Chris.

It doesn’t feel right to post this on Facebook or Instagram, but it feels okay here. I guess my blog has more honesty than those other places. I guess I feel like if you come here and read my blog, you want to know me. You want to know more about who I really am. Maybe that’s wrong, but it is how things feel to me. I imagine I get to teach my audience. That this is the place I can change the world. That is a lofty ambition, no doubt. But I guess I need to feel like if I tell my truths to the world they are worth something. I lost a friend this weekend. I’ve never lost a close friend before and it’s surprising me how the grief feels stronger than almost any other loss I’ve experienced. I lost my mother when I was really little, and that is the only grief that trumps this right now. It’s the grief his son will know, his wife will know. Sparred only some of the pain (but not untouched by grief) will be his baby when he/she makes his/her arrival into this world.

I want people to know why we should all be like Chris. I want to be like Chris. As photographers, we need more Chris’s and it really makes me mad that we just lost him. I’ve met a lot of photographers, and Chris was special. He will always be special. As the Vice Pres. of our ASMP chapter, I saw all the varied personalities and egos and it made me recognize how special the photographers who selflessly help other photographers are. That was Chris.

I want to tell you how Chris guided me.

A year and a half ago, Sam took an interview in Charleston. The company brought me out too so I could see if I would be on board to move if an offer came. I used this opportunity to reach out to the best photographers I could find in the area to see if they would let me buy them a coffee and talk to them about life working here. Only Chris said yes. Only. Chris. Just him. Let another photographer buy him a coffee. Which, I’m pretty sure he still insisted on paying for.

Only Christopher was kind enough (and confident enough) to meet a total stranger and tell them with complete honesty that they would be okay here. To tell a stranger who could be viewed as competition the tips, recommendations, pricing, market stats, that he spent years building and learning, over a first coffee. To give another photographer a helping hand. And do so honestly, holding back nothing. Because he never felt threatened by helping people.

I don’t know if we would have moved here if it weren’t for him and that coffee.

He recognized me in the grocery store the day I moved in, calling out to me. He was always happy to see you. He was a beautiful father to a beautiful boy who quickly became one of my son’s best friends. He was a beautiful husband to a beautiful woman who my husband and I quickly knew we wanted to be friends with forever. I don’t think he knew how amazing it felt to be welcomed like that. How much it meant to me when moving somewhere that I knew almost no one (just a stranger who was kind enough to have coffee with me really) and how my heart jumped at being recognized by someone. I ran home to my husband to tell him all about my friend. Just like I ran to my husband after our coffee to tell him everything Chris told me. How I felt like we could make it work here because of him. That is just a small moment. We had so many moments, and that was just a blink of one little moment and how he could just make you feel valued. He was a good, good friend.

A year and a half wasn’t long enough to know Chris.

I feel cheated.

I feel cheated out of the studio we would drive around town looking for the right location for. I feel cheated out of the camping trips with our families (even though he, without hesitation, told me that would only be after he took his son camping without us because his son’s first camping trip needed to be just the family because it was a special trip). I feel cheated because we won’t get to do any of the projects we talked about doing together. I feel cheated because I didn’t get to go with him to test fly the new drone he bought because I was making up for time I lost with my broken ankle. I feel cheated out of the friend I could call for an emergency work meeting when I had an awesome collaboration idea, who would drop what he was doing and come. I feel cheated out of the bbq’s and beers, while watching our kids play that have been cut short. I feel cheated out of the friend who would find me doing something on my own (cleaning, decorating the Christmas tree, etc) at parties and would hang out with me when everyone else was doing more “fun” things. But he made it fun to do those chores. I feel cheated loosing that beacon of kindness that he was. Who even came and finished shoots for me that were really hard when I broke my ankle. He actually finished my shoots for me, bringing my computer back and fourth between the studio and bed I was stuck in so I could review his work and get my projects done. I feel cheated in so many ways.

And he was only my friend.

I want to say I can’t imagine the grief of his family, except I can. Because I was that child who lost a parent really young. And that makes this so much worse. It’s disbelief I feel that my friend is gone and that my other friend is about to go through the hardest time in her life. That her son is going to go through it too. It’s hard to stop crying.

