Featuring Gareth Pon. This interview is from our free, downloadable…
Senior Marketing Manager Chris Owyoung knows a thing or two about what photographers want. PhotoShelter-er by day, extremely talented live music and portrait photographer by night, Chris spends his hard-earned hours getting his fellow shooters excited about PhotoShelter, helping them make the most of our tools, and taking all of the valuable feedback they provide over to our product managers for consideration… when he’s not out on a shoot himself, that is.
Can you tell us a little about your role here at PhotoShelter?
I’m the Senior Marketing Manager. At any given moment you might find me brewing the next company beer or hosting a webinar, but I’m actually in charge of our email marketing, online advertising, and customer acquisition programs. I’ve been using PhotoShelter for my own photography business for six years, and a member of the team for four. In short, I signed up at the 2008 PhotoPlus Expo and immediately fell in love with the company.
What I love most about working here is the opportunity to be part of a group of really smart people who are as passionate about photography and the betterment of the industry as I am. Every day, I get to interact with some of the world’s best photographers to better understand their work and their needs. And then, I get to dream up ways to help them succeed — personally or professionally, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Everyone who works at PhotoShelter knows you’re amazing behind the camera. Do you self-identify as a “professional” photographer? What does photography mean to you?
Whether or not it’s true, I’ve been calling myself a professional photographer for years now. In 2005, I was given my first SLR (a Nikon D70) as a gift. Ever since then I’ve been obsessed with taking pictures. I started out photographing inanimate objects but was soon convinced to try my hand at concert photography. My brother Todd, who had been shooting shows for a while, encouraged me to shoot the CMJ music festival for a local magazine. I shot 21 bands in 4 days and despite the fact that I barely slept, I was hooked. I started out shooting shows just for the fun of it (and the free tickets) but pretty soon bands and magazines started offering me money and better access. The rest, as they say, is history.
I think photos are unique in that they can communicate a huge amount of information in a very short amount of time. A photo can tell you 90% of the truth in a millisecond leaving the remaining 10% to your imagination. Two people can look at the same image and come away with very different impressions of what’s going on based solely on their own experiences. I think that’s fascinating and ultimately reflective of something deeply beautiful about the human condition.
I also love the act of making pictures because it gives me the power to either capture the truth or create a really gorgeous lie.
Can you talk about how your role as Senior Marketing Manager specifically related to the creation of our Beam platform?
Long before it was ever called Beam, I worked on the research and concepting team that was tasked with envisioning the next generation of PhotoShelter websites. For over a year, we dissected every photocentric website we could find to determine what worked and what didn’t. We drew inspiration from traditional portfolios, as well as examples far outside the photography industry, to come up with a platform (Beam) that would allow PhotoShelter to design engaging websites now and into the future.
After Beam became a reality, I worked on the website, videos, advertising and emails we used to get the word out. Since Beam is currently in beta, I also communicate with photographers about their Beam websites and relay their feedback (as well as my own) to the product and development teams for integration into future updates. It’s been very exciting to see how quickly ideas that come from our members have made it into the product.
Why did you choose the Beam template you are currently using?
I’m currently using the Element template for my portfolio because I think it’s clean and simple and it does a great job of showcasing my work (which is often colorful and visually complicated). Furthermore, I think the simple template styling of Element appeals to my primary target audience: photo editors and art buyers. I realize that my potential clients are usually in a hurry, viewing the websites of multiple photographers at the same time, and so I’ve chosen a template that will allow them to see the width and breadth of my work in as few clicks as possible. If I were watching a photo editor browse through my site, I’d probably be hurt by how little time they spend on each image. But at the end of the day, I need to convince them that I’m right for the assignment and get them to email me as quickly as possible.
Since switching from my old WordPress template to Element, qualified new client inquiries have more than doubled. I guess it’s doing a pretty good job. The response from my existing clients has also been extremely positive — some of them even signed up for PhotoShelter accounts for their companies after seeing how easy it was to view and download the jobs I’d shot for them.
On a workflow note, I’m now able to manage my portfolio, my image backup, all of my client galleries, and my online sales without leaving PhotoShelter. It’s been a big time saver.
What are you working on at PhotoShelter now?
It’s the end of the year so I’m currently working on wrapping up our various 2013 marketing promotions. I’m also working on a few pilot projects that will help PhotoShelter members make the most their new Beam websites. More on that in 2014.
What’s new in your world as a photographer?
Right now I’m delivering finished work from a couple of recent jobs and sending out Christmas gifts to a few special clients. Last Friday I shot Z100 Jingle Ball 2013 at Madison Square Garden. And later this week I’m off to Antarctica, where I plan to take tons of photos and perhaps try to cuddle a baby penguin.