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Meet Brett Drury of Brett Drury Architectural Photography

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brett Drury.

Brett, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I never expected to be a photographer, even though I grew up around it (my mom is a professional wildlife photographer). I went through the architecture program at the U. of Arizona and 3 years after graduation attended an architectural photography workshop. I loved everything about it! Technical, creative, and I could be my own boss. The only issue was my wife and I just had our first son and she quit her job to take care of him. So not the best time to leave my position at the architecture firm I was employed at. But I did so anyway – with a newborn and no income for our young family! But that created huge incentive, and with a lot of late nights and long workweeks, I founded my business and never looked back.

We had another son only 13 months later than our first (family planning… what’s that?) and in 1998 moved to the San Diego area. All my clients were in Arizona at the time, so I’d put together shoot trips and fly back for them at the same time I was building my Southern California clientele. During that time, our daughter showed up unexpectedly (how does this keep happening?!?)

Now, almost twenty years later, I shoot projects all over North America and abroad for clients that range from sole proprietors to Fortune 500 companies. It’s the best job in the world. But how do I tell my kids it’s a great idea to quit the security of a regular paycheck and start a business from scratch, just as your firstborn arrives? Seems like bad fatherly advice, but it was the best decision I ever made!

Has it been a smooth road? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Everything I just mentioned. Along with the ups and downs of income that invariably happen for an entrepreneur starting out. I do remember, though, the first great month I had a few years into my business when I made more money than I made in an entire year from the job I left – that felt good!

Other challenges as a professional photographer: Educating the client that creating an image is not the same as clicking a shutter. Or creating a great image is the same as having an expensive camera. Michelangelo didn’t create the Sistine Chapel mural because he had a fine set of brushes. But everyone has a camera and photography is more accessible than ever, so this is an uphill battle for the professional working today. I’m often shocked at the low level of image quality companies use to represent what they do, and it hurts them more than they know. I speak at conventions internationally about architectural photography and marketing, and the first thing I say is, “You may do great work, but over 90% of your future customers are not going to see it directly, but rather a representation of it – almost always a photograph”. That gets them thinking.

You’d think balancing business ownership and family life might be a challenge, but I’ve found it actually gives me more freedom, as I am completely in charge of my life’s schedule. It does take a lot of self-discipline, however, and isn’t for everyone.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Brett Drury Architectural Photography – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I specialize exclusively in architectural photography. This may seem limiting, but in fact it encompasses the entire built environment and there are a lot of entities needing to show off their work in this area. Most of my clients are building product manufacturers, architects, interior designers and contractors. But I shoot for REIT’s, engineers, developers, building owners, ad agencies, etc. as well. I even shoot for companies whose products are behind the scenes and not visible in the photograph! But they actually have as much “ownership” of the project as anyone else, since without their part, the building could come crumbling down.

I also work differently from most architectural photographers. Over the years I have built up a nice client base, and many of these companies have projects across the nation or the world. I keep them apprised of my travel schedule throughout the year, which allows them to have projects photographed when I am in a city for another client – thus saving travel expenses. They love this, because it opens up projects to be shot that they might not have the travel budget for, and it helps them commit to a shoot since there are specific dates we’ll be in the area. Procrastination is one of the biggest challenges for the marketing managers we work with, and our travel schedule helps solve this dilemma.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I was born in Missouri, moved to Colorado at 14, Arizona at 21, then San Diego at 33. I joke with my wife that I’ve only moved west, so we have to retire either here, Hawaii, or Alaska since evidently I can’t go east!

California has its challenges, but I firmly feel that San Diego is a jewel, and preserves aspects of our country that are important to me. We live in a semi-rural area near Lake Hodges, with giant Torrey Pines on our property. Being able to watch the egrets fly over our house during sunset, and hear the great horned owls hooting while the breeze blows through the pines allows me to hold my connection to the natural environment while living so near a world class city.

I’ve also found that San Diego is a magnet for transplants from other parts of the U.S., and that makes for a fascinating mix of people and ideas. There’s a great entrepreneurial spirit in the community, which I think will only strengthen and bodes well for the future of the city.

What do I like least? Hmmm… not much. Sometimes the traffic, but that’s gotten better since we arrived. My complaints have more to do with some of the crazy things that happen in L.A. or San Francisco. I sometimes mention to my friends that I live in “Sane Diego”.

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Image Credit:
Brett Drury

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