Beautiful AfroArt From Regis and Kahran Bethencourt
The TOGCHAT Photography Podcast
World renowned child photographers, Regis and Kahran Bethencourt are a husband and wife duo and the very imaginative forces behind CreativeSoul Photography in Atlanta Georgia.
They gained global recognition with their AfroArt series of images that showcase the beauty and versatility of Afro hair. The collection was conceived as a way to empower kids of color around the world. Kahran and Reg recently authored their New York Times best-selling coffee table book, “Glory” which brings to life past, present, and future visions of black culture. With more than eleven years of working with hundreds of children, families and brands, they specialize in child and lifestyle photography while incorporating authentic visual storytelling. And I think their images are simply brilliant.
I love their energy and I want you to be sure that you check out their images via the links below.
Their images are bold, colorful, eye catching and best of all simply done. For all the creativity that goes into their images — you never lose sight of the subject and because they are providing an incredible experience, they are able to charge top dollar for their sessions.
Transcript | TOGCHAT Resources
Be sure to check out the best-selling coffee table book by Regis and Kahran Bethencourt – GLORY
Find it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3cAme6U”
Beautiful AfroArt from Regis and Kahran Bethencourt
This week, I’m going to chat with a world renowned photography, couple who in addition to creating amazing images are also New York times best selling authors. My guests are the Atlanta based photography, duo Regis and Kahran Bethencourt, stay tuned.
You’re listening to the TOGCHAT Photography Podcast, the only podcast dedicated to the HOWS and WHYS, behind, creating consistently great photographs. Here’s your host, Joe Edelman.
Hey gang. Thanks for joining me for episode number 243 of the TOGCHAT Photography Podcast. I am Joe Edelman and indeed my mission is to help photographers like you to develop a better understanding of the HOWS and WHYS behind great photography. Now really quick before we dive into the interview with Kahran and Reg, I’m hoping that you subscribe to my YouTube channel and that you saw the debut of my new Wednesday night live stream called The LAST FRAME LIVE.
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In other words, how I do it. No rules, no bullet points, no top five ways. I’m going to share my ways. The response to last week’s show was excellent. And I think you’ll be able to learn quite a bit from it. You can find the link in the show notes. I hope you’ll check it out. Now, if you haven’t subscribed to my YouTube channel yet.
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Next up is a TOGCHAT exclusive interview.
World renowned child photographers, Regis and Kahran Bethencourt are a husband and wife duo and the very imaginative forces behind Creative Soul photography in Atlanta, Georgia. They gained global recognition with their AfroArt series of images that showcase the beauty and versatility of Afro hair.
The collection was conceived as a way to empower kids of color around the world. Kahran and Reg recently authored their New York times bestselling coffee table book, GLORY, which brings to life past, present, and future visions of black culture. With more than 11 years of working with hundreds of children’s families and brands, they specialize in child and lifestyle photography while incorporating authentic visual storytelling.
And I think their images are simply brilliant. So let’s get right into it. Kahran and Reg. Thank you both so much. For agreeing to talk to me today on TOGCHAT. How are you both?
We are great. Thank you so much for having us
Believe me, the honor is mine. And I have to tell you, I am like a little kid candy shop ability to do the show and to get to talk to so many amazing photographers.
I’m the privileged one here, but I got to tell you guys, I think your story is incredible. Your work it’s off the charts. So if I could ask you. Since a lot of my audience may not know about you yet. Introduce yourself, give us that kind of 32nd elevator pitch of who you are and what you do.
Sure. So I’m Caryn and this is my husband read.
We are a husband and wife team based out of Atlanta, Georgia. We often say that we are more than just photographers. We really use our platform as a way to really challenge the negative stereotypes of. People of color in the media, specifically kids and show a different narrative than what we think has been shown before in the media.
And so we’ve developed a niche market and really showcasing kids of color in a unique way, and really using our art as a way to empower them to. And be more self-confident and showcase their beauty, uniqueness, and culture. So we are blessed to be able to do what we love, but it hasn’t been easy. And I think we’ll talk about that journey as we get into it, but we are super proud of where we are now and hopefully we’ll, we’ll be going in the future.
You should be incredibly proud. And I can only imagine where you guys are going to go with this. So let’s start a little bit with kind of how we got to. Today and I mean, at this point, it’s fair to say that the two of you are, are world renowned. You are New York times bestsellers at this point for your book glory, which can grab it.
