Episode 04 of Live Love Maricopa Series: Dustin Pedder of Volo Photo
As transcribed below:
Hey there and welcome back to the real deal Arizona podcast. This is episode 4 and today we are going to dive back into the Live Love Maricopa series. We're going to talk to another Maricopa based business owner, Dustin Pedder of Volo Photo. Dustin's been a great addition to the Maricopa real estate community. He's been putting his professionalism into the photos and videos that you might see online and in the MLS, he's done a great job of growing his business and he's even been taking it to the greater Phoenix area doing a few jobs for some of the new home builders in the area as well.
Here he shares with us his journey as an entrepreneur as well as what brought him to the city of Maricopa and what he knows and loves about Arizona.
Hey, okay, you ready to get started?
"Let's do it."
Alright, I'm here with Dustin Petter of Volo photo. He's gonna talk to us a little bit about what it means to be a photographer here in Arizona focusing, well you actually do a whole gamut of subjects, don’t you? From real estate to portraits to weddings to cars, right? So why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you're from, how you came to be a resident here in Maricopa? And what made you stay?
"Okay. Well, let's see it all started in 1978. I was born in Reno, but my family we I'm an only child but my family moved us out to the Bay area of California and that's pretty much where I grew up and I would say right around. The age of 15 or 16 I really got into cars and custom cars. So I'd be going to the car shows and I'd be taking pictures just for the fun of it, just for myself, but I think as a kid I had always been into photography. So, whenever I saw photos and other photographs, I would really look at them observe them and try to figure out what is the photographer was trying to capture. You know, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, right? So in the eye of the beholder, you know everyone looks at a photograph differently, or they could so that's what intrigued me. When I started going to these car shows, I wasn't necessarily taking pictures of cars. I found myself taking pictures of people there, you know doing kind of artistic shots.
"So, over time people started noticing my photos and even a local magazine in the Bay Area. They saw my website which at that time in the mid to late 90s, you know websites were still fairly new. Especially for the custom car scene, it was very new. So yeah, I think that helped me it grabbed the attention of this small magazine, they asked if I could photograph for them and even though there was no pay involved, I was just in awe that I was given the chance to photograph for a magazine. It was a small magazine, but it was still pretty exciting! So I started shooting for them and and then [with my my wife at the time] we ended up moving to Southern California and one of the large car magazines, they're a worldwide publication, they ended up looking for a photographer and I was down there in Orange County where they're based out of and I applied for the position and got the job. So I started working for them.
"In short, you know, it started off with the custom cars, but you know, I did photograph a lot of people. That was more so the subjects that I would shoot, people AND cars but a lot of portraits and that sort of thing, lifestyle type of pieces and then I started doing weddings, and even to this day, I'll shoot weddings. I don't do a lot of them, maybe five or six a year usually it's just through referrals. I don't advertise myself as a wedding photographer, but I can do it.
Then coming to Arizona about almost 5 years ago it t took a different direction towards real estate. So that's kind of where I'm at now mostly real estate that I'm shooting.
So do you think that really kind of built your whole business of Volo Photo? Is that kind of where the business came into play? If you don't know, Dustin does a ton of drone work and I noticed even just recently you started capturing some hidden areas in Arizona like on Instagram, so we'll have to get your Instagram handle and everything a little bit later so that you can go and check that out. So real estate photography, that's kind of become a very big thing in especially in our area probably right about the time you landed here in Maricopa. So how has that changed since you started?
"Yeah, I'd never thought about doing real estate photography. I didn't really know it was a thing."
I don't think it was...
"No, and it actually started when my wife and I were leaving California. We had our son who's now five, but when he was born we were living in San Bernardino, California, which isn't the greatest area. It's ranked one of the most dangerous cities in the nation and they actually filed for bankruptcy, the city itself. So, it tells you a lot about the state they were in. So, to bring a child into this world the more I thought about it, decided this is not where I want to raise him.
"So we started looking abroad and a good friend of mine who's a highway patrol officer, he’s in one of the photographs behind me, he's a California highway patrol officer. He lives in Yuma and he just goes across the state line every day for work, but he was telling me 'hey, Arizona is a great place to live, you know, a lot of your newer communities. The price the cost of living in comparison to California is just night and day different.' So all those factors sounded great. And so we started looking out towards Arizona.
"In doing so, putting up our house for sale in San Bernardino, I knew the real the realtor that we were working with and he was just going to take photos with a cell phone and I thought, you know, we just sort of staged the place made it look as best as possible decluttered, and did what we could to make it look great…we needed some good photos to show that off! So I pulled out my trusty camera and got some good lighting going on and took some photos and just handed it over to him. And I said, 'hey if you can use these feel free to do so' and he said 'oh, yeah, these will be great!'. And he used them and our household within just a few days. I mean it went really fast and not to say that the photos were the sole purpose it sold fast, but I'd like to think it helped.
It does help. It really helps.
