Photography Advice

Flor Blake: Personal Branding Photography Done Right!

The TOGCHAT Photography Podcast

Flor Blake - Personal Branding Photography - TOGCHAT Guest
Flor Blake

This week, I had an awesome opportunity to chat with the Queen of Personal Branding Photographers – Flor Blake.

Flor Blake is a portrait, editorial, and commercial photographer with a style consisting of imaginative, vibrant, and dynamic imagery.

She grew up in the Caribbean (the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico) where you are automatically surrounded by color, rawness, vivacity and “flavor”, all of these elements greatly influence her work. With a Fashion Designer as a mom, Flor grew up among fabrics, patterns, and sketches, she even stitched her fingers a couple of times when playing in her mom’s workroom. All of this helped shape her aesthetic and gave her a great understanding of how design and the creative process in general works.

Her professional background includes all aspects of theater, documentary coordination, video production and editing, and a degree in Advertising from the University of Puerto Rico.

She loves traveling (even if it’s across the street), eating delicious food, and celebrating people’s birthdays.

Flor is based in Denver, Colorado where she lives with her wife Ileanexis and their three plants.

Release Date: May 3rd, 2021
Transcript | TOGCHAT Resources

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Flor Blake Talks About Personal Branding Photography Done Right!

[00:00:00.060] — Joe
Personal Branding Photography is one of the hottest new categories of photography, and in this episode I’m going to chat with Flor Blake, who is an incredibly talented Personal Branding photographer who splits her time between Puerto Rico and Denver, Colorado, when she isn’t traveling to some other exciting location to work with a new client. Stay tuned.

[00:00:25.230] — DJ
You’re listening to the TOGCHAT Photography Podcast, the only podcast dedicated to the HOWS and WHYS behind creating consistently great photographs.

[00:00:35.700] — DJ
Here’s your host, Joe Edelman.

[00:00:43.790] — Joe
Welcome to episode number 249 of the TOGCHAT Photography Podcast, I am Joe Edelman and my mission is to help photographers like you to develop a better understanding of the HOWS and WHYS behind great photography.

[00:01:01.080] — Joe
And be sure to visit my website at www.Joe Edelman.Com. You’ll find my portfolio over 300 articles and tutorials to help you improve your photography, as well as a directory of modeling agencies and makeup artists from all 50 of the United States. You’ll also find some great advice for models as well as the photographers that photograph them. And of course, the website serves as a home base for all of my TOGCHAT Podcast episodes as well as The LAST FRAME live.

[00:01:36.410] — Joe
And be sure to sign up for my email newsletter to receive updates. Don’t worry, I never sell the list and I will only email you when I’ve got something exciting to share. No spam from Joe. I am hoping that you subscribe to our YouTube channel and that you’ve seen my new series called The LAST FRAME LIVE.

[00:01:56.360] — Joe
The LAST FRAME is a one-hour live stream that happens every Wednesday evening at 6p.m. Eastern Time in the US. Each week, The LAST FRAME focuses on a different topic with no scripts, no razzle dazzle, no canned presentations. I do my best to give you a lesson or a demo or a series of tips based strictly on my experience. In other words, how I do it. No rules, no bullet points, no top five ways I share my ways of doing it so that you can get an inside understanding of how another photographer works. I promise this is not your usual YouTube tutorial stuff. I do hope you’ll check it out.

[00:02:40.670] — Joe
And if you haven’t subscribed to the YouTube channel yet, please do. You can find a link to The LAST FRAME Live, my website, my YouTube channel, and all of my social profiles in the show notes.

[00:02:53.000] — Joe
And if you are listening on iTunes or any other platform that allows reviews, please leave a few positive notes to help other photographers find out about the show. Remember, photography is not a competition gang. It is a passion. Let’s share it.

[00:03:12.880] — Joe
My thought for the week during a recent visit to a framing shop to have some mats cut for some new prints, I noticed a small frame displayed behind the counter with a great piece of advice for photographers. It read, shoot the family, hang the kids, framed the wife. I know some of you can relate.

[00:03:38.910] — DJ
Next up is a TOGCHAT exclusive interview.

[00:03:42.300] — Joe
Personal Branding, it’s a buzz phrase that we hear so often these days, and I’ve even talked about it on this podcast in the context of helping photographers brand themselves. The Personal Branding also represents an entirely new category of photography that is a cross between portraiture, lifestyle photography, environmental portraiture and fashion photography.

[00:04:08.190] — Joe
My guest this week splits her time between Denver, Colorado and Puerto Rico, and her business focuses almost exclusively on Personal Branding photography. Her work has a unique style consisting of imaginative, vibrant and dynamic imagery. She uses lots of color and her images are just plain fun. Flor Blake is an up and comer in the industry who is doing things her own way and clearly having a lot of fun doing it. So let’s dig in.

[00:04:42.720] — Joe
Flor Blake! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today on TOGCHAT. It’s great to meet you. How are you?

[00:04:50.250] – Flor
I’m doing great. Thank you so much for having me.

