INTERVIEW WITH CLAIRE DAM | PHOTOGRAPHY IDOL WINNER
Did you see the Season 1 Finale of Photography Idol? If you missed it, you can watch it now:
Our new Photography Idol winner is Claire Dam! You can sign up for a photo critique with Claire in November here!
Claire Dam is a portrait photographer who specializes in romantic, intimate, vintage engagements & weddings, and adventurous & whimsical child & family portraits.
Claire has over 10 years of experience in the field of photography, although her post-secondary training was as a midwife.
Her work is frequently published in national magazines, local magazine-newspapers and is featured on various wedding and lifestyle blogs online.
Claire was recently interviewed by a marketing firm in Ottawa, Canada about her successes in Facebook Marketing strategies.
Claire’s business motto is: “Be fearless, exercise humility and keep learning.” So she’s always thrilled to work with clients who want to be adventurous, humorous, fearless and whimsical with her while they work towards the goal of creating timelessly endearing images.
While she prefers to shoot on-location, she also operates a fully-equipped photography studio at the infamous 270 Sherman, a 19th-century cotton-mill-turned creative industries complex in Hamilton’s industrial district.
She lives on the Hamilton, Ontario Canada in a cozy WWII home with her wannabe-farmer-husband Kenneth.
Claire, what camera do you use and what is your favorite lens?
Nikon D800 & D700. Nikkor 85mm 1.4G
Why do you think honest critique on your images is important?
I think honest critiquing on ones images is important because it grows you!
Receiving unbiased feedback allows you to recognize your strengths and weaknesses which in turn allows you to exercise those strengths and build-up the weaknesses!
What has been the most helpful critique you ever got on an image?
Many years ago when I was first starting out my brother once told me to take it easy on the asymmetrical framing because it was too ‘gimmicky’. He was right and that (unsolicited) critique taught me to discern photography styles that were trendy & ‘gimmicky’ versus classic and eternal.
There’s a fine balance between adopting some trends and gimmicks into your repertoire while still maintaining an eternal style that will still look cool in 20 years.
What 3 words would you use to describe your style?
Romance, Adventure & Play
Where do you pull your inspiration from?
Everywhere! I’m sure every artist feels like this–you pull inspiration from your environment such as colours, compositions, and concepts just as you go about your day. You could be driving, shopping, reading, watching a movie or talking with friends when inspiration hits!
And of course, I pull inspiration from all the artists and photographers in my community who are overwhelming in number and caliber.
What is one specific way that you balance work and family?
It might seem crazy but my husband and I will book off as many long-weekends during the Summer as we can! I hated working weddings while everyone I loved was at the cottage. It made me resent my work at times. It’s the busiest time for weddings, and you might think it’s insane to avoid booking more weddings, but if I want to be a nice person and excel creatively for every single session in the Summer then I need my long-weekends with my family and friends to keep me sane and dreaming!
Best biz/photo advice?
Best advice I can offer is to be fearless!
It doesn’t come naturally to all of us–and I had to force myself to be fearless for a couple years before it became second nature. But now I have no problem knocking on doors asking for permission to shoot on private properties, or walking out in the middle of a busy intersection shooting with one hand and holding up traffic with the other–just to get ‘the shot’. This has afforded me way more opportunities and adventures = better images.
Fearlessness also comes in handy when talking with clients. You need to be unapologetic (but always kind!) about what you offer, your prices and why.
What have you learned the hard way?
Too much. But the hardest lesson I’ve ever learned was early on when I first started taking weddings and still hadn’t developed a good work-flow for dealing with bookings etc. I accidentally double-booked myself for two weddings–contracts signed any everything! When I realized what I had done it was about 24 hours after we signed things but the damage was done and I had one angry, disappointed couple on my hands and one really embarrassed and furious wedding planner to deal with! Had I had a good work-flow in place this could have been avoided.
Also, work-flows are great to keep you from going CRAZY when you’re dealing with day-to-day things like inquiries and orders.
How does your business deal with the rise in photographers. What have you done to standout and compete?
My business cries about it and threatens my husband I’m going to quit it all. Then I get a grip and try to exceed the expectations of my current clients so that they refer, refer, refer!
To standout I have been pushing myself AND pushing my clients to take more chances with concepts, locations, wardrobe etc. in order to create more unique, imagination-catching images.
Where have most of your 2012 clients come from (besides WOM)?
Besides word of mouth, most of my 2011 clients came through Facebook! I work hard at my Facebook marketing and am rewarded well by it.
Facebook is such a great marketing tool because it’s so visual. Whenever I post a new sneak-peak gallery I will inevitably see a brief surge in Facebook-based inquiries.
What has been the best workshop or convention you’ve attended so far?
I’m ashamed to admit that I have never attended a workshop or convention. Not that I haven’t tried–but there were always scheduling issues. But what I regret the most is a missing a 2-day retreat put on by Australian photographer Barb Uil of Jinky Art because it was ‘too expensive’. That was almost two years ago and I STILL think about how stupid I was to not go.
I firmly believe that if you find the right workshop or retreat for you and your business then it will be virtually priceless.
What is your most popular product?