And I could go on with it. But going back to the beginning, how did you guys get started? And give me some of the basics. Like how long have you been shooting and, and how did you learn? I’m really interested in knowing how did it evolve? To where you are today.
So that’s a great question. So we actually go in my mom’s garage, right?
Long story short Reg and I were long distance loves. So we were cross country. I was in Oregon, registered in Maryland. Reg moved out to Oregon after about a year and a half of us dating. And eventually we moved here to Atlanta in 2006, I believe. And when we moved, we decided that Reg was already decided to go to school for photography. And so I decided to learn along with him. So I was like, I can just learn with you. And, we both kind of had an interest in photography already.
And we were already into graphic design and other things. So I just thought it would be cool just to learn also because I knew that I was working in corporate America at the time. So I had the business side, and so I could help him with that business side as I was like, Hey, you don’t have to wait until you graduate.
We can start the business right now. Yes. so, we just really started photographing like our family and, I think I photographed almost all of my coworkers at the time. And so we were my mom, we told her that we wanted to photograph some kids and I think she gathered up a few kids and then. We were in her garage and then we had a Look back at it now it was a terrible first shoot, but it gave us our start and we kind of went from there.
So we started when we were, when we first started out, we were shooting a little bit of everything, kind of like most photographers. You don’t really know what you want to shoot, and you just know that you like photography and. Anything that people would pay us for, we were shooting it. Right. And so whether it was weddings or babies, families, kids, I was still working full time.
And, they’re kind of, came a point in time where I was like, Oh my goodness. Like if I, if we’re going to build this business, why would we build a business that we’re going to hate? Right. Because we would show up at a wedding and hate it. Right. Or, as much as, as cute as the, the newborns where we would do a newborn shoot.
And that just, wasn’t our thing. I just thought about it. Like, wow, like we are building this business and it’s not something that we just particularly just love right now. And so when I thought about it, I was like, well, let’s figure out what it is that we actually do. Like, and we knew that we love working with kids.
We were always,
man, we’d be on those shoots, those family’s shoots. And we’ll take the kids to the side we’ll photograph them. Yeah
And like the parents were just the chauffers to the shoot and then, I was always taking like my college buddies, friends and doing unique concepts with their kids. And so we knew that we love photographing kids.
We just didn’t know at the time that we can actually make a business from it or that we could, be just children’s photographers. I didn’t like. I think I knew of maybe one children’s photographer at the time, but I didn’t really know of many, a children’s photographers. So I just figured, I don’t know if we can do it, but I just know that we like to do it.
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So that, that gives me two quick questions. Do you have kids of your own?
No kids. Yeah. No kids
Really? So you get to play with everybody else’s kids. That’s really smart.
We have 10 nieces and nephews, so we are that fun uncle and auntie that gets to do all the fun stuff and then send them back home. Right?
Yep. So you were right at a point, you started a business already. You’re learning photography, but you’re not really enjoying everything that you’re trying to make money with. And you’re starting to realize you’re having fun with the kids. What was the point where it all came together and you realize kids are the thing.
And then the second part of that question is. Did you realize pretty quickly that you needed to productize it beyond just a kid portrait or a kid photo session, or was there even more evolution that kind of brought those ideas together? How did that all happen?
I can say, actually that was kind of at the beginning.
We knew that. Our style. Wasn’t really just to have a kid out in the field and let them run around like a regular children’s portrait. And so what we did was we decided to get into the kids’ fashion industry, because I thought that we could be a little bit more creative there. So we thought maybe we can do like editorial style shoots, we would work with models or, kids in the industry. And we could be a little bit more creative. And so that’s kind of where we started. And when we got there, we noticed a few things. Number one, it wasn’t very diverse at the time. And number two, a lot of the kids that would have natural Afro hair, come in for their head shots and they would have, the parents would have that hair straightened because they thought that’s what they needed to do to get their kid into the industry so that they can have a certain look.
Right. And, we thought about it and we’re like, wow, that’s really sad that. We’re teaching these kids that are very early age, that their look is not acceptable. They’re hair is not acceptable or they have to look certain way to fit into the industry.
One thing that is happening outside of the house, but for it to happen with your parents.
