If you're a teenage girl, following Justin Bieber around for six months is probably a dream come true. But Robert Caplin, a 28 year-old full-time freelance photographer based in New York City, was the lucky one who got to do just that as the pop singer's official tour photographer.
Robert, whose photographs are featured in The New York Times, LA Times, National Geographic, Wall Street Journal, and Vanity Fair, is well known for his international documentary work and long list of celebrity portraits. In addition to Justin Bieber, Robert has gotten his lens up close and personal to celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Uma Thurman, Aaron Eckhart, and The Office funny man Rainn Wilson.
Robert didn't start his career photographing famous faces. His interest in photography took off during his teenage years when he would sneak into his high school dark room to experiment with film. While in school, he began taking photos of athletes during baseball and basketball season and when parents started asking him his prices, he learned something very important - he could actually make some money doing this.
But it was Robert's internship with the Los Angeles Times during a summer between his years at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication that introduced him to the world of celebrity portraits. "I started tagging along with other photographers to take pictures of celebrities on their press junkets," said Robert. "I learned how to look for natural light and shadows to produce the best photos and also how to work with celebrities." With the hands-on experience now tucked away in his back pocket, Robert was a shoe-in for upcoming celebrity assignments from his editors.
So what's Robert's favorite celebrity moment? There are many. But Robert likes to recall the time when 30-Rock star Alec Baldwin came to his Manhattan apartment for a private shoot in his back yard. Alec, drenched in sweat (not a photographer's dream), barged in, hopped right on Robert's computer and turned up the music.
Although working with celebrities may come with interesting moments and great exposure, Robert's success as a freelance photographer comes from his unwavering business focus and ability to take advantage of every opportunity to expand his business and meet new people – including the strangers sitting next to him on a plane.
And Robert knows that good marketing and strong relationships are the key to a thriving business. "I really market myself heavily on social media, including my blog, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn," says Robert, who likes to update his social media daily. "After I meet a potential new client, I'm always sure to follow up with them some way through an email, a Facebook message or even a tweet." Robert frequently uses PhotoShelter's social media tools, including Facebook integration and embeddable slideshows to include galleries on his blog.
As a loyal PhotoShelter member since 2005, Robert credits PhotoShelter's tools as critical to his success. "PhotoShelter is without question the backbone to my workflow. The system is so efficient that with the click of button, I can instantly FTP my photos to my clients without any hassle. My clients couldn't be happier with the service."
One of Robert's favorite stories showcasing the power of PhotoShelter came from a recent assignment he shot for the Global Sustainable Electric Partnership where he followed a group of high-level Energy CEOs around New York City, to meetings at the United Nations, and a private, nighttime dinner party on Liberty Island underneath the Statue of Liberty. "Guests came from all over the world and because of PhotoShelter, I was able to deliver photos to all respective companies worldwide before their return home the next day. And one of the best parts is that the gallery was displayed under my branded web interface with watermarks, so all parties knew exactly who took the pictures."
Although Robert's vast repertoire stems from celebrities to corporate clients to urban prints, Robert is looking forward to more time to travel and capture the world around him. Inspired during college by David Alan Harvey's photographs of Cuba, Robert's own trip to Cuba was a turning point that opened him up to the world of international photojournalism. He's now looking forward to taking his camera to Europe and Asia soon. "Every time I travel, I come back enriched and inspired to document more. I want to capture life's beautiful moments as a fly on the wall."
Robert believes that what he's doing today is a statement in history. "It's my hope that one day in the future, people will look back at my photos and say, "Oh, so that's what life was like back then..."