Richard's Photographer Spotlight: Koby Brown
In love with love… that's the adage of Koby & Elizabeth Brown of Archetype. They create imagery with both jaw-dropping grandeur and some serious heart & soul. Perhaps that's why their work has been featured globally in publications such as the cover of People Magazine, editorials in Cosmo, Glamour, Rolling Stone, Town & Country, Good Housekeeping, The Knot, the New York Times, and more! Today, Koby is stepping into Richard's Photog Spotlight to tell us how he went from software engineer to award-winning photographer, the "tug-o-war" that every business-owning artist faces, and the thing he has to smell (yes, SMELL) before every shoot!
Richard: What first sparked your passion for photography?
Koby Brown: At 10 years old, my parents gave me a Canon 35mm to take with me on a trip to England. I spent that trip burning through film and loving it. My lens was mostly trained on the historic architecture and monuments.
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?
KB: While I started working as an apprentice to a studio photographer at age 12, the business side of photography didn’t interest me until much later.
First, a little about us… I met Elizabeth during our senior year in high school, fell in love, and were married after graduating Texas A&M (whoop!). After college, I began working as a software engineer. When I needed to escape the office, I would leave with a camera and drive around until I found something interesting to shoot. It was a great escape. I still have some of those prints hanging on our walls!
During that same period, Elizabeth had taken up photography and began shooting families and weddings. After a few years, we had a serious discussion about our dreams and goals, and decided that we wanted to not just work together but build a business together. Things really started to click for us when we discovered we both wanted the same thing out of life... And more importantly, that standing together, we were willing to take the risk to reach for it.
R: When you aren't shooting for clients, what do you LOVE to photograph?
KB: My favorite type of work is editorial, especially when we get to put our creative heads together and collaborate with friends in the industry. Any shoot that involves travel to Europe, Scandinavia, and the Northern US really refuels me creatively—I love shooting in new places.
R: How do you find a balance between being creatively fulfilled and being able to pay the bills?
KB: There isn’t a balance. It’s a tug-o-war! First step is to pay the bills. If you don’t stay on top of your finances, you will not be in the photography business very long. I have found that I have to be a businessman first and photographer second.
When my wife and I joined forces and re-branded as Archetype, we instituted a no-debt policy. We choose to run our business purely on the cash flow we generate through our photography. Since my wife and I have no outside source of income, when we want to buy a new piece of gear, or fund a creative opportunity like traveling for a collaborative shoot, we have to find a way to generate the extra cash flow needed to make it happen. This policy forces us to set goals and plan ahead; it’s also a huge motivator to work hard for our clients and earn those referrals so we can keep doing what we love!
I also believe it’s important to do personal projects, shoot simply for the purpose of honing your skill set, and stretch your boundaries beyond your normal genre.
R: What is your favorite camera and why?
KB: I am currently shooting with a Mamiya 645 AFD. It’s a workhorse of a camera system—sturdy, reliable, and beautiful glass. On the digital side, I use Canon 5D Mark IIIs. I like the 5D because of its speed and low light capabilities. It’s also tough and rugged—I went swimming with it in the Pacific Ocean (but that was by accident).
R: What's your first memory of shooting with film? Why do you continue to shoot it as a pro?
KB: It was the trip to England when I was 10 that I spoke about earlier, actually (love at first sight)! I continue to use film for several reasons. The compression through medium format camera systems produces images with a tangible quality. I like the way working with film slows me down and forces me to thoughtfully compose each image—it’s expensive to push that button! Plus, Elizabeth loves our film workflow since we began working with Richard to create our own Color PAC. It has translated into a lot less time in front the computer!
R: Why is it important to have continuous communication with your lab(s)?
KB: I see my lab as an extension of our business. Richard is a critical component of our workflow, and ultimately, the film scans are an essential element of our branding. We often receive requests from other photographers who want to know how we achieve the look of our images—an important part of that answer is the custom Color PAC we developed with Richard. We see constant communication (especially during the early part of the relationship) with our lab as vital to the growth and development of Archetype.
R: Do you have any pre-shoot rituals?
KB: I unpack and repack my gear bags—I want to memorize what is in them and be able to find what I need without searching. Of course, all the packing and repacking does no good if you forget to actually put the gear in the car. I only did that once, and fortunately my trusty partner in crime (aka the wife) engaged the client in conversation while I drove back to the office to grab my bag and no one was the wiser.
But, my favorite part of prepping is opening the rolls of film. I don’t know why I do this, but I smell each roll. It’s weird, I know... does anyone else do this?
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: Warm weather or cold weather?
KB: Warm weather.
R: Biggie or Tupac?
R: Early bird or night owl?
KB: Night owl.
R: Crossword or Sudoku?
R: Breakfast or dinner?
R: Batman or Superman?
KB: Iron Man.
R: Historical Non-fiction or SciFi/Fantasy?
KB: Historical Non-Fitction.
R: Comedy or Drama?
R: Truth or dare?
R: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be when you grow up?
KB: An astronaut.
R: What song/music do you listen to to get pumped up?
KB: Britney Spears, Dr. Dre, and Guns N’ Roses!
R: If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?
KB: I would want to be able to control the weather.
R: What is your favorite word, and why?
KB: It’s more of a motto than a single word: "GSD" (get sh^t done). Can I say that on here? If I can’t say sh^t, then let’s go with "asinine"—it easily applies to many situations.