Yeah. Right. So basically these parents are trying to change their kid’s appearance in order to get them into the industry. So we just decided to take it upon ourselves to say, let’s just try a couple of personal shoots. These are just really for us, for our portfolio. And we were like, let’s just have, I don’t know why we decided on New York, but we decided in New York and we had actually never been to New York at the time.
And we chose Times Square because obviously if you’ve never been in New York, where’s the one place you go. Right. You go to Times Square. But we were so green and so new that we didn’t even realize that like, yeah, like we didn’t even go and scout it and let location scout anything before, like we just showed up on the day of the shoot with like these three little girls with big Afro hair and big poofy dresses. And of course, like they were like five and six years old, I believe. So everyone’s like looking and trying to figure out what’s going on. Basically we did that shoot and we came back and I posted a couple of pictures, I think before we got on the plane and people started to share them.
And that was kind of the first time that. We didn’t even actually had anything. We were still fairly new on social media, so, anything to even get shared. Right. And so we were like, wow, okay. Maybe, maybe we’re onto something here. Right. So yeah, it was kind of like, maybe we’re onto something here.
So over that year, we did a few more personal projects and one in Austin, Texas with again, three little girls with roller skates and that kind of transformed our business. We did that shoot, we had no hairstylist, no makeup artist, no wardrobe stylist. It was literally just us, some photographer friends kids, and some old eBay roller skates that we spray painted.
Right. And we did that shoot and came back and our social media following grew like, I think from about 2,000 to 20,000 in about a month. Just from that one, that one shoot, I think it just resonated with people. They were not used to seeing really black kids photographs this way. Right. And it was something new.
It was something refreshing. It was something that a lot of people could relate to from their childhood. And so, that’s kinda how it started. So from there that’s, I guess how we started our niche and we just started to build on it from there.
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Before I move on to some of the photography and the business things, something that’s a little bit more of a social element to this.
You mentioned it before. I’ve seen it in other interviews, you’ve done about the idea of wanting to make sure that these young kids can see pictures that represent themselves and not just. Pictures for themselves, but obviously you’re working with brands and major companies to try and impact that, which I think is so wonderful.
If I can personalize it a little bit, though, for the two of you, I’m talking to you both as a guy who’s been on the other side of the fence, I was born white. So I have been given privileges in this industry and it’s an industry that for most of my life, was indeed predominantly white. What kinds of things have you two faced?
Have you faced negative aspects, but really, I guess what I’m hoping to hear is how the industry is embracing you or even for that matter, what you feel is yet to be changed because I love your message. I love what you’re showing in your work. It’s not just a social statement or political statement, your work is brilliant. And then of course the fact that it has all of these added benefits and it deals with the topic that is important , I wish that I would’ve done something like that. And I hope that I can still have some kind of impact in my career.
But what has it been like for you? You’re helping these kids out and trying to set, examples and give images that represent them. What about the two of you?
I was going to answer that question in two parts. One is just for me personally, just throughout my experience, I am the first in my family to go to college.
I grew up in a small town in South Carolina and I look at some of the kids that we photograph today and I’m like, wow, like we had none of this. You know what I mean? The vacations that we had were like to Myrtle beach in South Carolina.
Right? Like I didn’t get to travel to see other folks in different countries. I didn’t get to see, black kids that were doing these amazing things. Right? I didn’t see that. Now luckily for me, I was able to kind of push through and I’m the first child. So I’m like that one that, kind of pushes through and is like, I’m going to do it regardless.
But I know a lot of kids don’t have that. So if they are not seeing it, it’s hard for them to imagine what they can be. So that’s part of our messaging. What we’re trying to do is that we’re trying to give them an opportunity to see. Beyond what they may be seeing right now. Right. And like what they see on television or in the media or social media, or even in their own families or their neighborhood.
You can’t dream if you’re given a very narrow view of what you can do.
It’s hard to be it if you can’t see it. Right. So that’s one thing. In terms of the industry, I will say that in the beginning it was difficult. I will tell you just a few things. Even in the kid’s fashion industry, we would often get, Oh my gosh, we love your work, but it doesn’t quite fit with what we’re trying to do.
You know what I mean? Because you have to think about it at the time. These magazines look very different from what we were shooting. Right. And they still do. Here we come with, this shoot with a group of black kids, with, their own style and, incorporating African fabrics and this and that.
