We had the good fortune of connecting with Robert Williams and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Robert, can you tell us the story of how you started your business?
If you ask someone who wants to build their own home, and was given millions of dollars, the question of: “What would be the first thing you would buy in regards to building your home. “? Most people would say land, materials, builders, etc. But in actuality, it is my opinion that you would first buy the ” Blue Print” or plans for building the house. Both the size of house and the land could be build according to the plans you have. This analogy is what I used as my starting point for starting my business. Although I had much passion and creativity for photography, I never thought that I could make a living with only just those two things alone. So I enrolled in college, with the expectations of learning new techniques, rules, and the knowledge of the fast pace of technical equipment being offered today. There is a running joke out here which answers the question of “How did you learn to shoot”? And the joke is , that many would answer ….. ” from YouTube university “. I at one time was a freelancer of video production and a hobbyist of photography. I actually worked in the old photo studios in Walmart. I found that I was a top performer of the style of shooting and the selling of the many packages that they offered. Needless to say, I made lots of money for this company. So why not do it for myself? About 7 years ago I was engaged and asked my fiancee what she thought about me going back to school. She hated her photo being taken, and at one time knocked my camera out of my hand. Her reply was short and felt like a punch through the gut. She said “You are too old to go back to school!” I later enrolled in Atlanta Technical College and graduated with an Associate degree in Design and Media Production ! It was while I was enrolled when I sold my first image. My photography teacher entered some of my work in the Clayton County Art Museum Gallery. I sold a few images and won 2nd and 3rd place for the various photo contests. It was later that I was asked by the Chamber of commerce of Clayton County for use of one of my images to be a cover for one of their magazine stories. I was in totally awe but more importantly, it gave me great confidence in my ability. Upon graduation I joined many of the various photography Facebook Meetup groups that allowed me to work with models, and Children to develop my portfolio. I later would post my images and would receive many requests for personal shoots and or weddings. Although I had a web site, it was truly only by word of mouth that attracted many of my clients. In sharing my story I would like to strongly emphasize some important key factors. 1. Always believe in yourself and never let anyone deter you from your passion. 2. It only takes one other person to believe in you and your work, rather than a thousand who wont. 3. Lastly,…. When I participated the the National Skills USA competition, I was totally intimidated by all the high end equipment that my competitors had brought with them. I only had a kit lens with a basic DSLR camera, but yet, I came in 2nd place out of 21 competitors. My instructor/coach saw and felt my tension and she said to me four simple words. ” Rob …. Just Have Fun!”. So I say to all, Have fun in your work and your creativity will flow, your business will flourish, and your clients will keep coming back.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
With so many photographers and videographers in the world today, I asked my photography instructor how does one separate himself from others. Although her answer was simple, she said to just be who you are and allow your creativeness to come through. I try to see things through time with my eyes. The images I take today will be here long after I am gone. The one thing that I am most proud of is that I went back to school and graduated after so many years of working the 9 to 5. Although , I am very thankful for the many Fortune 500 companies that I worked for they were only jobs. They were not my passion in life. Photography and Video are my passion. You cant go wrong waking up doing something that you love each day. Getting here was not easy. There are a lot of things that classes or schools can not teach you. Dealing with various clients of all races, age, gender, knowing what you are worth and to price accordingly can all be challenging. But there is only one common denominator between them all. And that denominator is you. You control the mood, the atmosphere, the work flow, the shoot, the smiles, the nervousness. Yes, there will always be the Bridezilla’s of the world, the when will my images be ready? , the why do your charge so much, the so call friends and love relationships who dont support you or have faith in you. I, myself have overcome this with my relationship with my God, and to put trust in the talent he has given unto me. Your talent and gifts are not determine by the number of ” Likes” or Subscribers. This is the greatest lesson I have learned. In the late 80’s there was a popular photography studio called “Glamour Shot”. Their work was awesome at that time. But it was not just the final images that was the key to their success. It was how they made their customers felt like when they walked into that studio. The men and women clients were pampered and made to feel special. This is the framework in which I have formed my business. I want the client to walk away with the memory of the shoot. I want that female client that has not worn make up in over 20 years to come away feeling beautiful without the make up, or that Father or husband with the Dad Bod to feel that he still has his MOJO … and feeling confident. There is a quote by the late Ansel Adams which states : ” There are always two people in every picture – The Photographer and the Viewer! ” …. This quote has been my mantra for years!
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I would first take my friend to my favorite ( little known) hide away restaurant called the ” 57th Fighter Group”. This is a World War II military french bunker type themed restaurant. I am honored to be a Veteran and to have my name handwritten with the thousands of other veterans signatures that adorned the wooden walls. They have fine cuisine in both the formal and sports bar dining areas. There is also a dance floor. I would also impress my friend with the many historical sites of not only Atlanta but Georgia as a whole. From Stone Mountain, Lake Lanier, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, MLK center, The Aquarium to all the way to the Ga. coast by way of Savannah Ga. I have shot at both Tybee Island and Jekyll Island. In order to give my friend a joy of southern cooking, I would have to take him or her to the world famous Mary Mac’s.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
It is not cliche to use the phrase” It’s takes a village to raise a child “. But , in my case I would have to refer this to the many people and organizations that has helped me along the way. First may I say that, I have a quote signature at the end of every personal email that I send out. It says …… “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all…but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.” ~German Priest & Scholar Martin Luther. God has open more doors for me than I could have for myself. I would also like to thank Atlanta Technical College and the fine and awesome staff there. I would like to shout out to and offer many thanks to Ms. Karen Shacham ( Photography Instructor ) , Mr. Bret Pitre ( Video Production ) , Ms. Dessie Hall ( Director of Student Activities ), Arts Clayton, and The Skills USA Competition. I would also like to thank the lovely, beautiful and talented models that first worked with me. Darlaina Rose, Holly McMillon Steele, Daniela Rodriguez, Robin McMillon, Jess Grant and the many, many awesome models of the Atlanta Free Photo Shoot Community Group, Atlanta Photographers Guild, Special Thanks to my fellow photographer friends and colleagues, Spectrum Dave of Spectrum Pro Images, Jacqueline Carlton of Jacqueline Carlton Portrait, Lee Stargell Jr., Moe Soy-Boricua, Maxx Yin of Future Photography, Monte Lowery of Wilson Street Media, Aaron Renfroe of Darkwoodphotography and so many more. Thank you all for your talents, time and support.