Q & A / Blair and Susan Phillips

While growing up, there was no opportunity in Blair Phillips’ household for future advancement; no further education after high school, no parenting, and definitely no dreams of a flourishing career. Between multiple family households and parents, his childhood life was a constant roller-coaster. After living with his paternal grandparents for a significant time period, who both passed away when he was a junior in high school, Blair had to finish educating himself through high school. He worked 40 hours a week at a local grocery store while finishing his senior year in high school. Finances were so bad that even senior pictures were not an option and most of his time off was spent juggling work and school, having no social life as a normal teenager.

Reason for the short story above is to give you an idea of where the motivation and creativity comes from in Blair’s images. Blair’s business began 8 short years ago and since then, Blair Phillips Photography has become a household name that people in his community, and from several states away, have come to know and adore. Each year Blair has photograph between 40-60 weddings and 600+ studio sessions. In a small, economically deprives mill town of 3,100 and before the age of 30, accomplishment is an understatement!

Photographers are hungry for Blair’s creative eye behind the lens. Blair is known for his innovative lighting, posing, and flow of imagery, which has been a topic of conversation sparked between both novice and seasoned photographers. He has a passion to teach other photographers how to express themselves in ways not found in traditional training, which has been described as eclectic elegance. His style and positive energy is devoted to educate and inspire photographers to move towards a modern, fashionable approach, while keeping true to themselves.  Because of his sought-after content and unique teaching style, Blair has had the opportunity to educate photographers all over the United States including 4 consecutive years at WPPI, The WPPI Road Trip, WPPI U, SPA, SYNC Seniors, various state PPA affiliations and most recently, Imaging USA. Blair also hosts a quarterly workshop entitled “Break The Mold” at his Landis, NC studio which has become increasingly popular, selling out with every event.

Blair Phillips has so much to offer fellow photographers. Blair has a sincere desire to see other photographers inspired to grow in business as he has. Blair has a young team who strive towards fresh ideas, and those who hear them will be inspired to break out of their mold. Blair doesn’t want to teach people his way, but rather inspire everyone and have them discover what it means to break out of the mold to a more fashionable tomorrow.

How did you get into photography?
Blind luck.  I have always been a very visual type individual, and it all began when I started carrying a point and shoot camera with me everywhere.  I would see neat and intriguing things that I felt were worthy of capture.  I began taking media cards to a local drug store lab for processing where a lab technician gave me encouragement to pursue photography as more than a mere hobby.  I took her advice and the rest was history.

What is the one piece of camera equipment you always take with you?

A strobe light.  I have learned strobe lighting inside and out, and it allows me to manipulate any environment to fit my needs.

You shoot seniors, families, newborns and weddings.  What do you like most about each one and do you have a favorite between them? Or is it too hard to choose?

I love creating genuine conversations and building relationships.  Seniors are one of the most enjoyable outlets for me due to the complete creative freedom you can have with them.  Newborns are also really high on my list.  I am very sensitive and compassionate, so working with the delicate nature of babies fits me very well.  Since the birth of my daughter, I have cut the weddings back to only 10 per year.  My family has to come first and foremost.

Things have come a long way since I was a senior in high school where we just got our yearbook photo taken.  Where do you come up with all the crazy, unusual settings for your senior shoots?  Do the seniors give you input for what they want or do you create the shoot on your own?  What do they then do with their images?

I use to travel to random locations for seniors.  The constant driving all over the place got really old, really quick.  I decided to build my very own senior oasis equipped with over 30 different sets that are always available.  This way I am in complete control and have enough to fit any style.  My seniors give me input on their outfit choices and that is pretty much it.  We have marketed and branded our studio in a way that client’s give us complete freedom to do whatever we see fit.  The majority of our senior clients still purchase wall portraits, an album, gift prints, and wallets.

You do a lot of workshops on a variety of different topics.  What is your favorite thing to teach that you think every starting photographer needs to learn?

Lighting, lighting, lighting.  Learning lighting gives you so much control of every press of your shutter.  Lighting is one of the concrete fundamentals that most photographers don’t tackle right away.  It can be intimidating, but I have a clever way of breaking it down so people will understand it in ten minutes.  Lighting is the root of all photographs.

What was your favorite image you took in the last year?

There has never been a tougher question for me.  I do well over 500 studio session, as well as a lot of volume photography.  It would literally be impossible for me to pick.

What Tamrac gear do you use? What do you love about your Tamrac bags?

With all of my traveling, I would be lost without my Tamrac gear bags.  Some of my most important pieces are the Super Rolling Studio Bags and the Ultra Pro 13. For airplane travel I sometimes rely on the hefty Expedition 8x. For weddings I love my Cyberpack Roller. With Tamrac, I feel certain that I will wear out long before any of my Tamrac bags. The sheer quality and design. Tamrac knows exactly what we need as a photographer and have a rock solid solution for all of my carry needs.

For more information on Blair and Suzanne and their work, please connect with them online at www.blairphillipsphotography.com or Facebook www.facebook.com/blairphillipsphotography or Twitter @bpphotography. You can also follow them on Instagram @blair_phillips.

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