And it wasn’t really the look that they were looking for for these magazines. Right or for the industry. A lot of designers, even were like, Oh, we were working with some, but. There were several that were like, mmm. I’m not really sure because I’m not sure what that would look like for my brand.
Right. So that was definitely something that we had to deal with. And even not just with, within the industry, at the time. There were not a lot of people that thought that we were going to be able to make it, kind of targeting this audience. Right. And so even like, while I was still at work, I had a coworker African-American coworker who told me she was like, I don’t think you’re going to be able to do that.
She was like, that is not going to work because you’re going to box yourself in and, folks are not going to take you serious. And it’s just not going to work. I remember telling her at the time that look. This is something that we are so passionate about, that I’m at the point where I don’t care and that we were going to do it regardless.
So even if no one, at the end of the day of no one loved it or no one, if it resonated with no one, we were still going to do it because it was something that we really felt passionate about. So that’s really.
And, I’m glad you did it. So I’m curious, you don’t have to name any names, but some of those early companies that you were trying to do business with early publications that turned you down, have any of them come back around since, and that’s good because it’s unfortunate, but at the same time, it’s great that you’re taking advantage of it.
I’m sure there are some advertisers. That have gotten on board because there’s a certain amount of trendiness to it. And it’s unfortunate. That’s what it takes, but it’s great that you’re taking advantage of that opportunity, not just for yourself, but for your cause and for what you’re trying to do.
Like, I look at it, We are definitely not ones that are in it for any type of fame at all.
So anytime that we are given an opportunity, I even look at it as, okay. If we’re given an opportunity for our kids to be on this platform, then it’s going to be better for them as well. Just seeing them, like for instance, we were in places like teen Vogue or CNN or whatever.
And so just think about the impact of them having that platform and.
What I love is that in Kahran. I know she’s real modest, but I love this about her, that she would use our everyday connects in industry to put just regular, everyday kids, in front of them. And she did that almost all the time.
So we’re kind of like, Bringing diversity to like the industry.
Like even with our people that we collaborate with. People that we pull accessories from, or, clothing designers, that sometimes didn’t have that platform. We’re able to get them into some places that they haven’t been before.
So it’s, it works out for everyone.
Oh, that’s outstanding. And I think it, for all photographers that are listening, it’s important to understand that that aspect of networking, regardless of your cause, but in business, that type of networking, it’s extremely important. So, and so kudos. I am curious, and I don’t want to cause any trouble here.
It’s obvious Reg is kind of the quiet one, I’ve noticed that, of course you both shoot and obviously you’re both incredibly talented. But I have to ask the question. Who’s the better shooter. Is there one of you that does more than the other one along the way, or?
Well, I’ll tell you how it is actually. So I usually shoot more. It really just because now, especially now that we shoot mostly in studio, obviously we can’t both shoot a lot. But I’m more of like, I can kind of manage the whole shoot and, work with the kids and everything like that. Reg is like the way that his brain works.
He has this vision for one shot. And so he can come in and nail that one shot and then I’m hating on him because I’m like, wait, how did you come in and just get that one shot?
So that brings up a great question that I know, I get a lot with my work. People want to know like, Where did the ideas come from?
Oh, ideas for the shoots?
Our ideas come from everywhere, like literally from a cartoon, from fashion, from hairstyles, from ancestral styles, culture and the cultural aspects. There are so many different places. It can be really, for me, all I need is that one spark, that one spark could be, a color.
It could be anything. And then also we’re kind of helped now. And we do a lot of like commission or custom sessions for children. And these are just parents that want photos of their kids, like this. And so one of the things that we asked them is ask the kids. If they could have the shoot of their dreams, what type of shoot it would be.
And kids are very imaginative and you can imagine we get some crazy ideas and requests. And so, usually we’re kind of using that as a spark as well. So.
And it helps everything.
And so now it really, and it gives them a chance to have their own, input and it makes the shoots go by a little bit easier too, because they’re doing something that they actually wanted to do.
I’ve had situations where I’ll have clients approach me and say, I love that picture. I want that picture. Since you’re talking about letting your clients create the spark for you, which of course I think is brilliant.
Do you ever run into that and more, really what I’m looking for is when you do, how do you manage the client? And how much of that, even though you’ve already done it, do you kind of take for, cause I have a feeling you’re going to tell me, well, we don’t do exactly the same thing, but we, we build on that.
