I’ve been guilty of it myself. Running a business haphazardly, just a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and you know trying to make a little bit of money without having a clear set of goals that are driving what they do, and that just makes all the difference in the world. And then the other thing that you mentioned that I think is extremely poignant as well is the importance of data, numbers you know. I can certainly speak, if anybody were to ask me as a photography business owner what I would have corrected if I had it to do over again, it would certainly have been to have been more proactive in the way that I managed my numbers, the finances. And that certainly hurt me, the fact that I didn’t do that. I should have gotten, begun working with a bookkeeper and an accountant to begin with. And not just for the sake of paying taxes, but to also look at the numbers intelligently, to make intelligent business decisions based on those numbers. And of course that then translates to a kind of a bigger, a larger scale business like Cloud Spot or something like Photographer’s Edit where we’re working with so many different people, so many different photographers, and we’re trying to gauge how to best build the business, and certainly in the more immediate future how to best serve our clients, and data is the answer. I’ve had some hard reminders. Or I should say I have learned the hard way the significance of that. And fortunately I have a really great business partner with Photographer’s Edit who has continued to kind of shine the light on that very fact and remind me because I tend to be kind of big picture and lofty goals and dreams, and let’s shoot for this thing and that thing. But he’ll bring it back to hey, what do the numbers say? And it’s been such a great reminder, and I still feel like I’m such a rookie in business, even after all this time, but it’s been a great reminder, and I think that’s a great reminder for our listeners to pay attention to the data. Even if you’re a sole proprietor, you’re running a photography business, shooting 15, 20, maybe even 30 weddings a year and a few portrait sessions here and there, you can act on data. And that can start with the finances. You can make intelligent decisions based on where the numbers lie. And if you simply make the effort, take the time to call up an accountant, set up a QuickBooks online account and start plugging those numbers in regularly and consistenly, again not only will you paying taxes and dealing with that aspect of the business be so much easier and simpler, but now you can actually look at the numbers and make intelligent decisions about whether or not to continue this element of your business, or whether or not to buy this piece of equipment, or really any element of your business can be driven by those numbers, by the data. Yeah, we’re artists. Yeah, it’s gonna be driven at some time, at some point in time by kind of our gut or intuition, but at the end of the day we are business owners. We need to act like that, and it’s driven by data. So that’s a really, really great reminder for our listeners. And I think a great way to kind of close our conversation here, I’m really stoked about this. This has been fun. It’s been great to get to know you on a personal level. I hate that we didn’t get to actually do it in person, but I know we’ll get a chance to do that here in the near future. It’s been exciting to learn about your photography business and to dive into as you say kind of a polarizing conversation about JPEG versus RAW. I love going there. I’m gonna do more polarizing conversations. And then to learn about Cloud Spot as well. And guys, anything that you can do to take advantage of a tool like Cloud Spot that is going to save you time, that keeps things simpler, you’ve gotta take advantage of it. We are business owners. We’re artists, yes, but in the end the reason that we got into, I hope that the reason that you got into business, or one of the main reasons that you got into business was to have time. You know, we can argue about philosophy and religion and world view and politics and all these other things all day long. We’re gonna have differences in those, but at the end of the day what we have is relationships. And if for some reason you’re running your business in a way that is keeping you from having the time to focus on those important relationships in your life, you’re just, you’re missing out, and that’s just objective truth. And so I love that you created a tool that enables photographers to have more time, Gavin, and I really appreciate you sharing that with us. Whereabouts can our listeners find you guys online? Your company’s websites, your social media accounts, where can they look for you?
Gavin – Absolutely. Our photography website is gavinwadephoto.com. @gavinwadephoto on Instagram to follow us and stalk us around there. And then Cloud Spot is cloudspot.io. And if anyone wants to kind of see hey, this is how much time I really can save, you’re able to schedule an appointment, and you can just chat either with myself or someone on the team, and we can show you exactly all of the cool ways where you can save time and get more of that back on a daily, weekly, yearly basis to spend time building relationships and not just being stuck behind your computer.
Nathan – Awesome. Gavin, this has been great. I can’t thank you enough. Thanks for making time. Hello to Erin and your beautiful daughter, Lexy, and hope you have an absolutely wonderful day.
Gavin – The pleasure is all mine, Nathan. Good to connect with you and get to know one another better, and I look forward to the next chance.
Nathan – Thanks so much for listening to the Bokeh Podcast. If you’d like to hear a particular photographer or entrepreneur in a future episode, don’t hesitate to email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. The Bokeh Podcast is brought to you by Photographer’s Edit, custom post-production for the wedding and portrait photographer.