For sixteen years, Virginia natives Jamie Hayes and Mary Fisk-Taylor have been operating their studio in Richmond. Primarily a portrait studio, the biggest misconception they face on a daily basis is the assumption they are married. Their association began when Jamie photographed Mary’s bridal portrait. A professional admiration began, followed by a business partnership. “We have fun with that,” laughs Jamie. “We make people guess.”
After high school, Jamie attended a four month photography course in West Virginia. His real training came during the next six years at a studio in Harrisburg, Virginia. Then he worked an equal length of time at a studio in Richmond before opening his venture with Mary. At forty-five, Jamie’s spent most of his life in photography. He’s been shooting weddings since he was fifteen and portraits since he was eighteen.
Mary’s education is in completely different areas: International Affairs and Political Science. She had such a good experience when Jamie shot her bridal portrait, years later she brought her daughter in for photographs to find Jamie had opened his own studio. The stay-at-home mother was restless, and soon began to work the business end of Jamie’s studio part-time. Things clicked between the two, and within a year she was a full-partner in the business.
For the first two or three years, Mary swore she would never photograph. “Now she’s a brilliant photographer,” says Jamie. “She’s completely self-taught. Now she’s President of PPA Charities for the past four or five years.”
Jamie’s photos are inspired by time-tested art. “My style has always been more on the classical side. I’m formally trained as a portrait artist. I’ve studied lighting, posing and art. All our portrait work is custom designed of each client’s space. We start with photos of a client’s home and design a portrait based around that location.” Hayes and Fisk is a large wall portrait studio.
Mary’s style of shooting is more fun and less formal. To differentiate the two different photographic approaches, they’ve opened Real Life Studios, which specializes in children and senior portraits.
The success this pair of photographers enjoy hasn’t come by chance. Knowing the conservative demographics of their market and addressing them with quality solutions has contributed to their longevity. “We’re in a very traditional market area. Large wall portraits and that classical style is always in style. We match our photography to our market area. If we were in New York or Florida or California it would be totally different. We’ve adapted what we do to what our clients purchase and what’s customary for them to be interested in. Every area has it’s own thing. With so many photographers out there it’s hard to find photographers with a unique and different style. Everything looks the same.”
Another part of their success is classical portraits are, well, classic. “It’s timeless,” says Jamie. “What we do is going to last for decades and generations. The style of everything going on now could be a fad and gone in four or five years—we don’t know. Classical artwork and photography will never go out of style. It’ll come in and out. It may not be the hottest, coolest thing, but it’s definitely something that will stand the test of time.”
Careful to separate the two studios and their divergant styles of shooting, the partners keep the main branding of classical portrait work intact at Hayes & Fisk. Real Life Studios is the R&D center for trying out contemporary trends, bright colors, diverse albums and new approaches.
Both studios shoot Canon cameras, including the 1DS Mark III. Canon lenses and software are also used, and the Sekonic L-358 and the L-758DR are the light meters preferred by Hayes and Fisk. Profoto is their only choice for lights. “Profoto has the largest selection of light modifiers,” says Jamie. “They also have the ability to zoom in and out, focusing the light, as well as the most perfect color balance. We simply set our white blance to 5400 degrees Kelvin, and it’s perfect every time. We use the AcuteB 600 outdoors. I use flash on 99% of our outdoor shoots. This way if we’re shooting both indoors and out, the skintones match consistently. Because of our longterm clients, I need to be able to match skintones from five or ten years ago under different lighting conditions. I need to have a lighting system which I know will be consistent five or ten years from now. Profoto does this.”
Induro is the choice of tripod for both partners. “We use the Induro CT314,” says Jamie. “We do a lot of beach photography, so the rubber rings lock out the sand and moisture. That’s paramount. I’ve used tons of tripods. I used to get one a year that went to the beach and I’d throw it out at the end of every season because the sand got up into it and ruined it. There’s nothing like the strength of the carbon fiber, either. The Induro tripods have been the absolute best.”
“Everything I do is shot on tripod,” says Jamie. “In the old days, you didn’t handhold your RZ. I also shot with 645AFD and digital backs for years. Again, that’s not something you use in your hand. I like to make eye contact with the subject. By maintaining eye contact, I know when to push the button because I know when the shot is perfect. I don’t like to hide behind the camera. I like for the subject to see my face and expressions. I like to know I got the shot, versus looking through the camera lens. I use it all the time. It gives me the ability to see the shape and design of the photograph. It makes you slow down and analyze the shot and composition. Having your peripheral vision unencumbered is important, especially on wide shots, like on the beach. Of course, a good tripod completely eliminates shake, and that saves the entire image. Image stabilization technologies certainly help this problem, but they can’t completely eliminate it, depending on the severity of the shake.”
Another physical reason for a tripod is the weight of large lenses. “We use the Canon EF 28-300mm lens a lot,” explains Jamie. “It’s a monster, and it’s so much easier to use with a tripod. I can give my subject more time instead of fumbling with equipment.”
In addition to the two studios, Hayes and Fisk round out their income with an instructional DVD and lectures. “We’ll be at East Coast School and Texas School this year,” says Jamie. Both partners also write monthly columns for Southern Exposure, the publication of the Southeastern Professional Photographers Association.
With the two partners running two studios specializing in different looks for different clientele, it’s no stretch the Hayes and Fisk team will continue servicing the Richmond area and beyond for years to come. From classical family portraits to trendy senior grad shoots, Jamie Hayes and Mary Fisk-Taylor have all bases covered. If you’re in Richmond, stop by to see how some friendly pros execute a time-tested business model for generations of satisfied customers.