[00:04:52.950] – Joe
Believe me, it is my pleasure. And I have to be honest with you, I only recently learned about you and your work, and I’m kind of obsessed. I’ve been going through your website and your Instagram and I love your photography, but I also love your energy. Flor, I start every interview by asking my guests to introduce themselves to my audience, so if you would tell us a little bit about who you are and what kind of photography that you do.

[00:05:19.520] – Flor
Well, thank you for having me again. My name is Flor Blake. I’m a commercial and Personal Branding photographer. I’ve been doing photography for about 12 years. I’ve been doing Personal Branding commercial work about six years now. And basically I travel all over the world for my clients and I’ve been very lucky to do photography in London, in Paris, Vienna and all over the U.S. So that’s what I do. It’s a little chaotic at times because I have to have all my equipment with me basically at all times. But yeah, it’s a lot of fun. And I get to meet really cool people and get to help them show the right way online.

[00:06:04.480] – Joe
And I have lots of questions for you about the Personal Branding work, but I am curious, you split your time between Puerto Rico and Denver. How does that work?

[00:06:13.360] – Flor
So this actually started recently when the pandemic started. I didn’t know we didn’t know what was going to happen. Everybody was kind of all over the place. And my wife and I decided that the best thing was for us to move to Puerto Rico temporarily just because we wanted to be close to our parents, our parents, both our parents live there. And we decided to start a temporary thing like 2021 came in. And I’m like, well, why don’t we make this permanently?

[00:06:46.120] – Flor
So now I right now I’m in Denver and I’m going to be here until mid-June. Then I go back to Puerto Rico for probably three or four months. And then I start traveling for my clients again. And then I’m back to Denver in October. So it’s worked out. We are very fortunate to have a house here in Denver, and we have a place that we Air BNB in Puerto Rico. But right now we’re living in it.

[00:07:13.300] – Flor
So I always say when we bought this place, and we remodeled it. I wish I knew I was going to be living here for more than a year because I would have done things differently. We have started recently, and it’s I know it’s a little unorthodox and not everybody gets to do that, but my Personal Branding clients, for example, they love tropical places. So when I say that I’m based in Puerto Rico, they’re like, what?

[00:07:37.180] – Flor
So I don’t have to fly you to Puerto Rico, you’re already there. And I’m like, that’s very cool.

[00:07:42.940] – Joe
So how did you get into photography? And more importantly, what led you to specialize in Personal Branding?

[00:07:48.850] – Flor
I started when I was in college. I look young. I like to think I look young, but I’m actually 41. And so when I was in college, I was really interested in photography, but my professor was knowledgeable, but he wasn’t somebody that was super, super passionate about it. So he kind of killed my joy of photography. So I stopped doing it for a few years.

[00:08:17.500] – Flor
And then in 2007, I was living in New York and working at a public relations firm. I wasn’t happy and I had made the decision in January 2007, I made the decision of leaving that job by March 31st. And March 1st I got laid off because that’s when the whole recession, things started heating by Streit’s. And we were the first ones that got hit.

[00:08:50.950] – Flor
They gave me a severance package. And I’m like, oh, I guess this is this worked out in a way because I have my savings, because I had been planning for it, but they gave me a little bit more money. And then I was like, I was doing nothing like most of us were last year again. And I decided, well, I’m going to go take classes, photography classes. I found a little clause in.

[00:09:15.560] – Flor
It was the Educational Alliance in New York City. And somebody that went to NYU graduate like a photography graduate from NYU. He was teaching the class, and he was super passionate, and he was super excited about teaching and getting all excited about photography. And, so I haven’t looked back since then. I will also say that then we decided to move to Denver and I didn’t have a job that I found a job at a nonprofit called the Denver Foundation. And I started working there as an admin assistant because I just wanted to get a job.

[00:09:54.430] – Flor
And that that was 2008. And a couple of months after that, that’s when the recession really hit. And I was lucky that I wasn’t let go that at that moment. But they did have. You let go of the photographer that they work with for many years, but they couldn’t afford it anymore and I’m like, well, you know, while we get the money to hire him again, I can’t like I have my camera and I have been taking classes.

[00:10:22.850] – Flor
So I said I can do the photography for now. And if you guys don’t like it, then we can always try to hire them. And they never had to hire somebody ever again because I just did photography for them for like 13 years. And I’m still working with I don’t work with them full time anymore, but I still work with them on projects. So that’s the story.

[00:10:47.120] – DJ
Enjoying the show. Please take a moment and share it with your friends on social media.

[00:10:51.410] – Joe
You truly are an example of one. Door closes, another. Door opens. That’s so awesome. So Flor did your time spent working at a public relations firm helped to set you up success with Personal Branding photography.

