How many photographer websites do you visit that have an endless list of subjects they claim to photograph? Many photographers think it will help with their Search Engine Optimization, but what is really happening is that they are grouping themselves with all the hundreds of thousands of other photographers that also shoot ALL that stuff. The secret is to be different. To pick something and specialize in that one thing. One perfect example that I came across is talented Mike Allebach of Allebach Photography, also known as the "Tattooed Bride Photographer Guy."
For Mike it all started back in 1998 when he joined a punk rock band and played with them for 4 years including releasing a couple CD's. He enjoyed the punk rock life but over time got married, had three kids and his career choice changed from rock star to photographer. As a photographer Mike noticed that often at weddings people were trying to hide tattoos, airbrush them out in Photoshop or shoot in ways they would not be seen. In a sense they were acting ashamed of the art they wore. Mike realized that many of these brides had tattoos that told stories of their lives but yet were afraid to share them on the biggest day of their life. He set out to change all that and with the help of wedding blogs such as OffBeat Bride and Rock and Roll Bride - he did!
Just as many tattoos have stories behind them, Mike's intent with his photos is all about story telling. "I went through this process to find the WHY behind my business. During that process an image of a campfire popped up. My art, is simply asking people who stand at the edge of the campfire to sit down and tell their story. I hope my photography makes people smile and challenges perceptions," says Mike.
Before his days in the punk rock band Mike got a taste of photography in a multimedia design class at his high school. From there he has learned most of what he knows through a slow organic process of learning owing much of the success to people who have mentored him along the way, website forums with other photographers and blogs that he follows. Mike continues, "Back in 2000, I loved the solid community of photographers on UseFilm.com that encouraged one another. Other places that I have benefited from include Photo.Net and Strobist.com." Mike has also been a leader with the Help Portrait events in Philadelphia each year after being inspired by how Jeremy Cowart was able to shoot such dignified portraits of those homeless at the time. In addition Mike has found many other ways of using his talents to bless the lives of others including shooting photos for Heart Gallery and his latest project called BrandSmash Hero Stories in which he interviews resilient inspiring people around him. His first video of Jaleel King, an amazing wheel chair bound photographer, was a story I featured on Fstoppers a few months back.
"Photography has allowed me to cross paths with lots of people. I feel this overwhelming sense of gratitude. Sure technical knowledge is great but I’d love to see a new breed of photographers obsessed with the power of story. At no time in history have we had the tools to tell such great stories," says Mike.
I am grateful for the opportunity I have had to get to know Mike better and study his outstanding work. It truly is stunning and just tons of fun to look at. The guy has such a huge heart to help others and the way he has marketed himself is an example to all of us. In 2013, don't settle as one of the many photographers that will shoot photos of anything. Instead find what you love and what truly makes you tick, then specialize in that one thing. Dwight L. Moody said it best, "Give me a man who says, 'This one thing I do,' and not, 'These fifty things, I dabble in."
Thank you Mike Allebach for allowing me to pick your brain and share these fantastic images below with Fstopper readers. If you want to see more of Mike's work check out his website / blog / facebook page.