Photographers Ainsley and Erik Jacobs were our Featured Artists Contest winner for the month of March. Two winners you ask? How can that be? They are a team – a wonderful, lively, husband and wife team who capitalize on each others’ strengths to create strong imagery. They’re in business together and create art together. Ainsley has the eye and Erik loves the technology, pushing very basic kits and equipment to its limit to create captivating photographs inspired by car racing, horses, travel, and every day life. Read on to feel their energy and get inspired!
AJ: Hello, this is Ainsley
LJ: Hi Ainsley. It’s Laura Jajko and Aubrey Koralewski from American Frame
AJ: Hey ladies, how are you?
LJ: Good! How are you?
AJ: I am doing well. Erik is actually out of town right now but he is available, so if you wouldn’t mind holding on just a minute I can call him and conference him in Alright is everybody there?
LJ: Yes! Is Erik there?
LJ: Hi Erik, I’m Laura Jajko, President at American frame, and we also have Aubrey Koralewski here, who is our Marketing and Social Media Assistant. I just want to let you know that I am personally involved in these Featured Artist Interviews because I just love this whole process! I really appreciate the artists who take the time to be involved with our company, and who take the time to enter the contest and put the effort into winning it. I want to congratulate you and thank you at the same time.
AJ: Thank you for having such a great company, because first of all we have been customers and fans for years and years. It’s really an honor for us to be really, kind of, part of the team and part of the family. We really appreciate the opportunity to show off a little bit of our vacation we usually end up having very interesting experiences when we travel, which naturally leads to great photo opportunities.
LJ: Absolutely! So you said you’ve been customers for years?
AJ: Yeah, we’ve got quite a few pieces in our home framed, from American Frame. I’m just a huge fan – of not just the customer service, which has always been fantastic- but the selection, the pricing, how easy it is to use. I mean, I can’t say enough good things about the company.
"We are very fortunate that we have a lot of opportunity to exercise our equipment and our creative instincts, if you will."
- Erik Jacobs
LJ: Oh good! Where are you located?
AJ: I’m in Atlanta right now; this is typically where Erik and I live. He’s back home visiting family in NY at the moment.
LJ: Oh, okay. I was just wondering if you’re close by you’ll have to come by sometime. But that’s for another discussion.
AJ: That’d be fun!
LJ: Do you get to the Midwest?
AJ: Not too often. I go to Indiana every so often to visit a customer of mine, but that’s about it
LJ: Alright, well tell me a little bit about your business. Aubrey was telling me that you’re travel photographers. Can you tell me a little bit about your business?
AJ: Sure. So the business that we own is called P.ten marketing. It’s actually a marketing agency that focuses specifically on high performance motor sports and the automotive industry. So we work a lot with drag racing. We’re not specifically travel photographers but that is a lot of what we do. This weekend I’m actually going to be working at a big drag racing event here in Atlanta to do photography and event coverage for some of our clients who are the drag racing team. So the photography’s a big part of what we do but it’s not the only thing we do.
LJ: Okay, sounds like you’re marketing experts. Do you write copy for them, do you create ads, what do you do?
AJ: All of the above. We are a full service marketing agency. We do typical marketing planning and strategy. We do social media management, website development, graphic design, photography, promotions, copywriting, and journalism. You name it, we do it.
LJ: Wow! So do you have a whole team of people under you?
EJ: You’re talking to them!
LJ: The two of you do all that? Wow!
AJ: We’re trying to grow the company a little bit. We have a few other people that we work with on a contractor basis when we get too overloaded or overworked ourselves. But we’re trying to grow the business and we’re doing really well. It’s just that it’s such a niche market that it’s a little bit tricky to find clients. But its been doing really well the last couple of years
LJ: You’re obviously performing services that everybody needs right now. Business itself is so competitive and if you can find a team that can take what your vision is as a company and articulate it and message it and turn it into something that people can see and feel and experience, that’s the value of a team like you, so that’s amazing. Let’s get back to your art. You received the questions that we typically ask in these interviews, correct?
AJ: We did
LJ: Okay, so tell us, how do you work together and when did you start producing your art? Erik, are you primarily the photographer or how does this all work?
EJ: I work for a software company as my day job and I have to travel a lot for work, so fortunately or unfortunately, however you want to look at it, we collect a lot of miles and points throughout the year and we typically try to blow them out once a year and do some big fancy trip. So when we travel, we’re both very adventurous, we’re both very type A-ish personality, we don’t just want to go lay on a beach. We want to go and snorkel or swim with sharks, or zip line or do crazy things, so we usually end up having very interesting experiences when we travel, which naturally leads to great photo opportunities. But really, we share camera duties. Ainsley has an eye for certain things, I have an eye for different things and every once in a while she captures something awesome, I capture something awesome. And because we both like different things, we end up covering a pretty good spectrum of still life and everyday activity and then just other artistic moments and things like that. So, there’s no real plan so to speak, we just generally like to remember what it is that we’ve done, because we do so much, we can’t remember. The photos are a great way for us to go back and look at all the fun that we’ve had and remind us of the trips that we’ve taken.