[00:11:09.720] – Flor
So I’ve always loved portraits and I always say taking headshots is the hardest thing is it’s so hard to make like a head look good. I feel like if that’s I may be really easy for a bunch of photographers. There’s a lot of forces on this. But for me, I like besides the headshots and I take a lot of photos when I’m when I’m taking pictures. And I’ve always been like I was the only one shot that makes no sense. Like you’re so much more than a headshot. And, you know, and I started seeing Pinterest is a thing and that I we started like browsing Pinterest for recipes. And then I stumbled upon some portraits that I that known photographers I’ve done. And I’m like, oh, I can totally this is sort of like what I do already because I always I used to tell people you’re not just like you’re more than a whole person. Let’s just get everything. And people started and started really liking that. And then I saw that people were sharing those images on social media like lifestyle images and like, I can totally incorporate this. So that’s basically how it started. It’s like it was in to answer a question about the public relations firm.

[00:12:27.490] – Flor
Actually, one of my things is we’ll debate all of your relationships no matter where you are. And they didn’t necessarily well, it did serve me because I learned so much. And I still have contacts from there. But most recently when I kept in contact with my one of my coworkers from the public relations firm, and she was a part of that film and television women in film and television. And they had me come into over the red carpet and Sarah Jessica Parker was there and a bunch of really cool people. And then I went back and I created a portrait studio for them the next year. So that’s why I’m like, really develop your relationships because you don’t know where your next gig is going to come from.

[00:13:17.280] – Joe
Very true. So Flor I get the sense and correct me if I’m wrong, since you did go through two different sets of classes about photography, you surely learned all the rules and the dos and don’ts. But when I look at your photography and I mean this in the highest regard, I feel like you have thrown out all of those rules. And I say that because I realize there’s a certain amount of deliberateness in what you’re doing, but your images tend to not look deliberate. Your images look like they’re the result of a relationship that you’ve established with that person. So tell me if I’m right about tossing the rules aside, and I’d love to know a little bit more about your thought process in terms of that relationship concept and creating those moments that we see in your images.

[00:14:04.870] – Flor
Oh, my God, I’m so flattered that you mention that they don’t look deliberate, because that is definitely my intention. One of my biggest one of the biggest compliments, somebody like you, you’re like a reactionary photographer, like you adapt to all lighting situations no matter what. And I’m like, wow. I mean, I guess that is true. That’s exactly what happens. And yes. So to answer a question about the relationships. I create a relationship with my clients.

[00:14:31.390] – Flor
We have an initial phone call that’s about 60 Minutes. And they tell me everything about them and why they want pictures. I ask them what’s happening in your life that you’re that you are wanting Personal Branding photos. And then we talk about some things that are more vulnerable, like there’s a lot of people that come to me. They don’t feel pretty, or they don’t feel as handsome. I had one client said one time, you have your work cut out for you, because I tend to look like a serial killer in all my pictures.

[00:15:04.560] – Flor
And I’m like, oh, my God, that’s not what’s going to happen here. So, you know, it’s so funny because it’s always the most the prettiest people are the ones that say that. Right. So there is a questionnaire that I send to them and that they have to answer, like why they want to work with, just describe their brand. And if they could have a spokesperson or go to any TV show, who would it be?

[00:15:34.140] – Flor
And so that is a great question because that is far more conversation, right? When we’re doing them. We do a planning meeting in the planning meeting. That’s about another 60 Minutes. Sometimes we go over and we talk about everything. I’m like, tell me with as much detail as possible. How are you envisioning these pictures and why and why are you envisioning that way? And if you have no idea, you can just say, I just want to look stylish, and then we’ll work from there.

[00:16:04.120] – Flor
A lot of people think that they don’t have an idea of what they want their pictures to look like. And then when we start talking, there is now that they have a very clear idea. Yesterday I was talking I was doing a party meeting with that client, and she’s like, no, I trust you, it’s OK. And then I’m like, well, is there anything else that you want to do that you want to say before we’re done?

[00:16:27.280] – Flor
And she goes, You know what? I do a lot of my meetings at coffee shops. And we do it like a picture on a coffee shop. And I’m like, absolutely. And then we went on a coffee shop doesn’t work out of and all of that. And so it is definitely you can see that relationship because there it is. There is a relationship develop in those conversations. I always tell them if you have any questions, just text me.

[00:16:54.780] – Flor
You have my number. Now we’re friends, and we tell you the truth. We end up having a relationship. And that’s where most of my business comes from anyway, because they refer me to everybody that needs a photographer once I tell them how beautiful they are constantly. And so that’s why where they laughter and the and the fun stuff comes up.

[00:17:16.890] – Joe
I love your analogy and the question about the actors. I need a new headshot right now, so I may have to come see you, but I’ll let you know in advance. I want to look like a cross between George Clooney and Brad Pitt that’s my target. So if you can do that, you’re hired.

[00:17:34.680] – Flor
We’re going to do our best.

[00:17:36.180] – DJ
Did you know that you can have Joe as your personal photography mentor. I’m talking about direct access to ask him questions and get advice. You can also attend weekly video meet ups for members to share and help each other with Joe’s guidance. Be sure to check out the link in the show notes.