So how do you handle that?
So I will say that our relationship with our clients has evolved over time and we used to do a lot more planning, like I guess, collaborative planning with our client in the beginning. Now it’s more of a. “Hey, tell me what you and your kids are interested in.”
And then it’s really more of let us take it from there. And a lot of our clients now they’ve seen our work. And so they trust us to be able to take it from there. So if they tell me mermaid, which we get, we’ve gotten a bazillion mermaid request, right. Or Brazilian princesses princes requests.
Then I know that we are going to go on the back end, go and say, okay, How can we make this princess different? We did it for a mermaid and we did a warrior mermaid. We had one with African fabrics, we are often, we’re trying to figure out how we can make a difference so that we’re not bored in studio.
Right. Cause if we do 50 mermaids shoots and they’re all the same, and then we’re going to get burnout.
And the funny thing is I tell people the funny story is that I actually hate mermaids.
There, there are three, there are like a few things I don’t like. I don’t like mermaids. I don’t like. Rabbits. And I don’t like owls. So like Mermaid was like on my list of three. But the funny thing is that now, I feel like we go over the top with our mermaids because I have to try to figure out a way to make me like them . So we you try to take it over the top. Yeah.[00:23:05] Joe: [00:23:05]
That’s cool. So then let’s say it’s a mermaid and you’re going to go over the top. How much of it is really worked out in advance or are you basically working with that idea of bringing together all elements that to you are saying mermaid. And then the day the shoot comes and it’s time to create?
That’s exactly what we’re doing, where we’re taking the elements.
We’re basically, if we know that we’re going to do this warrior mermaid, we’re going to pull the elements that we think might work together. And then I say probably about, mmm. 60% of the magic happens on set. Right. And even with our hairstylist, we’re lucky to have a hairstyle that were in makeup artist as well.
That we’re kind of at a point now where I don’t have to tell her, okay. I, I want something that looks exactly like this. Like she just knows, okay, warrior mermaid? I got it. And we let her take it from there. And really, I find that that keeps us most creative because I’ve found that before, when we were kind of, saying, okay, Let’s do something like this.
It was really boxing her in boxing, our team in. This allows us to be much more creative. So the sky’s the limit, we can pull different accessories in and add them and mix them up on set. But we have all of the kind of base pieces there so that we have the elements to make the magic.
It’s like most times we either, we either get something made custom made from our designer or we’re just, we can just kind of get like a base piece.
And then I add on a lot of stuff to it, but on-set, and we kind of freestyle, like the looks, the accessories.
So you’ll often see Reg like onset, drawing on clothing pieces.
Regis: [00:24:39] And
He’s like, usually somehow it all works together, right? Like, I feel like for me, the magic happens better when it’s, organic like that. And it just comes together on set rather than me having to say down to every last accessory, this is exactly what it’s gonna look like.
Regis: [00:24:54] It makes me more creative.
And I think it pushes us all of our, all of the team, we’re all like, like let’s say the designer comes up with something cool. And, and then we’re like, Uh-oh, we gotta, we gotta top that. And so then the hairstyle is like, uh-oh, I got to top that. And the makeup artist, uh-oh, I gotta top that.
So we’re all kind of piggybacking off of each other. So to try to make something great.
You talk about a team. Especially, with makeup and hair. A lot of your shots are really rely on those two elements. You’ve talked about the idea how over time, your makeup artist has kind of gotten to know you, you trust her, you can basically say here’s the concept and you let her go.
One of the questions I get frequently from photographers is that. Set of steps. It’s not so much finding a makeup artist. You can Google, but it’s the having done their first shoot with a makeup artist where they kind of made that fatal mistake of… “makeup artists, it comes in and says, what do you want?” and the photographer not being sure. It says, Hey, you’re the expert, do your thing. And then three days later, the photographers like, Oh, that makeup artist, was horrible. So there’s a relationship there. What advice would you give to people or even what were some of the stumbles, if you’re willing to share that maybe you made in the early days?
Because it sounds to me like by the time you started really working with a team, you knew you were onto something, you knew you had a thing going. So there’s that, that control element, like I’ve, I’ve got to better myself, but yet you and I also have to let go of pieces to trust other people.
Yeah. In the beginning, I was very much, okay.
