We had the good fortune of connecting with Pete Rezac and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Pete, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The most important factor behind my success and brand success is that I’ve stayed in my lane of genre of photography, which is Black and White Film. I’ve been through times when I’ve been told film is a dinosaur, to watching it regain popularity. However, al though it I never abandoned it. I’m now known for it where ever I travel to teach around the country and I always, always, always have some kind of film camera and black and white film.
All Ive shown on my instagram feed (prezac) for the past 7 years is black and white photography, and over the past 3 or so years its been all black and white film photographs. I have my portrait work shown, but also all the wonderful places I’ve had the privilege of visiting. This all is to reinforce that I’m a black and white film photographer, but also a portrait and travel photographer as well.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Well I’m a full time professional portrait photographer based in Reno, NV, but have made portraits all over the country. I offer a different experience for my clients in that I primarily work with photographic film with a number of film cameras. What really sets the experience apart is one of the film cameras that I use is a view camera – the kind the photographer has to put a drape over their head to focus and compose the image on the camera. It’s unique in that most photographers do not chose to work this way any longer and haven’t for a very long time – even before the onset of digital – as their were faster smaller film cameras to work with. However, I choose to work this way as it is entirely a different and unique experience for my clients, and I find it puts them at ease because of the slow pace it demands to make the photographs. Working this way provides me excitement every single session because I just don’t know if I got it until the film has all been processed – which I also do all my own processing.
I got to where I am today professionally through a lot of hard work and tenacity. There is so much more to photography than the latest new gadgets – or in my case the latest find in old gadgets. There is a whole sub craft of posing and lighting that has taken time to learn – and continue to learn – compositional skills, people skills, and business skills. All of that has taken time to build and develop into something that is sustainable even through tough times.
I made it though the “great recession of the late 2000’s and early 2010’s”, my business survived being shut down for 9 weeks in 2020 due to the pandemic and it will survive this inflationary period we are in right now. Its because I’ve worked hard to brand my business as something that is easy to find because it has a niche component – Film based Black and White. I also I’ve positioned myself as a guide to help my clients vs being a hero of my own story. Being a trusted guide vs. a hero is something that I learned from Donald Miller while listening to his “Building a Storybrand” podcast during the pandemic and retooling how I was running my business.
The valuable lessons that I’ve learned along the way, in addition to what I just mentioned I learned from Donald Miller, is to try not to be all things to all people. Do what you do best. For example I’m a portrait photographer, but I mainly do children, high school seniors, families and headshots. I don’t list myself as an expert in pets, babies, weddings, events, commercial, boudoir, etc. Too many try to be experts in everything where as I have a set of clients that all dovetail together. Children grow up to be High School Seniors, which live with a family, and usually one or both parents need a headshot. All of these types of clients allow me to use controlled lighting and posing – which is something that is different with my brand as its classic and will stand the test of time for generations.
I want the world to know that my pictures are about my clients vs about me. I want all of my clients to look so good, or tell such a great visual story that all of their friends will be jealous of how great they look! I want their friends to comment about them vs where was that photo taken or who took it. Of course I want them to tell them I did the picture, but only after they have commented on how great they look several times!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
So I visit Atlanta several times a year, and do not live in Atlanta. However, there are lots of things that I love about Atlanta and would recommend to people. First off get to Peachtree Center and visit or have drinks in the lobbies of the Marriott Marquis and Hyatt Regency. The atriums of these hotels are a visual experience all onto themselves and we just don’t see hotels being built like them anymore. The architecture is just sensational, and best of all they are linked by enclosed walkways so its comfortable to walk around Peachtree Center in air conditioned comfort.
A short walk would be to Olympic Park and its fountains and history from the 1996 Olympic Games with the Georgia Aquarium not being far away either. Also CNN Center is right there to so see where all the breaking news and CNN shows are televised.
Buckhead is a great area to go to for restaurants and entertainment. It’s not a terrible uber or Lyft ride to bulkhead, but worth visiting and who knows you might run into a movie star or sports hero.
Finally, the Battery and the Omni Hotel at the Battery is great place to stay and watch the Atlanta Braves Baseball team. The entertainment area and shopping that is all connected is just a great family experience. They really did it right with the Battery and the Omni Hotel is right there too, which is adorned with Braves baseball memorabilia and great views of the ball park! You can even watch a game from your hotel room if you are on the west side of the hotel!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Well first would be my wife, Molly, and kids – Eric and Maddie. They have supported my decision to work as a full time portrait photographer from home since making the jump to full time in 2010. I also have to thank the Professional Photographers of America for having a business education, a degree program to work towards, and the countless friends and mentors I’ve found along the way. Finally, I have my close photographers that have helped me refine my vision and business through their friendship and mentoring – those would be Allison Watkins, Nancy Green, Tim Meyer, Sandra Pearce, Diane Costello, and Marcy Dugan
Headshot is – courtesy of Allison Watkins of English Photography All other images are by me Pete Rezac Photography