Honoring Clients, Brands, and Photographers with Miles Witt Boyer

By Kyle Wilson

Named “One of the world’s best wedding photographers” by Looks Like Film in 2020, Miles Witt Boyer knows his stuff. He also knows a thing or two about partnering successfully with brands, as he is an official Fujifilm global ambassador. Based in Arkansas, his team is made up of his wife, Melissa, and full-time shooter Jared Fincher. He joined us on the pod where he discussed the importance of integrity in brand partnerships, reflected on the past decade (successes and cringe moments), and explained why he bases all his decisions on serving the people. 

KW: Who are you working with in terms of sponsorships and investors right now that you can speak about?

MB: I’m part of the Fujifilm team, which has been four years of a remarkable journey. Our presets officially launched a couple of months ago with Greg Petersen through G-Presets. That was an incredible experience, we spent over six months designing the color science and getting nitpicky about that. That's launching us into a partnership that I'm not quite yet able to talk about. 

Today we announced a partnership with Nanlite which is really special. I’ve always wanted a cine light sponsor. I love strobes and speed lights and all that but I’ve wanted to double down on a cine light company because we’re doing so much video work in house now as well.

KW: What are you using strobes for? How does that incorporate into your photo work?

MB: A couple of years ago, I wanted to get better at telling stories. If we’re going to tell stories we have to include videos. Video is an essential part of storytelling these days. That’s pretty uncomfortable for me as a photographer because I don’t do video, which means I have to have somebody on my staff who does. That blew the doors open for me, understanding that great video requires great light, and when there is great light, there is great video, and the story starts to tell itself. Lighting has become this breath of fresh air in these moments. Jared's quick to remind me that the best lighting is light that you can't tell is lit. We have a lot of people that are like, I thought you were just a natural light photographer. And my response is always, thank you. 

Navigating brand partnerships

KW: Just to poke into the process, because this could be really insightful, how much of what you told me about your intentional storytelling thought process do you take with you when you approach someone like Nanlite? Many people think they can just flip out an email or an Instagram message.  

MB: That’s a great question. It comes down to value. Let's boil down the question to what is the value of being a brand ambassador. The answer is twofold. First, it's a lot less than you think it is. Second, you have to do it because you firmly believe in the brand. When I approach a brand, I have to come from the stance of a problem that I'm seeing in my own company or the industry at large. 

A perfect example would be working with PicTime. I started reaching out to friends in the industry who use different gallery servers and tried to explore them all. I wanted to play with all of them and find out who was repping them and what were the reputations of these people. I had an opportunity to tell a story to PicTime about how I can see the industry shifting. I thought, now I have a platform and a captive audience. Most photographers get into that moment and have never thought about what they’re going to say. I can explain that I have 180,000 images on a server from 10 years of work and it’s hard to navigate, so PicTime is a solution to that problem. In exchange, I’d like to be endorsed by the brand. It’s a similar story with a lot of brands we’ve worked with over the years. 

If you don't believe in the brands and that what they're creating is the best solution, you end up with the photographers that we all know that jump from thing to thing. I immediately question their integrity and their work. If I can charge $10,000 for a wedding that will take 30 to 40 hours to complete the entire contract, why would I invest five or six hours for a brand to get a free flash or a free t-shirt? I’m partnering with brands. I work with brands that have a budget and a benchmark for who their ambassadors are. Then we can say I’m a paid spokesperson for this brand, but I chose them, and then they chose me. 

Highs and lows

KW: What has been your proudest moment in your career thus far? 

MB: I spent three or four years figuring out who I wanted my client to be, and then I got plugged in with a demographic of people I love. I love their stories, I love the way they trust me to do this job. I’m starting to see work I shot 10 years ago pop up on couples' social media or they contact me for a refresh and reprint of their album. It’s a proud moment to realize that I’ve spent a decade with clients I believe in so much that I still like my work from 10 years ago. 

I’ll rattle off a few more things: I was part of the launch of the Fujifilm X 100 V that kind of changed the world. I was part of the launch for the XT Four and the GFX 100 S. It’s cool to see my imagery be a part of these iconic launches. I was asked to speak as a platform speaker at ClickCon in Chicago. Then I got asked to speak at WPPI. We launched a podcast that hit the top 5% of the market. We launched an education platform for photographers all over the world for free. 

All these moments happened, but I'm realizing more and more that my proudest moments are often like individual vignettes. The proudest moments in my career thus far are moments when I realized that the art we are creating has true value, like lasting, beautiful legacy-level value, and that sometimes the metrics through which most of our industry gauges whether or not something is valuable don't reflect that. And I'm becoming more and more okay with it.

KW: Are there any big pitfalls or learning experiences?