LJ: To re-live. Are either of you trained photographers or is it self taught?
AJ: Yeah, we’re both self taught
EJ: So, a few years back we got married, (we had been living together, we’ve been together almost 11 years now), we were planning the honeymoon and our mortgage company sent us a reimbursement check for over payment of escrow and we sort of looked at each other and said “Well we have a pocket camera and that’s okay and we have a growing marketing organization and we like photos so hey maybe it’s time to buy a real DSLR.” So we took that check and ran to Best Buy and bought a Canon T3i and really started our journey into photography and also photojournalism. So that’s also the other interesting disposition of our two skill sets: I’m more of the techy person who tries to do cool things with the camera, for example the HDR photo that we took that won the contest. And Ainsley is more the natural photographer of capturing the moments and has a better eye for interesting stills and things like that. So in both work and in play, we compliment each other pretty good and it comes out in our photography
AJ: I actually have a background in film photography. I started out with an old manual Canon E1 when I was probably 13 years old. I found it in my attic and just started playing with it. I taught myself how to load film, taught myself how to use it and mange all the functions on it and then I worked at a photo lab for several years developing film because I was so interested in it. I’ve never taken a course, but reading articles, studying books, looking online, trying to get tips and tricks on how to be better and how to understand photography and light and focus and framing and all of these good things on how to take a better photo.
LJ: You worked in a film studio?
AJ: Yeah, I worked in a 1 hour photo developing lab. I thought it was so much fun developing prints and seeing film.
LJ: Well you learn a lot that way. Again, it sounds like you’re the natural artist but that’s also a very technical skill. Do you still develop film at all or is it all digital now?
AJ: Oh gosh, I cant even tell you the last time I used my film camera and that’s really sad for me to say but when I was a teenager and working at the photo lab the employee discount helped A LOT to buy film and nowadays it’s so hard to find it and its relatively expensive so, I take the easy way out and use a DSLR and if I don’t like it, delete it and take another one.
LJ: Exactly! So, if you were to put a timeframe on this: when did you pick up the camera together and get started?
AJ: That was 2012 when we got married.
EJ: When we bought the DSLR was in 2012 when we got married. We had been traveling and we had done a bunch of cruises and things like that with pocket cams. We’ve been together about 11 years…
LJ: Is this a newer pursuit for both of you to really get into the photography and to make it something that you put out there to the world? If you’ve only been doing it since 2012, that’s only three years.
EJ: I guess that’s an interesting way to look at it. I don’t look at it that way but yeah, I guess we’ve only REALLY gotten the gear and played around for the last few years.
LJ: It’s amazing where just pure passion can take you when it comes to your art.
AJ: Erik has a tendency to completely immerse himself when he finds a new hobby or something that he loves. He wants to know every single thing he possibly can about it and he’s been studying and learning and teaching himself and educating himself a whole lot and I’m not surprised that he’s come so far in a few years.
LJ: That’s amazing! Next question: what kind of studio space do you occupy? Do you have a home office? Do you have an office someplace else that you work together? Do you combine that with a studio? What’s your working situation like and how do you create?
AJ: It’s a home office. There’s really no simpler way to say it other than that. I do all the digital post production retouching and editing on my laptop, believe it or not. Erik has a desktop that he uses for RAW processing. But for the most part we are small time when it comes to the grand scheme of photographers.
EJ: Yeah, I mean, its cliché to say but the world is our studio. We rarely ever take photos at home. If we have a party at the house we might take a few photos or a group shot or something like that but if you look at the portfolio of our work 99 ¾ of it is taken outside the home. It’s when we travel, it’s when we go to motorsports events, it’s when we go and hang out with our friends and go to their events like weddings and things and parties and things.
AJ: Erik was actually just hired two weeks ago to shoot a friends wedding so that was pretty cool.
LJ: Oh wonderful! That was going to be my next question from that. Do you do portrait photography or just action photography?
