Brandon Oda is a landscape and portrait photographer from San Francisco. He has a unique dual skill set as both a photographer and a software engineer. His own custom editing software helps him set his work apart from the crowd. He is a Los Angeles native, and his lifelong love of sunset photography came from playing on the beach as a child. With a combination of landscape and portrait skills, Brandon Oda stands out among today’s young photographers.
Oda attended the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. He was a photography major and began selling his photos while he was still in school. RISD helped him to develop his creative vision and gave him the tools to succeed in the photography business. While he was in art school, he also began work on his editing software.
Oda travels frequently and takes photos for many national magazines. Recently he traveled to Yosemite National Park, where he spent time documenting the natural beauty of the area. He travels with his wife, who supports his photography career. He enjoys taking overnight road trips around California and the surrounding states.
In his portrait business, Oda frequently takes photos of models as well as children and families. He has a unique approach to portraiture, showing each subject in a new way. While landscape photography forms the bulk of his portfolio, he is moving toward portrait photography as a major part of his work.
Brandon Oda is an exciting young talent in the world of photography. His first book will be published later this year. His work is gaining notoriety in the photography world.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
I started my business while I was still in art school. Granted, at the time I didn’t realize I was starting a business, I just sold some pictures to galleries. As my photos became more successful, I had to approach it more like a real business.
How do you make money?
I make money through session fees and prints. I am also commissioned to take photos of specific areas or specific people. When my book is published, I hope to make money through that avenue as well.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
It took quite a while to become profitable. Photography seems like a glamorous job to some people, but in reality, it takes a lot of hard work to get your personal brand off the ground. I worked a second job for a while to make ends meet.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
I doubted myself all the time. It didn’t help that some of the people around me kept cautioning me that art school would never get me anywhere. Gradually, I became more independent and realized that I had to stop listening to the naysayers if I really wanted to succeed.
How did you get your first customer?
My first customer was a gallery in Providence. I was young and naive back then. I just walked off the street with my portfolio and asked to see the owner. To my surprise, he bought three photos.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Instagram is a big part of my marketing strategy. In particular, showing my portrait work on the site brings me organic leads for new business.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
I decided to stop working with one particular client. I’d had difficulties with them for quite some time, but I swept my hard feelings under the rug. Finally, the problems started getting in the way of my other work so I decided to cut ties.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
My creativity and determination have made me successful. I believe that every artist needs to have the drive to make their dreams into a career. Too many people with artistic talent sell themselves short and never share their work with the world.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
My most satisfying moment is when I signed the contract for my book. I’m so excited that I will be on someone’s bookshelf or coffee table. My work in magazines is great, but magazines aren’t permanent in the way that books are.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I hope to build the portrait side of my business. I’ve been inspired to try fashion photography, and I would like to try that this year. Breaking into an entirely new field is daunting, but I’ve done it before with portrait photography.
What business books have inspired you?
I haven’t read that many business books. The one that made the greatest impression on me was Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins. This book inspired me to run my business differently and to take more risks in my art.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
I recently bought a new zoom lens. It’s been fantastic, I should have invested in a better zoom lens years ago.
What is your favorite subject to photograph?
I enjoy portraits, but my first love is landscape photography. I especially love the California sunsets. These have been inspiring me since I was a young boy with my first point-and-shoot camera.