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The Ups and Downs of Partnership with Brad Feinknopf

Full Time Photographer Episode 218 With Brad Feinknopf: The Ups and Downs of Partnership

Brad Feinknopf is an architectural photographer who has been in the industry for over 25 years. In this interview, he gives insight on who commissions him for work, how he became a full time photographer, his advice on getting a partner in the business, how marketing has changed over the years and the most important thing you need to be successful in this business.

Who does an architectural photographer contact to get work?

When working in the architectural industry, there are a number of people that are involved on a project. From the architect to the design architects, architect of record, construction company, construction manager, the general contractor, the client and the engineers, the people that are the most interested in getting great imagery of the building are the design architects. They want imagery that they can use for advertising; they will also submit those images for awards, etc. So when it comes to who to contact when wanting to get work as an architectural photographer, your best bet is the design architect.

How Brad Became a Full-Time Photographer

Brad’s father and grandfather were both architects and Brad would accompany his father to many projects while growing up. On these projects, Brad’s father would bring a camera and take pictures. For years, Brad figured he would follow in the family’s footsteps and began working on a design degree at Cornell. In his junior year, some photography friends encouraged him to take a photography course. The professor showed him that photography could be a way to look at the world around him and he fell in love with it. With a desire to learn all he could, Brad moved to New York City and began working with Richard Avedon and other respected photographers in the industry. After a few years, Brad partnered up with another photographer and started a business. That didn’t work out so well.

Brad’s Advice When Getting a Partner

Brad has had two partners in his career. With the first one, he was quite young and naive. Brad didn’t like how the partner ran the business and, in his youth, figured that’s how the photography business was run and he didn’t want to be a part of it. He left photography for about a year until a photographer friend encouraged him to come back and partner up.

There are positives and negatives when it comes to partnerships in business. This second partnership allowed them to grow as their work complimented one another. Brad’s business partner was a fashion and lifestyle photographer, while Brad specialized in architectural photography. This made them stand out because back then most photographers were generalists.

Having a partner was great during the slow times in terms of cash flow; they were able to hire on full time staff to assist them. The difficult part was once they got to a certain point, the benefits of the overlap became less. Brad and his business partner were complete opposites and so that made decision making difficult and stressful at times. The two ended their partnership after the partner was in a serious car accident and was unable to work for a year. During this time, Brad had to carry the company on his own. He decided after a year that he had to start his own company.

How Brad Markets and Gets More Business

“Marketing has changed just like photography has changed,” Brad says. When he began in the industry 25 years ago, practically everyone in the local market was a generalist. When the Internet was invented, it opened up a world of possibilities and allowed people to reach a national, worldwide market with much more ease.

A few years ago, Brad used Twitter until it became flooded, but at the core the underlying theme in successful marketing is the desire to find human connection. He has always focused on connecting with his clients on a human level. He’s worked with some clients for over 15 years. Architectural projects can sometimes take a really long time - 2-8 years - but Brad enjoys the entire process. It takes him back to his childhood and watching his dad at work.

Best Advice for Photographers

There isn’t a way to get work quickly and become an overnight success. If Brad had to start his career over again, he would start small and focus on building his body of work. In the 25 years he's been in the business, he has built a body of work in various arenas of architectural photography. He knows how to perform at the highest level and can deliver more than just the final product. There’s so much more to just taking a great shot - he needs to make 10-15 solid architectural shots on a daily basis. In addition to that, you should have an eye to shoot, know the industry and be able to deliver the final images as well as have a great personality to sell yourself.

A “website is your greatest tool to make people aware of what you’re doing” so make sure you build a solid portfolio. It will speed up the process to becoming a successful architectural photographer.

What You Will Learn In This Podcast:

  • Who to contact to get work in architectural photography

  • How Brad Became a Full-Time photographer

  • The positives and negatives of working with a partner

  • The most important aspect of marketing

  • The importance of a solid portfolio

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