EJ: The history of that is this. About a year ago one friend of ours got married and they had hired professional photographers and they had no one to do video so I was asked as a favor ‘Hey could you just shoot some video?’ So I bought a couple tiny little toys and shot the video of their wedding and did all the post production on that and it turned out pretty good and I’ve just been taking photos of all of our friends weddings and other events for fun and one of our friends who just got married said ‘hey my brother in law is a professional photographer, he’s going to be the primary shooter, but would you mind being the backup number two guy?’ So I said “Hey that sounds great! No problem!” So I rented a nicer lens than I usually use, which in and of itself was a little nerve-wracking because I was learning how to use it on game day, but it worked out okay. We got some quality shots. So that was sort of my first professional gig in a way.
AJ: In addition to doing all the motorsports and motor photography, I ride horses and I do a lot of competitions and Erik had started coming out to my competitions and just taking photos of me and the girls who ride at my barn on my team. He’s sort of become the official photographer for our stable and our competition team and through that other riders at events are actually recognizing him and saying “Hey you’re that photographer guy!” and he’s been hired for a couple different gigs so far so that’s pretty cool!
LJ: That’s very cool. Basically when you think about it, we’re all photographers because we carry phones and we snap pictures. But somebody who really understands angles and light and motion and then capitalize on the the technical aspects of the camera, so you can create a mood - that’s truly an art form.
EJ: We are very fortunate that we have a lot of opportunity to exercise our equipment and our creative instincts, if you will. And that has fortunately turned into notoriety on a small scale at least and a small amount of success.
LJ: Enough to keep the two of you busy it sounds like.
AJ: Oh we love being busy!
LJ: Is there anything special that you can think of or any approach that you can share with the public as to how you think about your subjects? I would call that the artistic process. When you are looking at a subject, what is it that you try to think about or create when you’re just creating a photograph
EJ: With the action photography, especially with the horse photography, from having been together with Ainsley for so long and having learned so much about horses through her, I’ve gained an appreciation and understanding of how horses operate; how they move and what looks good and what looks bad. So for me, the thing that I can share is this: if you’re going to be photographing a particular thing – a particular type of sport or particular type of activity, weddings or whatever, it’s beneficial to understand the “mechanics” of the situation so that you know when to press the button. Because you see a lot of amateurs or family members or whatnot they go out there and they’ve got their DSLR and they put it in burst mode and they take four million pictures and none of them come out because they all ended up being at the wrong time. So the mechanics of the situation, whether it’s a wedding or a horse jumping or a car drag racing and coming off the line, just having a general understanding of what the process is is essential for creating a meaningful image.
AJ: I absolutely agree. For me, I try to find (and this is going to sound strange) the beauty in everything that I’m shooting no matter what it is. A lot of people look at a 3000 horsepower racecar and they think “It’s a machine, its mechanical, how is there beauty in that?” Well, if you look at the curves and the fabrication and the engineering or even taking apart the engine and seeing the pieces inside you can look at all of that along with its symmetry and geometry, and use that to find an interesting perspective that most people would not normally take. I mean, anyone can shoot a picture of a racecar but what about it makes it different? What about that car is special or beautiful or unique? That’s what I’m always looking for and try to find something a little bit different that will make people pause when they look at my photos and go “oh, wow, that’s really cool”.
LJ: Do you actually stage it? Do you ever set up lighting and all that or is it mostly candid photography?
AJ: It’s mostly candid. With drag racing in particular, you are at the mercy of wherever the sun is. You can’t change where the position of the track is or where the cars are running so you’ve got to find the best spot to be in that’s still safe. And then with horseback riding it’s mostly outdoors, it’s often overcast, it’s often raining. I know Erik struggles a lot with that at my horse shows and I apologize to him. I know it’s not the easiest of conditions.
EJ: Yeah, the biggest thing about outdoor all weather sports is A. protecting the gear but also B. throughout one single day you can experience essentially every lighting condition. So at an event that starts at dawn and ends at dusk, I’ve got the entire spectrum of light – both in terms of direction and in terms of intensity. It can just be really, really frustrating because 10 minutes ago you were doing something and it was great and now its raining and you’re like “Oh man, now I gotta change the whole thing”!
LJ: Do you have an arsenal of lenses and filters?
EJ: No, we are still just using the kit. We bought the camera with the standard short lens that also came with a telephoto lens and a bag and we’ve really, from a gear perspective, we’ve added nothing yet.
AJ: We added a flash –laughs-
EJ: Ainsley bought me a nicer flash because we were doing much more ‘event’ photography because so many of our friends were having events and that’s really helped. And we bought a little flash diffuser. But other than that were still just using the kit.
LJ: Well, you know, you can go crazy with gear and not get any great results with it.
LJ: And you can become obsessed with trying the next best thing. But the basics don’t change, no matter what the camera. It’s interesting that you haven’t fallen into that trap yet. In fact, its kind of fun to go backwards sometimes; to go back to basics.
EJ: That’s the key: “yet.” Fortunately or unfortunately all of our hobbies are not cheap, including photography, so the available funds have been diverted to other things.
