Richard's Photographer Spotlight: Braedon Flynn
For photographer Braedon Flynn, it's all about chemistry. And not just the kind used to develop film! Braedon provokes authenticity from his subjects by building genuine connections, revealing a candid timelessness in his photojournalistic-style imagery. The constant entrepreneur, Braedon founded The Artist Report to share inspirational conversations with the creative community, as well as recently launching Film Supply Club, which provides photographers with film at wholesale prices. Go behind the lens with Braedon today in Richard's Photographer Spotlight!
Richard: What first sparked your passion for photography?
Braedon Flynn: My passion started with a love for music. I started documenting concerts I was attending, all on older film cameras I borrowed from my dad. But, if I were to pinpoint a specific moment, it would be when I was visiting my dad's friend. It was Steve Gorman, whose brother is Greg Gorman, a big celebrity portrait photographer. Steve had just gotten this new camera that Canon had produced called the 10D. A whopping 6.3 megapixels! And he let me borrow the camera. I shot everything I could, fell in love, and bought one the next week.
Shortly after, I went to visit my brother, who was studying abroad in London. Before the trip, I bought a book (which I finished on the flight over) called, 'Learning to Think and See Creatively'. And on that trip to London, I remember my family getting pissed with me because I would stop everywhere to take pictures. That was when I recognized photography as a passion.
R: Making the leap from photography as a personal passion to a paying gig is a big one... how did you decide to pursue it as a career?
BF: First off, I’m pretty business minded. When that passion for photography really hit, I shot everything, all the time. I was a "yes man" even if I had no idea what I was doing. I shot parties, I shot people, and I let everyone know I was a photographer. I went to school for business at University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and all the while I was still shooting bands.
After USC, I enrolled with a good friend of mine to the photo department at our local community college, Orange Coast College, which happens to be one of the best photo departments at a community college in the country! I wanted to learn what it meant to make a photograph vs just taking a photograph. I wanted to shoot large format cameras, print in a darkroom, and really understand lighting.
My first paid gig was for a property owner (I was in commercial real estate for a bit) for a high-rise building. And since I was taking my first class with 4x5 cameras, learning perspective with tilts and shifts, I thought, "Of course I can shoot their building, and my fee is $2500". I probably drove to that building and shot it 20 different times on different days, different times of day, and basically got paid to learn quick. But, that’s a little window into my personality.
I was shooting events for magazines, some editorial stuff, bands, and lifestyle/fashion—most of which I wasn’t getting paid for. I was creating my own projects. So when weddings came along, I was only shooting a handful per year. I had another full-time job, and I couldn’t take on more than that. Then, when my wife and I had our first kid, we decided I should go full time with photography. When that decision was made, I had about three weddings on the books for the next year, and it was December.
I shot a couple of really fun weddings that were featured in a lot of places, and that side of my business just flourished. That year, I shot around 65 weddings, with engagement shoots for each wedding, plus family shoots and events.
R: When you aren't shooting for clients, what do you LOVE to photograph?
BF: I still really love shooting bands, I love shooting lifestyle fashion shoots, collaborating on editorial projects, portraits, and I still carry several cameras with me everywhere I travel. My kids are fun to shoot, as well.
R: How do you find a balance between being creatively fulfilled and being able to pay the bills?
BF: That’s something I’m better at giving advice to other people about than I am at practicing myself! I can tell you to make sure you know your numbers—how much money you actually need to live on, how much you actually make, and how much you need to make. Don’t spend more than you make. If you are making good money, save it. When you have margin in finances, it will reduce so much stress vs needing to book a job. You’re in a way better position creatively when you only take on the jobs you want to take on instead of being desperate for whatever comes your way.
So, I do try to live by that, but I’m also the sole provider for my family. We own our home in a costly area and have three kids in (or about to be in) private school. It is a daunting amount of money that needs to be brought in to just pay bills. So, my advice is to keep your overhead as low as you can, both with your business and your personal expenses.