[00:17:52.440] – Joe
So I’m going to play devil’s advocate because I know that for a lot of photographers starting out with all of your talk about planning, you’ve just described a lot of extra work that had nothing to do with the camera or actually taking pictures. So what is the real benefit that you’re getting or even what is the benefit that your clients are getting as a result of this planning? Because, well, let’s just say that your session is going to last for two hours. In fact, actually, what is the average length of one of your Personal Branding sessions? Is there an average?

[00:18:24.510] – Flor
I actually do all day experiences, yeah.

[00:18:28.110] – Joe
OK, so that’s a full day that you’re going to spend with them. So it’s easy to assign a day rate, but before that even happens, it sounds like you’ve already invested several hours into that client. And that’s just the interaction with the client, not even mentioning any other planning that you’ve done. You mentioned the coffee shop, so you probably had to go and find a coffee shop, speak to the owner, make arrangements. And of course, you still have to pack up your gear and travel. So why so much effort on the front end of the shoot?

[00:18:59.550] – Flor
I truly believe everybody is beautiful. Right. And people have a hard time. Seen the of themselves, so the effort that the extra effort is so people can see so how I see them basically like I see them thriving, I see them being this kick ass person. And when you take an interest on people’s interest, they get excited. And because we’re taking an interest, and we’re talking about everything that can possibly go wrong, because we also talk about what’s an area of growth that you want to tackle with this photo shoot or is there anything that you’re concerned about like that can look for?

[00:19:45.440] – Flor
Some people, some people tell me, oh, I just don’t want my double chin or I don’t like my belly, but it can be like I just a couple of cameras. So with all the planning and all of the conversations, I get to break that barrier before we get to the photo, shoot this. Otherwise, I if I don’t do all that planning with them, and they don’t tell me like all of their hopes and dreams, where the pictures that I’m going to have to do that work the day of the photo shoot.

[00:20:14.420] – Flor
And we have a timeline that we have to write like they. Right. It’s a whole day. So there’s hair and makeup involved. We usually start either at their hotel room or the area or their home, and then we move from place to place and. When I arrive, because usually the hair makeup person arrives before me when I arrive, you can see Rim Light, I’m like, oh my God, you’re here. I’m so excited. And that only happens because I already have a relationship with them.

[00:20:46.830] – Flor
If I was just like, you know, you’ve been a photographer for a long time and I’m sure you’ve done like headshots for people that you don’t know because you don’t know them, and they don’t know you. And so and I remember when I got my first headshot and I just I, I just did a recent post about it, like, you know, that trend, like how we started, how it’s going. So I used that first headshot, which I look like a soccer mom because I really didn’t know what to do.

[00:21:17.400] – Flor
And I’m like smiling. And my hands are like this on their knees. And it was just like it was it’s a pretty picture, but it’s not me. And so that’s and then I put a self-portrait that I did on my birthday last year and everybody was like, oh, my God, yes, you were pretty. Before I look at you, you’re just shining your energies, just coming through, because, I mean, I know myself and so forth.

[00:21:43.380] – Flor
And so that’s that’s a thing. But I am looking to create the same experience and the same like, I guess level of fun that I have with myself. I want to share it with my with my clients. And I want them to have as much fun, too. So that’s what that’s why all the work.

[00:21:59.880] – Joe
From your viewpoint, what makes a great Personal Branding image or set of images? I mean, I understand that you’re going to talk to your client and you’re going to find out what their exact needs are. I always refer to that as the why. Like, why did they need the pictures? What are they trying to accomplish? But what are the things for you that have to be present in that image or set of images to make you satisfied with it?

[00:22:25.920] – Flor
That’s such a great question. I feel like what needs to come in, what needs to be present. And I know that is such a buzz word out of the city, but that’s what it is like you this is why the next replanning right in this because. I need to know who you are in order to show authenticity in your work. Basically, that’s that’s what happens in hopefully like when I deliver the gallery, I see my clients have pictures of their they’re laughing for real pictures that they’re showing their genuine selves, pictures that show them in, like doing what they are doing, what they do best.

[00:23:10.880] – Flor
So I work with a lot of authors and coaches. So people are often like, if they journal, I have them journal. If they are. Well, right now, people are doing a lot of ZOOM Meetings, like some interviews with their clients. So I’m taking pictures of them in front of the computer talking to clients. And it is a mixture of lifestyle images. Of course, they need a headshot that they can submit to publications, but it’s also like out of the city and just get a genuine look.

[00:23:45.650] – Flor
I guess that’s what we want to say, because to be genuine, you don’t need to be smiling all the time. There are a lot of really beautiful, quiet portraits that I’ve done on my clients that I post everywhere so people can see that you don’t have to be laughing and smiling all of the time. So that’s basically what I think it’s like out of necessity, but also a little bit of variety. So the clients have a good set of pictures to use.

[00:24:13.700] – Joe
That’s great. Now, still sticking with Personal Branding, you’re putting a lot of focus on the authenticity. So when it comes to kind of the technical side of these images, do you tend to stick with natural light and more natural settings, or are you doing a mix of studio and natural settings, or does it depend on the client and what they need to do with the images?