LJ: I was going to say, horse riding can not be cheap!
EJ: No, and the photography has remained at a high quality level. So we’re right at the point where it makes sense to do something, maybe get some lenses or change bodies or something like that. I started to rent a little bit more, which is another wonderful thing to recommend if we go back to tips and tricks. Find a rental place, if you can, that’s local because that will give you a chance to use very high end gear. There’s no reason to go out and buy a $2500 lens until A. you understand how to use it and B. for how many times you could rent that $2500 lens before you spend $2500, you may never end up spending that much if you don’t need that particular tool all the time.
LJ: Right! Or if something better comes out, because technology is changing so fast. So, do you do your own printing?
EJ: We do not have a printer at home.
LJ: Have you tried any of our printing?
AJ: We haven’t yet but I’ve actually been playing around this week. I have some frame samples that I’ve collected over the years from you guys and I actually just ordered another couple frame samples, because we’re trying to figure out how to best use our gift card, which we are super, super excited about. So, we’ve got one print that I had gotten for free from shutterfly. So we’ve got one print ready to go, but there’s 4 or 5 others that I’m hoping to be able to frame, and those have not been printed yet so yeah, we might try that service.
LJ: What I would recommend that you do is get a set of paper samples. First, because in looking at your work and talking to you about the variety, we’ve got a wide spectrum of papers and you might be really interested in.
AJ: Okay, I’ll definitely check them out.
LJ: There’s one in particular that’s pearlescent. It’s a very unusual paper, it’s more for real artistic shots. The luster paper is more for your general photography.
AJ: I’m actually really familiar with that, we have some of our engagement photos printed on the luster paper and it’s really cool.
LJ: And then the gloss – the gloss is so beautiful. Also there’s a couple matte, 100% cotton photographic papers to give that finishing touch to the mood that you’re trying to create.
EJ: Pearlescent might be interesting for the idea that we have for the dining room, because it’s a little more formal.
AJ: Oh, you’re right! That would be cool!
LJ: But if you’re doing wedding photography or selling any of your work, having those different papers at your fingertips is useful.
EJ: Yeah, we haven’t sold any print work yet, just digital packages. So, we will see where the future brings us.
LJ: Yeah, it’s kind of a fun thing to experiment with. But anyway, back to the planned questions. Are there particular people who have influenced you or inspired your work?
EJ: Ainsley I think you know the two, but if you want I’ll go first.
AJ: Well the one who inspires my work the most when it comes to motorsports, automotive and drag racing, is a photographer by the name of John Fore III. He’s super talented. He’s a big time drag racing photographer and he’s just the nicest guy in the world. Super humble, super down to earth. Every time he posts a photo he blows my mind with not only how beautiful his shots are but with how creative they are. There’s only so many ways you can take a picture of a race car and this guy, every single time, knocks it out of the park. I hope one day to be on the same level or even close to him. He definitely inspires me, what about you Erik?
EJ: Okay. I actually wasn’t thinking of John. So, there are two: one is a guy that is also an automotive photographer and his name is Antonio Alvendia. He’s been in the industry, probably not as long as John, but he’s in California and does more of the sort of Japanese import car scene, both motorsports action stuff as well as static photography. And I’ve known him forever and ever and ever and he’s also done a lot of food photography and travel photography and I just really like his work and he’s also a really fun guy. He’s super nice and super cordial; a really happy guy. And then the third one is our wedding photographer. Being that we like photography and that we’re in photography when it was time to choose a wedding photographer it was probably one of the hardest decisions about the wedding.
LJ: That’s funny!
EJ: Yeah, so we started with a list of 50 photographers that we had found in our area and narrowed it down to like 12 or 13 and then interviewed all of them and then narrowed it down to 2 or 3. And the one we ended up choosing, we’ve been super happy with and sort of become very friendly with and her name is Nadia Diskavets. So, one of the reasons why we chose her is that she’s really good with lighting. She does all sorts of super creative things and she’s kind of into cars so we bonded over that when we were talking with her initially. Just seeing all her work; she does a lot of Indian wedding photography. That’s what she’s been critically acclaimed and awarded for. People seek her out and have her come and photograph their Indian weddings and traditional Indian weddings involve lots of jewelry and ornate clothing and things like that. And because she’s so good with lighting and other interesting textures and shooting through textures, she creates very interesting imagery. So, I’m always inspired to take photos that approach the quality of her use of lighting and texture. At a recent horse event that I was shooting, my first professional horse gig, I got this one shot at sunset of a horseback rider taking a turn on her horse inside the arena. The way the sun was bouncing off of her and she was wearing a gold shirt and everything was gold tinted. It was like “Wow”! I showed it to her and she approved and that made me feel so happy! One of my photography idols was like “Oh, yeah that’s really good!”