I would come in with a mood board and, here are some hairstyles that you can choose from. And really that was just for me to kind of feel her out. Like to see, all right, let’s see what she comes back with. And even when we work with new makeup artists, I will give them examples and
you can go as crazy as you want on the eye, but keep the lip kind of neutral. You know what I mean? And see what they come back with.
Yeah, we use them on personal shoots. So like non-paid shoots.
We can test and, have that I think hard to really, I know sometimes you don’t have a choice and you have to bring them on a paid shoot.
But if you can, it’s always best to kind of test them out or on personal shoots. Just to see if you have the vibe, if they kind of deliver what you expect and, you all work together from there. But we did that. I think we were, we were kind of like that for a few months, maybe about six months then after that, I think what happened was she did a couple, just kind of on her own.
And I was like, okay. And never be able to think of that. Right. And now she understands my base, my baseline, like what, you know what I like, what I don’t like. And so she has that in the back of her mind. And so I know that she’s not going to give me something that’s just way outside of what I would normally want.
So that helps.
Awesome. Let’s switch the gear for a few minutes. I’m not a big gear person, but what I like about looking at your behind the scenes videos, I don’t get the sense that the two of you are like hardcore gear junkies. For the most part, I see fairly simple light setups, which I love because as a photographer and as a lighting nerd, that gives your images so much more value.
Yeah, knowing that this is probably just a soft box. That’s sitting up at 45 degrees, but look at this image, right. I mean, and that to me is the brilliance of the work. So I know that your Canon Explorers of Light, which I understand is that fairly recent?
Yeah, it’s just October of last year, I believe.
Congratulations. Are you using Canon mirrorless yet or still working DSLR? [00:28:27] Kahran: [00:28:27]
Yes, we actually did. We’re newbies. We’re like a few months in, so.
Not asking about the gear in general. You’re an ambassador. So I know you’d love the gear, but just making that switch from DSLR to mirrorless, what’s exciting, what’s still part of your learning curve. I went from, Nikon, DSLRs, and when I switched to mirrorless, I went with Olympus. And there’s, there’s a learning curve in there. What are you finding is your biggest learning curve as you’re switching from the two?
Honestly. It makes everything so much easier with the features that it has, but I think our learning curve was just, just learning and just basically like the operating system
The camera, because I would tell you, we were on our. Mark III, which is an old, old Canon, right.
Till the wheels fall. So we were like, there were other cameras that we probably should have and could have upgraded before then. So that’s. I think it was kind of a new, it was a whole new thing for us now, now we’re just like, Oh my gosh, the not only the quality, the auto detection makes it so much easier for us now with, photographing kids and having to get in and get out with them.
Yeah. It just definitely helps us out that way.
That’s awesome. Yeah, for me going to mirrorless, especially when working with constant lighting or outdoors, Having that electronic view finder and seeing the finished image as you’re shooting, like to die for like absolutely to die for. So then from a lighting standpoint, obviously as photographers, we’re always playing with light.
I also know, and especially since Reg has admitted, he’s the lazy one. I also know. That we all have kind of like our go-to like set up. Right. It’s, it’s kind of like that fall back default . Whether it’s a lazy day or whether it’s just, the idea is not coming. So this is our start.
What’s your gear? What kind of modifier and what is that default light setup?
Okay. Our gear, we rock with a ProPhoto B10 and B10+’s. I usually use a three-foot, Octa box with a diffuser on it, and I use the 72 inch umbrella. So like for our Afro Art series in the earliest stage, my lights set up was very basic.
I will say it’s more like a clamshell lighting except for the light under, I don’t use a light. I just use the basic reflector under the chin, because like we were trying to make kids look powerful. So that required a lot of shadows. Like when kids photograph no. When people photograph children, they usually, put that fill light in
and just have everything like light and airy, right.
So we just created a lot of shadow heavy photos. So my light was definitely over our subject, um, that the three-foot, Octabox will be over how we use spill light downwards. And then use the reflector to put a little bit of light on in the shadows. So that was like my go-to light for almost like three years.
Like we were, we were kind of thrown in and we didn’t really. Have a chance to learn more, but then now I’m starting to kind of like play more of a lights now at this point. And now my light is basically the 72 inch umbrella with the diffuser on my right side. And then I’m just kind of filling the whole subject in because hair is a big part of it.
So we have to see it.
