Our “SLR Lounge Artist Feature” articles highlight some of the very best photographers in the world. This article features Bud Johnson of Bud Johnson Photography (Savannah, GA). Bud is well-known for his ability to form lasting relationships with his clients and other industry professionals, and he truly embodies the “treat others as you want to be treated” mentality. Bud recently moved his photography business from Virginia to Georgia and took time to talk with us about that move. Read on as Bud gives his best tips for relocating your photography business. And you should definitely check out Bud’s upcoming photo walk at WPPI, sponsored by Leica Camera!
Bud, thank you so much for taking some time to talk with us. We’re really interested in hearing about your recent, and successful, move from Virginia to Georgia. But, first, how did you get into photography?
I got into photography back in high school actually. We could pay a flat fee and have unlimited access to the school’s film supply and developer—we only had to supply the paper we printed on. Someone liked my photographs (all black and white and shot on a little Pentax k1000 with a 50mm f/2). They asked me to photograph their wedding. Naturally, I went to my school’s supplies, rolled a dozen rolls of film, developed the photographs, and printed about 300 4×6 photographs. After that, I hand delivered the prints; the school changed their printing policy; and I fell in love with wedding photography. In fact, that was the first wedding I photographed, and the first wedding I ever attended. As a side note, I also flunked out of that photography class, but that’s another story.
Hm. While we really want to hear that story, let’s get to your move! What prompted it? Tell us that story.
My wife (and best friend, business partner, and boss, Sarah, who is super amazing) and I recently made a big, giant move to Savannah, Georgia. All of our friends and family are in a small town called Mechanicsville, Virginia. Our whole lives were in about a ten mile bubble, and we really did love it. Nevertheless, I’ve always had the itch to get out and explore, blaze our own trail, and see the world a bit. After a few years of planning and scheming, we began to look into seriously moving our family. Overall, it was not an easy decision, and it’s one we still wrestle with every day. We made sure we were still only a drive away, and not a flight away, from our family. In the end, we decided to head south, to warmer weather so we’d have more months to photograph weddings. And we moved into a market that we researched and knew could sustain our business and personal goals. We actually only knew one person in Savannah at that time (Callie Beale ). A little less than two years later, we’re now blessed with some incredibly close friends, a network of amazing neighbors, and we’ve connected with and plugged into an amazingly healthy wedding industry.
Rad! So, for photographers out there looking to do something similar … What are your best tips for relocating your photography business?
Oh man! I have so much to say about this, so I’ll try to keep it brief! And if anyone reading this has questions, please leave a comment below, and I’ll do my best to get your questions answered.
- Don’t be quiet about it. On our first trip to Savannah, I googled ‘best wedding venues in savannah, ga’ and visited the first three, unannounced. Two weeks before our second trip to Savannah, I emailed the first ten venues from that google search, introducing myself and asking if I could swing by to say hello and drop off a small gift. Five responded, and I met with all five.
- Instagram like it’s your job. With your list of wedding venues (see 1. above), look them up on Instagram: their profiles and their locations. Next, look at the top photographs and interact with them. Then, look at the most recent, and see who’s been there. Finally, find the regulars and learn what it takes to become a regular as well. See the type of clientele they bring, and learn how to connect and market with them.
- Learn how to hashtag! Think big and small. On my posts, I’m not just a #weddingphotographer. I’m also: #savannahphotographer; #savannahwedding; #savannahweddingphotographer; #weddinginsavannah; #lowcountryweddingphotographer; etc. I make it my business to be in the top 9, and at least in the most recent top 20.
- Find friends in the industry. They’re out there; I promise. Some of my best friends are some of my closest competition. We aren’t shy about that, and we all have lost couples to one another, but we’ve also given referrals, advice, and been there when we need to groan and gripe about something. Make friends for your sanity, but also for your business. A little competition will inspire everyone to do better, and there’s always room to serve our couples a little better.
- “This is my job!” – Adonye Jaja. That’s a quote from 2019’s South East Photo Convention, where I was recently a speaker. I don’t want to take this out of his context, but that singular line spoke to me during Adonye Jaja’s presentation. Not only are we bringing our art, our heart, our passion, and our creativity to each and every wedding, but this is also, quite legitimately, our career. And that means taking it seriously. So, If you want brides and grooms to find your work and book you, you need your work to be discoverable, and your services bookable. Every where you go, bring it up, and talk about it.
Has relocating your photography business spurred any major changes for your business? Rebranding, for example?
One of the best things about relocating your photography business is the ability to kind of ‘rebrand’ yourself in your new city. Coming to Savannah, I knew ‘now was the time’ to experiment with editing, gear, and style. I think most photographers today revere the Leica brand from a far, but at the encouragement of a good friend of mine (Jay Cassario), I decided to give some Leica gear a try. Since I was trying to find my new stride here in Savannah, it was the perfect time to dive head first into such a unique camera ecosystem, and I’ve never been happier. I remember the first time I used the Leica M, a rangefinder system. It reminded me of those first days back in photography class, itching to photograph and look at every thing with a new set of eyes.Since then I’ve started using other Leica systems. I still use and love the Leica M, but my main workhorse now is the Leica SL. It’s absolutely customizable in every way—I feel like Leica created the most configurable tool that just links up to my body and brain like none other. … Being able to bring a unique look, a unique experience to my weddings and portrait sessions has definitely played a major role in the success of my business in a new city.
Bud, thanks again! Really great insight … Before you go, tell us: what do you love most about being a wedding photographer?
There’s this moment in my consultation where I’m telling my couples why I do what I do. I tell them that each photograph I take I’m taking to fit into their wedding album. We talk about what that will be like years from now. And I don’t plan on them looking at that album and thinking, ‘Wow, Bud was really there; Bud captured this moment for us.’ Because I want to disappear …
I want my clients to look at their album and remember the day their family began and to have their kids be able to make fun of their style choices. And for them to remember each moment from that day, feeling those same smiles from so many years ago? Just knowing that I have a small part in that memory is what I love about being a photographer.
You can check out more of Bud’s work on his website. Also, be sure to give him a like on Facebook and a follow on Instagram as well, where you’ll always find Bud delivering fresh Instagram Stories content!
And while you’re poking around the Bud’s social media, we’d love for you to check out the best of the 2018 SLR Lounge Award Winners here. Don’t forget to submit by the February 28 deadline to be considered for SLR Lounge’s February 2019 awards competition. Finally, remember that anyone can sign up for an SLR Lounge account for free and submit, but Premium Members are able to submit up to three photographs each month!
All photographs are copyrighted by Bud Johnson of budjohnsonphotography.com and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify, or re-post this article, or the included photographs, without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.