Weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, graduation days…these are special days in our lives that we would always want to cherish and remember for a long time to come. Wedding Photojournalism by Rodney Bailey helps capture those beautiful moments of your and makes them only more memorable for you. Following his motto, ‘Let Our Passion Tell Your Story’, Bailey believes in the unconventional. The word ‘clichéd’ hardly finds entry in his dictionary as he strives to bring to light something different in each of the weddings he covers as a photographer. This unconventionality is reflected in his way of living and the ideals he holds on to as we at eBrandz get him to share his thoughts with our readers.
Here we have Rodney Bailey speaking to us candidly and jovially about his Wedding
Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business.
Wedding Photojournalism is located in the Northern Virginia/Metro DC area and has been providing wedding and event photography services to the high-end clientele since 1989. Our philosophy is “Let Our Passion Tell Your Story.” We are passionate about documenting our client’s special life event in the most realistic, unobtrusive and honest approach. We stay true to our photojournalistic style whether documenting weddings, company events or our ‘Journals of a Child’ sessions.
Kindly give us a brief description about yourself.
I am a self-taught photographer and small-business owner, and someone who was lucky to have found my passion at an early age! At age 12, I purchased my first camera, a Minolta X370, with the $400 I earned cutting my neighbors’ lawns in a summer. At age 16, I photographed my first wedding and started my wedding photography business two years later in 1989. At age 40, I still love what I do and have been honored to have documented hundreds of special life events.
My major achievements include:
• Voted Top Wedding Photojournalist by Washingtonian Magazine for 12 consecutive
years ( 1999 – 2011)
• The Knot Magazine’s Best of Weddings (2008-2011)
• Documented Oprah Winfrey’s Live Your Best Life Tour, Washington DC
• Featured on ABC Nightline as a leading trend setter in Wedding Photography
• Featured in RangeFinder Magazine, March 2008
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture?
I loved photography at a very early age and discovered that I could make a living photographing weddings. But, unlike the traditional approach to weddings that was popular at the time, I chose to apply my photojournalistic style to document weddings unobtrusively and to tell the “real wedding story.”
How important have good employees been to your success?
The first 10 years in business, I was a one-man show. Fortunately, since then, I have grown my photography team with talented and dedicated employees that have trained with me for over 5 years each and have been documenting their own weddings now for 7 years. This has allowed the company to take on more client weddings while maintaining the high level of quality, talent and integrity that our clients expect and deserve.
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?
• Don’t expect owning your own business to be easy – be prepared to work hard!
• Love what you do so all the long hours and hard work will be worth it in the end.
• Be patient, stay dedicated and position your daily activities to support your long term goals
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I believe I should have targeted the high end market from the beginning. My talent and ability was always there, but I priced myself below competition to get work. In hindsight, that strategy took longer for me to reach my long term goals. What does an 18 year old know anyways!
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
• Smart Money Management, Common Sense and Passion
How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Don’t give up on your idea if you truly believe in it – just change it, mold it and improve on it!
How many hours do you work a day on average?
On average, about 10 hours for days in the office. More like 14 hours when photographing weddings.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
For the most part, owning my own business has allowed me to remain in charge and be flexible with my schedule to take part in family outings and daily activities that I may have to miss if I had a typical 9 to 5 job. For instance, I am able to work while on vacations or volunteer my photography services at my daughter’s preschool in the mornings. The flip side is that weekends and weeknights are busy with weddings and photo shoots. Fortunately, my wife is a wedding planner and understands how business and personal lives are very intertwined in this industry.
What motivates you?
I am still motivated by the artistic and creative side of my photography business. I am truly at my best with a camera in my hand.
What are your ideals?
• Don’t compromise on quality
• Partner with the best vendors and employees
• Believe in your brand and don’t sell yourself as something you are not
How do you define success?
I define success as being able to do what I love and make people happy with my photography and exceed my client’s expectations.
What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
I believe I owe my long-term success to defining my niche through my photography style and staying true to it. I made the decision early on that I did not want to be the “perfect photographer” for everyone; just for those who wanted high quality, honest and unobtrusive documentation of their special life event. In addition, I value dedicated, hard working and talented employees and have made a point to pay them above industry standard.
How do you build a successful customer base?
I have built the majority of my customer base through referrals by my past clients who have repeatedly referred me to their friends, family and coworkers. In addition, my past clients have continued to use my photography services in different life events following their weddings. Continuing to develop and maintaining a strong presence in the DC event industry has proven successful as vendor referrals are an important part of the wedding and event business.
Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
I honestly don’t believe in a pattern or formula, but I do believe that a little common sense goes a long way in running a successful business!
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I like to be the decision maker. I think I would go crazy in a company where I had to jump through hoops to get anything approved – no red tape for me!
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
In the more recent years, I have come to find that building and having a successful photography team is a very satisfying part of my business. Each team member has been with me for over 10 years and have become family. I am proud to be surrounded by people who have a passion for and believe in what we do.
What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
The major difference in my opinion is the risk factor that is involved for the business owner compared to working for someone. And of course, some people love part of a business (such as the creative side), but don’t want to deal with the business aspects of owning your own company. As an entrepreneur, you can’t have one without the other.
What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Grass root marketing has been most effective for me. For me, that means, creating relationships with the industry’s vendors who can refer business to me (and vice versa) – not because they receive something in return (I don’t believe in “kick backs” which is popular some industries), but because they trust me, love my work and know that I am going to provide amazing service to their clients.
I also use my photography to help others market and promote their products and services – I truly believe in using my talents and time to help others. Therefore, I focus a lot of my promotional efforts towards supporting the event industry vendors with their marketing needs.
In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Busy, but rewarding!
How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
Mistakes will be made, but I have learned that being honest, treating people with respect and taking care of the problem immediately goes a long way to resolving issues that may arise. But, in photographing an event or wedding – there can be no mistakes! So, I am meticulous about everything from having the best equipment to having the most reliable and talented lead photographers on my team. My training process requires at least 5 years training at my side as an assistant photographer; probably unheard of in this industry.
What are your hobbies?
I am an avid scuba diver and love underwater and travel photography. I have been scuba diving since the age of 16 and used to travel to witness and document other cultures, people and architecture through my photography. Some of my favorite trips included a month in Australia living-aboard a dive boat on the Great Barrier Reef; a summer photo assignment in Havana, Cuba; island hopping in the British Virgin Islands and sailing in Palau.
I have always loved and collected watches and riding motorcycles. I own a Harley V Rod and try to get out as often as I can (which hasn’t been often lately).
What makes you happy?
My daughter’s laugh! And, chocolate.
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Apple always blows me away – their ability to reinvent themselves from the MacIntosh days and stay in the forefront of technology is awesome. And of course, who couldn’t be in awe of Oprah!
Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?
In 20 years, I envision myself semi-retired and scuba diving with my wife and daughter on our favorite island, St Croix (where we got married).