LJ: So, you hired a mentor?
EJ: In a way, that’s absolutely true. I’m the more technical photographer. I’m always asking her technical questions. You know, f-stop, exposure and all kinds of other stuff. And she’s always super happy to share and to help. A lot of photographers aren’t, you know? They treat their work as trade secret and they don’t want to share any information about how they did what they did. But the three people that we’re talking about, they always have been very helpful and willing to suggest things to do and to try.
LJ: It’s so lucky when you happen upon people who are generous and then they learn too, you know?
EJ: This is going to sound very self serving but we surround ourselves with good people, or try to, that’s a thing we strive for right? To eliminate negativity, surround yourself with positive and happy people and when you do that, you end up with people who are super helpful, super free with their suggestions and their information.
LJ: I’m with you there. That’s a great way to look at life, seek out what feeds you. The negative stuff can go by the wayside.
EJ: What’s my favorite life quote, Ainsley?
AJ: Well, we have a lot of them.
EJ: Don’t take yourself so seriously, you’ll never get out alive.
AJ: I was thinking you were going to go with “bad decisions make great stories later"
LJ: Yeah, well that’s true –laughs-
EJ: That’s our life motto.
AJ: That’s our travel philosophy.
LJ: That’s absolutely true. Without the thickening plot there’s no great story. Do you ever deal with creative blocks when you’re trying to look at a subject? Is there ever a time when you struggle with how to approach your subject?
EJ: Yes! So for me, this wedding that I did a couple of weeks ago, the groom is kind of a quiet and shy kind of guy. I was doing all the groomsmen shooting when the other photographer was shooting the bride and the bridesmaids and I could not think of anything for them to do. It was hysterical. We were all just sort of standing around looking at each other thinking ‘uhhh, what should we do?’ So one of the girlfriends of one of the groomsmen just went online and was looking for awkward groomsmen photography kind of shots, so we tried a bunch of different things and a bunch of them came out really good. So, sometimes I’ve gotten a creative block and I think it’s just a matter of, most of us have, not only cameras (we’re all photographers, we carry phones), but the whole internet is at your disposal, it’s in your pocket. If you run into those creative block moments, look for inspiration. It’s only a Google search away.
LJ: Oh Google would like that as an ad! –laughs-
EJ: Well there are so many resources to find inspiration for your photography and looking at what someone else did and trying to recreate it isn’t necessarily copying, if you don’t pawn it off as ‘ oh I did this, I’m so original.’
LJ: It can be like a launching point for a different idea.
LJ: This next question doesn’t belong in our conversation. I often ask artists, this is mostly painters, visual artists, that are working with drawing, but I guess it can apply to photographers because if you’re using Photoshop at all, or using editing software, you’re getting into the working of the image process. So, when you are working on a body of work or an image, how do you know when it’s done? How do you know when to move on to the next thing?
AJ: When I get angry –laughs-
AJ: When I’m working on a photo and I’m adjusting or color correcting or just trying to tweak it just a little bit; trying to give it something special, I usually will surpass the point of ‘this is where I should stop’ and then I start to get annoyed and frustrated that I cant make it any better, at which point I usually back up two steps and say ‘that should be good’.
EJ: For me, once it stops getting better, you reach a point with digital photography, where if you keep making changes, it doesn’t get any better. If anything, it starts to get worse or you start to notice that you’re losing the original idea that you had. So that’s kind of how you know you’re done, no matter what you try, if you don’t feel like you’re getting closer to your goal, it means you’ve probably already reached it.
LJ: Right. So let me just kind of clarify your approach. When you look at a picture, you’re saying “Maybe I’m going to adjust the lighting, I’m going to maybe enhance this area, I’m going to bump up the color.” You’re just playing with different attributes, visualizing what you want to see, and if you come close to it or get to it, then you call it done?
AJ: Yeah, and typically when we look at a RAW image right off of the camera, the first thing that’ll pop into my head is “What would I have liked to have shot better and how can we use digital software to improve that?” Is it slightly off center? Do we want it to be centered? Should we rotate it a little bit? Is it not quite straight? Especially with horses, is there a pile of poop in the background that needs to be removed? Do we need to adjust the shadows and pull out some of the shadows? Do we need to amplify the highlights?
EJ: It’s almost like it’s a series of ‘what if’ questions that you ask yourself. You know, “This photo looks really good but what if that thing wasn’t there or what if that fence was perfectly horizontal? What if her face was a little brighter?” Then you get to the point where you ask those ‘what if’ questions and if it doesn’t make any improvement and that’s okay, well then I guess it’s good.
