Credit: One to One Studio
By La Tasha Taylor
January 5, 2015
Christopher Allen of C. Allen Photography
Christopher Allen closed the door on corporate America in 2013 and he has not looked back since. The photographer turned entrepreneur is too busy, lately, capturing great visual moments for his clients and celebrities like; actor Romany Malco and Hip-hop artist Common. Find out how years ago an internship at Music World spawned his desire to look at a camera in a whole different angle. And just why it’s so important that his photographs tell a story.
Before you interned at Music World had you thought about becoming a photographer?
It did not cross my mind that I would become a photographer. Back then, I was just excited to be in the room with big names like Beyoncé, Russell Simmons and Jesse Jackson. We always had famous faces stopping by our Music World campus when they visited Houston. I learned early on the importance of documentation and that pictures were always needed. I was the intern who took a lot of those company pictures during that time. I remember working one of our exclusive industry parties during Super Bowl weekend and in one room we had Beyoncé, Mathew Knowles, Russell Simmons, Rev. Run, and Jesse Jackson. While other guests were asked to leave the room, I was pulled in to take pictures? I had always enjoyed the exclusive access photography offers but I had never thought I would make a career from it.
C. Allen Photos was created in 2013. You left your day job to pursue your dreams. What were some of the thoughts going through your mind as you embarked on the road to entrepreneurship?
When I left my job in June of 2013, I remember feeling a spirit of excitement and adventure on my horizon. Most of my media friends had no idea I was running my business while working a 40 hour a week day job including weekends. And my coworkers on my day job had no idea I was working so many events taking pictures and networking with people. Preparing my mind for this big leap of faith took years of convincing myself that I was making the best decision for my life. People don’t realize the longer you are in a position the easier it is to become complacent. The day I wrote my resignation letter I remember telling myself, “If you don’t leave now you will never leave!” And that is a scary feeling for an entrepreneur. Imagine keeping an eagle in a cage the size of a glass cubicle. He lives to soar and fly. I felt like that eagle. Believe it or not, it took me over a week to turn in that resignation letter. It takes courage and faith to take your safety net away and say “With my own hands and with my labor, I will create my future.” Thanks to my YouTube Coaches; Les Brown and Tony Robbins! I knew I had greatness in me and it needed to come out!
What sets you apart from other photographers?
There are some very talented photographers that I meet . What sets me apart from others is that I believe being a good photographer is much more than just knowing what lens to use and which aperture setting you need. Like many photographers, I love having those tech conversations about ISOs, F-Stops, and Canon versus Nikon, but if you’re not a camera enthusiast that knowledge doesn’t mean much. I know that people simply want great pictures and that your pictures tell stories. With the current social media craze—photos make up 93% of engaging post on Facebook
This equates to a users social media experience so it’s nothing for me to put my Canon 70D aside and help people get the right camera [phone] shot. I know “we” understand quality over speed, but people want their pictures fast so they can get them uploaded. Technology has made the process simple and quick.
As a professional photographer you have to find ways to keep up and evolve your craft. You have to understand that you’re not just taking a picture but contributing to their social experience. People want to laugh, smile, and have a good time. You should be interacting with people, initiating conversations, giving out tips to help them become better camera phone shooters. LoL! Some photographers are so into their expensive camera they forget it’s okay to be sociable. I embrace the new social trends and I’m ecstatic that so many people are excited about taking pictures. Having that mindset I believe sets me apart from other photographers.
You’ve covered some impressive events and photographed famous faces, but remain humble. Even with being front and center capturing pivotal moments there is a behind the scenes demeanor you display. Where does that come from?
That’s my natural demeanor. I love the lane that I am in and I tell myself just have fun with photography. I have met so many people in my career and have seen all sorts of egos and characters. You can’t go wrong with a positive attitude and a friendly spirit. I know when it’s time to take care of business and usually that takes place behind the scenes. Forming strong business relationships and networking will put you in a great position to be successful. It’s like putting a fish in water. Watch him swim. I’m always having great contacts passing me incredible opportunities. I’m humble enough to know nobody is successful without the help of others.
The Photographer & The Publicist. Tell us about that collaboration and how it has taken your business to new heights?
