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Meet Trailblazer Deborah Brandon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Deborah Brandon.

Deborah, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I discovered my love for photography when I was around 19. My now husband randomly bought me an old Pentax film camera at a pawn shop while we were on a trip to Las Vegas. I began taking photos, mostly of landscapes and food. (They are much easier subjects!) Once I realized how much I loved taking photos, I thought I wanted to be a food photographer. I thought that it would be much easier to break into the industry if I knew the product and could also style my own images. I attended the Scottsdale Culinary Institute in 2002. After culinary school, I quickly realized that the opportunities at that time were mainly in places like L.A. and New York, not so much in Phoenix. This was before “smartphone” photography and prior to the Instagram foodie community. It was also a very tight-knit group of photographers who shot for most of the main magazines and it was very difficult to get into the group without being in NY or LA. Right after culinary school, I got married. While on our honeymoon, I shot 52 rolls of film on my little Pentax camera! However, we were still a young struggling couple, so the dream of a job in the photographic industry was kind of put to the side. I continued working in culinary for a few years at one of the large resorts in Phoenix.

During this time, I still continued to take photos and took some film developing classes as well. It helped me hone my artistic eye a bit better as well as helped me understand how film photography worked. When my husband and I decided to have a baby, it because increasingly difficult to imagine spending so much time working away from my family, so we made the switch to me staying at home. While I was pregnant, my husband bought me my first digital camera. A Canon 20D. I already had a basic knowledge of how to shoot in manual because my old Pentax didn’t have ANY auto modes. Not even autofocus. I began taking photos all the time. My husband is 8 years older than I am, so at the time, all of our friends had small children. I would always take my camera to any party and take photos of the festivities. Eventually, some friends of our friends saw the images and asked me to shoot their kid’s parties or family photos. The final big push for me in starting my business was when a good friend of mine got married. She couldn’t really afford a wedding photographer and asked me if I would mind taking some photos. I was nervous and explained to her that I had never shot a wedding and that she would be getting what she paid for (LOL!) but I would be happy to do it. I fell head over heels in love with wedding photography on that day! Her pictures turned out beautifully (for my skill level at the time), she was THRILLED and I knew it would not be the last wedding I would shoot. I continued photographing everything, thinking that diversity was the key to success. I had been doing families, children, even newborns. Weddings came as mostly referrals from friends of friends and the more of them I shot, the less I wanted to diversify. Slowly over a few years, I cut different offerings from my business. I no longer shoot newborns at all and most of my family clients have been with me for 5+ years. I am beyond blessed, that my husband is the hardest worker I’ve ever met and his hard work allows me to do what I truly love.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My biggest struggle in this industry would be that I am TOTALLY introverted. I really had to work at being able to make people feel comfortable with me even though making small talk is SO SO hard for me. Being introverted and being in a service based industry is extremely difficult not only for creating relationships with clients but also for being able to sell yourself. Many times, being able to sell yourself is the difference between getting the job or not. That has been a real struggle for me. Growing my business and promoting my work is something I still struggle with even now. My advice for others (women, young women, young men anyone!) would be to not think so much about the “job” and think more about the “experience.” There are SO many talented photographers out there, but what you bring to the table that they don’t is the experience you give to your client… from start to finish. Create a genuine connection to the client. Find common likes or even dislikes. Ask them about themselves and REALLY listen. This not only makes your client feel comfortable with you (and thus helps you guide them into more natural poses) but it makes you feel more at ease doing the job part of it as well. When you have a genuine human connection with every client, it shows in your images and elevates your work. The clients who have a real experience with you will be your biggest evangelists.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Deborah Brandon Photography – what should we know?
I adore shooting weddings. I love the kind of hustle of the day. I hate standing still. I love being chosen to document one of the happiest days in a person’s life. I love that of all the events you can photograph, the details of a wedding are some of the most thoughtful and beautiful. I think about the fact that after the wedding, all you really have is your memories and the images I created.

What makes me different as a photographer, is that I HATE having my photo taken. That means, I totally get that awkward, what do I do with my hands, do I have a double chin, and how do I make a natural smile feeling. I would venture to say that if you asked my past clients what they appreciated best about me, is that I will never leave you wondering what to do or how to stand. I am a posing guru! (Not to toot my own horn!) I will walk you through every little micro adjustment and tell you why I am doing it!

Again, I think I got over excited and touched on this in the last question, but what I am most proud of in my brand, is the experience I give my clients. I REALLY pride myself on creating a genuine connection with each and every person that steps in front of my camera, and also their families. I work HARD on a wedding day and I don’t think there is a single wedding where I didn’t have a guest come up to me or my second shooter and say what an amazing job I did and how they were impressed with the fact that I seemed to be everywhere. LOL. (Did I mention that saying all this great stuff about myself makes me gag!)

Which women have inspired you in your life?
I come from a LONG line of VERY strong women. I have learned from them to stand up for myself, to be confident in who I am (even accepting the bad parts) and how to be independent and to never be defeated! But I have also learned from some of the softer women in my life. I’ve learned that just because I have an opinion about everything, doesn’t mean I need to share it. That kindness doesn’t always compete with directness. You can be thoughtful and strong at the same time. I have learned from the many women that I have photographed, that women are so hard on themselves. We are always our own worst critic and I make sure that my daughter knows that I don’t and we don’t have to look at ourselves that way! We are AMAZING! I lost my mom around 13 and through that, I learned that I am a lot stronger than I thought I was. Before she died, however, the biggest lessons I learned were through her. Two of the most prominent were empathy and forgiveness. She was a true example of a person who created a genuine connection with everyone she met and someone who had a heart for service. Two traits I try every day to emulate not just in my business but also in my life!

Pricing:

  • Wedding Photography collections start at $2400
  • Family Sessions start at $150

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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