Yeah. And now we’d play with a lot of gels and other things. And you’ll see that a lot in our work as well. Honestly, part of that is, it makes it easier so that we’re not having to switch out backdrops too much. We can just kind of play around with the gel colors, Kids, their patience, it can be great or it can not be good.
Are these like elaborate hairstyles? Like we have to get in and get out. Yeah.
So Kahran, you mentioned before that you guys decided to start your business before you were done school, it was kind of like, why, wait, let’s jump in.
Tell me a little bit about that in a sense of where there were there ever moments of regret or where there particularly big mistakes where it’s like, Ooh, we got ahead of ourselves because I knew a lot of photographers today suffer from a combination of kind of fear and anxiety of “What if I fail?”
You guys are kind of. You’re different in that sense, there’s a lot of photographers are saying, Hey, I’m trying to make a couple of bucks on the side, but not that are actually just diving in to that full blown business model before they’ve really built up a full skillset.
Any problems that you ran into there?
I would say just kind of the biggest thing was me making the leap from leaving my full-time job, because, it’s easy when you’re doing it by yourself and your spouse is doing something different and you’re like, okay, if this doesn’t work out, I have a fallback, but we knew for us, we’re a couple and we’re working together.
And so once I left my full-time job, that was going to be it right. And there was no backup. There was no fallback. And so I worked for 7 and a half years. A lot of people. We did so much during that time that I think a lot of people didn’t realize that I was still working full time, but I worked up until I think 2016, that was because I really wanted to make sure that, yes, this is something that we could do.
We could both do full-time we get support, both of us and still live the lifestyle that we wanted, and so it took a while. And I would get frustrated sometimes. You go to these conferences, events, and people are like, Oh, I left my job after one year or two years you know what I mean?.
And I’ll sit here like seven and a half years in and still like trying to work through the night and it was.
Trust me, there’s almost always a little more to those stories that, I’m not saying they’re lying, but there’s almost always a little more to the story, right there just is.
I guess we just had to really take a leap of faith because it was a gamble, right. and part of it too, was that, I had kind of really grown in my career in corporate America and I was like, ah, that’s a big salary to make, that’s a lot.
And so I wasn’t sure whether we could, do it on our own. At the end of the day, we really, I felt like our dreams started to be bigger than the box that we were in. We want it to be able to travel. We wanted to travel outside of the U S and I knew that I couldn’t do that off of 15 vacation days.
Right. And so, so yeah, so we finally decided to, to make that leap.
I haven’t looked back.
That’s one thing in this business, you can’t look back, you have to always look forward, which is kind of what makes it exciting. Right. So, as I was looking through your website, before we started talking.
I came across, a mention on your FAQ page about your pricing and your Afro Art sessions that you do, which of course are highly stylized makeup, hair, everything. You note, that they start at $2,395? Now the reason, I ask this and folks full disclosure. I did ask them if this was okay in advance.
I always, I, I don’t like to challenge anybody on their business elements, but I think there’s some good lessons to be learned here. A lot of photographers see a price like that. And immediate like, Oh my God, my customers would never pay that kind of money. I would never be able to get that. How do you justify that?
First thing is we don’t really know who your customers are and you’re in first place. So you can’t really
say they’re not going to, the other thing is. For me, it is an experience for them. Like, I looked at it too, as we were in the middle of a pandemic last year, 2020, and our business grew. We had people that were flying in from California, from other places to Georgia, just to get that experience for their kids in the middle of a pandemic, which was insane.
Right. Like, but they wanted that experience and it was so important to them because number one, they wanted their kids to be able to see themselves. How, they thought they should be seen. Right. They wanted to see themselves the way that they see it. As a parent, you see your kids one way, your kids may not see that in themselves.
So they wanted their kids to be able to have that experience. And it’s giving them something that, I know this sounds cliche, but honestly, they will have a lifetime. A lot of people were coming in and they were using these as birthdate sessions. Right. And so instead of having the traditional birthday party, They were using kind of us as the birthday gift. It’s a full experience for them. They come in, they get hair, they get styling, they get, make up, they get the whole thing. And so it’s really just having that kid, having that experience for the day. But also now they have. These heirlooms that they’re able to pass on to their, their future kids.
And so, that’s the way that we look at it and we, look at it as an, they’re not just paying for, just show up and then we just shoot and therefore they’re paying for a full experience. They’re paying for the creative they’re paying for, a top-notch hairstylists makeup artist, a wardrobe.
