Chad Burdette Interviews with LTSC
When it comes down to being one of the best automotive photographers in Atlanta, Chad Burdette (Chadbee Photography) has got that covered. Seriously, just google automotive photographer in Atlanta and you’ll see him right there. So, it was only right that we interview him since he’s a local.
This interview is different because it was an in-person interview but don’t worry, we typed it all out for you. Still, it is the longest interview we have on here, but definitely worth the read!
Here is the interview with Chad from Chadbee Photography.
1. How do you feel about Sony?
I’ve got no problem with Sony but I’ve never thought about switching to them. I know a lot of people that switched to Sony but most of them switched. It’s a great camera but I do a lot of motorsports photography as well and it just doesn’t work for that. Just the way the settings are setup on it, the way it feels in your hands when shooting and also, having to have an adapter to use my lenses on the Sony body. The auto-focus is not as quick as I want it to be. If a car is going past me at 100 mph, I need to be able to auto-focus on the car. If you are just a studio photographer then it’s a great camera. I get the same sensor with my Nikon D800 but worse auto-focus with an interesting body that doesn’t fit my hands. It’s just very boxy.
2. How did you start getting your paid gigs?
I think most of the major gigs probably came because I was already established here in Atlanta as automotive/transportation style photographer. Up until about 2 years ago, I was a full time professional photographer, working for Forged and doing photography on the side as well. I think the big shoots started coming probably 2 years ago when a lot of major corporations started moving to Atlanta. Huge corporations started to move here like Yamaha USA, Volkswagen USA is here, Mercedes Benz is here so I guess I try to focus on landing clients like that rather than doing photoshoots for a dude paying me 100 bucks to take photos of his car, which there is nothing wrong with that, but it’s not something that I go after anymore. The guys that have money to pay somebody 500 bucks to shoot their car already have 15 people that are like “Please let me take a photo of your car for free!” While my work may be way better than theirs, it’s hard for them to justify spending 500 bucks for a photoshoot when they can get it for free, which is understandable. But when you are dealing with really large corporations, even if you are a great photographer, you have to have the business sense and you have to understand how certain things work and are able to get shit done. I work with companies like that and they expect things where you’re just like “Are you serious? That is chaos.”
3. When did you have your first paid shoot?
I shot my buddy’s blue Evo. He paid me $50 to take photos of his car. I was very excited back then. I was like “Yeah! Hell Yeah.”
4. How long does it usually take you to deliver the photos?
It depends on the shoot. If I shoot for an auction house they are pretty basic photos, so I’ll deliver the photos within 24 hours. But if I do a shoot for an important company and I need to deliver 20-30 high quality photos it will take me probably 3 days.
5. Do you use Lightroom and Photoshop?
You know, it’s weird but I don’t use Lightroom at all. A lot of people say I should but I think my post-processing is so drastic that Lightroom won’t allow me to do all that. I usually end up with 30 layers. If you are a wedding photographer it looks fantastic so why would you not use it? But personally for my type of photography, I don’t use it. A lot of people do use it and like it. I’ve tried to do that before because people told me ”Hey, you should do that!” and it’s not bad but it’s not for me. I make my initial adjustments in Camera Raw, then pull it in Photoshop and just go for there. I think I look at pictures different than a lot of people. I don’t look at it like “Hey, I’m editing this entire photo.” I edit sections of the photo; I edit the front wheel then I edit the brake caliper, the windshield, the building, the background, then the sky. Piece by piece, like a puzzle.
6. How long have you been using Photoshop?
Pretty much since I started doing photography. 7-8 years ago.
7. Do you use a rig for your rolling shots?
To be honest, I think I was the first person in Georgia to use a rig. It was before rigs existed, before anybody made a kit. It was funny. The first time I heard about rigs, people didn’t know that rigs existed. They were wondering how those pictures were taken. Even in the photography community it wasn’t a common thing. When I came here I threw my rig away because I just don’t use it anymore.
8. What is your favorite shoot that you’ve done so far?
I did a shoot for a company called Velocity Motorsports, they offer a supercar experience. One day, the Atlanta Motorsports Park track was completely shut down and they told me that I could come up and do the shots for their website. So I showed up at 10 am and I had a C7 Z06, a McLaren 12C, a Ferrari 458, a Ferrari 430 Scuderia, a Porsche 911 Carrera S, an R35 GTR, a regular 430, and a Lamborghini Gallardo. I had 8 cars, the keys for them, a completely empty racetrack, and my camera gear. It had to be done by that afternoon. I moved the cars from corner to corner to shoot very quickly! That was my favorite shoot.
9. If you had to go back and redo a shoot which one would it be?
I shot a 458 Speciale at Auto Week during Petit La Mans. I would love to go back and reshoot that car because it’s one of my favorite cars I’ve ever driven. In my opinion I think that it’s the ideal sports car. The shoot wasn’t bad but it was a really shitty situation. It was raining, it was extremely cold and I only had the car for 30 minutes. It was a get it and go situation. I still got some great shots but if given the right situation and more time, I would really love to shoot another Speciale.
