Since February of 1966, Bruce Wilson Photography has provided Central Floridians with award-winning portraits, family photos, sports photos, graduation pictures, commercial & business photography and exceptional customer service. Founded by Bruce Wilson Sr., the family-owned business started in St. Cloud before moving to its present day location in Kissimmee. Current owner, Bruce Wilson Jr., was only five years old when his father left his position as a cable splicer for Southern Bell to pursue photography full-time.
"My mother actually pushed my dad into taking photographs for a friends wedding," Wilson said. "For whatever reason, the main photographer that was doing the wedding messed up and the bride and groom used several of my dad's images. My dad and the photographer ended up becoming friends and he showed my dad the ropes. He pretty much taught him the trade. Eventually, my dad left Southern Bell to focus exclusively on the photography business."
Wilson joined his father in the early 1980s. At the time, he worked at Disney and, for a couple years, he worked both jobs. Wilson shared that in the early days he was the "low man on the totem pole" and spent most of his time taking out the trash, cleaning and working in the dark room. Even though he didn't spend much time behind the camera, Wilson is now able to look back on it and appreciate what his father did for him. By sticking him in the dark room, Wilson was able to learn early on what could be done and what couldn't be done with film. Learning the limitations of film helped to create a solid foundation Wilson would use to eventually carry on the family business.
"I took over operations of the business around 2008," Wilson said. "My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and he was gradually becoming more forgetful. He ended up passing away in early 2018. He was a great mentor and an amazing person to work with. He would say yes to any job. Even in his elder years, he was still helping out. When he quit coming in, I knew he was sick. I really cherish the 30 plus years we had working together."
Over the years, Wilson has seen and navigated many changes, predominately the influx of technology. He also successfully weathered the 2008 recession, which according to Wilson, was a real eye opener. Friends have told him that with new technology, he would see a disappearing middle market and a shift in demographics. Wilson shared that his friends were 100% accurate and as such, he's more focused on higher-end portraits and maintains his position as a 'print only' photographer.
"There are more images taken today than ever before," he said. "Unfortunately, labs are not printing out as many images as they once did. People are keeping them on their phones and computers and not printing them out. Part of our uniqueness is that we are print only. We maintain this position, even if it means turning down business."
For Wilson, who finds the most joy when he's behind the camera, working with and meeting different people is one of the highlights of owning and running his own business. He's also encouraged that one of his daughters, who's showing in interest in photography and is very artistic, may one day join the team.
Wilson, who's a lifetime member of Professional Photographers of America and maintains several highly regarded degrees and certifications, offers up some very applicable advice for photographers looking to start their own business. "I learned that it's a business and you need to treat it like a business," he said. "I had a dentist friend who bought a practice in Longwood. He almost lost it, but sold it at the 11th hour. He didn't have the marketing or business background to run the business. You can't just be good at your craft. You have to know your numbers and what your time is worth. A photography business is a true business and you need to run it as such. Knowing what your time is worth is a very important part of it. Don't think people are going to purchase just because your images are great. You need to understand sales and that the sales process starts right away during the consultation. I'm not a pressure person, but I want to be able to help and guide my clients to make the right decisions. Also, not all photographers are created equal. There are many transient photographers in this area. If you're serious about becoming a photographer, do some interning and join industry groups. My father and I were both president of the Professional Photographers Society of Central Florida. Get plugged in. You can network, learn and grow from these groups and maybe even pick up a mentor. Pick their brain and learn from their mistakes."