Every entrepreneur seeks to grow their business, and in the vast and competitive world of professional photography, many smaller wedding and portrait specialists are finding new opportunities for growth through the advanced technology found in EOS digital SLR cameras, EF lenses, and imagePROGRAF large-format printers from Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging solutions. Taking as an example the experience of one such entrepreneur, Aaron Watson, based in Charlottesville, Virginia, one sees a revealing “snapshot” of how grass-roots businesses can grow, empowered by new creative imaging options.
A full-service wedding and portrait photography business, Aaron Watson Photography specializes in serving the unique needs of clients in West Central Virginia, many of whom seek to have the beauty and heritage of the area depicted in the cherished images the company creates. “While we do travel worldwide for a few ‘destination’ weddings each year, we have built our reputation on photographing weddings and families amid beautiful local settings,” explained company president Aaron Watson. With the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains all around, and acres of local vineyards for wedding receptions and events, there is no shortage of scenic settings in the Virginian landscape that Watson captures regularly.
Although regional in outlook, Watson explained that he was able to grow his business by diversifying its services with cinematic HD videos and photo merchandising options such as large-format canvas prints. He cites Canon products as being crucial to this strategy, which first took shape after the 2008 introduction of the EOS 5D Mark II. “That camera,” he noted, “marked a turning point for my business because of its integration of full 1920 x 1080 HD video-capture capabilities. We hadn’t been shooting video at weddings, but the HD features of the 5D Mark II enabled us to begin offering it. The compact form factor and low-light performance of the camera made shooting video at weddings unobtrusive and convenient to do, and our EF lens choices gave us creative options.”
Wedding videography was a well-established business when the 5D Mark II digital SLR was introduced, but the cinematic motion-imaging capabilities of the camera allowed for a new visual esthetic with a more appealing look than traditional video. Watson’s customers instantly liked what they saw.
“Most photographers that shoot both stills and HD for weddings refer to it as ‘fusion’ style work,” Watson said. “Our clients really loved the look of 5D Mark II HD so much so that we began making non-wedding-related videos for families, and spun off a separate production company, Exist N Motion Films.” That company works in parallel with Aaron Watson Photography to shoot HD at weddings, while also capitalizing on additional video opportunities to shoot family video portraits, music videos, and promotional business videos and commercials. “The two companies work well together, and it’s because of Canon digital SLR cameras that we are able to do this,” remarked Watson.
A Smart Camera
An enthusiastic user of the Canon 5D Mark II, Watson confided that he and his assistants are currently transitioning to the 5D Mark III both for still photography and HD videography. “The 5D Mark III is very intuitive, easy to use, and has more options than ever,” Watson added. “It is a smart, amazing camera in how it reads light. It enables me to concentrate on creatively capturing special moments that clients will love, as opposed to paying more attention to the settings on the camera.”
The Canon 5D Mark III camera is also equipped with a 61-point High Density Reticular Auto Focus system with cross-type sensors located throughout the large autofocus coverage area to provide accurate focusing for creative subject-placement. Watson noted that this is essential for shooting weddings, given their often spur-of-the moment photo ops.
“Thesuper-fast focusing of the 5D Mark III is awesome,” Watson confided. “There are defining moments in wedding photography – such as when the bride walks down the aisle – and you have just one chance to capture images of that. The 5D Mark III focusing system is so accurate and fast it allows me to get better pictures and to capture emotions as they happen. Fast focusing is also crucial when photographing families with babies. Children move around so fast that you’ve got to have a great focus system or you are going to miss the shot.”
Bringing Visions to Life
Equally important to growing his business, Watson noted, are the creative tools that can make the difference between good still and HD images and the truly great ones that result in repeat business, word-of-mouth referrals, and additional reprints and custom DVDs. Included in those tools are the Canon EF series lenses that Aaron Watson and his team employ. With more than 60 zoom and prime lenses in Canon’s EF lens line, including wide-angle, telephoto, macro, tilt-shift, and fisheye models Watson explained that he has his own particular favorites that empower his creative capabilities.
“For portraits there are always four Canon lenses in my bag,” he said. “These are the
EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM ultra-wide zoom, the EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM with built-in Image Stabilization, and the EF 135mm f/2L USM and EF 50mm f/1.2L USM prime lenses. I have found that this combination of lenses covers a wide range of what I need to do, no matter what the portrait session. I own a bunch of Canon lenses, but I really like the primes because they are crisp and fast, and give me great flexibility in all lighting conditions. They also give me great bokeh with the creative option of shallow depth-of-field when I want to make the subjects stand out from the background. I also love my prime lenses because they challenge me. They make me think more about what I am doing, and make me move around to get the best composition.”
Employing advanced microelectronic sensors to detect movement and a highly sophisticated algorithm to calculate the amount of compensation needed for camera shake, the Canon Hybrid Image Stabilization technology in the EF 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens receives special praise from Watson for its use in specific situations. “The EF 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens with built-in Image Stabilization is great with little kids and babies,” he noted. “It enables you to get great close-ups even if you’re at a distance for great, clean, crisp pictures of little hands and feet and bright little eyes, which clients love and find so endearing. I have gotten some of my best pictures with that lens.”
The Big Picture
In addition to the growth opportunities Aaron Watson Photography has explored through HD video, Watson also sought new revenue streams through tradition methods as well. In the last few years, Watson purchased a Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6100 large-format printer to generate brilliant color prints and posters up to 24 inches wide for clients. Since purchasing the printer Watson estimates that his company produces approximately 100 canvases per year, business and revenue that was previously outsourced or missed. At a cost of only dollars per print, Watson’s business has enjoyed retaining this additional revenue and creative control in-house.
“Our clients appreciate seeing themselves in great landscape-oriented pictures that they can hang on their living-room walls,” Watson observed. “Today’s families want to remember the young lives of their children, and it’s very meaningful for them to be in their own work of art.”
Taking full advantage of the 5D Mark III’s focus system and its ability to read light, Watson has devised his own recipe for photographic success. Utilizing the scenic landscapes afforded to him in Virginia, Watson likes to show his clients images they may have never thought possible. “I like to set the 5D Mark III on aperture priority, put it on AI Servo Auto Focus, and follow a two-year-old running through an orchard. The camera allows me to freeze a moment and childhood expression that parents love as a large 20x30 canvas wall portrait that they can display in their home for family and friends.” The additional business that comes from in-house printing has more than justified the printer’s cost and has kept clients coming back for more, Watson added.
“Canon cameras, lenses, and printers are the tools that enable us to bring our visions to life,” Watson reflected. “Using the right tools allows us to maximize our creativity, stretch the limits of what can be achieved, and ultimately grow our business. The fusion of offering both still-photography and HD video services has really set us apart, and has given my business a huge amount of attention because we are offering something different that people enjoy. I love that Canon enables us to be innovative, which brings us into the spotlight and helps my business. It wouldn’t be where it is today without Canon.”