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.
Garrett Martin began Martin Digital Photography in 2004. His first office was a small room in his house; now they’re located in a massive 2000 sq. ft. warehouse in downtown Newark, Ohio. Garrett specializes in wedding and portrait photography, and recently launched Stand Alone Media House with several other local artists, photographers, designers, and videographers. Garrett will be one of the shootout competitors for our Dynamic Lighting: OCF Basics & the LumoPro LP180 event this weekend. We spoke with Garrett about owning his own photo business and why staying true to your own vision is so important.
MPEX: Your engagement and wedding photos and senior portraits have an incredibly unique style. They’re somewhere between documentary, portraits, and art—but the style never seems to take away from the focus on the subjects. What are your influences as a photographer?
Garrett Martin: We live in such a visual world, and only some of my artistic direction comes from seeking out what I like and replicating. A majority of my inspiration, however, stems from recognizing what I don’t like, and staying as far away from it in my own work as possible. With such a rebellious attitude, it’s a wonder my parents tolerated my total lack of respect for authority, and it’s daily becoming more apparent that owning my own business was really my only chance at keeping a job (I definitely wouldn’t work well under any other capacity). I have however gained mountains of new insight and inspiration by following the work of other photographers. And since you put me on the spot and told me to name drop some photogs for inspiration, I’d say I gravitate towards Blair Bunting and Martin Schoeller. Their ability to create such beautiful and contrasty portrait work is captivating, and every frame has so much personality. I could only hope to one day have that level of success in my portrait work.
Your photos express your subjects’ personalities with an incredible amount of character. What is your approach to working with clients?
Finding my clients’ personalities is key in successful portrait work. Why would someone want the exact same photo that everyone else already has? To be brutally honest, much of my posing technique is developed by my clients. While I’m composing my shots, I put the client “in position” and give them a few ideas of what I’m looking for them to do. Then after I set up my lights, I “shoot some test shots” – or at least that’s what the client thinks. Unbeknownst to them I’m shooting for keeps, playing my own game of “how many photos can I take before the start paying attention again?” Of course, as a photographer, you then work that lighting with a few other pose ideas, and move onto something else before it gets stale. The key is to keep moving and shooting. They all can’t be zingers, so if you keep exploring and keep your client moving you have plenty of options when you dig into Lightroom and Photoshop.
You are the owner of Martin Digital, and you recently opened your newest studio in Newark. It seems like you have a new shoot lined up at any given time. What advice would you give to photographers who are trying to start their own photography business?
The photography market is huge but saturated. More often you come across people that call themselves photographers just because they bought the best camera that money can buy from the closest electronics store, oh, and don’t forget they started a Facebook page with the seemingly default “insert your name here” photography. What makes you a photographer is using your camera. If you’re not shooting, you’re already falling behind. Everything happens at light speed and the next new trend is always right around the corner. So shoot shoot shoot. I think photography in its simplest form is composition and style. Different photographers using the same gear, the same location, the same model (or client) can all develop completely different shots; this is what is truly unique about photography. So if I can give any advice, no matter how delightfully trite, it’s be unique in what you do. As for advice for photographers starting their own business, it’s really easy to get caught up in what everyone thinks you should be doing and even easier to lose sight of what you want to accomplish. The only thing I can say is the road is long, hard, and full of many more failures than successes, and it all comes at the end of many sacrifices and hardships. If you’re not willing to learn (and continue learning) and be flexible enough to grow and explore, you’re already dead in the water.
You’ve teamed up with a group of creative professional to launch your newest company Stand Alone Media House that offers a wide gamut of new services to your clients. What are the benefits of teaming up with this group of creatives, rather than taking it all on alone?
As my business has grown so has my insight to what clients are looking for. To all you other photographers and artists out there: yes, it is about having your own personal vision, but if you can’t translate that into what the client wants, good luck paying your mortgage with hopes and dreams. Last time I tried cashing my hopes and dreams check at the bank, I was kindly escorted to the door with the thunderous sound of laughter. As I saw a need for offering other services to my clients, I kept running into this “there is only 24 hours in a day” road block. I was running myself ragged trying to do everything, being a huge control freak along the way. It was only when I swallowed my pride and realized the real answer was to let go and trust in other people. My team has worked so hard to piece together our latest all-star line up for Stand Alone Media House:
Chase Ghiloni handles all things video, Patrick Torres handles all things graphic, Tom Davis is the in-house screen printer, Angela Smith is our fine art major and is multiversed is all things creative, Phillip Ellie turns mountains of jumbled up nonsense code into innovative websites, Sabrina Reda is our latest intern and she better come back as soon as she finishes school, and Brie LeVeque is the glue that binds us all together and really makes sure we all stay on track (and is one hell of a photographer, too!).
Video is a hot topic in the photo community now, and much of the equipment that I and many other photographers own has exquisite video capabilities; but why would I commit the next 10 years of my life to becoming a better videographer when I’m a photographer? In the same way that making a beautiful photograph isn’t just snapping a photo and delivering it to the client, video is much the same. You can capture beautifully composed footage, but you need to compile that footage into a (typically) non-linear story that makes sense. So instead of mastering 30 million things, I’ve opted to surround myself with some of the best damn professionals I could find. I know that the passion I have for photography is equal to the passion that each of these people share for their professions. The best benefit to such a large team is having such a huge pool of creativity around the studio every single day.
What are the benefits of working in Columbus as a professional photographer?
Columbus is such a diverse market and is growing fast! I feel privileged to not only work in the Columbus market, but also along side all the other wonderful local professionals. There is tons of work to go around and its not the scary cut throat market I assumed it was 10 years ago. I’ve been blessed by tons of wonderful clients from the Columbus area and I feel like we’re just getting started!
See Garrett compete against Kevin Deskins of LumoPro and our own lighting expert Steve Hurley this weekend at our Dynamic Lighting: OCF Basics & the LumoPro LP180 event!