The South 40 Creative Spotlight showcases creative talent we love to work with! Discover some of our favorite photographers, videographers and more!
This month’s Creative Spotlight is someone who balances his mathematical and creative sides seamlessly. Alfred Marcos is originally from Alexandria, Egypt, and is married with three boys. Although he can’t remember a time when he wasn’t enthusiastic about taking pictures, the birth of his second child was the “aha” moment when he truly realized the value of capturing memories. It was then that he felt driven to pursue photography outside of his own family, and in 2015 he began taking online courses, adding in-person classes to expand his proficiency in lighting and OCF (off-camera flash). In 2018, he stepped into the title of “professional photographer,” advertising his services to the public. By day he works as an engineer, and he fills his nights and weekends by shooting engagement, wedding, and family photos in an interesting mix of locations. We always find it fascinating to meet “self-driven” photographers, individuals who are committed to being successful at a full-time career AND a career capturing endearing love during some of life’s most memorable moments.
In what genre of photography did you start when you began your professional career? How easy was it to expand into other types of photography and other subjects?
In the beginning, I focused my photography on capturing family and senior portraits. I didn’t want to miss important life events—both for my clients and in my own life—and I wanted to help capture these pivotal times in pictures. After three years of working as a photographer, I ventured into wedding photography. As is true for most creatives, the path to becoming a professional included learning from mentors and working as a second shooter for several years. It is common for wedding photographers to bring another photographer—there is so much activity and multiple experiences to capture, and the additional photographer helps to catch the important moments on a wedding day. As my confidence increased, I began to charge a small fee for my work, and over time, increased my fees and moved to establishing myself as a primary photographer.
What was the hardest step in establishing your public photography business profile?
I found that one of the hardest steps was creating a visually appealing, professional website and social media presence. This requires not only technical skill in website design and marketing talent, but also a keen eye for design and aesthetics. Photographers may struggle with creating a cohesive visual identity that reflects their unique style and brand. Another challenging aspect can be creating and promoting content that engages with potential clients and enables one to establish a social media following on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. It can be difficult to stand out in a crowded field and to create content that resonates with your target audience.
Then there are the more traditional aspects of a business, like setting prices, creating contracts, and dealing with the legal and financial aspects of running a photography business. These daunting and time-consuming tasks are still important parts of business ownership. Overall, establishing a public photography business profile requires a significant amount of time, effort, and diligence. However, with persistence and a strategic approach, it is possible to create a strong and successful online presence. Hiring someone to do a job is often necessary because we can’t do everything ourselves. While it may cost money up front, it will eventually pay off.
As you’ve grown in your business as a “couples” photographer, what are some pieces of advice you would share with newcomers?
Build a strong portfolio; your portfolio reflects your skills and style as a photographer, and it can be a powerful tool for attracting potential clients. Be intentional about the images you select; make sure they highlight your best work and unique style. Developing a clear brand identity can help you stand out in a crowded field and attract clients who are a good fit for your style and approach. Consider what sets you apart from other photographers; your brand should reflect your personality and values.
Honest communication is key to a successful photoshoot. Make sure you have a clear understanding of your clients’ vision and expectations and communicate your own approach and limitations clearly. Keep them updated throughout the process and be responsive to their questions and concerns. Focus on creating a positive client experience; the experience of collaborating with you can be just as important as the final product. By helping your clients feel comfortable and at ease during the photoshoot, you improve their experience, which leads to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth referrals.
Photography is a constantly evolving field, and it’s important to stay up to date with the latest trends and techniques to provide the best experience for your clients and a product you can be proud of. When you attend workshops, invest in new equipment, and seek feedback from peers and clients, you continuously improve your skills and grow your business.
What do you think are the most difficult aspects of doing a wedding shoot?
Weddings are a once-in-a-lifetime event, and there is no room for error. The pressure is on to capture every moment perfectly, from the ceremony to the reception. This can create an intense environment that can be challenging for some photographers. In a one-time event like a wedding, you have limited time and resources; weddings are often fast-paced events with multiple moving parts (and people), and photographers may have limited time to capture the shots they need. In addition, photographers may have limited access to certain areas or may need to work around other vendors or guests.
Due to the length of a wedding and reception, dealing with changing lighting conditions (from bright sunlight to dimly lit receptions) adds another level of difficulty to weddings. You need to be able to adjust your settings quickly to capture the best possible shots. There is also the task of managing a large group of people: weddings typically involve people of various ages, including family members, bridal parties, and guests. Photographers must manage these groups effectively, directing people for group shots and capturing candid moments without disrupting the flow of the event. At the end of the day, the most important aspect of a wedding shoot is ensuring that the clients are happy with the final product. Photographers need to be able to balance their own artistic vision with the clients’ expectations and work collaboratively to create a final product that meets everyone’s needs.
How important are referrals to building a clientele and how do you increase reviews and referrals?
The best way to increase referrals and positive reviews is to provide excellent service for your customers. This includes being attentive and responsive to their needs. I have found Google to be a great resource for finding information and answers to questions. In addition, most professional photographers are willing to share their knowledge and experience with others in the industry. I have personally received almost 50 reviews through Google.
What is one website which has been an invaluable resource to you in your career development as a photographer?
SLR Lounge is a great site for all sorts of information for photographers, from free and paid classes to blog posts and educational articles about a multitude of photographic styles and genres.
How do you use the location to guide your subjects in their interactions and exhibition of emotions?
For each client, I create a story mood board that helps me identify their unique style and preferences for location. This allows me to tailor my services to their specific needs and create a customized experience that speaks to their individual tastes. This is also helpful in avoiding awkward posing situations and ensuring the client is comfortable throughout the session.
What are some memorable photo shoots you’ve had–whether they were a comedy of errors or simply extraordinary?
One of my most memorable shoots took place in California, where I had the opportunity to capture engagement pictures in the middle of the ocean. My client was looking for fresh and unique ideas, so I suggested changing the location from Tennessee. We booked a flight and spent a day on location, and the resulting photos were incredible.
Although the session was incredible, I unfortunately got seasick during the shoot—a total shock to me, as I assumed I was only going to face the challenge of balancing myself while taking photos in the middle of the ocean! Despite feeling unwell, I pushed through and continued capturing stunning photos of the couple. The breathtaking scenery and the love between the couple made it all worth it, and the final images were utterly amazing.
What makes a spectacular location and how does South 40 fit the bill?
What makes a location truly spectacular for a photo shoot is the availability of different backdrops. Having a variety of backgrounds to choose from allows for greater creative possibilities and ensures that the final images are unique and visually interesting. An excellent location might have a mix of natural scenery, providing options for clients, based on their personalities, number of subjects or purpose of the shoot, the weather, and amount of time we have scheduled for the shoot. South 40 offers all of this and more!
If you were to pitch South 40 to other wedding photographers, what would you tell them that makes it so special?
You will not be disappointed. Booking South 40 is a breeze and I always enjoy working with Ann; she not only helps to set up the client and photographer’s specific needs, but her industry expertise helps the photographer create an efficient and fun shoot, no matter the occasion, the subjects, or the season. My clients love the location as well, as it offers a variety of backdrops to choose from. It’s a versatile and beautiful setting that always delivers remarkable results.
Connect with Alfred: