NEAL FREED & BRYAN BLANKEN
HOW WE GOT HERE
Neal Freed started his photographer career at The Fred Marcus Studio in New York City. He won’t say how long ago that was, but safe to say they were shooting film back then. The Fred Marcus Studio was known for high-end social work and always sent an assistant or light man to assist the main photographer. Neal started as a light man and was trained by Andy Marcus. As Neal says, if it didn't kill you, it was the best training you could get.
Neal moved to Washington, DC and married Carla. A few years later after a hiatus from the business Neal and his wife Carla open Freed Photography, Inc. modeled after the Fred Marcus Studio. Neal and Carla were looking to have a small boutique studio, work out of their house spend time with their family and have fun. Fortunately (or unfortunately) Freed Photography was quickly recognized as one of Washington’s top wedding photographers. To meet the growing demand for their services, they added photographers and moved their business to a 4200 square foot studio and gallery in Bethesda, MD which is still their current headquarters.
At this time they added Bryan Blanken as their partner. Bryan had been a successful photographer who was also recognized by Washingtonian Magazine as one of the top wedding photographers in Washington, DC.
So it began, rising to be the largest high-end studio in DC, photographing hundreds of weddings a year plus Bar & Bat Mitzvahs, corporate events, and family portraits. Freed kept growing and had to continually reinvent itself to deal with unforeseen challenges like 9-11 and the 2009 recession. With each year and obstacle to overcome, Freed kept evolving and looking to be innovative, not only with their photography, but their systems, their sales, and their service.
The market in 2010 was difficult. With the cost of entry to the photography industry going down, competition going up, and prices dropping, the wedding market was getting harder and harder. About that same time, one of our clients asked Freed to photograph their child’s school, because “the photos were awful.” Neal, (always lead with yes!), said ok, and the next thing we knew we were at the school armed with our blue backgrounds, reams of copy paper and 3 sharpies. During the shoot Neal & Bryan looked at each other and said, “Why are we doing this, this is not what we do, one photo each on a blue background." So, we took each student outside for a mini-portrait session, shooting about 15-20 images per student. The response to the images from not only the parents but the school was fantastic and FreedSpirit Photography was born.
In 5 years, based on their fresh approach to school photography, FreedSpirit went from 1 school to well over 100 schools. Their approach and system was catching on, and reinventing the way school photography could be done.