Photographer Spotlight: Professional Images Photography

Perhaps you’ve read the recent headlines that social media is taking over convention and event photography. It may be because of the ambition of Joseph Rodriguez and his San Antonio-based company, Professional Images Photography. It appears they are getting some attention from their editorial article about how they’ve found a workflow and service line that not only provides near-instant prints at corporate events, but also, a simultaneous email with the same image — branded with the corporate sponsor’s logo and often in front of a greenscreen image.

Apparently there’s a lot of buzz when “everyone was tweeting, facebooking and forwarding the photos [they got via email] with the company logo prominently displayed” and that it was the “hit of the tradeshow floor with everyone giggling when their phones began pinging.”

It was a tradeshow marketers dream come true.

When we found out that Professional Images Photography does it all with DARKROOM Professional Edition, we knew we had to pick their brain before convention season formally kicks off on Memorial Day. We reached out to owner, Joseph Rodriguez about what inspired him to create this service offering and the much talked-about article.

[About Professional Images Photography. Founded in 1987 the company specializes in corporate events and conventions with an affection for commercial projects as well. Based in San Antonio, Texas, owner, Joseph Rodriguez has won the Alamo NACE Event Professional of the Year Award in 2009 and in 2001 he won an award from the United Way for his contributions to a specific commission. Rodriguez is a member and former board member of the ISES and NACE Alamo Chapters and everyone will tell you his energy and passion for photography will fill a room. Click here to see samples of Professional Images Photography’s work; here to go to their website. Also, Joseph has been kind enough to allow us to embed a video of his ‘social media services’ in action — which is below the interview!]

DARKROOM: Joseph, thank you for your time. I understand you are currently on the road to Houston for a convention where you have sold your new “social media services.” Please tell us all about it!

DARKROOM: So how are you doing this? It sounds like a lot of work, right? Greenscreen dropout, a template border with the corporate logo, instant printing, instant email, and a presentation kiosk… I am hoping I know the answer.Joseph Rodriguez: It’s a pretty exciting time for us right now. There is a lot of talk about what we are doing, well, because the concept and service I am offering is a perfect tool for my corporate clients. Basically: They host an event, a party, or something cool at their booth; I shoot it and print [a 3×5, 4×6 or 5×7] immediately and at the same time email them the jpeg. They get the exact picture, my phone number and information provided by the corporate client in a tidy, instant email. At a big convention, people are not only carrying around a nice print, but they are opening their smart phones and showing off the digital image — almost enticing their colleagues to run over to our booth. Then they go on to publish the picture to Facebook and Twitter. The corporate client’s logo is prominent on every single image so the exposure is considerable.

Joseph Rodriguez: Ha! You do! Of course it’s all 100% DARKROOM Professional Edition. Importantly Version 9.1 — because that has my camera drivers and the email functionality. And, don’t you dare make me sound like a paid endorsement! Cause I’m not! It’s just that my workflow is just perfectly suited for DARKROOM and it’s been that way since we went digital in 1998.

DARKROOM: So you were using ExpressDigital Sport & Event [the software predecessor to DARKROOM]?

Joseph Rodriguez: Yes. I remember meeting Eric Woodchek of Imaging Spectrum [who is now part owner of Darkroom Software, LLC] all those years ago. I asked him to consult on my business going digital. He came to my offices with five cameras and an edition of Sport & Event. When I found out recently that Eric and his partners bought DARKROOM, I was not surprised, he was one of the software’s biggest fans from very early on — he had me sold instantly. For the first year with Sport & Event, I gave away 5x7s at conventions in San Antonio just to prove to all the marketing managers in the room that pictures can include their logo and be printed really fast. The efforts paid off in a big way. I still have a lot of those clients after 13 years and all it cost me at the time was a 5×7.

DARKROOM: I suppose that would make you an expert in DARKROOM. Would you have any tips on using the software?

Joseph Rodriguez: Wow. Hmmm. It’s been too long since I’ve even had to endure the learning curve for the software. I did read the manual from cover to cover. I know that helped early on.

DARKROOM: What about some business tips? Are you feeling the strain of the current economy like everyone else?

Joseph Rodriguez: Absolutely. I am one of many that have lost clients to some manager’s brother who just bought a Nikon and lost his day job. It is a really big deal for me to find out why I lost a bid so I offer this advice: Dig in. I stress being as professional as possible, but, I will ask every client I have ever lost a project as to who won the project and what their rates were. I even ask if they would fax me the winning bid. I know some people would have a problem with that but I will say it is entirely up to the person who owns those documents, because I won’t push. I think it is a matter of being in business to make the extra effort to know exactly how your rates and services are comparing.

DARKROOM: Do you lose a lot of jobs over cost?

Joseph Rodriguez: Yes, but not because I am crazy expensive but because I am competing with people that are terrible at running a business. I mean, I’m not cheap: I have a staff; I have overhead; I have a marketing campaign; I pride myself as being a top-notch professional. But the last job I lost, the winning bid was offering prints for under $2.50. My jaw dropped. There is no way that photographer is going to stay in business with that per-print rate if they are shooting and printing on-site with any care for quality. When I advise other photographers I make it really clear: Make yourself known because you are good. Not because you are cheap. I live by it.

DARKROOM: You mention you have a marketing campaign. Is that the key to your success?

Joseph Rodriguez: Yes and no. Yes, I believe in marketing. Most of my work is out of state; New York, D.C., Miami, Las Vegas, all over. My business comes from SEO, word of mouth, and public relations. I take to heart a quote from Bill Gates. Pardon me, I know I am probably butchering it but I think it goes: “If I had two dollars, one dollar would go to marketing and PR.”

DARKROOM: You said “yes and no.”

Joseph Rodriguez: You’re right. I mean, while having an eye on marketing gets me business, I don’t consider it a key to my success. I think the key to Professional Images Photography is a few things. For one, we own our niche. We don’t do weddings, we don’t do sports, and we don’t do portraits. We kick butt at what we do. Secondly, I pride myself and my team as being true professionals. It is something my father instilled in me all of my life and as an endeavoring Mexican American entrepreneur in the 1980s. It’s a mantra for me: Be the last thing for your clients to worry about. Blend in with the crowd. As a vendor, you should not stand out but be a part of the scenery. If everyone in the room is wearing a suit, you wear a suit! I know photographers can get away with having some scruff and dressing as necessary for their comfort during really long days — but not my photographers and not even the models I hire.

DARKROOM: Do you get any flak for this philosophy?

Joseph Rodriguez: Sure. I’m strict. Everyone I hire, I tell them, “You dress the part, and you do not drink, eat or smoke in front of the client. If they offer you a beer at the end of the night, you politely decline. You are a vendor for a large corporation and they have a comfort level and a mentality that merges with Professional Images Photography.” So, yes, I get some remarks and I have let people go because of it.

DARKROOM: Any last words of advice?

Joseph Rodriguez: Anyone can buy a camera but everyone has a different style of shooting. My background in commercial ad photography has put me here because this training and experience really resonates with my clients today. Photographers need to find their voice. Too many photographers just point and shoot and have it on auto-pilot. Shoot manually and your range is as wide as your creativity, style and knowledge.

DARKROOM: Thank you so much Joseph! Have a great show in Houston!

Joseph Rodriguez: I know I will. I haven’t had one issue with Version 9.1 ever. Say hi to Eric for me!


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