When Gary Buehler moved from Nebraska to Colorado, he brought with him his wife Duncan, toddler Adam and Hasselblad camera. After years of honing his skills as a photographer, he was ready to set up shop. They settled in Nederland, a little mountain town above Boulder. Shortly thereafter, we were introduced by a mutual acquaintance.
We began talking about ways that Gary might launch his business. He decided he wanted to have a brochure so I suggested he visit area photographers and collect their brochures to see how they were promoting themselves. When he showed me his collection, I was struck by the fact that not one photographer had their own picture on their brochure so we promptly decided that Gary would use his picture (with his beloved Hasselblad) in his marketing.
We also talked about getting free publicity. I still remember getting a call from Duncan who was wildly excited because the Nederland newspaper (I believe it was called the Mountain Ear) had just contacted her and was sending a reporter to interview them. I didn’t want to dampen her enthusiasm, but suggested that this small circulation paper might not bring in a flood of business.
I was wrong. As soon as the story appeared, Gary got a call from a couple about to be married and in desperate need of a photographer. Gary got the assignment and that started the wedding photography side of their business. Because he had introduced himself to other photographers in the area, he also started getting referrals from them. Gary the Photographer was launched.
In exchange for helping them with their marketing, I bartered for a photo session. I had never enjoyed having my picture taken, but it was so much fun working with Gary that we giggled our way through the entire shoot. I loved the resulting photos and told him that I had never been so relaxed working with other photographers. “We want people to leave a session with us liking themselves better,” he said.
I was impressed and thought he should write a tip sheet about how to work with a photographer. He did just that and came up with some terrific suggestions. (My favorite was to interview potential photographers in person before booking to make sure you have rapport.) I published his tips in Winning Ways newsletter and then he reprinted it and used it as a handout at bridal fairs and to include when people requested his price list.
I haven’t had much contact with Gary since I left Colorado about a year after he arrived. However, I got thinking about him again when I decided to give my granddaughter Zoe a gorgeous photo he had taken of her mother when Jennie graduated from high school. That led to tracking him down via e-mail. He wrote back to update me on his family and then told me about the changes that he’d made to his business with the advent of digital photography. Then he added, “After all this time, I still love it.”
Connect. Collaborate. Care. Change. These are all things that helped Gary build the business of his dreams. And, of course, there’s his passion for taking pictures that would last a lifetime.
Vocation does not mean a goal I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. ~ Parker Palmer