MB: So many. I wish there was a podcast focused on people’s failures. We need to hear that people stumble. 

First, early in my career, I ended up in a toxic uncomfortable relationship with a couple that wanted stuff I was unwilling to give them. I offered to refund their money and help find a new photographer, but they made me stick to the contract. I doubled down and created beautiful work. I hated every step of the way; they were miserable and mean. I delivered photos I was proud of and they loved them. Then, over the next three to five years, I had to deal with all their rude self-absorbed friends calling me to be their wedding photographer. I realized when you make one toxic decision for your business, you end up flooded with toxic decisions that you now have to get out of. If I had just stood my ground I would have bypassed so much heartache.

Then years later I shot another wedding in that town. We have an extreme process for how everything works, but we were in a hurry when the light was going down. I grabbed a third camera because I didn’t take two minutes to pull the cards. Five or six weeks later we delivered this wedding that I was proud of. Then I got a call from the bride - where are the family photos? Oh crap. Camera three. We’ve shot a hundred things since then; those family photos are gone. We have a process for a reason, and we broke it. I had to shell out thousands of dollars to get the florals remade, the archway remade, and rent the venue again; I bought the groom and his dad and brother tuxedos, and she got her hair and makeup redone. It was completely irrational but it was a learning lesson. I lost a lot of money on that wedding and it was my own fault.

KW: I would be willing to bet that your data backup from that point forward is as rock solid as mine is from the point that I lost photos. It’s a learning experience.

MB: We all need a level of humility. We need to sit around and tell horror stories so we can learn from each other. One thing I’m seeing in the industry is less experienced photographers operating from a stance of insecurity where the goal is to perfect every moment. This viral-ready social media movement is dominating their headspace. Instead of telling the future from an authentic perspective, they're trying to script it. They walk into every room and they immediately start to fix all of the things that aren't perfect. I'm seeing that stuff happen. It's permeated so deeply. 

KW: It’s like working with a walking TikTok. 

MB: I remember being 20, 21, 22 and wishing for someone that I respected to give me a little bit of advice. What I ran into was a lot of ego and insecurity. If we’re going to do anything in this industry that has a lasting legacy, it’s not going to be bragging about the camera brand we shoot. It’s going to be pouring into the next generation of photographers and reminding them that their value is in the depth and integrity and creativity of their work and not whether their camera says Sony or Fujifilm on the front. Brands can’t define our work. We have to be artists first. 

The Photographer's Problem: A Narrative Podcast streaming now

It’s all about the people

KW: Is there one thing you can point to and say, that was a good decision that spawned a butterfly effect and the rest of your success?

MB: Absolutely. Realizing we were going to serve the people. I remember the conversation with Jared where we were trying to rebuild our packages so I can pay him what it’s worth to have him with me. You hear that term all the time, ‘what is your why?’ Why do we care this much? What it came down to was we serve these people better. We tell their stories better when we are so intentional about the process that we are backing each other up; even when he’s not with me, he’s a part of the process, a part of the narrative. So we said we’re going to get to know these couples and be so choosy with who our couples are that we can justify the cost because we’re going to serve them well.  

Every decision made, when about people and serving their stories and honoring them, becomes easy. if my Instagram followers go up or down a few hundred, it does not matter to me. As long as the 25 couples that we have chosen to work with this year feel loved, and the 25 couples from last year still feel like they can text me and the 25 couples from the year before that can run into me at the grocery store and we still hug. Those are the stories that matter. The business just builds on that like crazy. 

KW: You’ve got a lot of irons in the fire. What’s your problem? What are you working on?

MB:  We have built an incredibly strong business that serves our couples, and we've built a strong business that serves the wedding industry and photographers. The problem is that those are two incredibly different businesses. I have gotten good at making a living that I'm proud of off of the first group. I'm trying to invest more time and resources and more of myself into serving and loving with the same amount of intentionality into the second. But I have no interest in becoming just another one of the photo educators that are just shouting into the vacuum. So the problem currently is how do we do a better job of speaking to photographers, speaking to photo brands, and educating and training and loving on people. How do we make that so lucrative that time isn't lost from a brand that's already very successful?

KW: In the same way you honor your wedding clients, you honor photographers and their trust in your knowledge. You build and form relationships with photographers who trust you and you trust them.

Thank you so much for your time today, this has been incredibly beneficial information.

MB: Anything I can do to align myself with positive voices like yours, I’m all in.

Keep up with Miles on Instagram (@mileswittboyer) and at mileswittboyer.com.

This interview has been edited and condensed. Check out “The Photographer’s Problem: A Narrative Podcast” streaming now on YouTube or Spotify for the full, unedited interview and more inspiring stories with an immersive look into the intricate world of photography.