Part One: Mike Fulton, TriCoast Photography – Houston/Worldwide

25 08 2007

If you’ve never met Mike Fulton face to face or had the pleasure of bumping into him on a photography forum, there are definitely a few things you should know about him. Mike is one of the principal photographers of TriCoast Photography but he’s not just any photographer – he’s one of the most accomplished, talented & highly regarded photographers in our field.

He’s also one of those special people that doesn’t do anything by halves and we’re very pleased to be able to feature Mike, not just as a photographer, but as a very generous, friendly and gracious person. When we asked him if we could feature him on Don’t Box Us In, little did we realize we would get such a prompt reply with one of the most in depth & informative contributions we’ve had so far.

Mike uses a wonderful phrase on a regular basis… NO SECRETS. He told us this is the key to his beliefs and the backbone of TriCoast Photography. All you need to do is ask him about a particular subject and if he can help he’ll gladly do so. To quote him from a recent email, he says, “Have I been burned by this? Sure I have, many times, but I have also learned & experienced many amazing things, all of which outweigh the negative aspects. You get out of life what you put into life, surrounding yourself with negative people only keeps you from growing. I truly feel by sharing information and learning from everyone involved, the business of photography will be much better in the long run. There are 1000’s of weddings in the United States alone every weekend, we can only shoot one!!” Mike is a man true to his word and you’ll find there are “No Secrets” in his interview or the images he provided us with.

TriCoast Photography’s other principal photographer is Cody Clinton and together, he & Mike, have become world reknowned editorial fashion wedding photographers with a very different approach to their work. They have photographed events in United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Mexico, as well as other countries, and their work has been seen in such notable magazines such as Rangefinder, Professional Photographer, Shutterbug and Studio Photography.

Mike Fulton and Cody Clinton, TriCoast Photography

Mike started in the high fashion and glamour field and soon found his work being published in many publications ranging from art magazines to calendars. He finally found his true passion in the art of wedding photography. Bringing his love for fashion and glamour styles with him, Mike uses his knowledge and artistic eye to blend these Editorial Fashion styles with the beauty of the wedding day. Mike is an instructor for Photography Allstars, a high quality one on one mentoring website as well as one of the instructors on his own workshop which specializes in wireless flash and video light techniques and has a very successful products line, Finding Color which enhance the daily lives of the normal photographers. TriCoast also just recently had the honor of being the only wedding photographers in the United States to be included in a new educational book called Mastering Digital Wedding Photography by James Carney which is now being sold at Amazon.com and many other online and storefront bookstores.

With all the information Mike kindly provided us, we found it impossible to whittle it all down so we’re dividing it into three sections and sharing everything with Don’t Box Us In’s readers as we’re sure you’ll find it as educational as we did. In this first part, we’ll feature Mike’s interview below & some of TriCoast Photography’s images and, in a few days time, part two will consist of some interesting behind the scenes images of TriCoast’s lighting set-ups & in the final part we’ll showcase some of TriCoast’s before and after images, for which they are well known. We’d like to thank Mike for sharing his extensive knowledge & images and for taking the time to put this information together for us.

How do you keep yourself motivated & your photography fresh?
For us, TriCoast, the key to keep ourselves motivated and unique is to simply do what we want and feel is right. At every session we push ourselves to create something we have not done before. This can be as simple as a different flash angle or camera point of view or more outside the box using multi-wireless flash units or other techniques. While sometimes these experimental captures do not work we study them afterwards and keep shooting the basic idea until we get what we want. Many of the TriCoast standard shots we capture in our sessions today started off by this method. Also since we already capture the needed shots during our session, our clients will never know we are experimenting while shooting their session.

What (or who) has inspired, & continues to inspire, your work?
Honestly I do not get inspired by looking at wedding photography, I shoot this subject every week and I simply do not want to look at things that I work in. Inspirations come to me by so many places, for photography it would be fashion work, especially since that is one area I started out in many years ago in the studio. Nature is a big one for me be it fishing, hiking, camping or just sitting in my backyard. Several lost friends which I have met throughout my life, who had a passion for this amazing art form. Teaching and sharing with other photographers who truly care about the ethics and love for photography. However, my greatest inspiration is hands down my daughter, Meghan, who truly showed me what life was all about. Her smile and simple outlook on life always brings me back to just being a daddy which is what I truly love being.

