after her "NYPD Blue" role. TEXT BY ALICE B. MILLER • IMAGES BY CHARLES WILLIAM BUSH Jaclyn Smith in national KMart ad campaign for Jaclyn Smith Sportswear (Top): John Stamos publicity photo.
(middle): Robert Estes of "Suddenly Susan" with his dog in publicity photo.
(bottom): Faye Dunaway for People magazine From shoot of Olympus Camedia P-400 Printer ad campaign Heather Locklear publicity photo for Good Housekeeping magazine From shoot for Hewlett-Packard national ad campaign John Travolta, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Faye Dunaway, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Diane Lane, Anthony La-Paglia . . . Heather Locklear, Rob Estes, Dennis Miller, Kate Mulgrew, Sharon Lawrence . . . ABC, CBS, Compaq, Dep, Disney, Hawaiian Punch, KMart, Levis, Max Factor, Maybelline, Mercedes-Benz, Motown Records, NBC, Nike, Sony . . . Brides, Ebony, Fit, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, Los Angeles, People.
You're not looking at the VIP list for the Oscar, Emmy, Cleo, or MPA awards ceremonies. Rather, it's a sampling of the scores of satisfied clients of Charles William Bush.
This L.A.-based advertising/celebrity photographer is blessed with a most accommodating nature, business savvy, classic good taste, as well as technical and visual mastery. All of which make Bush one of the busiest and top-grossing shooters in the U.S.—some say the planet.
DOING IT RIGHT
If there's one compelling reason for Bush's success—he's booked solid 50 weeks a year—it lies in the way he approaches his business and the nature of who he is. "I'm more of a sensitive person," he says, "while many other photographers are more attuned to ego. Ever since I began shooting for Vogue, while I was still at the Art Center College of Design, I've worked with people I really like and kept them long-term." He finds this comforting.
Of course, he savors the energy of new projects. "One of the things I really like about L.A. is that there's so much business in so many areas. I do a lot of fashion, personal care work, as well as celebrity shoots." He mixes his projects in much the same way he varies his financial investments.
"You have to be prepared for ups and downs. Some photographers get a bit carried away with their success, thinking they're too good to do what they used to do. This is dangerous ground. No matter what business you're in, there are times when you have more and less success. So you have to find a way to even out the highs and lows a bit, lessen some of the valleys.
"Say you've made a commitment to a small client to shoot next Friday. Now a big client calls you for a last-minute Friday shoot. You may have to tell the big guy no. In the end, it's better and they appreciate you more. While it's great when big accounts fall into your lap, it's usually the others that pay the rent."
This past year, Bush has noticed a dip in the number of new-business calls. "But I'm completely optimistic that it won't last for long," says Bush. "See, whenever people complain about how bad things are, just look in the trades and see all the new business being awarded."
VALUE OF LONGEVITY
Celebrity shooting is part of living in LA. "It's a huge market that can be extremely profitable. You can develop relationships with great people, including celebrities, who are warm, honorable, loyal people who can be valuable to your business and your life."
Bush cites model-turned-actress Jaclyn Smith as one of his dearest long-term client-friends. He started working with Smith for Max Factor, before she costarred on TV's "Charlie's Angels." And for the past 12 years, he's been shooting the Jaclyn Smith Sportswear line. "It's a great relationship."
Bush explains another upside of long-term client relationships: "Sometimes during a shoot, I'll get an idea for another angle. I'll shoot the concept for a future project and give it to my client, who can show it to the powers that be. It inspires them when you think ahead and keeps them coming back.
"Or if I have an image I like a lot, but the client isn't interested, I'll take notes on the idea and do it on my own later. Sometimes it sells as stock or I'll discover someone else who thinks it'll work for them."