Connecticut Headshots Founder Seshu Badrinath fell in love with photography when he was in college studying in Japan and a friend gave him a camera. Since then, he’s propelled his journalism background into a thriving headshot photography and personal brand photography business serving small business owners and career-focused executives.
NAN PRICE: Give us a little background. How did you decide to start a photography business here in Connecticut?
SESHU BADRINATH: When I finished studying in Japan, I returned to the states and earned my Master of Arts in Journalism from Indiana University. I specialized in photojournalism because my goal was to continue telling people’s stories through photography.
I never really thought I would go into a business as such; I thought I would just be a photojournalist working for newspapers or magazines. I interned with places like News & Observer in Raleigh, NC and I’ve worked with MSNBC.com.
My wife and I met in Boston. At the end of 2002, I was freelancing as a photojournalist and she was finishing up her residency at the University of Connecticut. We ended up moving to Connecticut and I started working at ESPN, where I was a photo editor for five years.
Around that time, a friend of mine asked me to photograph a wedding. That’s where my wedding photography business started. That segued into working for prep schools in the area, including Avon Old Farms School and Westminster School, which are still two of my clients.
In 2009, I attended a photo workshop to learn more about lighting. At that point, I needed folks to photograph, so I put the word out through Twitter letting people know I had 20 spots open for free headshots. I had 18 people show up and that helped me launch Connecticut Headshots. I photographed them for free, gave them the photographs, and they used them online, which promoted my business.
Slowly, as I learned the craft and the business end of things, people started to sign up for sessions through my website. When I created the website, I had no idea how useful the words, “Connecticut” and “headshots” would be in the domain name. Sure enough, that’s how most of my clients find me through a Google search.
NAN: You have a background in photojournalism. How did you learn how to run a business?
SESHU: To be honest, I’m still learning. Journalism school and working as a photojournalist don’t teach you to be a business owner.
NAN: Have you mostly learned by trial and error?
SESHU: Mostly error. I’ve made a lot of stupid, sometimes painful mistakes. There are mistakes you wish you’d never repeat and you sometimes have to repeat to learn to do things correctly.
Certain things about the business I simply had to spend more time learning how to do. It’s been a slow process. So, in addition to photography workshops, I’ve taken some workshops to help learn the business side of things: How do you price things? How do you market? How do you bring in sales?
I also listen to podcasts by business leaders. Everything I’m learning isn’t always being implemented, obviously. If I implement one thing one day, the next day something new may be implemented.
I was recently learning about the importance of messaging. Especially with photographers, you can’t just display beautiful pictures and expect that clients will come. There are millions of beautiful pictures out there. You have to be able to convey that you’re the person who can provide what your clients need. So, copywriting is what I’m focusing on next—being able to convey my ideas in a clear and consistent manner.
NAN: Any advice for others?
SESHU: Get involved with networking groups like your local chamber of commerce or Business Network International (BNI). They provide great opportunities to connect with local business owners.
The other thing I would say is be present. Be available for nonprofits, if you can. For example, I occasionally work with folks like Gifts of Love by photographing their staff and board members and some events. It goes a long way.
I think being present in the community is important. Start off by understanding your community and then serving them as best as you can and then continue growing from there.
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Seshu’s headshot courtesy Peter Hurley.
Seshu working behind the scenes at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. Photo courtesy Stacie Beard, Musical Theater Department Head.