What do you say or do to put your clients at ease in front of the camera?
Well I think TriCoast is unique, it’s a two man team 100% of the time. We each have our part of the business we excel in. For me it is post processing, business end of things, for Cody it is client relationships and building them. So normally Cody is the one that contacts the client, sets up the sessions, etc. So when our sessions start we have the clients always look at Cody as the “main” photographer. The clients already have a bond with Cody so it sets them at ease a little more to begin with. I usually roam in the background finding the off angle shots and checking out how the light falls on the subjects. As the session continues and the client relaxes we might switch off main and background shooter and we are always interacting with our clients with jokes or other aspects to make them relax and laugh. As one of us talks the other is always ready with the camera to capture the natural smiles and laughter which always makes the images stronger. Also I feel most of our clients are already at ease when we start the session by our personal connection we create with them. We turn away more clients than we accept and those who do work with us, simply “get” TriCoast so it makes the events go by much easier and more fun!

What advice do you have for other photographers?
Be true to yourself. Take advice from anyone but always be true to yourself and trust your “gut” feeling. Be ethical in this business, too many photographers are not, I can think of many right now as I type this, and they cut-throat other photographers to make a name for themselves. Finally learn light and shadows! In today’s age of digital photography we have so much more control over our final output giving us our unique style and look. However too many photographers simply do not understand light and how it works with shadows on our subjects. When working with people we need to have shadows in our work, without those shadows, our work is simply flat boring lighting. Due to this, it seems photographers love to take a snapshot of a client with horrible lighting then do a fancy processing to it, mostly cross processing now-days, and make it a decent image. Of course this will make money and is not a bad thing, but if you want to take your work to the next level learn how to apply light and shadows to your subject and then process those images with those fancy processing skills and you will find your work will truly stand out above the rest of the digital photographers in your area.

How important is the post-processing stage in your images? Please show us some before and after images.
As stated above I think post-processing is a very important stage in your work, especially in the wedding world where the lighting and subject you shoot is always changing. I feel in studio where lighting is more controlled one can shoot and show without much processing if one knows what they are doing. Of course there is nothing wrong with that method, but that is not the TriCoast way. We shoot with processing already in our minds. Many times I know how I want to process an image before I even click the shutter. I feel it is truly a “marriage” between how we shoot, the format we capture it in (RAW) and the processing which I apply afterwards.

Take this image below. A very traditional location, the Biltmore Hotel outside of Miami, Florida, which we wanted to capture some moments that did “not box us in”. So we shot it very underexposed to make sure all the whites were not blown out, which we can do by understanding how much we can bring up an underexposed image. This information allows us more freedom in shooting and gives us more options in processing. I simply brought up the exposure, upped the colors and a few other details. Now this image is one of the main images Miller’s Lab uses in their national print ads and other events.

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

The next “before and after” images below shows how we use the color which is already there to intensify the contrast which adds to the overall image. TriCoast LOVES color, even our Black and White and Sepia tones in our action set has colors mixed into the tones, which truly gives me complete control over our work. I feel when color is there embrace it and make the image stand out above all the others you see.

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

Show us a photograph by another photographer that you would have liked to have taken & tell us why!

Image by Lithium Picnic, A.K.A. – Philip Warner
A Houston based photographer, super amazing person and one of the most amazing photographers I have ever seen in understanding light and more importantly shadows. While his work is very unique and border line on many sexual subjects one can not get away from his amazing understanding of this art form. Mixed in with his wife/model that is in this image as well as the incredible hair and makeup artists he works with, Philip truly understands how a simple portrait can truly take a life of its own when done correctly. Philip simply makes me jealous of his amazing talent, vision and art!

Below are a selection of TriCoast’s images…We’ll be posting more from Mike very soon PLUS we hope to be able to make a very exciting announcement about TriCoast Photography by the end of three posts!

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

TriCoast Photography

Website: TriCoast Photography
Blog: TriCoast Photography Blog
Seniors: TriCoast Seniors
Education: Photography All Stars
Products/Seminars: Finding Color

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5 responses

25 08 2007
Suzy Roberts

Awww! YAY!!! I’m so proud of you!!! 🙂 Can’t wait to see parts’ two and three!!!

26 08 2007
David Akesson

Fabulous that you’ve taken up the opportunity to speak on “Don’t Box Us In” Mike. I’m a big fan of the inspiration and challenge that your work puts out to people like myself. It’s great. It’s creative. It surely must be bringing in new clients as the current ones show off their incredible photoart results.
DavidA

26 08 2007
Chris Stewart

Man Mike. You are totally a inspiration to watch and see. Your photos are just so good. I love your PP as well. Very Unique!!! Love it!!

26 08 2007
markeric

Mike is so genuine, and a huge asset to the wedding photography industry. Thanks for allowing us to feature you Mike, and thanks for the very informative interview.

26 08 2007
Laurie Terry

Mike, you’re my idol! Your work shown here is absolutely stunning and your willingness to share your talent with others in your field is truly remarkable. You have honestly set in motion this great trend for glamour photography in the wedding industry and all of us in this field thank you for being an “out of the box” kind of guy and honorable teacher. May your success and style continue to evolve and inspire.

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