Trinette Reed: Photographer Spotlight

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This commercial photographer spotlight features Trinette Reed. Together with partner Chris Gramly, they produce photography and motion video for luxury spas, hotels and resorts around the world. Their client list includes publications such as Elle, Men’s Health, Yoga Journal and Conde Nast Traveler, as well as agencies and companies like BBDO, Ogilvy & Mather, Auberge Resorts and Citibank. The two live in San Francisco, CA, with their two Chihuahuas.

When did you pick up your first camera? When did it become a career for you?

I picked up my first camera in high school, but didn’t start shooting professionally until I was in my late twenties. I am 41 now, so I have been shooting professionally for about 13 years.

I first began shooting when I was living in Ohio. I went to school for advertising and minored in photography. When I was in school I was told you couldn’t make a living with photography and that I should do something safer, so I focused on advertising instead.

A few years later, my mother passed away from cancer.  I left my job at the time to take care of her and spent the last few months with her, it was a very challenging and transformational period in my life. It made me question everything in my life including what I wanted to do as a career. I felt really drawn to San Francisco, CA, so I packed up all my stuff and moved there to start a new life. I started out trying to find a job in advertising and ended up in an interview for a marketing assistant position. The person interviewing me thought I was really depressed and asked me if I really truly wanted the job.  I said honestly no and at that moment I realized I wanted and needed to pursue photography.

That same day I headed to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and went up to the office and begged them for a job in the photo department. Coincidentally the admin assistant had recently quit, and consequently they hired me as they assistant to the Director of Photography. I was ecstatic and haven’t looked back since. This position allowed me to take classes for free in the evening and start learning about the photo industry from the Director and all the professional photographers who were teaching classes there.  I made a lot of connections and started working on my portfolio on weekends and evenings. I worked there for about four years while I built my portfolio. After that I started assisting and shooting stock.

How would you describe your style?

I feel that our style evokes a feeling of escape, serenity, and simplicity.

I find I always try and get things to look as clean, minimal and spacious as I can. I don’t like a lot of clutter or complication, which is why I love shooting in modern design spaces because they feel clean and simple. I am personally drawn to images that create a feeling or experience, that is what moves me and that is what I try to create in my own work as well.

What inspires you? What makes you want to push harder?

Beauty, fashion, and design inspire me visually and creatively.  I am also inspired by self-exploration, learning, growing, letting go of fear and getting out of my own way.

I try to take the space and time to find out what is inspiring me, and I follow that inner voice and go where it takes me.  I think for many people inspiration happens in an outward fashion, but for me it is really an inward experience. It’s easy to get lost in the ‘doing’ (the external) and not take time to look inward and check in with yourself.  When I take time to do that, it helps me to figure what I really love and what I want to focus on in my life.

In the very beginning of my career I started out doing more fine art work and doing fine art gallery shows. My work was not very commercial at all and it was also costing me much more money to produce than I was earning from it.

I worked with an instructor at the Academy of Art who helped me bridge the gap between my personal work and my commercial work.  She encouraged me to shoot commercial work in a personal way and that was life changing for me. It was important for me to be creative and to be financially successful at the same time. I did not want to be a starving artist. That life lesson taught me that I can create commercial work that makes money and still feel passionate about it.

How has the industry changed for you and what have you done to stay on top of it?

Over the last five years we have seen the industry change dramatically.  Between the downturn in the economy and ever increasing competition, it has gotten more challenging to make a good living with photography. We downsized our studio, simplified things and chose to focus on a niche market of luxury resorts, hotels, and spas, something we also happened to be very passionate about.  This has worked out really well for us.

What kind of gear do you use? Do you have a heavy set-up for a photo shoot or do you pack lightly?

We use a Canon 5DMKII to shoot stills and motion video. We always prefer to shoot natural light whenever possible using scrims and reflectors, but we have all the professional lighting gear as well when we need it.  We use Profoto lighting gear.

How important is it to market yourself as a photographer? What have you found to work well in reaching the clients that will hire you?

Since we are focused on the niche of resorts and spas, we try to promote ourselves to the specific places we want to work for.  Marketing is probably something we should do more of, but it always seems to fall to the bottom of the list. Our reps do most of our marketing at the moment. We also have a blog and use Facebook as well. I think blogs are important these days for photographers.

Video appears to be a growing part of the photo industry. How have you tackled this new medium and how different do you find it from shooting stills?

Yes, shooting video has become a necessary skill for photographers these days. I found creatively that moving into shooting motion was a pretty easy transition that came naturally for us. I have always wanted to shoot motion, but was waiting for the gear to be available at a reasonable price.  The biggest challenge in shooting motion is learning the technical aspects and the nuances of the equipment and post processing. It can be a steep learning curve in the beginning but gets easier quickly.  I find it challenging to switch between stills and motion on the same shoot. Luckily, my partner Chris Gramly and I work together on shoots, so one of us often shoots stills while the other shoots motion. This works out perfectly. So far, we have mostly shot motion and stills side by side on the same day. I am looking forward to focusing more exclusively on motion soon.

Where do you see your work in 10 years? Who would you like to be shooting for?

In 10 years I imagine being even more selective about which clients that we work with.  We really like to collaborate with clients that we like personally, inspire us and with whom there is a creative alignment. I love collaborating with talented designers/ art directors to create something beautiful and impactful. I think our ideal client would be a modern design eco-friendly resort and spa with an organic restaurant, because that is what we value in our lives. That is what I would call a super niche, but hopefully in 10 years, there will be a lot more of those kinds of clients.

How can our readers better their own photography?

My advice and what has worked for me is to make your work more personal. The more personal your work is, the more unique it will be and the more it will stand out.  This requires some soul searching and exploration. I truly believe in following your passion and your own inner voice and getting comfortable in the unknown.  A wonderful creative consultant I worked with, Deanne Delbridge often says that as artists we are paid to grapple around in the unknown darkness and bring something beautiful back into reality.

That impacted me on a deep level and always stayed with me. As an artist, I think it’s important to give yourself permission to not know what you are doing. Yes, learn the technical things, but after that, make a practice of surrendering and seeing what comes through you. I think that is when we create our best work.

We make a regular practice of taking one day off a week to “do nothing”, not that we literally do nothing, (a lot of something can happen in the ‘nothing’) but the intention is to have one day to not be busy and scheduled, to go inward, to reflect. I really believe that having time to explore yourself and your creativity is crucial to finding your own style in photography, and standing out from the competition. What makes you unique? What do you feel drawn to shoot?  What inspires you and moves you? What would you be doing if money were of no concern? How can you take that passion and incorporate that into your photography in a marketable way? How can you make a career out of that? These are the questions that I asked myself when I began my career and I continue to ask myself now, the answers have changed over the years, but following the answers to these questions has led me to living my dream. I am deeply grateful for opportunity to do what I love for a living.

Where can we hear more from you or see more of your work?

Our website:  http://www.trinettereed.com/

 

Our Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/trinettereedphotography

Our Blog: http://blog.trinettereed.com/

 

 

 

 

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Matt Dutile is a New York City based travel and lifestyle photographer. He recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce a book on Mongolian nomads. Check the page out to learn more. You can view his website or join in on his Facebook page as well.

  • Hi

    Wow – it is impressive to be able to make a living shooting luxury hotels, spas! It never really occurred to me! The closest I could think of would be the wonderful island of Kauai!

    Talk about scenic and relaxing!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/2518/

  • Truly wonderful interview. Its somehow different from others, more emotional and personal, less about practical stuff. I agree with Trinette on many accounts.

    Thank you Matt for another spotlight.

  • ccting

    When did you pick up your first camera? When did it become a career for you? 23 June 2011. I never think to be photographer..It looks like there are too many photographers, and needs a lot of very expensive equipments, and hard to earn money. Am I true?

  • Nice personal interview. Everyone should keep following their dreams. I believe that we can only be truly exceptional at the things we love!

  • Stephanie

    As a senior in college trying to sort out what to do “when I grow up” and in the process of figuring out what my own passion and direction is, this article is exactly what I needed to read. The real world is a scary place, but it’s so nice to be reminded that it’s all ok and it’s possible to actually do what I love for a living without having to sell out to a boring occupation.

Some Older Comments

  • Stephanie October 1, 2011 08:31 am

    As a senior in college trying to sort out what to do "when I grow up" and in the process of figuring out what my own passion and direction is, this article is exactly what I needed to read. The real world is a scary place, but it's so nice to be reminded that it's all ok and it's possible to actually do what I love for a living without having to sell out to a boring occupation.

  • Verena Fischer September 22, 2011 05:52 pm

    Nice personal interview. Everyone should keep following their dreams. I believe that we can only be truly exceptional at the things we love!

  • ccting September 22, 2011 09:17 am

    When did you pick up your first camera? When did it become a career for you? 23 June 2011. I never think to be photographer..It looks like there are too many photographers, and needs a lot of very expensive equipments, and hard to earn money. Am I true?

  • Dagne September 22, 2011 07:05 am

    Truly wonderful interview. Its somehow different from others, more emotional and personal, less about practical stuff. I agree with Trinette on many accounts.

    Thank you Matt for another spotlight.

  • Erik Kerstenbeck September 22, 2011 06:35 am

    Hi

    Wow - it is impressive to be able to make a living shooting luxury hotels, spas! It never really occurred to me! The closest I could think of would be the wonderful island of Kauai!

    Talk about scenic and relaxing!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/2518/

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