He means so much to so many people. He will still mean so much even in memory.

So please. Be like Chris. Be confident. Be helpful. Be giving and honest. Help your friends move (even when you’ve only known them a few months). Help people up when they reach out. Make people laugh. Don’t stress about small stuff. Find the way to enjoy even the most boring times. Do things for others just because you physically can and ask for nothing in return.

My heart is broken. I can’t believe we’ve lost Chris. It makes me so frustrated at all the photographers in the world who don’t help other photographers. Who are afraid of other photographers, who see them as competition and don’t want to know them. Because they are missing out. They are missing out on being or knowing a Chris. I am so lucky that Chris was a beacon of kindness who I got to be friends with. It just wasn’t long enough.

Chris,

You’ve changed our lives in the small time you were in it. We’ll do everything we can to be better people because of it. You are so, so, so missed already. I hope you’re right and there is a heaven we go to because I want to see you again someday. And if there is a heaven, you are in it, I have no doubt about that. We’ll do everything we can for your family, who we love as much as we love you.

You’ll be in my heart buddy. Let’s make my heart a bit lighter and more goofy like yours while your in there.

-Kate

 

Charleston Fashion Photographer | Kate Benson | Zacasha 2016 Boho

How do I talk about Zacasha? Do I write about the designs that you can’t help but want to collect all of? Do I talk about how fascinating a business Jennifer created and how it just exploded into something bigger and better than anyone ever imagined? I guess you have to know Jennifer the owner and designer to know what Zacasha really is. Working with her free spirit and creative mind is like chasing genius. You can try and follow along as best you can but will never catch up. She works and reworks everything she contacts and you can’t help but be swept up in the spirit of this creative process and applaud the art it produces.

I shot their 2015 campaign and this spring (yes, it’s taken that long to write about it) I photographed the 2016 campaign. Jennifer had 2 days of shooting, a Boho day and a 1920’s day. These are a few of my favorite images from the Boho day.

The colorful free feeling of the boho shoot mirrored Jennifer’s spirit. It was such a privilege to work together again. Jennifer on top of being a very talented designer and business woman also is a fantastic stylist and art director.

I have to start with those shots of Tamara from Elite Miami. Tamara really got excited at the casting, her boho energy matched the brands, and on set, she moved and danced in the true spirit of the shoot. She chameleons into the character you give her and won the hearts of everyone on set.

Our second model was the gorgeous Jade from Wilhelmina. Her exotic beauty was a perfect canvas for both our shoot days.

There were way too many beautiful shots to choose from, I shot close to 2,000 photographs that day. So as you can imagine, the idea of going through them all and choosing favorites has been overwhelming!

So here are just a few more, and maybe, with any luck, I’ll get to go through these later and find my true favorites. In the meantime, let me know which of these is yours. I’ll take any help I can get editing this batch!

 

This last shot really captures how I feel trying to pick a favorite.

Charleston Fashion Photographer | Beija Flor Jeans shoot | Kate Benson Photography

If you saw my post with my new business card designs (or my Instagram), you may spot a familiar shot or two here. These were shot for Beija Flor Jeans and the product is truly great. I’m anxiously waiting for it to cool down so I can wear my 3 new pairs (yes, 3!!). These flatter your behind like nothing I’ve seen before, and who doesn’t want that (sure beats that time I bought Burberry Jeans a size too small so my booty would look awesome and broke the zipper)?

I was on set in Miami when they called to discuss a new add campaign. They wanted to do something in the Charleston area but were still playing with ideas. Ironically, when they first suggested jeans on a boat, I was not on board (pun intended). However, the mother/daughter team behind Beija Flor patiently discussed the in’s and out’s of the brand with me so I could help conceptualize the project. There was no formal art director on this shoot so I wanted to make sure that I could deliver the company’s vision and energy. What came across to me clearly was that these jeans were something women had been waiting for. The cuts lifted and accentuated all the right curves and the waistline was high enough to move around in without being restrictive. The product is great and I identified with it quickly!