So they, really are getting..
They’re also paying for something that can’t be emulated with a lot of other photographers. And if he. If you’re not into , into like photographs and something thats that unique. You have to be like the best photographer that you can, you know what I mean, to be able to increase those prices and put value to you.
I really am big on finding your niche and finding your thing, because I think that’s how you are going to draw in not only the clientele that you want, but also be able to. The man, the pricing that you want as well.
That’s excellent advice. And I was so glad to hear, I was keeping my fingers crossed that you were going to use the word experience, and that was the first thing that you went to. [00:37:42] I am curious since we’re talking about that package, what are the deliverables for that price or are like prints, et cetera. I’m assuming they are extra?
So prints are separate. So then we can still make money from prints on the back end. I will say that. [00:37:57] And this is probably a topic for another day, but I don’t do the in-person sales that I know I should do. We have so much going on that for our lifestyle. It’s just easier for us to make sure that we get what we need up front. And then we can try to get some on the back end and if we can, that’s great. [00:38:13] But you know, we don’t place so much on. I guess the backend side of the sales changes, because we know that, we have so much going on that we have to kind of move on to the next thing, so.
And good for you because unlike what a lot of photographers do that don’t do, in-person sales is they don’t get what they need on the front end they’re way under cutting their prices.
It’s just never going to happen. Gosh. I mean, there is so much more than I could ask you. So just to kind of wrap up here, your book – GLORY. Tell me a little bit about the book and I’m also curious, how did that come about? What were you approached? Is that something you guys decided you wanted to do?
Yeah, so, Oh gosh, we weren’t selling it all
It started. Well, we were just about to give up the Afro Art Series.
Yeah. So the funny thing is we were, we had a photograph, the Afra art series for about a year and it was just us wanting to do something a little bit different, try some things in the studio.
We actually were going to. Cut it off. And then the series went viral. Right? So then we were like, okay, well maybe not. Right. Basically the publisher from McMillan St. Martins Press came to us and said, Hey, saw your images, love what you guys are doing. I don’t have kids right now, but I need this book for my future kids.
And so we need to figure out a way to make it happen. And we were so thankful and lucky that. It ended up being, I mean, it couldn’t have happened more perfectly. Like we ended up with the perfect publisher, just the perfect person that was guiding us, the perfect, literary agent and, and just kind of all work together.
So GLORY is actually a coffee table book. We are super excited about it. What I like about it is that it actually digs into the stories behind some of the kids. So a lot of times people see on our social media feed, they see the actual images. They don’t know some of the beautiful stories that go along with some of these kids.
Some of these kids are doing amazing things. Like we have an eight year old neuroscience expert. We have a 10 year old DJ from Ghana. We talk about subjects from kids that are being bullied for, having dark skin, we have a little girl, she has albinism. And so, just so many different topics that we touch on and you’re able to get a peek into each of those kids’ stories.
I think over a hundred images in the book, along with stories of each one of the kids. And so, yeah, we love it.
Well, I got to tell you, first of all, for both of you, congratulations on what you’ve accomplished. And I do. I sincerely, I think it’s brilliant. And especially about hearing a little bit of your workflow in that today, I will admit.
I’m a little jealous. I, for one, I can’t wait to see what the two of you come up with. And I have to say that hopefully we get to the other side of this pandemic sooner than later. And I really hope that we get to cross paths at a trade show or one of the big events. I can’t wait to see what you’re going to come up with next.
And I know my audience is going to love going through your work. Just absolutely brilliant. So both of you seriously. Thank you. So much for your time and best of luck. Thank you.
Thank you so much for having us. We really appreciate it.
That was such a fun conversation. I just love their energy. And I want you to be sure that you check out their images.
I have all of their links, including their website, Instagram and their book GLORY in the show notes, their images are bold, colorful, eye catching, and best of all, simply done for all of the creativity that goes into their photographs. You never lose sight of the subject, which as you heard them explain, it is the subjects experience that they are recording and because they are providing an incredible experience. They are able to charge top dollar for their sessions.
Okay. Folks that will do it for this episode of the TOGCHAT Photography Podcast. Please remember to check out The LAST FRAME LIVE on YouTube and stay safe.
Have a great week. And until next time. Please remember these words. 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. And keep learning, keep thinking and keep shooting. Adios.