Terry Boyd tells his clients that taking pictures with automatic settings is an “autogamble,” it’s using the equipment like a slot machine, hoping to get lucky with a good photo.
On his most popular 3 1/2 hour photography tour near Denali National Park, Boyd and his other guides show customers how to get beyond automatic settings and use their cameras with more precision.
“People learn so much about photography on our tour because we show them a very easy way to understand why the camera reacts to light the way it does and then teach them how their camera sees,” he said.
The biggest complaint he gets is from people who stop at Denali at the end of their Alaska vacations and lament that they didn’t get a chance to learn how to take better photographs earlier in their vacation, Boyd said.
Boyd found out there was a healthy market for photograph instruction somewhat by accident. Originally from Arkansas, his biggest interests aside from photography are fly fishing and mountain biking.
In 2010 Boyd worked for Denali Fly Fishing Guides, but also opened the photo business on the side. The first summer, the photo business was slow, but near the end of the season he gave a tour to a manager at the Holland America cruise line. The next summer he got a contract to take cruise line customers.
“I didn’t really realize how big of a deal that was,” he said. “I was like, ‘Awesome, I got a contract.’ But I didn’t totally understand what that meant businesswise.”
As the business grew, Boyd began to add guides. To better reflect the fact that Boyd is no longer the only guide, the business changed names this year from Terry Boyd Photo Tours to Denali Photo Guides.
Boyd met his wife, Bethany Boyd, in Alaska. They run Denali Photo Tours as a team, with Terry handling the photography and Bethany handling the marketing and administrative work. He credits his wife’s work on the business website both with increasing business and with greatly reducing the amount of time he spends talking on the phone with potential clients, which had been his default way of doing business.
“I wanted people to call; I wanted them to talk to me because I know if they’d talk to me I could get them to sign up. But I’d also end up planning their entire trip across Alaska,” Boyd said
The cruise industry remains an important source of customers, but business from independent travelers became much more common when they began taking bookings on the website.
The business’ most popular tour is the basic 3 1/2 hour instructional photography tour ($190 per person) that covers a mix of landscape and wildlife photography, based on conditions. Because the guides are outside so much, they’re pretty good about knowing where to find wildlife, Boyd said. So that each customer gets good instruction, the tour size is capped at four people. The business also offers a nighttime Midnight Sun Photo Excursion for $245. New this year is a helicopter tour ($500) that takes clients to Mount Fellows for mountain views.
This year, the couple purchased Denali Hostel on Carlo Creek, which gives the photo business an office to operate out of, as well as accommodations for their staff and customers. Their goals for the future include options for longer trips and photo club group retreats.
Contact Outdoors Editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.