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Meet Sherman Oaks Photographer: Marcus T. Thomas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marcus T. Thomas.

Marcus T., please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My career as a photographer began as a hobby. By day, I was working 45+ hours a week as a marketing coordinator doing product development for an international company, while dabbling in acting at night. I’ve always been a visual artist: drawing, painting, sculpting, etc… but I went through a period of time where my creative passions, outside of bit roles, were set aside. I was growing bored with the a-typical, mundane marketing materials I was asked to create at work. Thankfully, a friend at the time was giving away an old Minolta 35mm film camera and asked if I would care to have it. I leaped at the opportunity to try another art form and began photographing all kinds of things in my spare time. It wasn’t until I started taking pictures of friends, and hearing they were booking work from them, that I realized I honestly had an eye for photography. And the lightbulb went off.

I decided to read various publication on photography and practice techniques with willing subjects to sharpen my skills. I believe my artistic and marketing background coupled with the fact that I am a working actor, as well, allowed me to get out ahead of the typical learning curve. Before long my name began circulating and I caught the attention of a reputable talent rep who saw the potential of my work. She chose to have me do headshots for a majority of her clients, including those of note. Soon thereafter, I heard rumblings of casting directors in workshops choosing my shots as examples of what represents a good headshot. I was on a roll.

I left my day job and decided to go into business for myself and supplemented my income for a while waiting tables. Now, 10 years after I launched Marcus T. Thomas Photography (a.k.a. mttphotography.com), I have a list of clients that continues to grow and several publications, schools, and studios that have enquired about my work. I focus predominantly on headshot and modeling photography but also handle other specialties. I am truly humbled everyday by the fact that I make a living doing the things I love to do, photography and acting. I have always been a social butterfly and love interacting with people to capture what lies beneath the surface. In a photo, the eyes tell all.

Has it been a smooth road?
I would say the road has been a series of heavily trodden paths, yet to be paved. There is no single road that one can easily follow and I think everyone’s route is different. Though photography does not cost nearly as much as it once did when the medium used was mainly film, initial startup costs for equipment can be intimidating for a young guy in his mid-20s. I feel the decrease in some equipment and material costs has also made it cheaper for people to experiment or dabble in the field, thus increasing the amount of competition. Therefore, it can take a little time to build up a reputation and client base. I also learned that the business of portraiture is a very personal one. Meaning, many individuals will not simply shoot with a photographer they do not know.

Referrals, as in most businesses, go a long way. Work can also be quite sporadic and often cyclical. I learned it is imperative to have a flexible schedule in order to be available when opportunities arise. I am driven and I see challenges as a chance for growth.

What are some of the influences that have played the biggest role in your journey so far?
My business really began to take off once my photography caught the attention of savvy talent manager Shar Ross of Ross Stephens Artists & Entertainment. By the request of one of her clients, she met with me to see if I would be able to meet the needs of her talent roster, including those of note. Through her extensive background in the arts, Shar was able to effectively communicate what she was looking for in headshots, including everything from make-up & hair, wardrobe, backgrounds, and expressions. The results of my photos managed to exceed her expectations. I was able to capture her clients in an eye-catching way that was very natural, yet made them pop and helped increase their audition opportunities. This combined with the additional feedback from her clients about the ease and fun of my sessions truly secured our collaborative efforts.

Before long, I started hearing more reports from my clients about the incredible successes they were having with their shots. They were seeing more attention from agents and managers. Casting directors were picking their photos out from stacks collected during workshops as the example of a “good headshot.” Thus, my clients have been delighted because they’ve been receiving more auditions and opportunities for success.

What type of clients or projects do you look forward to most?
Most of my clients fall under the umbrella of headshots: actors, real estate agents, business professionals, etc. However, I also assist with modeling portfolios, publicity shots, product photography, retouching and design marketing materials, including websites. That said… I really enjoy having a person as the physical subject in front of my lens. There are many factors that one should account for in portraiture: personality, mood, grooming, lighting, color palette, wardrobe, location, etc. The ability to produce results given just about any given set of variables is my job. However, it is also my responsibility to capture the essence of what makes each individual unique. And it all starts with the eyes.

I have found more often than you might think people, including actors, are not generally excited about having their picture taken for one reason or another. I am a man who, not unlike most, enjoys a challenge, especially creative ones. As many have quoted, the eyes are the window to the soul. So, it is important that a person is comfortable with their photographer. Otherwise, you can generally read it in their eyes. I am referred to as a social butterfly and repeatedly told I have a very easy-going energy that puts others at ease. Being able to work with my subjects in a relaxed, un-rushed, personalized and organic way allows me to produce images that capture them in a light they have seldom ever seen, or possibly ever noticed, before. It’s in these moments of positive affirmation that I really love what I am fortunate enough to do for a living.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
If I had to start over I think I would have invested in an awesome loft space that had room for a nice studio setup, a comfortable living area, as well as great natural light. Besides being an ongoing trend, this way of consolidating is quite economical.

Pricing:

  • Photography packages starting as low as $150, including retouching.

Contact Info:

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Image Credit:
Photographed:
Ian Calderon
Kalpana Pot
Brian Haugen
Symba Smith
Steven D. Snyder
J.Jae Choi
Charnice Burns
Nicole Starrett

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