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Ottawa Photographer – My 2012 Extreme Family Photo

Extreme Family Portrait by Justin Van Leeuwen

In 2010 I capped off my year with a family portrait that I had to beg my wife to take, it was more complicated than a standard “sit & shoot” portrait, and I certainly had a difficult time explaining what the final product would be, as it was shot in segments and composited together after. I wrote about it here.

2011 was a difficult year, I was staying at home with my boys while Mel went back to work. Not a lot of guys are cut to be a stay at home dad, and maybe I wasn’t either, but I did my best to nurture their growth while trying to fuel my own. Responsible for half the bills (I am Dutch you know) I also needed to maintain an income stream while “staying” at home. Not much of a planner when it comes to life goals, the best I could do was shoot the work I wanted, and hope people noticed.

It started with my “S.A.H.D.” series, which received quite a bit of attention from my friends & fellow photographers. They helped spread the word through twitter and other social medias. That’s where things started to pick up – other families saw the work and said “hey, we’re quirky; we want a family portrait that shows the real us off.” I hit it big on reddit, briefly, with Monkey House achieving over 30,000 views in 24 hours and also got some attention with the yummy mummy club (it’s a real thing) by photographing Julie Cole’s family of 8.

All of this is coming from word of mouth, previous clients, friends, other photographers without a dollar spent on conventional marketing. My only marketing strategy was do right by other people, work as hard as I can, talk, be a good guy, and show the work I want to shoot. It seems to have paid off.

In September I offloaded reluctantly placed my boys in daycare; now I was on the hook to work this photo-thing full time, with the added $1500 a month cost of keeping the kids out of my hair. But people like my work, and I picked up a few unexpected clients, including interiors & commercial product photography, which I enjoy immensely, and diversified my portfolio. All this while I’m still photographing families, which is important to me, as families consist of people who either work, or know people who work, in companies that may need photography too.

Relationships are the foundation of my business, and business plan – they’re a core principle to how I’ve lived my life – the fact that I can meet amazing people while giving them what want or even need and love is incredible, and I’m truly looking forward to the surprises 2012 has to offer.

2012’s Family Photo

The above image was done more than last minute; it’s kind of late. In December I knew I *should* send out Christmas/Holiday cards to my clients and partners, but I really didn’t feel like being thrown into the mix, so part apathy, part planning, I decided to send out a kick-start card – re-introducing myself, saying my thanks, but doing it at a time that I controlled (only baby Jesus controls Christmas, right?), so my card could stand out and hopefully kick-start a typically slow time of year by reminding folks “I’m here, I’m ready to take your photograph!”

Of course, I needed to poke fun at the tardy nature of the work: maybe it’s because I napped through the holidays? Drank too much? Why does Quinn have a Magnum marker and what’s he going to do with it? And thanks Mel, again, for putting up with my crazy idea which included you pouring water on our brand-new leather couch.

What do you plan on doing over the next few months to build your brand and business?

Finally, you can see a much larger version of this image over on flickr.

One thought on “Ottawa Photographer – My 2012 Extreme Family Photo

  1. Calusarus says:

    Very nice idea and creation !