Hometown Heroes: Robin Oatts

We love our local photographers. Their accomplishments never cease to impress us. They are proof that Columbus is a great city for photographers. Hometown Heroes highlights a Columbus photographer that we think is doing amazing work.

Robin Oatts is the owner and operator of Genre Creative, a Columbus-based commercial photography and design firm. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and her newly renovated home studio was recently featured in The Metropreneur.

Photo courtesy of Robin Oatts
Photo courtesy of Robin Oatts

When did you start taking photos? What made you want to get into photography?

I started taking photos in college. Took a b&w film class and goofed off with an old Canon Rebel. It wasn’t until I started working for Spindle Studios that I really became invested in the idea of shooting professionally. The owner of Spindle, Patrick Crawford, did photography as well as design and I would assist him on various shoots. I really enjoyed getting out from behind my desk and seeing the reactions from clients when they saw the shots.

Photo courtesy of Robin Oatts
Photo courtesy of Robin Oatts

Who is Genre Creative? Is it a solo venture, or do you work with other photographers and designers?

It’s just me! I hire assistants and other freelancers when needed, but it’s always just been a solo thing.

Photo courtesy of Robin Oatts
Photo courtesy of Robin Oatts

When did you start Genre Creative? What were the particular challenges you faced starting your own photography and design business?

I incorporated in 2005 and began to pick up small jobs when I wasn’t working full-time. I was a designer at Nationwide Insurance and knew I eventually wanted to work for myself. So I thought I’ll keep doing this on the side until I just can’t handle the workload. That moment finally came in 2011. I think knowing when to jump into it full-time is the hardest part, at least it was for me. I’d have a few great months and think, O.K., it’s time… then nothing for months. I’ve been really blessed though, with awesome clients and a pretty steady flow of work.

Photo courtesy of Robin Oatts
Photo courtesy of Robin Oatts

On the photo side of Genre Creative, you have done portrait, wedding, commercial, and real estate photography. Did you start working in one particular genre of photography and then branch out, or have your photographic interests always been so versatile?

I started taking photos of my friend’s kids. Then one of them asked if they could pay me. So I did a lot of portrait work for awhile. Then I landed a design job with OhioHealth and included some of my own photos in my mock-ups. They asked if I would be interested in shooting the publication as well and I said, duh. That turned into more commercial work. Weddings and real estate were also situations that just came to me. I hate turning down jobs but am realizing there is too much to know about each genre and they are all their own beasts. While I may pick up a few odd jobs here and there, my main focus is portrait and commercial work now.

Photo courtesy of Robin Oatts
Photo courtesy of Robin Oatts

Genre Creative also offers awesome graphic design services that set you apart. Did you go to school for graphic design, or was this something you learned independently? Did you always know you wanted your business to offer both services, or was this decided later?

My degree is in graphic design. I graduated from SAA in 2004. I had no idea I would ever be a photographer. I actually comment quite a bit on how strange it is that I’m shooting more than designing these days. They really go together really well, though. If I’m not shooting it, I’m buying it from someone else. And spending hours finding the right lighting and the right yellow shirt on just the right person for a layout. It’s nice to be able to do both!

Photo courtesy of Robin Oatts
Photo courtesy of Robin Oatts

What does Columbus offer you as a photographer and a business owner? Would you consider Columbus a good city for creative professionals?

I’ve said before in interviews that Columbus isn’t the best at anything, but it’s pretty darn good at a lot of things. I’ve never had a hard time finding work here. I know a lot of friends in other cities that can’t say the same. I’m able to own a home in an area I love, go out downtown for a drink and a show and still have money to pay my electric bill. I love it here and I don’t know that I could have the same life anywhere else.

Photo courtesy of Robin Oatts
Photo courtesy of Robin Oatts
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