We had the good fortune of connecting with Chris Spicks and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chris, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
Know Your Roll – As a photographer (or any role), running a business forces you to wear so many different hats, that eventually, you will become overwhelmed with the burden. I try to explain that (for example) when you decide to build your own website, you learn, watch videos, spend 40-100 hours, and use some sub par web builder, in the end, it is not going to be spectacular, it won’t rank high, it will load slowly, and eventually be a waste of time and resources if it does not do the thing it is supposed to do. Your 40 hours should have been spent doing the ROLE you are good at, and let someone else do what they are good at. Treat your business like a real business and create a team of people that you can rely on to free up your time and mind to do what you are good at. Without my team, I would just be another “creative” working in a boring job, being taken advantage of by a boss who does not respect my art or vision.
Pride Or Money – Another major factor to my success is taking calculated risks. When you are struggling to grow, I know everything seems like a risk. I see so many photographers working their butts off on projects that will never make it in their portfolio because they think it is how you grow. I believe in a concept I like to call “Pride or Money”. Basically, everything I work on needs to provide at least ONE of those two. I have no problem working for free if it gives me great pride to do it. Either I make beautiful art, I worked with an amazing team, made a great networking connection, or a client PAID. Work for free, but make sure that the VALUE of that work is worth your time. Don’t spend friday night shooting with a bad client, who doesnt really care about their shoot. Know ahead of time whether this is going to help build your company by either paying you, or creating something you can brag about later. Do not do anything that wont accomplish those goals as you will get burnt out and start to hate what you love. If I know that my work will be seen, that my name will be seen, that I am associating myself with a brand that is recognizable so that in a future meeting I can mention the brand and have people instantly know, then it is worth it.
Last, “Charge More Than You’re Worth”. A lot of photographers who want to create better work, yet charge pennies because they don’t feel their work is on the level to charge more. So, Charge More, then rent a good studio, buy a nice couch, have a hair/makeup person there. Use the money to create a better environment for your work. Suddenly your artwork has taken a step up, and clients spending your “new rate” seems justifiable. Then… “Charge More” and pop champagne, send Thank You cards, send pre-shoot gifts, update your website, spend money on ads. You will never grow if you won’t take the risk of asking for more, but use it to elevate yourself.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
In my artistic work, I play that I am a libra, and seek the balance. I love getting to capturing candid magic in the moment, and I also love getting to fully plan out a concept shoot, create the outfit, style the hair, nail the pose, and get the lighting exactly how I envisioned, I have been photographing everything for 24 years, and there is almost nothing that I have not photographed at some point. Weddings, Products, Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Babies, Couples, Boudoir, etc, and every style of shoot brings further knowledge of light, further strengthening of skills, that let me walk into almost any scenario and immediately envision exactly what I will do. Many people will tell photographers to find their niche and stick with that exact thing. I personally think that versatility is a virtue. When times get tough, you have other talents to fall back on, plus the relationship I build with client means I may photograph their engagement, their wedding, their baby, their headshots, their home when they sell it to move to a new home. That type of long term relationship is valuable and you don’t build that when all you know how to shoot is natural light in a field.
When I was first getting into the artsy field, I started as a graphic designer, worked my way up to art director/creative director roles and worked with several large companies in Houston. Getting to work with photography (mine or others) helped you learn what separates a “good photo” from a “great photo”. How typical photographers see an image is usually unusable for advertising or marketing. Not enough negative space, too busy of a background, the moods, etc. Personally, I love drama, colors, attitude, and I know how to have the conversation before hand to see what the image will be used for. Maybe it will be used for several things. Maybe we dont know what it will be used for, you you need to make sure you shoot enough variations to cover it all. I have been doing this long enough to know the questions that need to be asked. I definitely have an eye for photography, but having that understanding is what helps set me a part from other photographers.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
In the past year and a half, Covid has changed my typical hotspots. I am a bit of an oddball, my friends are burlesque dancers, fire dancers, painters, etc, so often my weekend itinerary might be watching some people juggle fire, going somewhere odd and photographing them, finding a warehouse party, and just enjoying off the beaten path.
If I had a friend who came into town that did not like to be adventurous, a trip to Lei-Low or Tequilas (hoping these still exist post-covid lockdown). Houston is still a great food destination, the original Mala, London Sizzler or Himalaya, Kasra, or one of my new fascinations in the heights – 2 Monks. Then maybe end the night at Barbarellas for some dancing.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to give a shout out to my team Red, Matt, Cody, and every person (makeup artist, hair stylist) who we consider our team. Clients over the years who had faith in me to create something amazing. To everyone who had to deal with me pushing them hard, because when we all grow, we all win. To the magazines who trusted me to shoot their covers. To the Sirens (Houston Roller Derby) who trusted me and my vision to do my first major underwater photoshoot despite having never done one before. Growing up, I did not get a lot of support in my field. My parents did not want me to pursue art, partners left when times were hard, and yet I pushed forward. I did have a teacher in 9th grade photography class who complimented my work, so thank you (Mrs/Ms) Hale.