On December 30th, 2008 on top of a lighthouse in Harbour Town - Hilton Head, SC right around sunset, my life changed: I proposed to my girlfriend of five years, Courtney Stone. I spent the two months leading up to the proposal planning it all out - from asking her parent’s permission to ordering the perfect ring to planning a spur of the moment trip to South Carolina. From that moment on after I popped the big question our relationship became that much better. Courtney and I came together to celebrate with friends and family over the next month and then the real fun began: start planning a wedding. Now for most guys, this seems like a daunting task that they want nothing to do with. Of course, things like wedding registry and the late nights putting together menus and seating charts were a bit painstaking to say the least.
Little did I know that apart from the menu tasting at our venue, meeting our photographers Chris and Suzanne LoBue of CLB Photography would be the highlight of the wedding planning festivities (oh yeah, and of course marrying Courtney was fun too!).
I still remember the first time we met Chris and Suzanne in April 2008 at their studio in the basement of their home in Red Bank, NJ. Talk about a start-up (in a good way). When we arrived for our initial appointment, we were pretty much greeted by their two young, beautiful daughters Sophia and Abby. Chris and Suzanne had it down to a science and organized babysitters every time they had an appointment so they would not be distracted from their clients. Somehow they always made it work.
Courtney and I loved the personal touch and were blown away by their studio converted basement. Immediately, Chris and Suzanne connected with us before even showing us any pictures, discussing prices, or talking logistics. It felt like we knew them for years and they genuinely wanted to know about us so they could put together the best creative behind their shots and make sure it was a fit even if we weren’t going to hire them.
Long story short, we did hire them because we loved their dynamic, our comfort level with them, and their picture style really did speak for themselves.
So how does all of this fit into the “How I Found My Niche” series? For starters, CLB Photography has come a long way since 2008 while still keeping their personal touch. They have moved their studio twice and are now settled into the heart of Red Bank, NJ where they have a storefront, full-time staff and a large studio upstairs. They still focus on wedding photography but have added boudoir shoots and B2B photography as well.
How do we know all this? Because Chris and Suzanne were not only our photographers the day of our engagement shoot and wedding - they became part of our circle. Both of them are great at connecting with a variety of personalities but most of all, they are creative and take risks, just like Courtney and I.
Since our wedding in May 2010, the story with them continued on:
1. In August of 2012, I was putting together an in-depth digital media training for my new student marketing team at Rutgers University. When I needed a photographer to conduct a training that would relevant and especially engaging, who did I call? Chris LoBue.
He not only was full of energy and kept ten college students engaged for three hours at the end of summer, he put photography on a level playing field. Whether my students were experienced or have never held a DLSR camera before, Chris kept things simple, while giving of us some of the best advice: “Do whatever it takes to get the shot.” This philosophy has stuck with us helping us capture some of best moments in our department over the last two years. All because of his valuable, down to earth training.
2. When I started the Niche Movement in January 2013, I was racking my brain of people in the tri-state area that found their niche and had a great story. Sure enough it hit me: CLB Photography. When I reached out to Chris and Suzanne, they openly invited me to their studio to let me interview them (part 1 featured below). After hearing more of their story, I really got to know them on a greater level and appreciated how far they had come. They had a vision, took risks, and grew their business all while living out their passion every day.
Prior to CLB Photography, both Chris and Suzanne were on different paths with typical 9-5 jobs that didn’t fuel their creative-side. Sure, for a while they talked about their dreams, then started working on it on the side, and finally they took a leap of faith and have never looked back. That leap of faith has paid off as they have been featured in every wedding magazine in the tri-state area, appeared on Good Morning America, and have worked with many fortune 500 companies.
What they taught me:
As I built our digital marketing team at Rutgers, Chris played a major role in my knowledge and creative ability with a camera. To this day, I try and put myself in the same mindset that Chris and Suzanne use when they are on a shoot. As it relates to finding your niche and entrepreneurship they have taught me to trust your gut. Going out on their own requires a lot of risk, but if you have a passion, strong work ethic, and vision, you can really make a name for yourself.
How they inspired me:
As I reflect over the last few years since I met Chris and Suzanne, they have definitely inspired my creative side and confidence to capture the moment. Whether it is photography or videography, when you are behind the camera, you are in charge and hold the vision on how to capture the moment. Both in my personal and professional life they have taught me to take risks and not deviate from what you value at work.
Sometimes we put our relationships in boxes. I could have easily placed the LoBues in the 'personal relationship' or 'wedding planning' box, paid for our photos and moved on. However, when I meet someone that talented and passionate about their work I am always thinking about how I can connect them with my students or how I can build upon that relationship because I know I will learn a lot from them. Look at those in your life that have found their niche, and figure out new and different ways you can continue to build the relationship and learn from them.