Although you might think a busy commercial photographer like Doug Levy would have nothing in common with a bunch of of microbrewers, you’d be wrong. The New Englander shares a number of similarities with the people he shoots for Northshore Magazine, including the men who run Channel Marker Brewing in Beverly, MA.
As a small business owner myself, I’m always interested in digging into the process of how founders brought their idea to life.
It almost seems like every [few] months I’m at another new local brewery for [Northshore]. It’s really enjoyable to see this niche continue to grow and the community continuing to support local brewers. It’s not unusual to spend our time talking about business ownership as much as the photographs or the beer.
Doug has been collaborating with Northshore since 2013 and has done more than 50 jobs for the magazine over the past three years. He first connected with the publication’s Creative Director, Ryan Jolley, through a college friend who was then Northshore’s editor.
Ryan’s a fantastic collaborator. [He is] always open to ideas on how we can present a story in a unique way that maybe we haven’t previously, all the while staying consistent to what Northshore is, a sophisticated lifestyle magazine covering the area north of Boston.
Since Doug and Ryan have been teaming up for years, the pair knows exactly how to tackle a project like this.
I’ve worked with Ryan for so long (and done probably half-a-dozen beer shoots), [that] we’re pretty dialed in on what we’re looking for on these. Once in a while we’ll throw some visuals back and forth, which really just sounds like, ‘Maybe something like this, but with xyz a little different?’
Channel Marker Brewery just opened its first taproom this year (more are on the way), hence the Northshore piece. The company was established by three hometown friends — Tim Corcoran, Justin Negrotti, and Jake Crandell — and specializes in “hazy, juicy, New England-style IPAs.” The shoot took place at the taproom this past January, during which time Doug realized the founders were establishing their business while also working elsewhere.
When I’m meeting these folks, it’s an exciting time. Months — or often years — of work and dreams are now in living color for them, as well as all the pressures and troubles that come with that. It’s been a long road for [Tim, Justin, and Jake], who have been in the process of building out their brewery for [more than] a year while navigating the red tape of obtaining all the requisite liquor licenses.
We wanted to show off their just-finished new space as a new local hot spot and highlight some of their unique micro brews.
The setup for this project featured some hoops to jump through — hoops that may have rattled a less-experienced photographer. Since Doug is a veteran at producing quality work in short order, he knows the drill and always manages to get what he needs in the allotted time.
It’s my job to ask smart questions (How much time can we have to setup? Do we need to location scout? Do we have control over the light that is available?), so that when it’s go-time we’re able to make the best use of our client’s (often limited) availability.
The scheduling [for Channel Marker] was a little tight, as it’s not unusual for me to have less than a week to execute for Northshore. Throw in that these guys were all still working other jobs at the time, and that was a bit tricky. We ended up shooting from 7:30-9 p.m. That made the light 100% artificial, but that’s fairly typical for me.
I typically go into shoots with the thought process that if the available light is great, we’ll start with that. But more often than not, I find myself working in less-than-gorgeous environments or times of day. I need my clients to know that regardless of the room they put us in, or when they ask us to shoot, my team and I are there making gorgeous photos.
One thing Doug has noticed about this industry is the sense of camaraderie amongst the brewers. Americans are increasingly in search of unique, flavorful beers, which has created more opportunities for aspiring brewmasters to both experiment and expand their businesses. As a result, there’s plenty of market to share.
I think it’s a fun business for folks to be in. As the market has grown, home brewers and hobbyists are seeing opportunity to take their hobby to the next level. I think the best part is seeing the overall attitude of the folks brewing. You’d think there’d be a natural tendency for competitiveness, but with all the growth, everyone I’ve photographed has a ‘more the merrier’ attitude toward small brewers popping up. I think they realize it’s not a zero-sum game and there’s room in customers’ fridges for many beers.
This line of work also provides Doug a chance to form a bond with these fellow small business owners, meaning the Bostonian is helping these companies in more ways than one.
I’ve been doing this for ten years this September and, even as a business of one, I’ve been through a lot of similar growth and startup issues [to those of] other small business owners. For example, I’ve referred a few folks to my accountant who works with a lot of photographers and small business. Business in general is just something I’ve always been interested in, so it’s often a good icebreaker while photographing people. You never know when you’re going to pick up a tidbit — or pass one along — that can be helpful.
See more of Doug’s work at douglaslevy.com.
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