Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Abi Stroud. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Abi, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. What’s the backstory behind how you came up with the idea for your business?
My journey started with cosplay and costume design back in 2015, I was attending 1 to 2 conventions with friends each year. Nothing too excessive, just getting together and dressing up. I had a starter HD camera at the time and was constantly requested to take pictures for said friends. I enjoyed photography enough to start advertising myself and going to over 10 different conventions throughout the next year. As my photography portfolio grew, so did my hunger for creative content. Convention halls have never been known for their beauty or diversity. Knowing this, I started playing with light equipment to improve the hallways, giving my clients more of an environment that fit their specific cosplays. This did solve part of the problem. The finished product was magical, but the experience to get there was not. I wanted to give my clients and friends an experience that matched the amount of effort that they put into their cosplays, not just pretty pictures. I wanted to build environments. I wanted my clients to immediately feel as though they had been transported into a new realm. Thus, began the construction of CandiiLand! I started with a Christmas Candy Wonderland in my home studio and invited friends and clients to enjoy the space, by both taking selfies and professional photos. I started building new sets every month for almost 2 years, but it just wasn’t enough. Although having the sets in my home studio was magical and convenient; my friends were still getting dingy hallway shots at conventions. After a few months of research and building, my Candii Team and I started taking CandiiLand to cons. Although we are still working out all the kinks, the amount of support and love we have received from the cosplay community makes us feel we are on the right track!
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
I am a content creator that started my business in photography. I wanted to create an environment that felt safe and fun for clients. At the time that I began getting serious about photography as a career, I had noticed that most photographers in my field were older males. Nothing against it, except that I would hear clients complaining about feeling uncomfortable while shooting content with certain men. Seeing this unease, I pushed my brand further and took on more sessions. I went out of my way to give clients more control. Sometimes that meant I would build a mini set in a hotel for privacy or that clients were allowed to bring their partners for stability. As a female, I understood the concern and wanted to make it my priority that clients felt safe during any session. That became the foundation that I used for bringing my sets to life. I learned that photography was not just about the finished product, it was also about the experience. If the experience is awful, that finished product will always leave a bad taste in the client’s mouth no matter how pretty the photo is. It is, in my professional opinion, 80% environment and experience and 20% talent and equipment. Anyone can buy a camera and look up how to use it, but it takes a particular eye for aesthetic and dedication to form an everlasting connection with a client.
Let’s talk about resilience next – do you have a story you can share with us?
There are many experiences that have shaped me and my business into what it has become today. Quite a few of them have tested my resilience, but none I did not overcome. One of my favorite stories to tell in this regard is when I was invited to my first con as a set designer. This particular con was in its first year of existence and I was new to the event style of business. I miscalculated on how much help I would need and how much space sets require to move from studio to event. After twelve hours in the car transporting sets back and forth across the city, myself and my singular helper got started with the physical setting up process. It took us 2 days to build the sets. I honestly thought I was going to pass out from exhaustion with the amount of work it took to get everything together. Even then, with that part done, we were nowhere near done. We still had a 3 day con to host. The constant flow of greeting people, cleaning the sets after each party, and taking photos was undeniably depleting. With only myself and my one helper, we did not have any breaks and barely any time for coffee during the 12 hour work days. It was an absolutely thrilling experience and I still do not regret it. I have learned a lot from trial and error and I know that whatever the hardship is at the time, I can work through it.
Have you ever had to pivot?
Covid. Its a word that evokes a lot of feelings across the globe. For me, it changed everything about my business and how I presented myself. I used to host clients in my studio almost on top of each other. Some days I would have 12 different people come in, while other day I would have 30. Once Covid hit and lock-down officially began, I had to rebrand my business. Instead of just being a photographer that built sets, I hosted online classes and streamed photo editing sessions. Its a path that I never thought I would take, nevertheless I ended up loving the experience. I learned that connecting with a community online is just as important as networking with clients in person.
- Website: https://abiicandii.wixsite.com/candiiphoto/set-design
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/candiiphotography/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Candiiphoto
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/candiiphoto/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/CandiiPhoto
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK-C5JSMgtBhgDA0JAE5Djg
All images are taken by me on self timers or on my phone.