Before the balmy beach air turns crisp and the cameras click during a host of fall and holiday photo studio sessions, we thought we’d shine the spotlight on our resident photographers, The Market Common Photo Studio. Read on in our Q&A, as we go behind the lenses of photographers Hannah Ruth and Crystal Lee, to find out how they started in the industry, why, and what you can expect when you book them to capture your newborn, your family or your Big Day.
Q: How did you both get started in photography and then join together as a business?
Crystal: I never went to college. I started right out of high school at a retail portrait studio at the mall in 2001 to save money for college, but never made it to college. I actually worked in retail for seven years in New York and San Diego, which is kind of like going to college. When I moved here in Myrtle Beach in 2008, there wasn’t another position available for me with the company, so I went out on my own to do weddings for three years.
I was in one of the Live Works offices at The Market Common first in 2012, when I with another studio partner at the time, but that didn’t work out. And here was another photographer here in this space at the time, but I jumped on this as soon as she moved out in 2014 and Hannah joined me in 2015.
I don’t think you really need a full education. You can get a camera and go with it …
Hannah: Well, I got a full education! I moved here from Cape Cod in 2010 as an art major at Coastal Carolina University and quickly started doing it on my own.
I think we work well together because of our different specialties and we can serve more people that way. I do weddings and families and Crystal focuses on weddings and babies.
Crystal: We started as friends on Facebook! Yeah, we both do weddings, but she does families and I don’t. … And we both like tacos!
Q: What’s the most challenging in this industry?
Crystal: I think, business-wise, the challenge is to stand out. That’s why I like our brick and mortar studio because it allows us to do more with sets and stuff because we have all of this space that others don’t. It’s just under 1,300 square feet. I think the way we shoot here helps us to stand out.
Q: What is your process, starting with when a potential client reaches out to you?
Crystal: Everything is by appointment only so we can prep and make the studio warm if I have to beforehand for baby shoots. We ask the basics of when and where and what they’re looking for and we send them our rate info to be up front and then go from there if they’d like to book. I like to have the moms and brides come in beforehand, too, so they know what the session is going to be like here. For my wedding shoots, it’s like 50/50 tourists and locals. And I love working out of The Market Common because I’m originally from New York and this is my Little New York.
Hannah: They’ll email me, and I’ll reply with prices and recommended locations on the beach – the state parks are usually the best for family shoots. Or they can choose to do it here in the studio. It’s about an hour-long session and it takes about a week to get proofs back. I book a lot of tourists in town via our website and social media.
For senior pictures, I don’t go to schools to advertise, like others. I’ll get people vacationing that tell me they’d like their photos taken here rather than locals. I’ll probably get 20 seniors a year and I’m happy with that.
Q: Any trends in photography that you like to follow?
Crystal: Trends come and go. … I’ve been waiting for the burlap and mason jar trend to pass for about three years, but that hasn’t happened. I mean, photographers will have various editing trends they go through, but we’ve been doing it long enough that we have our own method and that’s it, so we don’t need outside trends. I think ‘trendy’ dates the photos.
Q: Anything you think folks should know about either of you or what’s coming up at The Market Common Photo Studio?
Crystal: We do a lot of holiday minis in the studio, and start booking those in the beginning of November.
Hannah: We just like to have fun.
Crystal: Yes! I encourage them to meet us in person. If you’re going to trust someone with your wedding or your family photos or your baby, you need to like them. Then we get to know them and how they pose and interact.