I’m most excited about my new business collaboration— The Photographer & The Publicist. As a photographer I’ve done so many events that it is easy to get bored. The Photographer & The Publicist was the right, creative idea I needed to get excited again. After doing a couple of events with the talented Sarni Jaye, I realized we worked well together. Not only does she take care of business, it motivates me to be the best photographer I can be. The Photographer & The Publicist has taken my business to new heights by creating more visibility for me as an event photographer. We are getting more event invites and more photographers are reaching out to us. As a photographer and publicist team, we have a lot to offer our clients. When you hire a photographer you’re only getting great pictures but when you hire a photographer and a publicist team, you’re getting great photos and possible press hits that can boost your company’s exposure. Our goal is to become a recognizable brand for this service and garner clients across multiple markets.
You had a great 2014. Everything from covering the Essence Festival to shooting your 1st destination wedding in Dominican Republic. How will the momentum of the previous year carry over into the new?
I had an extraordinary 2014. New relationships, new opportunities and new partnerships have placed me in a momentous position. Earlier I mentioned nobody becomes successful by his or herself and I have formed great partnerships that I plan to strategize with. My biggest objective for the new year is turning great ideas into great results! Covering the Essence Festival only exposed me to bigger and greater achievements. There are entrepreneurs operating on a national level and I can to if I handle my business right. With The Photographer & The Publicist I plan to build off the momentum we have successfully experienced this year.
Why is it so important that your photos tell a story?
Fifty years from now those same photos whether digital or print will be the only thing left that can tell the story. For example, at the airport, I wanted to take a picture of a family of five… including capturing the kids on their tablets and cellphones. The story of that photo would tell you how much people are tuned into their gadgets and mobile devices. Forty years ago I am sure the kids may have had a book and the parents, newspapers. Also, if you have seen photos from the civil rights movement or from slavery, you would see the struggles our ancestors lived through and how we have all told our stories through images.
From a business standpoint, story telling helps my clients promote and market their events. So you want to ensure you’re getting shots that help sell the success of the event. Pictures generate interest and sometimes even publicity.
Images: C. Allen Photos
If you could photograph someone who was no longer here who would it be? Why?
I would most likely photograph Dr. Martin Luther King. Can you imagine how many people he encountered on his voyage for equality and justice. He was one of the biggest voices for the civil rights movement among African-Americans and minorities. I could see myself right there traveling and shooting what happened on the road.
Your greatest challenge and most rewarding experience as an entrepreneur?
My greatest challenge as an entrepreneur has been balancing my love for the art of photography with the value of my service. Entrepreneurs call it pricing. More and more people are calling themselves photographers and shooting some of the same client events you are. When more people are doing what you do, the value of the service goes down. In order to make a good living from my passion I have to be creative as well as innovative. Remember, technology has made it so easy that everybody is a photographer now.
My most rewarding experience this year, as an entrepreneur, has been photographing actor Romany Malco, Hip-hop artist Common, and covering the Essence Festival. To know that these opportunities resulted from two people’s vision colliding [Photographer & The Publicist] and from a person who stepped out on faith… I feel I made the best decision. Also, being blessed to photograph some accomplished professionals has taught me that there is no limit to our capabilities. My reward has been more ambition and greater goals set for myself.
Advice for those wanting a career in photography?
I suggest going back to the basics. Local colleges offer photography classes. Although I have a Bachelors in Business Marketing I still wanted to go back to school to learn the fundamentals of photography. If you are serious about making it a career you have to invest in yourself and your photography education. Websites like YouTube, CreativeLive.com, and Lynda.com have hours upon hours of information. In photography, you never stop learning so never think that you know everything. You make use with the information you acquire while continuing to learn your craft.
What’s next for Christopher Allen?
I plan to cover a lot more national events in 2015. I have the Essence Festival, South by Southwest, and at least one awards show in Los Angeles on my radar. I really enjoyed my recent visit to Dominican Republic. I know I want to plan more international shooting expeditions. This upcoming year I will also invest a great deal of time working with The Photographer & The Publicist.
[Source for Stat-[http://www.socialbakers.com/blog/1749-photos-make-up-93-of-the-most-engaging-posts-on-facebook]
Connect with Christopher Allen—C. Allen Photos