Wedding Photographer Clicks with People and Their Pets

by Gil Zeimer on June 8, 2011
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Mischa Purcell is an in-demand wedding photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Over the past few years, he’s been fortunate enough to be flown to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, Puerto Vallarta, Jamaica, and even Scotland to capture that magical day for couples tying the knot.

We caught up with Mischa to ask him why he’s so popular – and how his business is succeeding despite the economic downturn.

ISBB: What are you doing right that makes you so popular?

Purcell: I think what we do really well is combine the very classic lighting and posing techniques that were started during Rembrandt’s time, with edgy contemporary styling. Knowing all the technical aspects of photography really well also helps us to appeal to a wide range of people and types of photography. Plus our smiles and friendly energies are infectious.

How would you describe your typical day?

On any given day, we may start with a newborn baby session at a client’s home, move on to a traditional low-key (black background) family portrait in our studio, and finish with a sunset engagement session for a couple and their dog on the beach, taking candid and artistic portraits in all natural light. In fact, we shoot a surprisingly high number of pet photos – alone, with their “parents,” or entire families with kids.

What problems have you overcome?

Of course, the economic slowdown affected everyone, us included. We aim to photograph 20 weddings a year and for a long time we usually had to cut ourselves off at 25. But over the last couple of years, people’s budgets weren’t what they once were and we slowed down to about 15 weddings. But rather than lowering our prices, we’ve continued our marketing efforts with our website, frequent updates to Facebook, and word-of-mouth referrals through BNI, but decided to try something new. We offered a LivingSocial deal a year ago just when they were starting to get popular and it really helped catapult our portrait business during the slowdown. We’re actually busier than we ever were before!

Do you still shoot film or only digital images?

I grew up with film and got a BA in photography using all film, but about six years ago I stopped being able to tell the difference in quality. Since then, digital has far surpassed film in quality. That said, there are some really great looks that film has and we often emulate those in the way we process our digital files. It’s also important to note that we still print to photographic paper. Our lab uses a “lightjet” where LEDs expose light sensitive photographic paper which is then processed using traditional silver based chemistry for a gorgeous archival-quality finished product.

What have you planned for the future?

We just purchased a new retail storefront location in Land Park, Sacramento and are starting construction with a target completion date of September 1. We’re really excited to open up our portrait business to a whole new market and have a Groupon scheduled to coincide with our grand opening!

What do you say to potential clients who think you’re too pricey?

Photography is definitely a relative thing. If you think about it as personalized art that’s going on your walls, it’s actually very inexpensive. If you think about it as an 8×10 print you can get yourself at the local lab, it can be very, very expensive. What you’re buying is years of experience with helping people look their best. Experience with creating a portrait that goes with the decor in a room. Experience with knowing the right time of day, the right location and helping you choose the right clothing to wear.

Anyone can take a snapshot and get lucky every once in a while. We make every image count. In wedding surveys, one of the most frequent questions asked is, “If you had to do it all over again, what would you change?” Most of the time, the answer is, “I’d spend more on my photographer.” Precious moments can’t be repeated. It’s worth investing to know you’ll have the memories you want for generations to come.

To see samples of his work or for more information about Mischa Photography, visit his website.

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