LJ: I like that! “What if” questions. Describe a typical day, or do you not have them?
EJ: I don’t think we have them.
AJ: Yeah our days are so vastly different. Erik works for a software company by day and I spend my days on my laptop answering client emails, doing graphic design, doing social media, putting together marketing plans, building websites. Most days I’ll take a couple hours off in the afternoon, and ride my horse. Then I’ll come home and do more work in the afternoon. Some days I’m at the drag strip from 8 am to 8 pm, standing on the sidelines in the roasting hot sun, sweating my butt off taking photos. It’s different and we’re very, very fortunate that we’ve chosen careers that allow us the freedom and flexibility to not have a typical day.
EJ: I like that answer.
LJ: Wonderful! There’s a lot of hours involved. There’s a huge amount of commitment with that, so it’s funny because it can be glamourized, but I mean in a way, it’s 24/7 when you don’t have a typical day.
EJ: Especially with photography, the post work is far more time consuming than the actual work. We may go to an event or a party or whatever and spend the day shooting photos and yeah, that’s maybe an 8 hour day, but you really didn’t spend the whole 8 hours photographing. There’s a lot of walking and positioning and other things and then you get all those photos and you have to weed through them. Alright which ones are garbage? Which ones are mediocre? Which ones are amazing? And then you have to fix them all. So it really is work. People think photography is so glamorous but it’s super stressful, right? Especially if it’s somebody’s wedding. These are moments they want to capture for the rest of their life and you’re fighting with your new lens that you’ve never used before and it won’t focus right and you’re freaking out. It’s definitely not easy and it absolutely is work.
LJ: Right, so it has to be a labor of love.
EJ: Yes, you have to enjoy that type of frustration and stress and that type of thing.
AJ: Well, not enjoying the frustration so much as enjoying the feeling you get when you overcome that frustration. I love that! It sounds really silly but with web design and web development, it’s kind of similar because there’s always that question of “Why isn’t this working? Why isn’t it doing what I want?” Then, when you have that moment where everything clicks and you figure out what settings actually worked t just comes together, it’s perfect and it’s the best feeling ever.
LJ: I’m sure!
EJ: A great example of that happened earlier this year when I really heavily started shooting horses and it wasn’t until the last event when I figured out the good range of settings. It went from a medium percentage of photos that were really great to probably more than ¾ of the images where everything was in focus, the lighting was awesome, the framing was good, so…
LJ: That’s called getting in the flow right?
EJ: Yeah, it’s definitely about learning things and not being afraid to try something different. And giving yourself the opportunity to learn how to do those things when it doesn’t count, so when it does count you can call on your skills and your knowledge and your experience to make it easier.
LJ: So what would you say is your biggest accomplishment in your field so far?
AJ: Does this count?
EJ: Yeah, can we say this?
LJ: Absolutely! I like that! That makes me proud!
AJ: I’ve been published in Drag Illustrated. Even before I started working for them as a journalist I had been published. I had several of my drag racing photographs published in their magazine and that was really cool and Erik actually surprised me. He had the first photo I ever published. It was a two page spread of a drag race car he had it printed and framed for me, which was really thoughtful of him.
LJ: Oh how nice!
EJ: I think this surpassed that for sure. This is a big deal!
LJ: Oh wonderful! I think it is!
EJ: It’s not only a big deal, like ‘hey we won something’ but your company is well known in the industry and you’re making a big deal of it…
AJ: And we appreciate that!
EJ: And that in and of itself makes it sort of all that much of a bigger deal
LJ: Well, we really tried to make it so that people who are serious about their craft are the ones who enter it. That’s why it’s kind of a pain to enter. Truly. You have to have a gallery, you have to have five images, you have to tell us about yourself. It’s not one of these contests where you just upload a jpeg and ask people to vote. We’re looking for people who are serious about their art and their craft and so there’s stiff competition. So to win, honestly, I look at these contests and I go ‘oh my gosh, each and every one of these are fantastic in their own way.’ It’s just a matter of the people who have the networks and put forth the effort to put their work out there and bring in the votes. I like that we can be the curators and the public is the jury. So congratulations! I’m glad you consider this your biggest accomplishment, again it makes me proud! How do you see your art evolving, especially as a team?
AJ: Erik, that’s all you.
