Studying at the Manhattan International School of Photography, Christian started out with no plans but lots of ideas. All he knew was that he wanted to invent something new and different."There's no easy road to the top" he told me. "I tried my hand at everything from fashion to commercial to war photography before finding my niche in wedding photography. It was those hard times when I was struggling to pay the bills that enabled me to take those experiences and merge them into something different." His business seemed to grow organically as he continued to gain recognition, eventually finding himself at the top end of the market. It was then he realised he had "quite a title to live up to", so he shifted his focus to work harder on quality in every possible way; not only the photography, but also the client experience. "The main thing that saved me from going down the same road as more traditional photographers was to challenge the conventions of the time and come up with something new. I guess I was kind of arrogant about it initially, but my clients loved the attitude and were thirsting for someone to do things differently." What drove him at the beginning is still prevalent in his approach today... "In many ways I'm still a loner - I still don't like to listen to any popular attitudes about wedding photography, but a few of my ideas worked really well and we expanded on them." Reputation matters He counts much of his success to his reputation. In fact, he told me he considers his reputation to be his position of strength right now during the recession. "The most important and useful thing any photographer can do is to build their reputation.
"Protect it hard, work on it every day, and never destroy it. It can take years to build and a day to destroy."
Christian was given a helping hand when PDN named him one of the top 15 photographers in 2003 and published one of his wedding images on the cover in 2004. From there things snowballed - his reputation grew quickly as he was soon being published by the likes of the New York Times, Town & Country and Vogue. Then in 2007, American Photo named him one of the top 10 wedding photographers in the world, raising his profile rapidly.
He says, "Developing relationships with publications and nowadays blogs, is a great way to get your work, and your name, out into the wider public arena. Every photographer should be trying to get their work published - it's free advertising. People who are looking for a photographer do read photo credits."
Building your brand
Stressing the importance of building your business in tune with your clientele, he talks about his own recent experience of rebranding his business for that exact reason. "Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself who are they, what do they like, what stores do they frequent? Create your ideal client and design your business/branding around that sample person."
Christian's rebranding project included a totally redesigned logo, new name and new website. Only two months after the new brand was launched, he saw his bookings increase three-fold.
Christian has a full-time sales person, a studio manager, three photo editors, a designer and digital tech staff. He says having someone dedicated fully to looking after his clients has had a huge impact on building his studio. "Being at the top end of the market I have to act accordingly. These top level clients are used to receiving superior service wherever they go...and it's no different when they come to us." Christian says his new sales person has also played a major role in the increase in his bookings.
Offering quality products
With that strong focus on the quality of the photography and client experience, the products Christian offers must naturally be of the same superior quality. Choosing Queensberry was a matter of trial and error. He initially tried several different album companies but settled on Queensberry because of the consistent quality and positive response from his upscale clientele.
So any last advice Christian? "You're an artist, you're in business, so find a way to create a balance between the two."