What is your DWF Username? Mike Fulton
What is your Full Name? Mike Fulton
What is your business Location? Lake Jackson Texas, find a map, find Houston, Texas, go directly South till you almost hit the coastline – BAM you will find our little town.
What is your website URL? www.TriCoastPhoto.com
What’s your facebook page URL? www.facebook.com/tricoastphoto
How many years have you been in business? 19 years shooting weddings professionally – TriCoast formed 11 years ago
Was there life before photography or has this been a lifelong passion for you?
For 15 years I was in Law Enforcement in the State of Texas. Holding a Master Peach Officer’s License I spent 12 of the 15 years as a Crime Scene Investigator. Being a CSI Nerd was where I fine tuned my lighting skills as you could never just bring back a dead body if you messed up the images. There was no digital camera to be my safety net, I had to learn how my camera and flash system worked to make sure the crime scene was captured correctly. I could have never guessed the tiny aspect of photography during my CSI days would control my entire life in just a few short years. Our TTL knowledge as well as teaching and speaking skills all came from learning the camera and flash on crime scenes and speaking in state and federal court on cases.
How did you become a professional photographer?
Really by accident, as a CSI guy photography was a small part of my job. Instead of working extra jobs in the bars on the weekends I started shooting weddings. 1) it was more fun and 2) it was more money. I never really thought about being full time professional until many years later. While I always treated the industry with respect, charged quite a bit right out of the gate, it was not until we started traveling all over the world with our weddings I realized I could do the photography gig full time. Of course I never still did not know if I could make a living at it.
What’s been your biggest business challenge? How have you faced that challenge?
Without question just making ends meet. Many people know TriCoast, many people know Mike Fulton, but Fame is a funny thing, it surely does not pay your bills. I get much more satisfaction helping out people, our local clients and community as well as photographers – aspiring professionals as well as full time professionals. Watching others grow and make money which helps their families means a lot to me personally.
What’s the most effective way you’ve found to market your studio?
Without question old-fashion get off your butt and away from the computer and phone and go meet people. In order to get business one needs to trust you, in order for someone to trust you they need to know you. In order for them to know you one MUST get involved in their lives. Every time we meet someone we make notes about their families, their names, their pets, their favorite snacks – anything to make sure we are personal with them. By helping out our community in time the community helps us out and the marketing in many ways runs itself, which leaves us to market in new areas.
If we needed a photographer today why would we book you? What makes you unique?:
Many things, but without question the one thing we try and push is The Experience! From the largest studio in the county to several professional photographers which suits their needs and wants. We simply offer more at a wider range of price for every kid but the Experience trumps it all! You can have the best portfolio in the world but if you give your clients a bad experience they simply won’t spend much money with you nor tell their friends positives things about you.
What is the one item used in your shooting or editing workflow you can’t live without? What makes it indispensable?
Well these days I think we all use Photoshop and/or Lightroom so that would be the easy answer, yet still a true one. Reality is today my workflow is much more important within our Volume business than it ever has been in our high end portrait or even our wedding side of the business. Without keeping the 1000’s of kids organized we simply would be lost and worse lose money and trust in our clients. So without a doubt our software we use FotoVelocity is the most important one item which I feel is indispensable. We prep our volume events using FotoVelocity, we shoot to make the workflow easier on photo day and yes our post work is all based on how the software works. Without it we simply would not be able to do as much volume as we do and therefore not bring in the money to pay our bills.
What advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?
LEARN YOUR CRAFT! There is no magical pill in photography or heck in life, besides hard work. Sure you can pick up a camera and make decent images today as the cameras are so powerful. However, the camera still does not make the image, you do. Learn your craft, learn lighting, learn posing, do not allow the blinders of ego driven self-pity hinder your craft. Learn from the older photographers, sure their blinders have made many of them short sited BUT they understand the harder part of photography how to run a successful business. The youth have a wonderful sense of freedom in this art so share that with the older generation and receive their knowledge in return. When working together the art of being a professional grows and carries on for the next generation. Finally (as mentioned a little above) don’t take a photography class, take business classes. ANYONE can be a photographer, it is not hard to do. Join the PPA, to many young photographers the PPA is like Life Insurance to an 18 year old. They see no gain in joining only the cost of the membership. It is not until that 18 year gets older and has friends start dying around him/her they realize the value of life Insurance. Same as a young photographer, until they get clients that sue them or are mad at them or they mess up on they see the value of the PPA. Don’t mess up and then search help from the PPA join early – make lasting relationship which assist you in the learning process your entire life. The most successful photographers I know are average shooters but amazing business people. Be in the BUSINESS of photography and the PHOTOGRAPHY business there is a huge difference and only the first one will allow you to be successful in the long run.
What has the DWF done for your business?
It has allowed me the most important thing in photography – friendship! Without the people I have meet through DWF and the PPA as well as other professional outlets, TriCoast would not be where they are today. When I had a roadblock or an uncertain path come up I have always been able to pick up the phone, write an email, or get online and make a post and someone was there to assist me through it. Online education is wonderful, BUT the in person friendships made from the online means is truly the most valuable aspect of photography in my book. DWF simply has some of the best people, successful and fun photographers around.
How do you use the DWF?
I love DWF – great people and amazing talent. Seriously I enjoy meeting people. The work well I see photos all day long, 99% do not inspire me. I get inspired by seeing people grow, share and learn and DWF is one of the best places for that to happen. I have been a member for almost 10 years now – and while I am busier now in photography than ever before, I still always try and find time to share on DWF as well as check out whats going on around the world.
Optional, but come on, be a sport: If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
Ah from my old CSI Days – I always wished I could solve the cold cases – I know sounds stupid but if there was some way to have a super power to look at evidence and know who killed the victim it would be AWESOME in my book. To not only put people behind bars that need to be but even more importantly close a chapter in the lives of the victim’s families so they can rest at ease and move forward in their lives. Having worked 100’s of homicides and other horrible crimes the victim and their families never seem to have their justice. It would just be great to have a power to help those in that situation.