[00:24:36.110] – Flor
Yes, sometimes there’s a mix, sometimes I, sometimes it’s only the studio. They only want the studio. But most like the bulk of my clients, I would say 80 percent. Eighty-five percent of my clients come to me because they want to be in the city somewhere. So they see it’s I it’s like that show what you want to do. Right. That’s what you’re going to show in your portfolio. And yes, there’s a lot of natural light involved, but there’s also I have my lights, I use lights and I have some big boxes that I use because sometimes you go to somebody’s office, and they don’t have good natural light.

[00:25:14.660] – Flor
So you have to create it, and they have to make it look soft and pretty. So I’m using I’m using speed lights a lot for my clients. And I also love, which I don’t really I guess I don’t really show that my in my website, but I love evening portraits, so I love to show the sunset if we’re there. Any of my clients are interested. I always tell them we can. If we wait until the whole hour, we can get some really cool pictures.

[00:25:43.970] – Flor
Do you think you’re going to use them? So I always ask if they’re going to use them because otherwise we wrap up at five and everybody goes home or if we go out to dinner and that’s it. But if they don’t think that they’re going to use that. But a lot of my clients say, oh, no, I would love that’s going to be totally different than what everybody else is does. And my work is really colorful. Right.

[00:26:06.680] – Flor
So that’s that’s another dimension. It’s like I rarely show any black and white pictures, not because, I mean, they’re beautiful, but my clients come to me for color and in basically not to Rim Light. But also like there’s the trick is, yes, I do use natural light, but there’s also lighting to make it look like natural lights.

[00:26:27.170] – Joe
So let’s talk about color for a minute. I’m also a big fan of color when it comes to the selection and combination of colors. Are you one of the people that’s lucky enough where that just kind of comes natural to you? Or do you have a more methodical process to determine what colors to work with? And then also as part of your planning process, are you organizing with your subject in advance what colors they’re wearing so that you’re able to either, like, choose your lighting arrangements or scout locations that are going to provide you with complementary colors? Tell me a little bit more about your process as it involves color.

[00:27:04.040] – Flor
Another great question this why you do what you do. Yes. And so to answer it’s the first vocal is just a regular phone call, right? The second planning call. It’s a the meeting. So they get to show me the clothes that they’re thinking of, where sometimes it’s a long process because they take out all of their outfits, like it’s like their whole closet. And I literally have to tell them you’re going to wear that jacket with this for pants or you’re going to do you have a scarf that goes with that dress and so on and so forth.

[00:27:36.350] – Flor
So because I helped them choose their outfits, it’s very rare that I don’t know what they’re wearing. Ahead of time. And because I do that, that gives me an edge to know where we’re going and where I’m placing them basic, like, for example, I had a 20-minute answer. It’s just it just happened. So I had this bloody meeting yesterday. She has these really gorgeous purple dress that she wants to wear. And she has a navy blue dress, but she wants some greener.

[00:28:06.650] – Flor
Right. And I’m like, well, the Navy blue dress is going to do well in, like, anywhere but the purple dress because it’s like a viper fully dressed like I think it’s going to really stand out in the greenery. And so and she’s like, oh, I didn’t think about that. I’m surprised that we’re going there’s a lot of like evergreen trees, but there’s also some light, like beige looking columns that we can picture. And then all of that is just really going to make you stand out in that purple dress.

[00:28:40.070] – Flor
So there’s a lot of thinking that we can then that helps when you’re doing your editing because you already, like, basically color great at your cell, like color great. The photo shoot ahead of time. So the work that you have to do on your end is less if that makes sense.

[00:28:58.160] – Joe
Yep, that’s awesome. So I may have buried the lead in this interview. Let’s talk about your website. If we visit your website, one of the first things that we see are photographs of Michelle Obama, Gloria Steinem and Gloria Estefan. Wow. I’m guessing that these weren’t Personal Branding shoes. So give us a little bit of context.

[00:29:20.840] – Flor
Yes, of course, they were not Personal Branding shirts that Gloria Steinem. Well, you know, I’ve been doing those that years is a long time. Right. So back in 2014 and back to talking about relationships, I, I worked for 13 years in the nonprofit sector in Denver. And, so I know a lot of people, especially because I was doing photography for the foundation that I was working. So I got to meet a lot of and a lot of them became my friends.

[00:29:53.370] – Flor
And then they create really cool projects like they bring Gloria Steinem for an event, and they call me immediately, like I’m bringing Gloria Steinem for an event. Are you available? And I’m like, of course I am available, but I’m only doing this for you if I get 15 minutes with Gloria Steinem, and so I can do it, and they’re like, well, I don’t know. Yes, you’re going to get 50 minutes. Obviously, I don’t get 50 minutes.

[00:30:18.170] – Flor
I got three minutes with Gloria. By the time this is a funny story, by the time Gloria arrive, I had I had done so much testing with my lights that I like basically drained my batteries. And I got like four shots of Gloria that I like that work. So, like, moral of the story, have extra batteries and don’t drain it on test subjects. Yeah, but so that’s how the Gloria Steinem fortune ended up on my website.