10. Would you say all those companies reached out to you?
For the most part, yeah. I mean when I first started 7 years ago, I didn’t think I could make a living taking photos of cars. But just because Atlanta is what it is today. I mean, there are a lot of major companies here. I think that I was lucky enough to establish myself and build a portfolio in the earlier days. When the corporate of Atlanta started growing I was already established and I was already in a situation where I could take care of their needs. There are other photographers that are in Atlanta that are great but a company like that needs a photographer that they can choose on a Tuesday at 11 am, where a lot of guys are at school or have full-time jobs. I think the way I managed that was because my schedule was flexible. Being the media guy at Forged I could take off at 11 am and go to the shoot. Also making a lot of contacts, especially in road racing, I work with a lot of different organizations. I was able to make those contacts through me being at the racetrack.
11. Do you have any major deals coming up?
Actually I have pretty weird shoot, not automotive related at all. I have a shoot next week for a friend of mine. His wife has a TV show on TLC called “Say Yes to The Dress”. So I have to go do that. It’s not my normal thing but it’s photography and it pays the bills. Then I’m going to Talladega for the time attack and drift event. Then I have a shoot this month as well, for Super Street Magazine.
12. What lens do you use more often?
My Nikon 24-70mm lens. It’s such good lens. It blows my mind. There are times when I’ll take a picture of a car directly into the sun and when I get home and I pull it into Photoshop, I’m like “How? I shot it into the sun. Like how do I have that much detail?!”
13. Do you have more than one body?
I have my D800. I used to have a D7000 but I sold it to a friend about 3 months ago so right now my D800 is my only body, but I’m waiting for the Nikon to update from D800. Within the next year they said that they will come up with a replacement for the D800 so I’m gonna buy it and keep the D800 as my backup.
14. How did you come up with your prices?
For a personal photoshoot I charge $300. To be honest, after scouting for locations and the actual shoot and editing I get paid like $10/hour. But the thing is that you can’t tell somebody I want $1,000 for a shoot. People are not gonna do it. I have two packages. I charge $300 for a personal shoot with web resolution 2000 pixels wide or if you want all the photos not watermarked I charge $500. I found out that that is the max price I can push. Anything more than that people will just be like “there’s no way”. I do maybe 3 to 5 personal shoots per year so that’s not the market I want to be in.
15. Do you enjoy shooting the car or editing it more?
I like both. I guess it depends. If we are shooting today I like editing more, because it’s cold outside, for example. But I like both, especially when you are in a situation when you get to drive those cars. It really depends on the situation.
16. You started off taking pictures of cars, right?
Yeah. But I’ve shot a couple of weddings and stuff like that. Especially when I first went freelance I shot 5 or 6 weddings and pretty much every kind of photography like family portraits. Now I’ve gotten to the point where I shoot pretty much only cars.
17. What was the best tip that you have received?
Probably to focus more on shoots for large companies rather than personal shoots, to try and get into more commercial photography. It’s more challenging. Pretty much anyone can take the right photo of a 2016 Aventador. I like to think my shots of that car are better that anyone else’s. It’s easy to do. But if you shoot a stock SUV it has to look interesting. It’s a challenge but this allows me to make a living taking photos of cars.
18. If you could choose one automotive photographer to shadow for a day, who would it be?
It has to be Easton Chang. He’s THE legend.
19. What’s the one thing that can make or break a shot?
Out of focus. If it’s not in focus, the picture doesn’t make sense anymore.
20. Do you shoot with natural light or do you bring artificial ones also?
It depends on the shoot. When I did a shoot for AVS, we had to shoot 30 photos and all those 30 photos had to have a different background. So I can’t set up all that lighting equipment, snap one shot, pack it all up and then run to another location. There were times when we would pull up on a bridge, here in Atlanta, and I would jump out and take a picture quickly and we were literally stopping on a public bridge. It just depends on the project.
21. Do you use circular polarizers?
Oh yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever left my B+W at home.
22. What do you think is the most efficient way to market yourself?
I think it’s just about producing high quality work, making connections and being out there. If I weren’t a photographer I would still be around those people all the time. People always want to do business with someone they like and also someone that does high quality work. People are still asking me all the time if I want to be their wedding photographer and I refuse. I mean, I can shoot weddings but I despise it. It’s so much pressure. You can come right here and have me shoot your Aventador and I can totally mess up and we can just reshoot it. But it’s not the same case with a wedding. It’s a very stressful situation for everyone. I like that I kind of got to a point where I can just get there, take the car and do what I gotta do and come back like when I did the shoot for Mercedes. They were city shoots so I had a buddy with me and we shot it around here then went to North Georgia around the mountains and cabins. And we got it back the next day and the guy was happy. It’s like get me my subject, let me do what I gotta do, I’ll bring it back to you, you will be happy, everything will be great. With weddings, you try to do your job and there are so many things that could go wrong. You can’t control the lighting, you can’t control the people in the background, you can’t control anything besides the settings on your camera.
THAT’S ALL FOLKS
Well, there you have it, that concludes our interview with Chad. If you enjoyed this interview, I have some really good news for you.
Since this interview was our first recorded interview, we thought it would be a great idea to start a podcast and this interview will be the first one we post. Unfortunately, you will have to wait a couple months before the podcast is released since we already have our hands full with everything else on here.