"Yeah, so coming out to Maricopa, the Realtor we were working with at the time, she used her cellphone and I mentioned to her, 'Hey, I'm a photographer if you guys ever need a photographer, you know, let me know' and she got me in contact with the owner of that company and he was real nice man. He seemed to take a liking to me and he sent out an email to all as agents, 'Hey, there's a new photographer in town. Feel free to use him!' and it just snowballed.
You know for the last 21 years or so that I've been doing photography, for most of that was just for fun, you know or a side business, or even when I worked for the magazine, it wasn't the primary thing I did. It was a big chunk of it, but I also did writing and I did some other duties for that job title, but for the first time in my photography career, this was a real thing. This was snowballing and I was getting calls, you know left and right from Realtors that wanted photos taken of their properties and I came the realization came that I needed to make this official, I need to make an official business and actually do this as my full-time gig. So I started Volo Photo LLC and it's been about 3 years going! The company was Incorporated so, here I am and it's it's been my Monday through Friday (sometimes seven days a week), main gig and I could see why.
Pictures are very important for realtors when you're trying to sell a house. Of course, it's the first impression that people are seeing because 90% of the people are seeing these homes online before they ever see it in person. So many more are finding the home that they actually end up buying online by themselves, without an agent and then obviously using an agent to facilitate the actual transaction. So this is a really important piece of the whole spectrum. So congratulations! You recently hired a couple of new photographers to start helping you out in different areas. Am I right?
"Yes, that's correct. One of the photographers he's located here in Maricopa. The other one is located in Chandler and she's getting more of the East Valley so that area that's north of Maricopa, Chandler, Mesa, Phoenix. And then the photographer I have here in Maricopa, he's sort of my backup. So when I get overwhelmed I can ask him to fill-in. He has another job already but he works graveyard, so he's able to help with the workload, especially when it gets too heavy.
"I try to personally keep up with the demand but lately, it's just been so busy, especially the start of 2019. It's been crazy. I want to try to make the Realtors happy and they want to make their clients happy, everyone wants it now. So, I wouldn't like to tell them that I can't schedule [them] until next week to photograph their house. So if I can do it within two or three days, is my preference. But I trained them and they're doing a great job.
I know you can't ever tell who's doing them. You have to tell me who’s doing them whenever I have you take pictures. I don't know if it's you or if it's somebody else’s, so you've done a really good job of putting your stamp on them.
"Oh, thank you. I know some of the Realtors they've gotten to know me pretty well and my son who usually comes with me. And I know for some of the Realtors it's been a little tough when I tell them I'm going to have my photographer Danielle or Ryan show up. There have been a few times where they say, ‘Well why can't we get you?' and I understand where they come from. They know me, they know my work, so I have to try to to take care of my people. I have to put on there, “Hey, Danielle's going to do a great job. Ryan's going to do a great job!’ and I do go through all the photos to make sure they're as best of qualities as can be. I think overall they've been a little more comfortable with that. It's just the sign of the times.
Change can be hard sometimes, but it's but it's always for the better. So what have been some of your biggest challenges starting up a business here in Maricopa? And how did you overcome those?
"Well, you know to be honest with you, there really hasn't. I feel (and knock on wood) I have been very fortunate. I think that Maricopa is just a unique place for me to start a business like this. You know, I wonder sometimes, I have some good friends who have tried to do the same thing I'm doing. They've seen that I've been pretty successful. So they tried to start it in their areas. I have one good friend in Southern California and one in Florida and they tried it and they've done okay, but definitely not to the success that I've had. And who knows, there could be other factors. Maybe they haven't really reached out enough to the local Realtors. Maybe there's more competition with other photographers in their areas that already have the area locked down for their businesses, but for me it's been a dream.
"It's been just great here in Maricopa where I haven't had much competition and any even a little bit that is here. There's enough to go around, you know, the real estate here is definitely its fast-moving. There's a lot of houses going up for sale and a lot of houses being built, and I think it's just a unique area where all the proper channels have been just right for me to succeed.
Well, I can certainly tell you just from an outsider's perspective, you've done a really good job of branding yourself and being very consistent so much so that even if you haven't met Maximus he trails along with Dustin sometimes and they are both dressed in their Volo photography shirts matching shoes. So he keeps a very consistent presence. And the other thing is he is. So happy all the time and constantly smiling absolutely love it. He's great with clients. He's great with people. So I'm sure that that contributes to a lot of the reasons that you've been so successful here. So congratulations on that. But yeah, so where does this shine come from? Where what keeps you so happy all the time. How do you how do you maintain that mindset?
"I've always been a pretty positive person. You know, I definitely have my I've had my ups and downs in life as with anyone...
We all do.
