We’re back on Project of the Week with another one of Zack Benson’s perfectly photographed restaurants — Soda & Swine. Zack’s photographs of Morning Glory were the object of my fixation back in March of 2020, and this new project – which is actually the coolest college dining hall on the University of California San Diego’s campus by Consortium Holdings and BASILE Studio – is my new favorite!
Sporting the same glossy feeling, powerful compositions, sexy lighting, and warm colorations as his other spectacular shoots, Zack’s images of Soda & Swine are so inviting and pique our interest in dining here.
Zack starts off by explaining one of his favorite photographs, saying, “I like the shot with the front door and sunlight streaming in. A version of this shot was on the shot list, but when I saw the late afternoon light coming in we quickly pivoted and composed the shot around the sunlight.
Often you have to work really hard to get a shot but my favorite ones are the ones that just bloom right in front of you. Like a fresh flower that just opened. You are at the right place at the right time and have the skill to capture it. When those stars all align, you feel the harmony with your subject and it is amazing.”
This next scene is arguably the hero shot of the project. We get a good look at the restaurant in its entirety, noting the bar area and table seating. Zack shows off the materiality and that glossy, glitzy feeling that conveys how dining here is special.
“Everything in the restaurant is custom-made. So one of the biggest challenges was when we would shoot. Of course, the client wants to shoot as soon as possible but I often have to push back and make sure everything is completed, finished and ‘photo ready.’ If something is missing I have to figure out how to overcome it. It could be art, furniture, signage etc,” Zack explains in regards to the shoot day.
He continues, “When possible, I scout a project before the shoot and then address any issues I find with the client making sure we aren’t missing anything we can’t live without. We were able shoot right before the grand opening. We started in the afternoon and then shot late into the night.”
I asked Zack a little bit about the business side of things, like locking down this commission and any advice he had about running his architectural photography business. He shared, “Like most of my shoots I already had an established relationship with the client. 95% of my work is repeat clients, I do no marketing besides my website but I probably should. I have been very fortunate with ‘word of mouth.'”
He continues, “When I was younger I wanted to be everyone’s photographer and shoot everything I could. That is an absurd idea that sets you up to fail. With more time in the saddle, you realize to focus on the things you enjoy. Try to identify the things/projects that you should let go.
Are you running your business or is your business running you? What is the goal of your photo business? I don’t mean a “mission statement” on your website. I don’t mean what it does for your clients. I mean what does it do for the owner, you! I spent many years trying to build my business up. Each year making a bit more. It became successful and I’m grateful for that but I was running myself very hard. Working nights weekends, and traveling way to much, etc. I became very burnt out and I am finally trying to recover from that now. To me my business has three goals:
1. Stimulate me creatively and mentally
2. Stimulate me financially allowing me and my family to have a work-life balance.
3. Produce high-quality work that you can take pride in.
If my business is not doing these three things then it is not successful. If I am very busy making lots of money but I am missing out on family time then it is not successful. Make sure your business is serving you and not the other way around.”
An enormous thank you to Zack for sharing this gorgeous project with us and a bit about his mentality while shooting and running his architectural photography business! What an awesome project, and a wise photographer!
If you have a project you’d like to be considered for Project of the Week, you can submit it here.