To kickoff National Volunteer Week, we’re featuring a recent interview with one of our newest volunteers, Bruce Arnold. We found Mr. Arnold through Catchafire.org. Recently retired from Fujifilm USA, he was looking for opportunities to give back. He has graciously offered to help us with our expo marketing strategy.
PS: When did you develop an interest in photography?
BA: I found that I enjoyed taking pictures at about the age of 8-9 years old. When I was 14, my older brother who was in the Air Force gave me my first camera, a “hand me down” 35mm, when he upgraded to a newer 35mm. It was a vintage 1955 “Argus 35 C” rangefinder film camera. No meter, no auto focus, all manual aperture and shutter speeds. After my first few rolls of black and white film I was hooked!
What were your earliest images like?
Most of my photography was done in black and white. I would send my film out to be processed at a local camera store. I first trained my camera on landscape views and nature. As I progressed, I became more interested in still life and close up images of inanimate objects using available light. As my technical skills improved, I ventured into doing “street images” and candid pictures of my friends. Once I became more comfortable taking candid images of people, I gained the confidence to do close-up portraits of family and friends. At the age of 16, I started working at a camera store and learned how to process film and print images for customers.
How and/or why did you start a photography business and what was your focus?
After graduating from high school I went to work as an assistant studio photographer. My job involved processing and printing portrait images. My job responsibilities were expanded to doing candid sports activities, school photography for schools and then assisting at weddings. It wasn’t long before I was covering weddings on my own and training new assistant photographers. After working in the portrait business for a couple of years, I worked in a color lab, a commercial photo department at a computer company.
I had always dreamed of having my own business. I made the decision to open my own studio with my wife as my business partner in 1973. We enjoyed learning more, owning and managing the business, and working creatively with our customers. We did children portraits, school portraits, family portraits, and weddings. As our career progressed, I expanded into doing corporate advertising and commercial photography, and the studio employed five people, two who worked as photographers and the others as sales and darkroom/production technicians.
“Photographs validate a person’s existence, they ground us in the past and the present, the print preserves the memory for the future. Always make and cherish prints.”
~ Bruce Arnold and Joe Craig
What changes in direction did your photography career take?
The business was one that we considered to be very successful, with a regular client base. Our business growth was due in part to the creative and personal service that we provided for our customers. Our business had a good reputation. Our best advertising was word-of-mouth because people often recommend businesses that they use, that provide a good value and that they are happy with. In 1986, because of a devastating national business recession and a growing family, we made the hard decision to close the business. The plan was that I would go to work for a larger company that offered better job security for our family.
Did you know what you wanted to do next? Where did you start your job search?
Since I had the studio business for so long, and sales and working with people were a major skill that I had developed, it was second nature for me to work in the photo industry as a professional sales person. I started by representing a large professional color lab that serviced professional studio photographers and graphic designers. It was just prior to 1986 that the world of photo imaging started to transition from the use of silver halide films to digital capture, digital processing and digital printing. Because of my experience at the start of the digital “revolution”, I had skills to be able to work with studios and designers that were starting to place demand for digital image processing and digital printing.
In 2001, I joined the staff at Fujifilm USA as a Senior Technical Marketing Manager to professional sales. In that role I was fortunate to work with our product managers, development engineers and professional sales force to properly advise customers on the use of the Fujifilm family of products. I frequently taught professional digital camera and printing technique and also actively took part in industry trade shows.
What advice do you have for our graduating students who want to start their own photography business? And for the students who want to market their skills for non-photographer roles?
For all students, first let me explain something about how we, as human beings, interact. Understand that we are all in the customer service business somehow. Each and every person you come in contact with is “your customer”. In this world we have two types of customers- internal and external. Family and coworkers are considered our “internal customers”. People who come to you for a service or product are considered to be “external customers”.
The best advice I can give you is that to provide exceptional value you need to hone your interpersonal skills and be an “aggressive listener”. People, customers and co-workers, enjoy working with someone who listens to their needs. An “aggressive listener” not only hears, but understands and remembers what a customer or coworker has said. By doing those things you can provide the highest value to your customers by creating what they desire and need. They will always come back to you for more, and you will be successful.
Now, if you decide to have your own photography business, and you’d like to be successful, it’s important to remember:
>> Always make sure that you make time to teach others. Share your passion for what you do, why you do it and the way you do it.
>> There is nothing more important to anyone than a photograph of a friend, family member, event, or place. A photograph is the tangible way we can remember a face, an event or a place, hold it in our hand or display it on the wall. A photograph becomes a highly valued piece of personal property.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Bruce! We look forward to benefiting from your expertise.
Do you have a talent or skill you’d like to donate to Photo Start? Send us a note here.
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