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Meet Jeff Sampson of Downtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jeff Sampson.

Hi Jeff, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
My introduction to photography was when I was very young; my dad had a cool 70’s era Minolta that fascinated me. I was always trying to figure out how it worked. I never really gave photography a second thought until college. I was a computer graphics design major, and that came along with some photography courses. It was interesting to me, and it quickly became my favorite class. I took a college-sponsored spring break trip to London during my college years. I was always the guy taking the most photos and, in general, over-documenting my experience. When we returned, a student on the trip with me asked if I would like to shoot her sister’s wedding. This would be fun and a great way to make a little money.

I shot the wedding on film with a Minolta x-7 and had a very prosumer Minolta digital camera used. I think I charged $500 and probably spent $300 – $400 on film and development. It was a great, challenging experience for me, and I felt good. I couldn’t place the feeling then, but I was creatively satisfied and came away with some decent photos. A year or so later, I met my now wife, Valerie. She is very driven and saw an opportunity to make photography a revenue source. I was able to make a website, and I had some photos from 1 wedding. I also had a few friends getting married around that time of my life, and they graciously allowed me to practice on them.

We worked very hard to grow photography into something bigger and more real. It took about 3 years, and eventually, I had 17 weddings booked, and I had a full-time job. It was very much time to decide on what to do. I knew I couldn’t do both much longer and still be sane. We decided to take the road less traveled and worked harder than I ever thought we could. We are 14 years later, and I would say I still get the same amount of creative satisfaction and I love how much my clients love their photos; they cherish them; it’s a great thing to be able to do for people.

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The road to being a professional in any industry will not be smooth. We were lucky that the business consistently grew for us. The hardest struggle along the way was making sure the clients would come. My wife and I spent many late nights brainstorming and creating a perfect-looking portfolio and professional brand. To be successful, you have to be consistent and put in the work. It can’t be understated how difficult it can be.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I think what sets me apart is my aesthetic. I am always looking for candid moments that the bride and groom don’t get to see the day of. I am also very much in awe of film photographers who shoot weddings. I am not sure that I could ever do a full day on film, I have never tried since that first one, but I try to emulate that look and feel. I am also very consistent in my final product; I don’t like to stray away from my look and feel. It’s hard enough to try and perfect it in the first place.

What changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?
In my niche, which is weddings, I think the basics of what it is now will not change much. Fifty years ago, wedding photography delivered clients a few posed photos. Now it’s all about telling the day’s story, and I don’t see that shifting much.

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