This week, we had the opportunity to interview our friend, Timothy Riley, a wedding photographer based out of Portland and Augusta, Maine. Besides being a great photographer, Timothy is an entrepreneur and innovator, as he came up with the brilliant idea of RPG Keys, a tool that dramatically increases the efficiency of photographers’ workflow around the world.
Check out his websites:
RPG Keys: RPG KEYS.
When were you established?
RPG KEYS = Oct 2008. Riley PhotoGraphic = 2000
What type of photographer are you? I.E. do you focus on weddings, commercial work, head shots, venues, food, portraits, seniors, or do you cover the whole gamut?
I shoot weddings to put food on the table, but I adore portrait work. The one-on-one time I get while shooting high school seniors and babies is the best part of my job. While weddings are great, it’s the ability to be creative in a portrait shoot that I love.
How would you define your photographic style?
Mixed! I am happy to be flexible and offer any style to make my clients happy. I realized about three years ago that it’s all about the client; make them happy, and you’re going to book five of their friends. So when it comes to style, I try to be flexible. But, when given the opportunity, I prefer to bring a bit of edgy fashion photography into my weddings.
How did you get started in photography? At what point did you decide to do this professionally?
I was shooting weddings while putting myself through graduate school (Masters degree in engineering & BS in Geology). Then, while working as an engineer, my boss told me I had to work 7 days a week for 6 to 8 months. I quit the next day. Now I work 8 days a week â€EVERY WEEK â€but I love my job and I get to spend time at home with my family.
Everyone says word of mouth is the most effective form of advertising, but that doesn’t really help new photographers getting into the industry. How would you recommend new photographers get those first few gigs to get them going?
Get out the flame thrower! I booked 10 weddings at my first bridal show. Shoot a friends wedding and display the images at a wedding show. A $500 investment could pay off big!
How long did it take you to get established and to the point where you were at least substituting your wages in Corporate America?
If you had 60 seconds of advice to give a newly turned professional photographer, what would that advice be?
Keep your day job while turning pro. Put $4k in advertising the first year. Save all the revenue from your first year and put it in advertising in your second year. If you don’t advertise, your phone may never ring no matter how good you are. Even after 6 years, we still find that if we don’t put money into marketing, we will do fewer jobs the following year.
Where do you turn for photographic inspiration? Which photographer’s do you follow and admire?
Tough question ¦ Our company is owned by two brothers. Me (Tim) and Chris Riley. Our styles are different and we seem to inspire each other to create new and exciting images. It might be a bit of competition from our younger years, but it still inspires us.
Obvious question, Canon or Nikon and is there a why?
Canon. When I got into photography Canon was a better system. Now it seems to be a 50/50 split and I already own the Canon equipment.
What do you enjoy most about your photography business?
I enjoy the business side of this line of work most. The challenge of keeping our revenue numbers above the previous year’s numbers is always a challenge. On the creative side of things I enjoy portrait work the most. If I could make a living only doing portraits, I would be a happier man. Ã¯ÂÅ
What do you least enjoy about your photography business?
Having just had my first child, I think the time away from home is the most tough. Travel sounds so fun, but after a while, it is hard to leave home for a weekend.
What is the biggest misconception in the photography industry in which you specialize (i.e. commercial, fashion, weddings, food, etc)
No clue. :)
Are you looking for assistants, second shooters, or shooting partners? If so, what are you looking for in said positions?
Always! We have just found a second shooter who is amazing and really fun to work with. I also have a super office manager who does my editing, but if I could hire a second manager for a month it sure would help us get some extra work done.
Do you make time for personal photographic work? If so, what do you enjoy photographing?
Not often enough. When I do have time, I enjoy landscape photography. I am about to try a new (new to me) process in which I will print a few images on canvas and then take a texture gel to the print with a brush. I have seen others do this with amazing results.
Second most obvious question, Mac or PC and why?
Both! PC first and now MAC. Owning RPG Keys requires that I have and use both platforms so I can offer the product to a wide audience and deliver tech support. The RPG KEY product was first designed for PC people and later for Mac users. (Shameless plug ) ¦.. Cut your editing time in half by trying the RPG KEYS for 30 days! If you don’t like it, send it back for a full refund. Many people have cut their editing time by 80%
Give us your favorite line or jokes you might use to make your clients feel at ease when in front of your lens.
At a wedding just before family formals ¦ “Okay folks, I am the only thing between you and the bar ¦ so play nice with me and you will all have an umbrella drink in your hand in 20 minutes
Where can we find you on a Friday night at 9 p.m.
Spending time with my wife. She is the real secret to my success.
What online or offline learning resources do you use to continue your photographic education?
DWF (Digital Wedding Forum).
How many weddings/portrait sessions/or events do you shoot each year and where do your clients fit in the budget range?
Between my business partner and me, we normally do about 50 weddings and 200 portraits a year. However, the numbers are less this year due to the economy and the focus on RPG Keys.
Take us through the process of what you do to win over a potential client? How do you schmooze them?
I try to make a connection with each client. The moment we find something in common, I immediately see them relax a little. Then we spend most of the time talking about what they want and ways I can make sure they get it. My best advice is to leave the ego at the door and offer ways to make sure they get just what they want. Scheduling meetings over drinks also helps brides relax a little.
How do you differentiate yourself from other studios?
Personality. We actually advertize the fact that we have fun with our clients.
What do you tell people who are simply looking for budget “turn-and-burn” services?
We used to turn these people away. Now we offer to shoot their wedding on a non-peak date such as mid-week, on a Wednesday or Thursday. All of our clients see our price list well before we meet them, so price is not very often an issue.
What is one effective way you use to market and personalize your studio? (SEO, bridal shows, online pay per click advertising, print advertising, etc)
BRIDAL SHOWS! As a guy these are a little painful and expensive, but they work for us! If you are just getting into the biz and your prices are low, you can clean up at a bridal show.
By: Lin and Jirsa Wedding Photography, Los Angeles and Orange County Wedding Photographers
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