"We all do, yeah, but I think that when you go through those tough times, when you go through those downs, you can really sink into it and it's not going to help anyone, so you just try to put your smile on and sometimes you have to force it a little bit and keep putting one step in front of the other. So yeah, you just got to keep moving on. I think overall my life has been great. I have a couple parents that have loved me and done whatever they could to help me along. Even though I tried not to take that help, you know, it's been great that they've been there. The support in having some good friends and family members, it helps. That's just that's the way I've been. As a kid even my mom said I was always smiling as a baby and my son Max, he seems to be doing the same thing. He's got the right attitude towards life.
'But you know, another thing that's really important, as a customer whenever I go to places whether it's a restaurant, a retail place, the cashier it's something that always goes in my mind. How does this person do it? The customer, you know, before I moved here to Arizona, I was a promotions rep at a casino a very large Casino in Southern California and a lot of the events we would manage we would oversee the frontline employees and customer service was always very important. So so yeah, I think that all kind of factors into the service I provide, you know, not just the photography I provide my clients but that customer service.
You provide an experience to make them remember how you made them feel?
"Yes. Definitely. I want to be friendly. I want to give that peace of mind to not only the Realtors that I'm working for but also their clients, the homeowners the sellers. Sometimes when I go to a house to photograph, the Realtor may not be there. So if the homeowners are there, I want to give that experience. I want to be a part of that whole selling experience for them and make them happy so. It is pretty common I'll hear back from a Realtor. They'll say 'hey, thanks for photographing that house, the homeowners loved you!' They love Max, too, and it's good to hear that. So I definitely think customer service is very important. You even pick up some business on the side doing some photographs or portraits of the families of the homes that you've been hired to photograph too? Yeah, once in a while, you can't help but get into conversations with the homeowners. As you know, I'm going around photographing their home, sometimes they like to follow along with me and move things out of the way if they're maybe not right for photographs. So yeah, you get into conversations and then they might ask about what I do and then I will let them in on it. And yeah, sometimes it strikes up interest into getting photos done of their family, you know at a local park or something so it conjures up a little more business here and there on the side, so I can’t complain.
So where can we find some more of your work and are you doing any interesting project side projects right now? I know we kind of mentioned or I kind of mentioned the Instagram stuff that you've been putting out there. But what else are you working on? And where can we find it?
"When I find the time, if I find time sometimes I'll come across some interesting location or you name it, if there's something I can shoot on the side, I will just for my personal benefit. It’s like, that's what I like to do. I like to photograph. I've been more into video the last couple of years. So if I could shoot video whether it's at an interesting location. There's been some videos I've done with friends where we do a little mini-movie, you know, something silly or whatever. But yeah for personal projects, I'll do it if I could find the time but other than that, I don't really have anything consistently going on.
"The city of Maricopa started hiring me for some of their video projects. So that's nice. Yeah, that's been really neat. Their Economic Development Department, they wanted to put together a video that showed all, not just the demographics of Maricopa. They wanted to use this video as kind of a way to pull in not only new businesses to the city, but also new residents. They want to show what Maricopa is all about and the benefits to living here, so they asked for me to shoot some video of the newer shopping centers, some of the projects that they have going on. So, yeah, that's one of the biggest projects, I guess you could say aside from Real Estate that I'm doing is working for the city here and there. But yeah, you could keep up with my work on Instagram and Facebook @Volophoto. if you type in Volvo Photo either one of those platforms, you'll definitely find me, and then there's my website, Volophoto.com. So yeah it would be great to get a few more followers and hear from from your listeners.
Well, thank you so much Justin for being here and sharing your story one more quick thing. What is your favorite thing about Maricopa? And why you chose to live here?
"Well, definitely coming from some larger cities in California, I've always wondered about small town living and now we're doing it and even though Maricopa's not so small anymore (from what I've heard, it's really grown in the last few years). But since I've been here, I feel it has that small-town Feeling to it. You know, I it's very common to run into someone I know when I go to the grocery store. So it's neat. It's neat to see people you know frequently, and there's definitely a lot of that community-vibe here. A lot of families are here. I know when I went through my trying time through a divorce it was shortly after I moved here, and I felt really out of place because I was a single guy in a family town. But I made it through. There are some great people here and I think for anyone who has a family or even a retirees coming from out of the are, if they're looking for a winter home, it’s such a great place. There's a lot of snowbirds here. There's a lot of families here and the crime rate is so low. It's one of the safest cities in Arizona here in Maricopa. It's night and day difference compared to where I lived in San Bernardino. So yes, I feel much safer here. It's a great town.
Alright a special thanks to Dustin Pedder owner and photographer of Volo Photo. I really enjoyed hearing about his somewhat easy journey to being a local resource for the real estate community here in Maricopa, as well as the greater Phoenix area. If you're interested, you can find his links to his website in the show notes as well as all his social media handles to get a peek at some of his other projects, other work he does in and around the area, and on his he travels.
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So, if you're anything like me, I love hearing people's stories where they came from, their challenges, their wins, and all of that good stuff. And you know, this IS the whole point of this podcast… to provide you with some information and inspiration in the hopes that you will live your best Arizona life, and absolutely love where you live. Thanks guys!