Featured Photographer: Steve Z

From rocket scientist to amazing Boulder, Colorado, Wedding Photographer, Steve Z is a talented artist who is running a successful studio. We’re glad he pursued a second career in photography because we love his work! Let’s hear it from the man himself.

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How did you get started in photography? [break]

I worked as a mechanical/aerospace design engineer for 10 years.  I never jelled with the corporate world, and I longed to have a career with more creativity. I was laid off from my aerospace job and told myself that I was never going back. I just had to find something that resonated with me. Around that time, I saw an old friend’s name in a Boulder bike race result. I googled his name, and his photography website came up.  We started hanging out and doing rides, and I saw that he was making a decent living shooting stock. [break]

The blend of creativity and technical/computer skills appealed to me, and I just had a feeling that I could be good at photography. So, I bought a body and a few lenses and started teaching myself. The stock industry crashed, and I was drawn to the wedding and portrait industry. [break]

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Who have been your influences in photography? [break]
I got started right about the time that Strobist.com got going. It was great because it really taught me simple, cheap, portable lighting, which is perfect for weddings.  The DWF has been a big influence on a wide range of topics, from art to business to gear. [break]

As far as specific people, I’ve never really been a blog stalker. I really believe in finding your own vision.  That said, my biggest influence has been Jeff Newsom. His creativity and vision are so unique and inspiring.  I love the way he has done his own thing, which really goes against what most of the industry tells you you have to do.  There are thousands of copycats, but his work is still so identifiable. [break]

From speakers that I’ve seen, I’ve taken the most away from Jerry Ghionis. I don’t even try to do what he does, but I’ve taken away a lot about client relations, posing and business skills. [break]

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How would you define your style of photography? [break]
I value the true craft of photography. Lighting, composition, posing and emotion are all very important to me. For my wedding and portrait work, I try to use as little Photoshop as possible and deliver honest images. As I progress with weddings and portraits, I feel like my work is maturing, and I’m appreciating classic portraits more and more. This is funny, because the engineer and the BMX punk kid in me still love the tilt shift lens and dark and weird images.  There is a battle sometimes between what I feel will sell and the images that my twisted brain sees in my head! [break]

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What is one thing that has helped you grow your business? [break]
The Digital Wedding Forum without a doubt. There is nothing like a whole community of people who are willing to spend their time helping you succeed! I knew zero about business when I started, so I don’t even know what I would have done without it. [break]

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What is one thing that has helped you grow as an artist? [break]
That’s a tough question for me. My number one priority has been to make a living as a photographer. This means that I have put my focus on the business first.  I feel like this has come at the expense of unbridled exploration of creativity.  I think it would be awesome to go to school and get an MFA in photography. But my accountant doesn’t think that the financial cost is worth it. I currently have some interesting side projects brewing, and I’m super excited about the direction that they could lead. [break]

In general, I feel the best way to grow as a photographic artist and distinguish yourself in the wedding and portrait industry is to draw inspiration from other areas.  This could be anything from fashion, advertising, films, YouTube, or just about anything. [break]

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What is one failure that helped you grow as a business person/artist? [break]
My biggest failures have come with the hiring of employees.  Finding good people at a price that is realistic is challenging. The final products we have to create have to be so perfect that it’s difficult to outsource your work and your time. I’ve learned the value of good help and how to treat people well when they’re doing a good job for you. [break]

What is one piece of advice that you would give to a person that is in the first few years of their photography business? [break]
Learn to value your time. I’ve started using a time tracking software and have assigned a dollar value to my time.  This business has the capability to take over your life completely, and the truth is that you will never be done with all the tasks that you could do to improve. If you don’t value your own time, then there is no way that clients will either.  You have to balance hard work with play and rest or you will burn out and generally get delusional. Well, at least that’s what I did. I’m trying to pull myself out from the computer and the cyber-industry and into the outdoors and into relationships with real people of flesh and bone. [break]

Check out his wonderful photography:
www.stevezphotography.com