How Did We Get Here?
As people come in for headshots, I try to talk to them a lot to try and relax them. (Well, actually, I talk AT them a lot. It's something I'm working on.) And one of the things I talk about a lot is how I came to love headshots so much.
A little history..
My mother was pretty big into pictures and traveling. She had boxes of 35mm slides. Maybe I caught the bug from her. I found out who my real grandfather was a few years ago. He worked for Kodak and ran a portrait gig out of his house. (I have pictures of the newspaper ads he took out)
I was always fascinated with cameras. They were gadgets and that was enough for me. I remember drooling over cameras like the 35mm Canon F-1 when it came out and hit the magazines in 1971. I was too young and it was way over my non-existent budget.. but I was sold. I took photography in high school back when we developed film in a dark room. And then, for a long time, I was a casual photographer.
About 20 years ago, I got a little more serious and started taking more pictures. I'm a bit of an overachiever so, when I say I took pictures, I mean I was constantly trying to improve. Honing my "art". At some point, I discovered motorcycles and started working on better motorcycle pictures. I never really shot people because I was naturally awkward and had no clue how to interact with people to take photos. Motorcycles were easy. After a while, with my camera and the ability to write, I ended up as an unpaid contributor (they called it "staff") to a regional motorcycle mag. I got a chance to write and photograph for a national (worldwide?) motorcycle magazine. It was an awesome place to be. I got to gain some momentum in media and be a biker at the same time. A perfect marriage. When I got my first cover, I started thinking that maybe I could actually get paid for this. It was a LOT of work, used expensive gear and took a lot of time. But there was no money. When I even mentioned possibly getting paid to one of the magazines, they ghosted me altogether. Hmmph. Family indeed! The truth was that most of those magazines live off other people's contributions. And the readers want to see cool bikes. They generally don't care how well a photo is taken. So, why would magazines pay?
One of the things I wanted to do was gain the skill to take great portraits and bring that skill set back to motorcycle pictures. I forced myself to start learning how to shoot people. After about a year, I was doing okay but still mostly shooting for free.
By the end of 2018, I was a guy with a camera trying to figure out what to do with it. I was interested in real estate photography (no people).. motorcycles (no money).. portraits.. landscapes and anything else besides weddings and babies. My main problem was this.. in trying to establish a business statement, I couldn't come up with anything. I didn't have the availability for real estate photography. We already discussed motorcycles. I don't buy landscape photography. How could I convince someone to buy mine? And.. portraits? Why would anyone pay money to put a picture of someone else on their wall? (Clearly, I was missing the point of portraits.)
I didn't "believe" in any of it. How could I bring myself to sell it to someone else?
January 2019 rolled around and I had joined the Professional Photographers of America and gone to their annual ImagingUSA convention. I took a bunch of random classes because.. why not? I was standing outside a headshot class from a guy named Gary Hughes and my wife texted me. A long family friend of ours, who is an actress, was going from Charleston to Atlanta to get her headshots. She couldn't find anyone in Charleston to take industry-standard actor headshots. (I have a few names now but I didn't then). I always say you can't swing a dead cat in Charleston without hitting a couple of photographers. Nobody?? She recounted some of her bad experiences. I told her, "I'm not trying to take away from your next photographer but if you don't love what you get, I'd like to try." [ahh.. the sweet nievity]. I was nearly giddy as I sat down for Gary's class.
In Gary's class, he talked about his business statement after the class read it out loud. He said, "You see what's not there? There's nothing about my camera or my expertise or anything about ME. It's all about helping other people get great headshots they need to succeed". Suddenly, I think I heard choirs singing and the room got brighter and there was a sweetness in the air. THIS was it! I help other people get what they need! I can believe in that. And if I can believe in it, I can sell it!
Headshots! According to my actress friend, there's a need in Charleston!
Remember that I said I was an over-achiever? Headshots became an obsession and, honestly, I still love them. If you had told me years ago that I'd love working with people and that I'd find them all fascinating, I never would have believed it. I think, judging from what I see, most photographers would get bored only doing headshots. But it's not just taking a picture. There is a skill level but very little of it is about the photo itself. It's about connecting with people and grabbing that in the camera. Are you kidding me? I LOVE this job! And the best pictures I take are the ones that give people what they need to succeed or, at the very least, realize how very cool they are.
So where did Chris Lonsberry Media come from? In the beginning, I had envisioned doing a lot of different things. Photographs. Video. Writing. “Media” seemed to cover it all. Someday, I should probably change the business name. But, it didn’t stop you from finding me.
And that's the story.. so far.