EJ: This is probably going to sound silly but we’re not going to take it anywhere, were going to let it take us where it wants to go. So, you know, when we bought the camera, when we started on this journey, there was no plan. We didn’t set a goal and say we want to win a contest or be published or whatever. It was ‘well, look, we’ve got this business that we’re starting and we’re starting to have a need to do more photojournalism, let’s get some gear and do some stuff.’ And throughout that process every step of the way we’ve just sort of let the universe tell us where we should be going and the things that we find success doing, we do more of and the things that we don’t find to be successful, we do less of. So, recently that success has been in horse photography and drag racing and other things. We do more of those things and things that haven’t been successful we’ve stopped doing. We’ve never tried to be travel photographers because it’s super saturated and all kinds of things. Of course, we travel a lot but we’re not constantly exposed to it in such a way where we can really make a go of it. But that doesn’t prohibit us from taking lots of travel photos. The horse things and the motorsports things and even now, some event things people are noticing and saying “Hey this is pretty cool. Can you do whatever?” Not only can I do that but I’m going to try to figure out how to do it better so that more people want me to do it.
LJ: Well first let me interject here, you two are adorable! You really are! You can tell you’re just a really great couple. And so if you’re producing really great work people are going to work with you just because they like being around you and I think that goes a long way when you’re passionate about your work and about each other. You’re adventurous, you care about the technical part of it, and you’re trying to create something that’s memorable and that is art for your clients. That’s going to take you really far. Believe me I know. I’ve been in business a long time.
AJ: Oh I hope so!
EJ: That’s a great compliment!
LJ: You obviously have a chemistry and you’re going with it. It’s really exciting to get to know you this way and support you.
EJ: Thank you.
LJ: How do you decide what price to charge for your work?
EJ: That is probably the biggest problem that we have had thus far.
LJ: You and every other artist I’ve ever spoken to in my life!
EJ: Yeah and especially for us because were just making the transition into we are doing photography for the purpose of selling the photography as opposed to we are doing the photography because it is coming along with something else. For example, with the photojournalism with the articles. Both Ainsley and I write articles for magazines that require, in many cases, photos. It has just been a come along. The purpose wasn’t to get paid for taking this photo. And the price for the article or whatever it was, was already negotiated. As with the horse photography and this wedding thing and some of the other things we’ve started to do, it’s so difficult to understand because especially when you’re talking about motorsports or horses or weddings or things people are already so heavily invested financially in, that particular moment that to come at them with another nickel or dime, it’s like wow there’s a whole lot that goes on in that customer’s mind about what they’re willing to pay or what’s a good value or what have you. And recently we’ve been watching this show on TV, what was is Ainsley?
AJ: Brain Games.
EJ: We’ve been watching this show called Brain Games and they do all these interesting things with people’s minds. Not in like a malicious way, it’s like the picture of the old man and the young woman kind of thing, you know?
AJ: It shows you how your brain is playing tricks on your and how it’s manipulating you into believing something that might not actually be true and how to take advantage of it for yourself I guess?
EJ: Sort of. But one particular episode was talking about pricing and how with popcorn as an example, if there’s only one price not a lot of people bought popcorn. But when there was a small and a large, some people bought the large. But when they introduce a medium that’s almost the same size as the large, I don’t remember which it was, it was either everybody buys the large or everybody buys the medium. But it was just sort of that realization of the psychology of pricing, sort of led us to select some of the ways that we package price. For example, the horse events. By offering a single photo at one price, and then a small group of photos at a different price, and then for not so much more you can just get everything, it totally was the case, at the one event that we did, the only people that bought, bought the complete package with just everything in it.
LJ: Oh wow!
EJ: Yeah it’s interesting! So just by doing a little research on the psychology of pricing – even if your prices aren’t right you know you can figure out how to change your prices to improve discounts. Because especially with art, which is very subjective, if people don’t know what they’re getting into ahead of time, meaning you’re not selling something that’s just off the shelf, you have to sort of get them interested and figure out something that’s going to make them want to do it. So yeah, pricing has truly been the hardest thing. And especially just because we’ve only started.
LJ: When you price an event package do you ever give a price for shooting the event and no editing, and then shooting the event and some edited or prints or whatever?
EJ: Sort of. The few clinics that I shot at had basically everything involved, some edited except for the blow out package, where you got to select a few photos that you wanted edited but everything else that was quality we just gave you as part of that package. We haven’t done any sort of bring your own post production kind of things at all.
LJ: Well I was just throwing that out there as an idea.
EJ: I think that’s definitely interesting! I think part of that is, not every body knows how to use the tools, and how many people even understand how to edit the RAW image at all, let alone do something good with it? It would be one of those situations where we would probably be better off doing the opposite, which is to have clients send their travel photos and we will make them look awesome, as opposed to we’ll take a bunch of photos and then let you try to make them look better.
LJ: Well that’s true because then your name is attached to work you’re not proud of, so that’s true.
LJ: So, any framing tips? You said you’ve been framing for a long time. How do you like to frame?
