Today we’d like to introduce you to Neil Caughlan.
Neil, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born and raised in New York. Growing up, I always loved the idea of taking pictures and playing with cameras. I looked up to people like my uncle, who was a photographer and worked freelance for Time Life, as well as my dad, who taught me the basics of camera operation. He had an old Nikon FA that I loved to play with and he would show me about things like depth of field, shutter speed, and ISO (or as it was on that camera ASA). There was something so satisfying about that heavy shutter click and then pushing the film advance lever that just drew me in.
I would always bug my parents to buy me a camera every time Christmas came around, or for my birthday… or even when we went to Walmart. I remember my first real non-disposable camera I got when I was in grade school, a small point and shoot Olympus Trip 500. It wasn’t quite as cool as my dad’s Nikon, but it was every bit as satisfying and I played with it the whole ride home from the store. Both the Nikon and Olympus sit above my desk to this day.
I moved to St. Louis in 2008 for college starting out first on the pre-med track, then later accounting. Ultimately, I knew I wanted to go into photography as a profession, but conventional wisdom told me that I needed a “real job” first, and maybe I could go make the transition from hobby to professional when I was 40. Sophomore year is when I got my first DSLR, a Nikon D3000, and that’s when I really started to develop my skills. While going through college, I was constantly studying photography on the side through self-taught means of reading and watching lectures and was lucky enough to be able to squeeze in several elective courses.
After way too many years, I realized that I was miserable with what I was doing and was looking at another 15 to 20 years of misery after college. This revelation was perfectly timed with my move down here to Atlanta. I came here to be with my girlfriend, who is here for grad school, and she was tremendously supportive of me making my transition from student to photographer. And that brings my story here, 6 months into my self-made, owned, and operated photography business.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
As with any startup there are growing pains, such as legal hurtles, logistical issues, etc. But for me, the biggest hurtle I’ve come across has been operating a very tight budget, and specifically marketing on such a tight budget. Currently I rely heavily on word of mouth and social media to get my name out there. The hard part is finding a way to creatively differentiate yourself from everyone else and at the same time have a consistent style or voice. It’s definitely a grind and a process of trial and error, however, slowly but surely, I’m finding my niche and making a name for myself. Whoever said “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” was only half right. It’s work and its difficult and frustrating, but I love every minute of it.
NWC Photography – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I started off small and right now I market myself as a headshot photographer, because everyone needs a good headshot, right? Facebook, LinkedIn, actors, even dating profiles, everyone wants to look good and make a good first impression. After that I’d say I’m a portrait photographer. For me, people are the most interesting subjects.
Aside from using glamour lighting for my headshots, I think what makes me different would be making a personal connection. I start off actually trying to get to know my clients and just trying to get them to relax and have a chat while I do my setups and test shots. That’s one of my favorite parts about my job. Also, most people who come to me, their only experience getting their picture taken by a professional has been yearbook day back in school. The typical “Sit down, turn this way, look at the camera, aaand smile!” I hate that word. Nothing makes people look fake and uncomfortable than a posed smile. I like to try to make whoever comes through my door to feel comfortable and relaxed so when I make my stupid jokes and one liners, I can get a genuine reaction out of someone. This helps me with my goal in the end, which is to try to take the best picture of yourself that you have.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
My favorite idea about success is from Bob Dylan who said, “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” I should add a caveat to that though, because in that context it sounds like I might be saying that if you want to eat junk food and play video games all day, you should go do that. While that does sound pretty awesome, I wouldn’t really call that being successful. I think that you should be making something of your life. For the person that wants to play videogames all day I’d say go test games, or even better yet go try to develop one. If you can find what you love doing and do that while contributing something to the world, I’d call that successful.
- Single Session: $100
- Office Package ( 3 or more people): $70 per person
- Returning Clients: $50
- Website: https://www.nwcphotography.com
- Phone: 914-844-5792
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ncaughlan/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NWCPhotography
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/NWC_Photography
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/nwc-photography-atlanta