[00:30:44.000] – Flor
And I got to meet her. And I got to say, you’ve been photographed like not only you’re amazing, but you’ve also been photographed by every person that I admire. So, wow. No pressure on myself in an interview was really nice. And then I got a picture of with her at the end and the same thing. Believe it or not, same thing happened with the Michelle Obama portrait. I was called Michelle Obama was a little bit more secretive, so I didn’t really know who I was photographing until like two days before because they had to do a background check, all of the stuff that comes with this type of high profile person.

[00:31:24.540] – Flor
Right. And then they told me they just my the person that called me to do the portrait would like to do the work, used to be my boss at the foundation. And she went on to do to be a CEO of another foundation. And when this other foundation, they do, they bring people for their lunches, and so they brought Misty Copeland, which I got to do a portrait of Richard Copeland the year before. But by the time that Michelle Obama came, like, I already had a relationship with their communications department, not just with the CEO, which really is awesome.

[00:32:00.420] – Flor
But you have to combine the communications people that you’re really good at what you’re doing. And so they totally trusted me to work with Mrs. Obama. And we did a portrait of her like a super quick portrait, the one that you see, I was one shot, which I’m like, that’s why that’s why it looks like it looks because they had to go on stage. And but Michelle was another wonderful person, because by the time we were done, because I was doing VIP pictures with everybody that sort of like underwriting the event.

[00:32:38.250] – Flor
And that was the first event that she did after leaving the White House. So it was it was a big deal. Right. So when we were done, and I was done doing a live picture, she like, hold me. And I look back and I’m like, what? And then she calls again, like to make this gesture with her hands. And I looked back again and I’m like, Wait, you’re talking to me? And she’s like, Yeah, don’t you want a picture?

[00:33:02.790] – Flor
Like, the photographer never gets a picture. And I was like, flabbergasted or whatever where you when I use because I basically just jumped in like next to her hug her and somebody that was there just because I had the camera on a tripod, just because I wanted to avoid any room for error when I was doing the pictures. Right. And it worked out because then somebody went in and just pressed the button and I got my picture with Michelle, which is just one of my favorite things and, well, one of my favorite possessions, I should say.

[00:33:36.030] – Flor
And with yeah. So with Gloria, I the person that I used to work with me, the PR firm back in New York City. In 2005, 2006, she is on the board of the New York Women in Film and Television, and she and I had gone to do the red carpet, but I approached her and I told her, well, why don’t we do the kind of words like our words, portraits? And then so I so I told her, you know, how Mark Seliger does the Vanity Fair portraits for the Oscars.

[00:34:13.310] – Flor
And she’s like of like, I think we have the the quality of people to do that here. Like, we can do pictures of your voice, but we can also do pictures of clothing. I wear these and they talked it over with war. And I was just fortunate I could say that by the time that happened, by the time they were said yes, also Gloria, Stefan had said yes to show to show up for the awards and to be there.

[00:34:42.320] – Flor
So it was it was fabulous. So we put it together. It was it was a very simple set up. If you see the behind the scenes, they had back like an image printed on like a vinyl backdrop, which ended up not looking great because they didn’t do the holes to like to stretch it. So I had to do a lot of post on those images that look to make them look the way I wanted them to look. But what I, I don’t I don’t go play because I got a kick ass portrait of glorious, glorious stuff I’m in.

[00:35:17.600] – Flor
And that was a lot of fun. But it all comes back and it all boils down to relationships and develop relationships so that I am a true believer.

[00:35:27.930] – DJ
Are you a member of a photography club or meetup group? Did you know that Joe presents virtually to clubs all around the world? Follow the presentation link in the show notes to learn more.

[00:35:37.940] – Joe
So I want to ask you about something that’s very topical in today’s world. I am very aware that as a middle-aged white male, I had a lot of privileges that I didn’t recognize or respect throughout my career. But I understand now and I realized they were there. As a woman, as a woman of color. You seem to be on kind of a smooth sailing path with your career, but I’m sure there’s a lot more to that story. What is your experience been like in this industry?

[00:36:11.500] – Joe
I mean, you’ve clearly you’re in the process of establishing yourself very successfully. It would seem that your business is doing very well. You have a clear focus on what you’re doing, but what obstacles have you run into and what obstacles do you see? Because we don’t see a lot of women of color that have established themselves as well known and in demand photographers in the industry. What is your experience been like?

[00:36:39.520] – Flor
Well, there’s a lot of I guess my experience has been similar to older women. Right. Or to anybody that’s starting. I remember when I started out, I email so many photographers, and so I would I was interested in a system. That’s what everybody told me that I needed to do. So I did that and I never got an email back so that, so we can start there. I don’t I, I don’t know if that specific situation was because I was a woman, or I was inexperienced, but I had been working for about four years when I started, like, OK, maybe I should do the same.

[00:37:20.750] – Flor
The same thing happens when you’re sending estimates out. So I’m like, so now I have to include which I did and I didn’t know what to do. But people do it in press releases and that I learned what I was when I was doing public relations. So you know how there’s a boilerplate in press releases that talks about the the agency or whatever they’re talking. So now I have boilerplate in my estimates to establish myself because I did. I used to do that.

[00:37:54.670] – Flor
And I really don’t know if because there was an I don’t know, I would just send the estimate for, however, three dollars it was when I started, because I’m sure it was the cheapest one that I was selling because I didn’t know how much to charge for anything. But I noticed that I wasn’t getting I wasn’t getting any of the bits that I submitted. And of course, you know, there’s I’m not going to say there’s a boys club, but there is a boys club.

[00:38:25.930] – Flor
And, you know, but I try not to take it personally or anything like that. I was really fortunate to take a class with Chris Vock. And I don’t know if you know who he is, but he just published a book recently. So like 8 or 9 years ago, I took a class with him, and he was not only amazing for what I learned, like technically and how in his process and how he does things.

[00:38:57.310] – Flor
But it was also like almost like a personal development workshop at the same time, because he made us really look within ourselves. He has really poignant questions. He gave us assignments that were really tough, like, I guess mentally and emotionally. And that got me to just break through whatever barriers I put myself, because, yes, let’s say that there is a boys club because there is. But if I’m sitting on the bench thinking I’m never going to get in or I’m never going to do a picture of Michelle Obama or whatever, Gloria Stefan, because I’m a woman of color, I’m never going to do it.

[00:39:40.480] – Flor
But it’s also because I’m putting I’m putting myself in that situation. The best I’ve done, I guess, in my experience is just put myself out there. I started in the promos. I still haven’t got one job from the promos that I sent, but I sent them in then I constantly online people are listening. Even if you don’t get like, that’s that’s a reality. So I would say that, yes, I am a woman of color and I’m everything.

[00:40:10.420] – Flor
Right. So is I. I’m married to a woman. I am overweight, I am Dominican, I am Spanish is my first language and I’m black. So all of the all of the above, which probably 10 years ago wasn’t so hot. But I guess right now things are changing slowly. But they are. And I’ve been approached to join boards. So right now I’m in the board of the Association of Media Photographers of Colorado and I’m their Membership Chair. So who everybody sees first when they’re trying to join. So, yes. So at the beginning, ten years ago, five years ago, four years ago, it was it staffer and definitely for us I still haven’t got it, like a huge commercial assignment, which would be phenomenal. But I’m so happy doing Personal Branding that I, I almost don’t mind.

[00:41:10.300] – Joe
I think it speaks volumes the way that you answered that question. And I think it speaks a lot to you and your personality because you clearly are a person that has a very upbeat approach and a very positive approach to life. I do agree with you. I think that things are starting to change very slowly, but I do hope that it continues to change because for me, I enjoy the diversity. And when I found you, I see someone who has incredible talent because I am a people photographer also, I realize that that talent is not just the photography. There’s a talent with people and a talent for really recognizing moments and being able to record those moments and even create moments. I appreciate that you, your personal style, you are clearly a person who is just really living your best life. And I commend you for that. So I’m going to ask you a cheesy question, but given that you’re fairly new to this journey, you’ve probably been asked this question before in corporate interviews, scenarios. Where do you see your career taking you in the next five years? What’s down that road that you are traveling?

[00:42:23.590] – Flor
Also, fantastic question. And you can edit that out because I keep saying that, you know, five years from now. So five years ago, my goal was to. Be doing photography full time, and I’m doing that right now and bills the bills, and we get to divide our time between November and which is fabulous five years from now, my hope is that you will see Oprah on my website as well. I would love to photograph Oprah. I say that every time somebody asks me, I’m like, Oprah is in my vision board.

[00:42:55.400] – Flor
That’s what’s happening in five years. I would love to get to work with magazines like Vanity Fair, like Vogue. I love Fast Company and Interpretor. Those are like two of my favorite magazines that I subscribe to as well. And I love what they do, especially Fast Company. They do really good fun and creative portraits and I would love to work with them. So there is that and obviously doing a lot more Personal Branding over there like it would love to work on in Japan.

[00:43:26.480] – Flor
That’s my show for us. Well, I wish it were as well. I think doing a randomization in Japan while there’s like the cherry blossoms are in bloom would be amazing. So like a lot more of what’s happening now, which is I’m getting to talk to a lot of people that are interested in working with me. And thankfully, a lot, I guess half our booking, depending on what they’re looking for. And so a lot more of what’s happening.

[00:43:56.720] – Flor
I would love to have a YouTube channel eventually. I would love to teach. That will be that will be fun. So that’s what I see for myself in the next five years. Hopefully, like the people in Vanity Fair told me after this interview.

[00:44:13.820] – Joe
That’s awesome. So tell me about the vision board concept. Admittedly, that’s not something that my generation did. For the most part, I understand what it is, but tell me a little bit more about how you organize yours. And better yet, how do you hold yourself accountable to that vision board?

