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Capturing Success: An Interview with Award-Winning Photographer Kristian Bogner

Competition in the photography business is fierce, yet where many struggle Alberta-based Kristian Bogner has excelled. The 34 year old photographer is living a life many dream of: Travelling to exotic places, photographing famous people, capturing once-in-a-lifetime moments like Sidney Crosby's 2010 Olympic gold medal goal, all while being paid to do this exciting work.

Capturing Success: An Interview with Award-Winning Photographer Kristian Bogner Transcript


For those who don’t know, Kristian is a fabulously successful Canadian photographer who has twice won commercial photographer of the year and been nominated another 6 times in the last 8 years. He has been in the top 5 photographers in Canada for the last ten years in a row.

Q: Can you talk to us about the essence of success on the business side of photography?

I like to tell people and encourage people that it really just takes one great image. Because it is an art form, you really need to develop your portfolio. That is number one. You need to have one really, really great shot – something that defines you as an artist. Something that you can share with people and if you have 20 or 30 seconds, you can show them one image and that will spark their interest. That will set you apart from all those other photographers out there.

Q: Would you say hard work is a really key ingredient of success?

A: Absolutely. Hard work and just determination.

Q: How did you make those initial sales and how did you start to break through?

A: I started my company when I was 16 years old. I can honestly say since I was 16 years old, I am 34 now, I have never disappointed a client. And I think that is the key to success. I started out and I was always a “yes” person. If a client said “can you do this” or “we need a billboard” – it was my first billboard but I found one and I made it happen. I made it happen successfully. It was just that ambition and drive to just go for it. And every time I said yes to something that I didn’t know how to do or something that I didn’t even think I could do, every time I said yes then I had to. Then I had to do it – I had to be responsible enough to do that. Every time I did that, I expanded and I grew and I became better at what I did and over the years with that type of thinking, that is how I expanded myself to the position I am now.

Even to get accredited, I was away in India for an expedition I was on. When I got back, my accreditation didn’t go the way it was supposed to go so I had to have the determination to make that happen. The drive to allow that to be and even get this spot or anything like that. You have to go in with the mindset that I am going to produce the most amazing images as possible.

I am always playing and practicing – always trying to perfect what I do.

Q: So this image is taken through glass and it is incredibly sharp (Sydney Crosby at Olympics). I wouldn’t even have known glass was there. Can you give me some technical secrets behind this?

A: Yes absolutely. Even for your son or daughter’s hockey game, you can use the same technology if you have to shoot through the glass. It works really well. When you put your camera up close to the glass, you are going to get reflections off the glass. That is the big challenge. What I found is that I got this black duct tape stuff and put some cards around my lens. I was able to put some duct tape around so that when I took a picture, I would press my camera to the lens and it would stick and create a closed circuit so the light wouldn’t reflect. The other huge factor is just the technology in the cameras that are available right now are just absolutely incredible.

Q: What advice do you have for people to help them manage clients?

A: The first thing you need to do is listen to your clients. As creative artists sometimes we come in with how we think we want to do something. It is important to understand and remember the client (product or service), they are the expert. We may be the expert in recording it, but we really have to listen. Sometimes you have to be bold too. I used to be perhaps too modest about what I have done with y work but sometimes you have the opportunity to meet someone, shake their hand and you may have 20 or 30 seconds to let them know who you are. I have learned that is really important to be able to say “Hey, this is who I am, this is what I have done and I would really like the opportunity to work for you.”

I have been so lucky to have so many wonderful mentors in my life and sometimes my clients have become my mentors and how wonderful is that? This entire event that I have done with my photography here was co-sponsored by a Miriash company and this is one of my mentors. I feel like I went to business school – I’ve been working with this client for the last couple years. They have really taken me under their wing and taught me some great business schools. Even just being supported by them at something like this is great. Ken and Patty Miriash have some billion dollar developments across Canada and they are very well known. They are going to be launching a new 21 story in Victoria and it is really incredible. It is going to be the tallest building in Victoria and I get to photograph all of these beautiful things. It is really important to have these mentors and have them teach you and give to you like that. And also, when you are in a position to mentor as well because it is that reciprocation of information that makes the industry get better and makes you a better person as well.

Kristian, I really appreciate that you took the time to talk with us today. You have helped us understand the new technologies that you can use to take a good shot if you are a consumer or a pro-sumer but you also gave us some great insights into running the business of photography studio. I really appreciate you taking the time and wish you the best of luck with your photography ongoing. 

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