Part of what the ladies emphasized were their colors. Blues and whites dominated the brand’s palate and soon it became clear that a boat was exactly where to shoot.

Early morning I joined our model Brittany Harvey (with Directions USA), makeup artist Pamela Lesch (with Prime Time Pretty), and the Beija Flor Jeans team, Kathy, Emilie, and Anna at the hotel and then headed over to our fishing yacht.

Throughout the day, the rain held off and gave us some beautiful light. Brittany looked amazing in the jeans and did a fantastic job modeling. She really embraced the energy that fit the brand.

As always, I’m so excited to have new work to share and am really happy to have met and worked with Beija Flor Jeans. I love being a based in Charleston fashion photographer!

Charleston Product Photographer | Amazing Amazon Photography

It may not be common knowledge but I have a second business and website that I’ve been building called Product Photo Lab (PPL for short). The website is still in the works, but there is some basic content up there. Finding openings in my schedule to fix and revise the work in progress that is PPL is really tough. Recently though, despite the website not being as ready as I would like it to be, I’ve been getting contacted and doing some work through it. This isn’t my usual work, as you already may have guessed by the title of this blog post, but I’m really excited that the website is starting to generate some calls, and therefore enthusiastically making time to do the work.

One of the unexpected places that I’ve been contacted to produce images for is Amazon listings. These shoots are usually pretty quick but the clients are looking for something a bit more refined to help their products stand out and hopefully get that coveted number 1 ranking on Amazon.

I’ve learned quite a few of tips on how images sell on Amazon in this process. Products in environments and in use will generally outsell those that are just plain white shots. Additionally, Amazon does require the first shot to be on an all pure white background (which has some specifics to it as well, most of my readers already know what “pure white” is but if you don’t, it’s is a rating of 255 in all color channels). So this has presented interesting challenges (which I love). One client, had a glass water bottle that he sold as a set of 6 and single. Here was what the bottle started with:

Photographing a clear empty bottle isn’t very flattering. So I filled it with water letting the light gradient throughout the inside (trick one).

Then we put very carefully selected liquids into the bottles so the colors wouldn’t get dark and murky (trick two).

Lastly, I asked how he felt about fresh plants in the bottles, which he seemed willing to entertain, and viola!

I was able to product a collection of photographs for him where the shots met Amazon’s specifics but the shots had enough color and vibrancy to pop off the page when compared to other bottles! Happily, he is already on page 1 for his requested search terms and selling like crazy! After discussing what the client needed, I composited 6 of these shots together to create his opening image on Amazon. Here is a look at what he sent me for art direction (also what the competition happens to be showing).

This is what his listing looks like this today:

As I mentioned before, I’ve worked with quite a few Amazon clients lately. Here are a few more shots just to give you an idea what being a product photographer in Charleston is keeping busy with!

This client wanted in environment and shots with a model using the product:

Product Photographer Charlotte and Charleston | From Dallas with Love | Crown & Buckle with Motto

Flash Back Friday today bringing you the final product photography for Crown & Buckle’s new Black Label line. I shot this earlier this year on studio location in Dallas TX. Thomas, proud owner and visionaire behind Crown & Buckle teamed up with superstar branding agency Motto to bring me in on this shoot. Sunny and Ashleigh from Motto had a strong vision for the sleek and sophisticated images that needed to be incorporated into the launching of Black Label. Crown & Buckle makes beautiful watch straps and we wanted to make sure that the photography for this line illustrated the quality of these products.

I’ve had the pleasure of working remotely with Motto before but this was the first time we were able to all get together on set. It’s great that I can work with clients from almost anywhere in the country without having to be there in person, but this shoot Motto wanted to be on set for and they really brought their vision with them. It was a great day!

Since the product C&B sells is straps (not watch faces) we had the intriguing challenge of making sure the straps were the star of the shots. As a product photographer, I always hope to get to do this kind of work because it is equally challenging and rewarding to do.

That day, as well as within a short time after (back in Charleston), I photographed images on brand for their website and social media pages. This is the final product:

 

For more Charleston product photographer work, visit my site katebenson.com!