We had the good fortune of connecting with Ed Carreon and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ed, what is the most important factor behind your success?

The question is kind of like asking what organ is my most important organ, so I would say there are a few “factors”.
When I ask people why they hire me, the first thing they say is that I was the most helpful. I often present two budgets for big jobs, if I don’t know the client. That is because I don’t know their price range or how savvy they or their clients are. That way I come it at what my ideal should be and then what their ideal might be.
I then have discussions to get a sense of where their budget is and how I can make it work for everyone. I also present scenarios of how I would achieve the image and give the clients creative ideas about the images. Often I send them samples of what I think they are looking for to narrow the parameters. My clients often tell me that I was the most helpful and engaging photographer. This also shows the client that I have chops.
I am also very careful with what I put on my website and don’t mix in stuff like wedding photography, actors, and anything I am not proud of. When people with chops see my work, they understand what my strengths are and they are not watered down with unrelated images. This is a problem with a lot of generalists; they shoot everything and show no real expertise in any specific sector.
So when a large aerospace corporate asks me to shoot product work, along with people working and leadership portraiture, they come to me; not three different photographers. The same goes for other clients.
Another factor in my success is the quality of my work and the fact that I am a generalist that shows expertise in various sectors. I compete in the arena of industrial, corporate, and healthcare photography with a little bit of architecture and I know where I am in the pecking order of my competition at any given moment. In Los Angeles, I am always at the top with very few competitors for the quality of work my clients expect. That perspective is validated by my clients when I ask them why they hired me.
So the work gets me invited to the party and the engagement gets me hired. I also have a lot of repeat clients because I give them what they need and don’t split hairs on billing if they are paying my top rates. I make it easy to work with me if you understand the value of what I provide. If they ask me to send them the RAW files along with the jpegs and then ask that I send them smaller jpeg versions for their website, I do it if it is within reason.
If a lower-paying client asks me to provide a gallery of each of, say 50 people I have photographed, I will charge them more money for the additional work. So it is a bit fuzzy. The point is that I ask myself, what is reasonable give the money that the client is paying.
The last, but not least, factor is that I have a network of photographers all over the country that I talk with. We don’t compete with each other so it makes it easy to share info and expertise. I have had photographers I don’t know call me to ask me how I would handle pricing or lighting on jobs and I am generous with my time and knowledge. The flip side is that when I call another photographer with chops on the other side of the country he gives me the same consideration. I have found that the generosity of my colleagues has been extremely important to my success.
The one person who has been most generous to me in terms of knowledge is Anthony Nex, one of the most successful commercial/advertising photographers in Los Angeles. When I need to resources or perspectives on lighting or pricing Anthony has always been generous to me and I try and pay it forward with a vengeance. My network is one of my greatest resources and I cherish it greatly.
Less experienced photographers seem to live in a vacuum and believe they know something special and hoard this delusion to themselves, but I find the more that I give, the more I receive in return.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.

I like risk. Before I used to risk my life doing dangerous stunts, but now risk means that I take on projects where I have conceptual knowledge of how a project should be done but no practical knowledge.
For instance, I was asked by Relativity Space to photography 26 ft. tall robotic 3D printers that they use to make rocket housings. The printers, which make metal cylinders, are situated in snug bays with black walls. So how do you light these complex structures so they are really interesting?
Well, we built a tower on wheels 24 ft tall and hung 5 strobe heads on it, then we shot the structure in 9 sections; so 9 different plates including one of their CEO and put it together in post-production for delivery the next day.
All the risk was on me and catastrophic failure was a real potential. If the tower would have collapsed or tipped over and damage something or killed someone, it would have been disastrous for my career. But I knew enough to know that I did not know exactly how to do this so I brought in my first Assistant Robert Morris who has boatloads of grip and lighting chops and the whole thing worked beautifully. Five heads on one tower across 9 frames. Wow!!!
Robert added breaks to the tower risers to reduce the potential for disaster. Very risky but now I could do it again with the right help.
I am now doing things I have never done before, including helicopter parts for Boeing and huge utility trailers where we have to build sets on locations. It is a great thrill that I take deadly seriously but that fulfills my need for some risk in my life and keeps me interested in creating new work.
Now previously to shooting helicopter engines and robots, I was asked by another large company to shoot industrial products. I had NO product photography on my website, so I don’t know why she thought I could shoot them but I took the job because I have a lot of experience which gave me a strong conceptual framework to pull it off. The client loved the images and since then, folks continue to think I can shoot products and now I guess I do.
The point is that it was the risk is having conceptual knowledge but I not having practical knowledge. So then I call Anthony or someone else to get their perspectives and I make it work.
My clients now know me as the go-to guy for most of their needs because I can shoot a lot of things well. Now if you asked me to shoot beauty or fashion photography, I would say, ”NO” because that is too far out of my area of expertise, so it is not that I shoot everything but shoot few things well and I know the difference between what I can do well and I cannot do well. This has been the story of my career; one challenge at a time.
If I would do it all over again, I would have never majored in photography but rather art or psychology and business instead, and then I would have assisted photographers before I went freelance, but at the time I did not know that I did not know.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would go camping in the Black Rock Desert and eat, drink, smoke cigars (maybe mushrooms), drive on four-wheel drive trails and hike all day long. I would make the food we ate and drink beer on a hard to get to mountain top and watch the sun setting on the wild horses and antelope.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Yes, and that would be Anthony Nex and the APA. Anthony, a previous president of APA and one of the most successful commercial photographers in Los Angeles has shared his expertise and knowledge resources with me on many occasions when I needed answers on pricing, studio sourcing, models and lighting. There haven been many other photographers whom I have met at the APA that have been helpful as well. So I would say that Anthony and the APA have been one of my silver bullets in my arsenal of factors that have contributed to my success. I am so grateful to those photographers that have shared knowledge with me.

Website: www.carreonphotography.com

Instagram: edwardcarreonphgotography

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/edcarreon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eacarreon/

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