Gabriel Conover is a wedding and elopement photographer based in sunny San Diego, California. He captures fun-loving, honest photos and unique storytelling moments of weddings and elopements.
He's also the owner of Gud Times, a San Diego photo studio & event center focused on cultivating creative community and bringing people together in a comfortable and relaxing environment.
You got your start in photography when you were in high school. When did it stop being just an interest and start being a “I think I want to do this as a career” thing? What are the advantages and disadvantages of starting early?
GABRIEL CONOVER: I did my first wedding when I was 17. I hated it and never wanted to make a living of it. For the next 3 or 4 years, I started working my way up in the ranks at Starbucks and did 4-6 weddings a year for family and friends. I happened upon a wedding in Washington in 2017. A couple saw me editing at a coffee shop in San Diego and asked for my card. I thought it was weird but they ended up reaching out.
One thing lead to another, they booked me, and I was going to Washington. Because they were trusting me to come all the way out there and do a good job, I took it VERY seriously. It was the first time I created a genuine “experience.” And it was then that I realized the only reason I wasn’t passionate about it, was because I had never really tried to take it seriously. The wedding was ridiculously amazing and I was hooked. I quit my job 3 months later and decided to take the risk and go for it.
I ONLY think it is an advantage to start early. The sooner you pursue passion, the better because you can really figure out if you can make a living off of it. And you have more time to get more experience. The only disadvantage would be people not taking you seriously because of your age. But that never happened to me.
Your photography business is focused on wedding + elopement photography. Did you have a broad focus when you first started or have you always focused on a niche? In what ways has your focus refined over time?
GC: I pursued weddings and love from the very beginning. Weddings combine my two passions which are for art and people. It literally is the perfect job for an extroverted artist like me.
Over time, I definitely have gotten more into fashion and unique art. So my style is very different from the playful look it had before. Not that I don’t have a candid style, but I definitely have more of an editorial look now too.
Gabriel Conover's Photography Resource: Gud Times Presets
Gabe created this preset pack to make life easier for photographers and aesthetic lovers. There's a preset for every lighting scenario, all with the goal of making skin tones look gorgeous while keeping a natural film look to the photos. A tutorial video is included—you can watch Gabe edit through a variety of photos of diverse people and backgrounds.
How can you tell if you’re compatible with a prospective client? Do you have a process for disqualifying people who aren’t a fit for budget, style, or other reasons?
GABRIEL CONOVER: I don’t have many rules when it comes to who I will book with. The number one thing is making sure they don’t raise any red flags. For example, will they take advantage of me, will they be hard to leave satisfied, are they kind…nothing crazy.
Outside of that, I just ask that they trust me and hire me for what they see I can do, not what they want me to do.
I LOVE getting to work with a wide variety of unique people because nothing is ever boring! Every wedding is different and everyone photographs different. And that is my favorite thing about the art I get to create.
Your photography is gorgeous, so it makes sense that you’d have a waitlist! How far out do you like to book work?
GC: I will open my books about 18 months in advance. Which still seems crazy to me…but people book me that early so I guess I’m doing something right!
What was it like being a wedding photographer during COVID?
GC: Terrible…so sad…I was angry at California. Not angry that they didn’t want us to put anyone in danger, but angry that we were kind of kicked to the curb. The event industry was hit harder than anyone because our work literally is dependent on large groups of people getting together. So I just wish there was more recognition and support shown towards that community.
Check out the podcast episode "What 2020 Taught Us" from Don't Take This Personally »
You are also the owner of Gud Times Studio and Event Space (so cool!). What inspired you to create that?
GABRIEL CONOVER: I always knew I would become a bit of an entrepreneur, but I didn’t think it would happen this quickly. I was so bored in 2020 cause my job was practically non-existent. I thought, well…I’m never gonna have more time than now to pursue something new. So now is the perfect time 🙂
I saw a need for a nice creative studio in San Diego because I didn’t know of one that was convenient and easy to use. I saw a need and filled it!
Any tips on time management for creatives? What do you do to balance the artistic parts of your job with the business operations parts?
GC: I am definitely a natural businessman. I thrive off of success so a lot of times, the business part of my job is my favorite part. My biggest piece of advice is to have a business process or approach, but know that it is going to be imperfect. Teach yourself how to be ok with not having everything go according to plan all the time, while still trying your best to stick to your daily tasks/schedule. This is actually something I’m really good at and hopefully will be creating a course on soon!
Everyone has million dollar ideas, but very few people actually act on them. No one cares what you are GOING to do. They care about what you are doing!
What does a typical day look like for you?
GC: Typical day is hard…on days I’m not shooting weddings, it looks something like this:
I hang out with my family in the morning for an hour or two and head to my studio around 9 or 10 am. I go through all of my daily tasks (which includes things from editing, to emails, to employee follow up and more). I typically am done around 5 or 6 pm and I head home. Maybe I’ll work out, maybe not, depends haha. Kids are in bed around 7:30 or 8 and Michelle and I will hang out for a bit until we fall asleep. I’m normally up until midnight.
How often do you get new ideas?
coming up with new ideas is a challenge
my brain is always overflowing with new ideas
How hard is it for you to follow through on your ideas and make them happen?
I have to force myself to follow through on things
I love carrying out tasks and completing things
What does your work-life balance look like right now?
I live at work!
I NEVER WORK
I struggle to sit down and get work done.
What’s the #1 thing you recommend outsourcing so that you can focus on the parts of your business that really light you up?
EVERYTHING! Haha! In my line of work, definitely editing because that takes up the bulk of our time. But I believe in outsourcing anything that someone can do at least 70% as good as you can. I will always be in control of all communication and social media because it is so personal. But outside of that, I outsource a little bit of everything.
What’s your favorite non-work thing right now?
Friends Family Wife. I LOVE having fun with my people. And that could look like anything. Michelle and I try to go to new restaurants once every other week. I try to take the kids on dates with just me. I’ll do random stuff with my friends. Just live with other people! That’s my favorite thing to do 🙂 Oh! And go thrift shopping.
CLOSING: Any other thoughts or tips you’d like to share with fellow business owners & entrepreneurs?
JUST DO IT! Haha! Not to quote Nike, but seriously…everyone has million dollar ideas. But very few people actually act on them. I don’t share my ideas unless I’m physically working on getting them out there. Because no one cares what you are GOING to do. They care about what you are doing 🙂
Thank you, Gabe, for being generous with your time and sharing your perspective and advice!
LEARN MORE ABOUT GABRIEL CONOVER PHOTOGRAPHY & GUD TIMES STUDIO
THINGS WE LEARNED ALONG THE WAY:
WISDOM DELIVERED DIRECTLY TO YOUR INBOX
Get tips, perspective, and a look behind the scenes from people who have been there! "Things We Learned Along The Way" brings you monthly interviews with awesome entrepreneurs, dreamers, do-ers, and experts in diverse fields.