We had the good fortune of connecting with Rafael Larin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rafael, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
The photography industry has dramatically evolved as the smartphone pretty much put a camera in everyone’s pocket, albeit not a very good one. But what was true back in the film days of photography – that it required technical training, a lot of practice, and significant financial investment – is even more true today. It is very easy for a person to pull out their smartphone and take a photo, but it is a vastly different skill to make a picture. Some people think it is just the push of a button and the camera’s auto-mode takes care of the rest. Most professional photographers are rarely in auto-mode, for creative reasons as well as for technical ones. I like to say that the difference between a professional picture and an amateur’s photo consists of four elements. All these elements done well get you an A-grade picture. For each of these elements that are missing, you are likely dropping a letter-grade in quality. The first element is that it takes a professional photographer with a strong technical understanding and experience with the next three elements. The other three are understanding the laws of strobe or continuous and natural light, using a commercial grade camera and lenses, and good post-production skills. Again, for each of these that are missing, you drop in quality to a B, C, D, etc. compared to what a professional photographer can do when they employ all of them. It takes studying, producing thousands of shots for experience and practice, and significant monetary investments to be in the commercial photography business. And if you are offering professional headshots, there are literally hundreds of photographers in Los Angeles alone offering the same thing. So, differentiation by knowledge, quality, and service are critical in the industry.
What should our readers know about your business?
I focus on creating photo and video content to build your individual brand. This includes headshots to lifestyle shots, and whether for use on business profiles and websites, or for social media branding. So, most of my customers include actors, models, and business professionals like attorneys, CEOs, doctors, realtors, and so on. I try to employ quality first as the primary way to set myself apart from others. This is for the imagery I produce as well as the service. To this end, I am very proud that my headshots studio gets good reviews and I have been named by EXPERTISE.com as a top portrait photographer in Glendale, 2020, and in Los Angeles, 2019. This award comprises a small list of around 25 photographers out of more than 1,200 that EXPERTISE researched. So, I am proud of it and do not take it for granted. It took a lot of effort and perseverance to get to where I am. A lot of it was financial investment, studying, and practice, practice, practice. But understanding marketing is also critical. My background as a public relations and marketing executive and consultant has been very helpful. This business is not easy. It takes a long time to achieve some success, and it is always a work-in-progress. Adapt, or else. That is probably the biggest lesson. Just when you think you might be in a comfortable spot, be ready to adapt. This goes for how you market your business as well as the tools you use to deliver a creative service.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is Los Angeles! So, the list is infinite. I would rather make a list day-by-day. One day might involve the beach scene. Not necessarily sand and swim but being along the coast and all it has to offer. Dining would play a big role. We would get into fine dining like a steak at CUT but also into California street classics like In-N-Out. And you must throw in Mexican food there somewhere. Me, I would also have to add Thai food somewhere, my personal favorite. A second day might involve sports, as in taking in one of the many professional sports leagues that we have in LA – Dodgers, Lakers, etc. Being that we would be into photography, no doubt another day or night we would do some photography too. If my best friend had never been to LA, a view from Griffith Observatory would be essential as well. I could go no – night life, day time, all the time, there is so much to do.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are a few. First, of course, are family and close friends. They are one and the same to me. They are always supportive, your cheerleader, and your critic when you need it. They are important to have in life. So, I send a shoutout to family and close friends – they know who they are. In terms of an organization, school is important, and I wish all of us could go to college. Those of us that can go to college and graduate are fortunate. So, a shoutout also goes to college in general and in my case, California State University, Northridge. Also, to the U.S. Air Force for helping a young man like me get grounded while I was in the service and teaching me discipline and perseverance. These are traits I still rely on. In terms of a particular book, there are so many ways to acquire knowledge. I try to spend a little part of each day learning instead of playing, though playing is also important. Educational growth does not stop when you finish school. Read everything you can. I like to listen to educational audiobooks and podcasts in the car at least half the time, even on short drives. It helps me feel like a commute is more productive. So, a shoutout goes to education too.
Danielle Baez Fred DiBella Hollin Hailey Isabel Umelo Jade Kanapina Will Buchanan