A lot of times, people perceive me as a frail, sweet, innocent commercial photographer who hasn't worked a hard shift in her life. That couldn't be further from the truth. I spend a lot of my time in a very male-dominated industry. I’ve worked long hours on my feet while carrying dozens of pounds of gear. These tough shifts often come with few breaks and little food. Even so, I know that it is worth it. I also know that a little bit of elbow grease can be one of the things that shifts the way consumers see companies, and the way companies see themselves. This perception has a trickle down effect not just to our economy, but also to the people that make it up.
In April 2021, Caliber Collision reached out to me to shoot a large brand campaign; a brand anthem. Their art director, Sam Butz, was looking for a female commercial photographer that could shoot not only automotive scenes, but portraits and lifestyle campaigns too.
This is the story of working for Caliber Collision and Citrus Creative in Dallas, Texas.
Fun fact: Back in college, when I was not sleeping or eating enough and was disoriented quite a bit, I got a couple of scrapes on my car repaired at a Caliber Collision. I can personally attest, as a satisfied customer, that they are fantastic at paint jobs. Now that I said Caliber Collision, you're probably going to start seeing Caliber Collision signs everywhere you drive. That's because they're one of the largest automotive repair brands in the United States.
Aside from being a very satisfied customer, another thing I love about Caliber Collision is that their brand values run deep, and transform the company from the ground up. They are the real deal.
Sam, the art director,really gravitated towards the raw and authentic style of images I've taken. The folks at Caliber were fantastic, but they needed a little bit of convincing. When I heard from the incredible team at Citrus Creative, I immediately knew what I wanted to do for the client. During the bidding and pitching process, I actually went to a Caliber Collision location and said, “Hey, my name is Abigail, I might shoot all of the photos that are going to be on your walls. Do you mind if I take a few pictures?” God bless them, they let me inside to shoot in their auto repair shop
I borrowed a pair of safety glasses and wandered into the back shop, where I noticed the beautiful company culture on full display. There were people laughing, working hard, cracking jokes, and doing a great job with pride on so many cars. You know how you can just feel something when you walk into a place? That's exactly what it was like. I noticed that the workers just felt valued. They felt like their work had purpose and that it mattered.
I fired off about 100 shots in an hour, and put them into a pitch deck to send over to folks at Citrus. They were so impressed that we went from originally doing an overnight shoot without the real employees, to doing a three-day shoot with a mixture of real employees and models, for safety.
This is honestly my jam. Throw me in with a huge crew, or even with a skeleton crew, and I can make it happen. I think what really made a difference to me was that the company was willing to photograph and honor their real employees. For Caliber Collision, authenticity is a brand value.
We shot in Dallas during the hottest week on record in June. We were working alongside their mechanics, who are more acclimated to the heat inside the hot metal barns full of rusty fans and dust. We got to work with so many great mechanics and creatives. I met several passionate guys that just wanted to do a good job, be paid, and go home. They talked to me about their family, why they did what they did, and how they felt valued and loved by this company. There was such an ease to what they were doing, and it made such a huge difference. You can’t always find paid talent to do what people who work in it every day can do effortlessly… real people win.
I think sometimes we think that photos have to look a certain way, or be a certain way. The truth is, these moments can be real and they can be polished. When it comes to working with real people, first you have to make them comfortable. Then, just create just enough polish that they don't feel self-conscious in front of the camera.
The third day was honestly my favorite. I spent most of the afternoon climbing underneath beautiful, greasy, grimy, oily, and dirty undercarriages of cars… Working to capture real moments of young guys that were just happy to be in a photo and get some attention and love. It was exhilarating.
I am so thankful to the people at Caliber Collision and their advertising agency, Citrus Creative in Dallas, for trusting me with their vision, their company, and their photography. Brand values can either be empty words on posters and office walls, or they can run deep like roots into a company and transform it from the ground up. That’s why going a little bit of the extra mile is always something that pays off for me. Whether that means shooting a little bit of extra spec work unasked, or simply spending extra time climbing around under an oily, greasy mechanic shop; it's always always worth it.
I find that I'm willing to put in a little bit of extra elbow grease to show clients what happens when you let go of the reins and simply have fun. The things that are powerful about your company will really begin to shine.