I had a great time this past Friday interviewing Becker. He is entertaining and fascinating. Not only is he one of the top wedding photographers in Orange County, California, he is also an inspiration to his tens of thousands of photographer fans across the internet.
Enjoy getting to know Becker in this four part interview over the next four days.
[b]ecker the photographer
How did you get started in photography?
I was in high school and I was into drawing and painting. I wanted to be a cartoonist and I did a little comic strip for the junior high and high school newsletter. I took an art class that in my freshman year that was normally only available to juniors and seniors. It was taught by the photo teacher. He was the coolest guy ever and said I had a knack for this and recommended I take one of his photo classes the next year. The bottom line was I took photo class the next year instantly fell in love. I was so amazed by putting the paper into the developer and watching the picture come up in the darkroom. I thought it was like magic and I was hooked. I never drew or painted again since I picked up a camera.
What photographers inspired you when you first started your business?
I found out you could take the school newspaper class for college prep English credit. My teacher really encouraged me to pursue photography…I would shoot all the photos for the school and I would have to drop them off at a photo lab to get developed. The guy at the photo lab, Mike Cutler, said, “do you want a job. You are here every day anyway.” And I said OK. I worked there for 7 years. He taught me how to build a business and how to hustle. Mike said, “that is great you are shooting for your school, but how about do something to make some money.” I went back my senior year and shot half my class’ senior portraits… So I am a senior in high school and I am making some serious money. Instead of making $4.25 minimum wage, I was making $75 a hour. It was crazy.
Where did your business go from here?
Mike encouraged me to find something I liked doing, and back then I really wanted to be a fashion photographer… I was shooting swim wear and actresses head shots and model portfolios. I did that for about two years while also working at the photo lab. I got so burned out on the industry, but not photography. I loved shooting the photos. I loved shooting the girls. I just hated dealing with these people. I did not like how it seemed like everyone was on drugs. It was crazy and it was not my thing. It was a sad world to be in.
What made you decide to start your wedding photography business?
In 1997, I got really sick. My buddies from the photo lab brought over the Dennis Reggie video tapes… I watched all 16 hours of videos in 2 days and never looked back. It was as simple as that. I decided this is what I am going to do. I am going to take all these principals that he talks about and I am going to apply them to my life and my business… And started building and networking. My first full year in 1998 I did 61 weddings.
What distinguishes you from other wedding photographers?
I had lunch with a guy yesterday who told me I was a branding and marketing genius. I told him that it is totally not true, that it is my people who are branding and marketing geniuses. I just take pictures and stuff… When I was 23, I thought I was really a good photographer. Then I started going on forums and realized there were many who could shoot me under the table… I realized when I was young that there was more to it than the photography. I think my greatest asset is not necessarily my photo skills but my people skills. …I have a way of relating to these people that they just feel comfortable. I shoot the portraits in a quick, painless way. I try and make the bride not only look but feel beautiful. I love showing bridesmaids pictures on the back of the camera how bridesmaids how they look in the back of the camera and say look how hot your friend is. When her friends are ooohing and aahing, it makes the bride feel good… I have been able to really connect with my clients and I have been able to shoot what we call the “relaxed portrait.” I know my stuff is not the most creative stuff out there but I am good at making people look good and feel good.
Do you do all your own marketing?
…I met with this couple. They got married in 1999. When I met with them in 1998, the guy called him the next day and said, “we want to hire you for the wedding, but we cannot afford you, but you need a new logo. I am gonna do it and we are gonna trade.” Tim did not ask me, he told me. I just loved his attitude and I was like “alright confident boy.” I was actually looking for someone to do a new logo and had no idea how to find someone. All I knew was that he was going to “Art Center” which is the most prestigious art school in the world. And he is there in the graphic design program. So I said, “fine, you are hired…” Trading this out turned out to be one of the best things I ever did.
So tell us more about your branding?
Tim (at Reddoor Creative) created the whole [b] logo. He helps me with the whole image. He said, “your work is really clean, simple and beautiful. You are not the most creative or artsy guy in the world so we are gonna keep it really simple.” The style that I have reflects that brand. It is just the [b]. All my letterhead is white paper with silver ink, nothing fancy, no crazy script fonts. We tried to make everything so it matches. You know, nice classy, clean, simple style – really simple branding. It is powerful because it is consistent throughout – my blog, my letterhead, mt website, my business cards, my mailing labels, my dvds, my dvd covers. Everything that we do has this unified look that makes it look like you are a real company. When you get your branding, it is not just graphic design. It is the whole research, developing the entire brand and the entire line… He helps me with the writing and the messaging. Tim was the one who said, “let’s drop the ‘Christopher’ and you could just be ‘Becker’… let’s make you into a Bono, Sting, Madonna. Let’s make you into an icon in the industry and make you someone who stands out.” So we went with the one name so it would be memorable and stick in their heads. People remember that. Trust me.
Why are you known as “the Becker” instead of just “Becker?”
Well www.becker.com was taken and the owner wanted $100k for it. So I went with “the Becker” because I liked “The Edge” because I was a U2 fan.
If you were to get married who would you want to use as your wedding photographer?
My stock answer is “whoever is working at the drive through chapel in Vegas that day.” It is just too hard of a question to answer but most likely since all my friends are wedding photographers, it would be a big group shoot.
Coming up tomorrow: part 2 – [B]ecker – being a great photographer
Here is a look at a few images from his blog.