But the balancing act is a whole other thing. Being creatively fulfilled doesn’t have to have anything to do with paying the bills. Paying the bills is something that has to happen, so you need to be wise with how you run your business and figure out how much you have to make. But when it comes to creativity, you need to shoot for you and not just your client. I’ve been fortunate to have pretty rad clients that allow me to feel like what I’m shooting is personal work sometimes. It’s cool people doing cool things…or cool people getting married. I like being a part of that.
For me, it's also about making sure I’m taking care of myself, like getting enough sleep, exercising, being social (I’m an extrovert and need time with people), surfing, having fun with my family… when all that stuff is happening, it helps keep me from burning out.
R: What is your favorite camera and why?
BF: This is such a tough question for me, because I really view my cameras as tools, each serving a different purpose. I wear four to five cameras on my body at a time when on a shoot—even when I travel, I carry around three different cameras.
I have two Contax 645s, which I mainly love for portrait work. I have a film back on one, then a PhaseOne digital back on the other. That has become an amazingly useful tool in low light, and I have been loving being able to shoot medium format during moments like the first dance and other moments of the reception. I like it so much more than any 35mm digital.
The other two main cameras I shoot with are Canon EOS 1Vs, and I generally use those for anything involving motion. I shoot with a Rollei a lot, as well, and I generally only keep black and white film in it.
R: What's your first memory of shooting with film? Why do you continue to shoot it as a pro?
BF: As a kid, I remember my dad always having cameras and film (I actually still shoot with one of his old Pentax k1000s). Shooting with film wasn't that magical to me until I got to print in a darkroom.
I keep shooting film as an aesthetic choice. I’m not a fan of a lot of the 35mm options out there—I love the older medium format cameras. To me, digital can sometimes feel like watching TV in HiDef, which I’m not a big fan of. Something about it is a little too sharp for my taste. I also don’t like editing my images. Richard does a better job with film scans than I do with digital edits, because I don’t have the patience to take the time to get the results I want.
R: Why is it important to have continuous communication with your lab(s)?
BF: Your lab is basically like an outsourced employee. When you get your film scans back, you want to look at them and be really happy with the how they look. That’s the magic feeling—seeing your images for the first time looking just as you wanted them or better than you thought they would!
As you get busier, it’s essential to try and eliminate as much work as possible. So, if you’re not working closely with your lab and still editing a ton of your images, you’re wasting your time and probably wasting your money on the processing fees. If you have a lab encouraging your input, take the time and give it! It will save you so much time on the back end.
R: Do you have any pre-shoot rituals?
BF: Not really, because these days, I’m sometimes running from a soccer game to a wedding or trying to help my wife before I head out for the day or weekend. I do always make sure a couple days before a shoot that all of my batteries are charged, I have the film I need, and everything is packed in its place so on the day of, I’m not scrambling for anything. All my gear is ready for action!
R: What song/music do you listen to to get pumped up?
BF: My go-to Pandora station is currently Gregory Alan Isakov (contemporary indie folk). But when I'm trying to be productive, I choose some sort of EDM playlist with a good, fast tempo.
R: Let’s play a game of “Either/Or”! Savory or sweet?
R: Chocolate or vanilla?
R: Dogs or cats?
R: Urban or rural?
R: Modern or vintage?
R: Breakfast or Dinner?
R: Warm weather or cold weather?
BF: Cold weather.
R: Biggie or Tupac?
R: Early bird or night owl?
BF: Early bird.
R: Crossword or Sudoku?
R: Batman or Superman?
R: Historical Non-fiction or SciFi/Fantasy?
BF: Historical Non-fiction.
R: Comedy or Drama?
R: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be when you grow up?
BF: I'd probably be in commercial real estate if I hadn't become a photographer. But if I was to shift out of photography now, I'd probably move to a creative director roll. I'm intrigued by the startup world, as well. I'm an entrepreneur at heart.
R: If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?
BF: Since I was a kid, I've always said my super power would be the ability to fly. Teleporting would be pretty handy, as well!
R: What is your favorite word, and why?
BF: I probably use the words "awesome", "amazing", or "rad" the most. I like looking for the good in stuff.