I’m Chris Colvin, Photographer and Art Director based in Chicago.
When did you pick up a camera the first time? And when did you realize you were going to do this for the rest of your life?
I first picked up a camera when I was about 14. In high school, there was a requirement for art credits and I only need one year. I ended up graduating with 5 art credits from various Photo classes over the 4 years and knew I wanted to make images.
You have spent some time freelancing for Nike. How was it being able to work with Nike?
Working with Nike was a mind-blowing experience. I was fresh out of college and trying to figure out how I was going to break into Chicago’s photo scene that was blowing up at the time but I also always wanted to work with a huge brand like Nike. One day I just got the idea to tweet Nike Chicago and say “Hire me for photography and design. You won’t regret it.” With my portfolio links below. I got an email from them a few days later than was meeting in the office with them less than a week after the tweet. I learned a lot about the time constraints and how to be more of a quick and focused Creator to get the shots, compose and edit all on a Saturday morning, then wake up and do it again the next day. Working with Nike was fun too because it introduced me to how vast and competitive the photo scene in Chicago is. I remember somebody in a college portfolio class saying that you’d never get a job via social media, yet that’s exactly where you need to be to appeal to brands and promote your work. You never know who checks their mentions and it could be your big break.
Over the years you have been successfully freelancing. What are some good tips for people looking to do some freelancing on the side?
For me personally, it’s been all from connection, a lot of searching and keeping my website updated. Be open to opportunities but know what your time is worth and whether it’s worth your time. Figure out your day rate and hourly rate in advance so you can be as professional as possible when getting to that point in the conversation when it comes to payment.
What is the most difficult part about freelancing?
Trying to make lightning strike twice. It’s a very competitive field based on connections and it’s easy to look at social media and ask “Why am I not doing that?”, but once that’s crossed your mind it’s necessary to take a break from it. Working with brands is exciting because your vision is trusted, just be very grateful for the opportunity and never slack on client work. It can be hard to come by so for longevity build relationships early in a gig so you don’t scramble to network at the end.
Outside of your portraits, it seems like you’ve been shooting a lot with your iPhone lately….
I have! A lot of images in my feed are from commuting back and forth. I can scout locations, take images and put an edit on something and show to a client in a pinch.
I see you spend a lot of time shooting at Garfield Park Conservatory. Is that one of your favorite places to shoot?
I love the conservatory and greenhouses/nurseries around Chicago. My boyfriend is a Horticulturist so we end up doing a lot. I started to learn more about how species of plants grow and the variations that go even deeper. Much of my early work is based on architecture and it still is, however plants and nature have my attention more at the moment because I get to use color in a more interesting way. Some produce flowers that have an otherworldly color or an arrangement of petals and leaves that you just don’t see every day. It’s really refreshing to see something that isn’t man-made, that isn’t symmetrical, that isn’t perfectly crafted.
How much has your graphic design background also enhance your photography? Or, possibly the other way around?
They’ve definitely complimented each other. I’ve gotten more particular about composition in my photography. Mostly manipulating placement and color of objects the way I would design a layout or cover. Sometimes I photograph with room for copy I’ve always loved contrast and images that have a graphic quality, everything from stripes to neon. I’m usually most inspired by cinematography and it’s definitely something I want to get more into soon.