Bryan Maes, the wise, witty, outspoken owner and founder of Inspiration Studios in Liverpool, New York, has been shooting photography for 25 years. After receiving his master’s degree, he originally planned to teach high school English, but realized his true calling was always with photos. Digging through Maes’ Facebook page, you’ll find a quote which embodies his strive for social reconstruction through his art: “I picked up a camera because it was my choice of weapons against what I hated most about the universe: racism, intolerance, poverty” by Gordon Parks.
I had been following Bryan on social media, especially Instagram, for a while, and noticed that he has a keen and astute eye and aptitude for portraits, weddings, and landscape. Though it didn’t seem like he did much product photography at the time, I was too in love with Bryan’s work not to ask him if he would take our photos when we rebranded the shop. You could imagine my thrill when he agreed! Bryan has been taking our photos since February, and will continue to be our #1 photographer for his talent, his professionalism, his humor, his timeliness, and more.
Kristen: When and how did you get into photography? Bryan: Someone, and I cannot remember who, gave me a 35mm camera shortly before I went on a field trip to the zoo in 2nd grade. I spent the whole time taking pictures of the animals and I’ve been hooked ever since. 25 or so years later, I still have that 35mm sitting on a shelf in my office.
Kristen: What is your vision and/or objective when shooting pictures?
Bryan: There are a lot of objectives and I think the first and foremost has always been to create a quality product that my clients are happy with. The second is to make art that I’m proud of. If I just make the clients happy that’s not so bad, but the stuff I consider truly successful does both. As far as vision goes it’s so varied depending on the job. Sometimes I’m looking to make a statement, sometimes I’m just creating something pretty.
Kristen: What are your favorite photos to take?
Bryan: I do a lot of different types of photography but my favorite is portraiture. There’s something about combining lighting, posing, and angles to make people look their best that appeals to me. I like to make people feel good, and who doesn’t love a picture where they look great?
Kristen: What is key to being a good photographer?
Bryan: There are so many answers to this question. I think the most important of them is never stop learning. I’ve been at it a long time and I try new things constantly. I believe that the moment you stop evolving is the moment your work stops being relevant.
Kristen: What do you like about taking maker-photos? Bryan: I like people who create things. I think making person’s product look the best it can look is an interesting challenge. I love finding props and creating the still life setups that really showcase a product.
Kristen: What can you do for a maker to propel his/her business? Bryan: I don’t think it’s any secret that good photos sell products. We live in an increasingly visual world and most people won’t even read the description of a product unless it looks good in the photo.
Kristen: When you take pictures for Bath, Body, and Candle Moments, what is your goal for the viewer? Bryan: The ultimate goal is to sell products so I always have that in mind. Beyond that I try to photograph the products in a way that alludes to the lifestyle surrounding them. I try to match the photo thematically to the name and usage of the product so the viewer has a more complete vision. There are a lot of different soaps on the market so I try to evoke the Bath, Body, and Candle Moments experience.
Kristen: Has trying any of our products inspired a photo session for the items? Bryan: Actually yes, I smell or burn the candles to decide what to do for their photos. Sometimes reading the label is enough but sometimes I need more of a vision to decide what to do.
Kristen: How far have you traveled for your photography? Bryan: I spent a large portion of my career traveling and taking portraits. I have worked in 48 states. Living in Upstate New York, I guess the farthest was San Diego.
Kristen: What about nature inspires your photos? Bryan: I love to explore, I’m fortunate to live in a beautiful place surrounded by hundreds of waterfalls and hidden glens. My taste in outdoor destinations definitely influences my photography style in that I like things that are grand and beautiful but simultaneously intimate.
Kristen: What is your absolute must-have tool for success? Bryan: Aside from the obvious answer of my cameras, I’m going to answer this in the abstract and say my customer focus. I put the customer first in all things and always try to view everything from their perspective. I’m constantly looking for ways to make the transaction as efficient and beneficial as possible to the customer.
Kristen: What inspired you to be an entrepreneur? Bryan: I felt that my career had reached it’s limit working for other people. I wanted to expand and I wanted the freedom to do things my way. When you are part of a company in the artistic world they want everything to look the same. I simply wasn’t content with producing the same product as everyone else.
Kristen: How do you support small business? Bryan: I have a simple rule, If I can buy local I do buy local. I apply this to everything from banking to groceries. Community is everything and small business contributes to community in a way that Walmart and the like never will.
If you haven’t already, contact Bryan Maes of Inspiration Studios for maker photos, product photos, landscapes, portraits, weddings, and more.
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