[00:44:32.640] – Flor
So at the beginning, let’s say when I moved to New York to 2004, I was like everybody that moved to New York. You are trying to look for a job and you’re struggling. So at that moment was just for me to, like, clear my goals and what I wanted to do. And I just grab a bunch of magazines and I found words that resonated. Then fast-forward five years. Everything on that vision for which I didn’t know, because it’s like what they say is like you put it on the vision or you make your intention and then you let it go, which I didn’t know because I did that in the middle of like nothing’s working out.

[00:45:10.640] – Flor
And, so I just and then I literally forgot about it. And then five years later, I’m like, oh, my God, everything that’s here was I was bleeding, and he fell. I’m like, everything in there, it’s working. And that I meant to do it again. And it never happened. But last year, because we had so much time in our hands, I, I literally just sat down and with everything that I wanted. And the way it is organized now is family finances every year.

[00:45:43.460] – Flor
And I think there’s a few more, more things in there. But those are like the main three. And I know that like so it’s a little cheesy, but Oprah, like I found out behind the scenes that somebody was photographing Oprah. I think it was from when I Rosalie’s I’m sure you’ve heard of her. And I grab that. And then I put my face on top of it. And there’s like the there’s a picture of the world, a lot of travel, because I, I plan to continue traveling for work and just like really listing out the things that I want for my career.

[00:46:20.120] – Flor
Right. I want to be able to continue photographing remarkable people, which is how I that’s how I called Gloria Steinem and Gloria Estefan. And they’re remarkable people. So if I could do it, but also the people that I photograph, my clients, they’re remarkable as well. So regardless of if I get to photograph Oprah, I know that will be amazing. But if I get to continue to work with clients that people who really love life and really want to work with me, because that’s the main thing, right, that they’re very their third choice or the choice of people that really want to work with me.That’s the goal.

[00:47:02.840] – Joe
Here’s one last set of questions. If I don’t ask this, I always have a few people who get really upset. What is your gear of choice, what camera brand do you use?

[00:47:14.390] – Flor
I use Canon

[00:47:15.950] – Joe
Mirrorless or DSLR?.

[00:47:17.690] – Flor
I am Mirrorless right now. I just sold my to my course yesterday. It was it was tough because I had been working with that gear for a long time. Most like 80 percent of the work that you see on my website was taken with my course and I have another six now. I have to exist in the 50 yard (ca. 46 m). That’s the one that I use like most of the time. So I use the fifty the thirty-five. I use a lot like that’s basically what you use for Personal Branding.

[00:47:47.600] – Flor
Like you don’t need like I have a ton of gear obviously like you. That’s what you want. When, when you start you’re like I want my salary to one hundred and I want that 24/7 seven and I have an eighty-five. L like I have so much and I end up using. Well I will say that for Personal Branding, especially for city shots, I use the twenty-four seventy-one. But what I end up using the fifty of the thirty-five limos for my portraits and then for lighting.

[00:48:19.340] – Joe
What is your go-to lighting gear?

[00:48:21.500] So I use cheap speedlights, I use Yongnuo’s that are like 90 bucks and I use those because I used to have the six hundred X from, from Canon, and they kept dropping like flies because I work outside and I’m like I rather lose. Exactly. I’d rather lose my $90 Youngnuo than my six hundred dollar Canon lights. So that’s what I use. And I use MagMod for some of the modifiers too.

[00:48:56.360] – Joe
OK, awesome, well, Flor, I could talk to you for a couple of hours, but I will say this. Number one, congratulations on what you have accomplished in a very short period of time. And I always appreciate when guests are willing to be as transparent as you have, because I think it really helps new and young photographers to get a sense of how there is so much more beyond a camera that they need to be paying attention to.

[00:49:23.360] – Joe
I can’t wait to see where your travels take you. I congratulate you for what you’ve done, and I’m looking forward to what you’re going to accomplish. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me.

[00:49:34.040] – Flor
Thank you so much for having me. This was a lot of fun.

[00:49:36.590] Awesome. It’s my pleasure.

[00:49:41.130] – Joe
It’s hard to have a conversation with Flor and not feel the energy that she gives off about her work and life in general. Be sure to check out Flor, his website and social profiles. All the links are in the show notes.

[00:49:55.730] – Joe
That’s going to do it for this episode of the TOGCHAT Photography Podcast. Stay safe. Have a great week. And until next time, please remember these words.

[00:50:05.820] – Joe
Thanks for listening to the TOGCHAT Photography Podcast. Now go pick up that camera and shoot something because your best shot, it’s your next shot. So keep learning, keep thinking and keep shooting Adios.

FTC Disclosure: No sponsors have paid for inclusion in this show. Product links included in this page are generally Amazon or other Affiliate Program links from which I do earn a commission that helps to support the production of this show.

Joe Edelman

Joe Edelman is an award winning Photographer, Author, and "No Bull" Photo Educator.  Follow this link to learn more about Joe or view his portfolio. Please be sure to connect on the social media platforms below.
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