|Tell us about your company or studio.
Upstate Photographers was formed in 2006 when Paul Grupp, working as a staff photographer for the NY State Senate, asked Brenda Rose if she was interested in joining him in opening a full-time professional studio. Located in Troy NY, their well-equipped 2,000 sq. ft. loft-style studio does about 50% of their business in weddings, and the rest in a diverse portfolio ranging from head shots for entertainers and professionals, bpix and fashion photography for small boutiques, concert photography and promo pix for working musicians, commercial photography for restaurants, bars, the medical industry and real estate. Paul explains, "We opened our studio space just as many other professionals were closing theirs. We feel that having our own shooting space located in an area rich with possibilities for location work gives us a real edge over our competitors. Because we're always set up, ready to go, we can profitably do small jobs like head shots that would be difficult otherwise. And I think in general, but especially for wedding meetings, having our own dedicated space is vital.
Paul says, "All my life I dreamed of being a professional photographer some day. In high school, while the other kids were playing football, I was in the library studying the work of some of my favorites: Yousef Karsh, Edward Steichen, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon. In my mid-40s, I got a chance to leave the corporate world and open a studio, and I jumped on it. I never thought I'd shoot weddings, but while I was working as staff photographer for the NY State Senate, somebody talked me into attending a Joe Buissink wedding photography seminar. His work was so powerful, so honest -- I literally sat there in the auditorium and cried. He taught me that you can approach weddings with artistic integrity. Do what you do, do it well, and people will come. I tried it, and fell in love with the wedding business. When I met Brenda eight years ago, there was never any question. She came into the business and the rest is history!" We are fiercely competitive with each other, always encouraging each other to do our very best.
Why do you use AsukaBook?
We attend the PDN Photo Expo in NYC every year, and one of the primary reasons we go is to check up on all the wedding album makers and see what's new and exciting. The first year we went, we were so impressed with AsukaBook. At the time what we liked is that they have all the qualities of a "real" book, but over the years, what we have learned to value is their relentless perfectionism. Not just in the quality of the books themselves, but in the processes surrounding making and ordering them. Over the years, we've done dozens, probably hundreds of books with a variety of vendors and with every other book vendor we've had problems with errors we made that AsukaBook would have caught and corrected before printing. And every other vendor has delivered books with quality issues (out of order pages, roller or knife marks on pages, etc.) that required reprinting and delays in delivery to our clients. But AsukaBook has a perfect record with us. Their quality is second to none.
Any selling tips for other photographers?
Everyone we know in the wedding industry tells us that right now couples are looking for ways to cut costs on their wedding day. While we price our photography a la carte, we always have a couple of unadvertised bundles that include wedding books at a small discount. We have one with a single book and another that also includes parents' books. Without bundling, most of our clients would just have us do a shoot, process, and burn. But the bundles really increase our attach rate to books, and this year, we've been selling a LOT of parents albums too.
Over the years, our approach to book layout and style has changed dramatically. Eight years ago, we typically did the 10x10 Book Bound EX books with 40 sides. Our goal was to pack as many photos onto a page as we could, so the pages had lots of little boxes. These days, we sell mostly 12x12 Zen Layflat books, with lots of full-page, full-bleed pictures, and also plenty of two-page spreads scattered throughout. We keep the upgrade prices for extra pages low, resulting in lots of 60, 80, and 100 sided books with minimal effort required for layout.
What else should people know about you?
We think the secret to our success over the years has been our diversity. We know that if we had JUST shot weddings, we'd be struggling with burnout. But because we do so many different types of work, it's always fresh and interesting. It also greatly extends our marketing reach. Shoot a concert with thousands of attendees who come to your website or Facebook page to see the pictures, and a small but significant percentage of those people will end up calling you when it's time for wedding photography.