AJ: Oh god, I’m scared of frames. I’ll admit that. I am so scared.
AJ: Because nice quality art and nice quality frames are not cheap. So I get so nervous, I get like “What if I choose the wrong frame and it doesn’t look good in the room.” Or what if we decide to move it and it doesn’t look right in the new room? So I’ve been struggling with this lately. I tend to default to, for most photos, just a simple white mat with a simple black modern frame around it to just kind of frame the art. You don’t need to see the frame. But lately, since we have this gift card that we’re so excited to use, I’ve been thinking and trying to wrack my brain more and you know make it count, try something different. So I had ordered some samples and I have some other samples from pervious orders as well and so I’ve been playing with them this week to try to figure out something a little different. And actually for the photo that won; the picture of the bridge, I always, always, always, framed with a white mat and for this one I think I’m going to do something a little different and I’m going to do a double mat and the larger mat is going to be a color.
AJ: I’m really excited because I’ve never done that before so…
LJ: Well if it gives you any consolation, I’m a white mat person as well. I very rarely use color at all. If I use color it’s like a photo grey or a soft black.
AJ: Something very unobtrusive. But I feel like there’s a really great way to use color mats but I’m just not brave enough to try it YET. But maybe one day.
LJ: Well, that’s what samples are for. And that online design tool.
LJ: What’s really cool to do is to mock up some different options and then save them as jpegs and put them on your desktop and take a look at them a few days later and see what appeals to you.
AJ: And that’s exactly what we’ve done and it’s one of the reasons why I’m such a huge fan of American Frame. You offer that tool so you can see what the image is going to look like, on the mat, in the particular frame you want, and you can save it and print it out and stick it on your wall if you want
EJ: I have a really silly idea. What if you offered a mock up your framed art and then we will print it at size, relatively inexpensively so that you can just put the print on the wall and stand there and go ‘oh that color looks good’.
LJ: You know, that’s a great idea. Our problem is that we have to reduce everything to such a low resolution on the website that if we were to print something at size that you were just designing, it would be all pixelated.
EJ: Yeah but if you could do it that’d be really cool. We’ve done a lot of that and your tool definitely makes it easier to try to be adventurous.
AJ: With that in mind, I guess my framing tip would be: don’t be afraid to stray away from the black frame and white mat and use the resources available. Take a picture of your living room and then use Photoshop to stick it in there or use the American Frame online tool which is so handy and I have used it a million times and I am in love with it.
LJ: Thank you!
AJ: Use the tools out there before you have to commit.
EJ: And also just think about why are you hanging the photo or the artwork and why are you hanging it where you are hanging it. That can help you to figure out whether to use a silver or some kind of chrome flashy thing because it’s in my dining room and everything else in my dining room is kind of shiny and interesting; or maybe shiny and interesting because everything else in that room is dull and I want it to be a focal point because it’s a picture wall and it should make the room look bigger’ or you know, you just have to think about the context of what the thing in the frame is doing to maybe get some ideas about what type of frame you might want to use.
LJ: Excellent advice! Because truly, when you think about all the images we take and so you have this one that merits framing. Why? The question of ‘why’ is a hard one sometimes. What is it? Sometimes Idon’t even know. , It may be just because it’s aesthetically pleasing or evokes a memory. Well do you have any questions for us before you go?
EJ: I guess this is sort of an unrelated question, but a side question. I think American Frame is going to do a press release or something? Are you guys okay with us republishing it?
LJ: Oh please! Absolutely, yes! This is all yours. A press release did go out and we will get you the link.
EJ: Yes please, we can start a section on our website for awards and recognition.
LJ: Absolutely! And then this will be a separate landing page on our website.
LJ: We’re a little bit behind on our Featured Artist Publication. We just moved our offices away from our plant, our main facility has been that way for years and we’re expanding our retail Showroom to be a state of the art Showroom, framing, meeting and learning center.
AJ: That’s awesome!
LJ: We’re really trying to make a difference here in the local art community so that’s why I was saying if you ever have the chance, come visit! Construction will probably be complete (I’m hoping) mid-August. We will be doing a series of grand openings. Re: the Featured Artists, we’re trying to figure out how to prominently display the work and celebrate the people who have participated with us that way. But anyway, long story short, you will have your own landing page on our site and we will be sure to share everything with you.
EJ: That’s super cool!
LJ: We will do what we can to help spread the word.
AJ: We definitely appreciate it. This is such a cool opportunity, so thank you for not only having the contest, but for all of the post work afterwards
LJ: Of course!
EJ: Sounds really cool!
LJ: Well thank you again and stay in touch!
AJ: Definitely! Thank you so much.
EJ: Have a great evening.