By Marissa Willman
For local photographer and Imagine Imagery owner Chris Miller, no two days are ever the same. In any given week, Miller could go from shooting fashion editorial on a Monday to the Honeymoon Hideaway on Tuesday and a local benefit concert on Friday.
And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“My favorite thing about my job as a photographer is that I get to be around and photograph things that I love,” Miller said.
Miller covers a diverse range of subjects, including everything from high fashion editorial shoots to multimillion-dollar homes to musicians playing the local dive bars.
His impressive list of clients has included Goldenvoice, Palm Springs Life and The Show at Agua Caliente. But Miller wasn’t always a photography phenomenon. Ten years ago, it was more likely to catch Miller behind a computer screen than a camera lens. Although he’d always carried a digital camera on trips and vacations, the former San Diego-based computer tech only bought his first digital SLR camera 7 or 8 years ago when the technology became affordable.
“I started taking it to the beach at night to photograph sunsets and I really connected with that experience,” Miller said. “In my work in IT, everything was very black and white, cut and dry. When I found this piece of hardware and software that I could use to express myself artistically, I had my big epiphany.”
Miller spent the next year capturing sunsets and trips with his new camera, an experience he calls his introduction to photography. But Miller realized his newfound hobby and creative expression had the potential to become a business opportunity when a wedding coordinator friend in Palm Springs asked if he wanted to shoot her client’s low-budget wedding.
“I said ‘Hell no!’” Miller joked. “Then she said they have a budget of $800, so I said, ‘Hell yes!’”
Miller spent the next few months studying wedding and portrait books.
“A week before the wedding, they came to their sense and hired a professional,” Miller said, adding that he was still allowed to shoot photos at the wedding in what became his first real learning experience.
“I actually fell in love with the emotional reward of actually giving someone their pictures,” Miller said. “They cried. I couldn’t believe there could be that much emotional reward in a job, especially coming from my career of fixing a computer.”
Immediately afterwards, Miller began apprenticing with wedding photographers in San Diego, offering to do anything for free to gain experience. Six months later, when Miller and his wife decided to return to the desert permanently, Miller decided to dive into wedding photography on his own. He shot 20-30 weddings his first year, and roughly 40 the next.
From there, the savvy entrepreneur decided to carve out a niche market for himself through one of his professional passions: landscape photography.
“I love being outside and I love golf, so I started doing that,” Miller said. “I actually got a magazine to hire me to cover the PGA tour.”
The photographer then focused his marketing efforts on building relationships. His marketing blitz through local chambers and networking events started netting Miller commercial work, including hotels and portraits. When he finally built the diversity in his portfolio that his business now thrives on, he was able to approach magazines and start getting regular assignments.
“The diversity of my work is definitely an asset,” Miller said. “I can get thrown into a number of different assignments and feel comfortable.”
His magazine assignments led Miller into real estate photography, and he’s grateful to be able to photograph some of the desert’s most amazing and luxurious properties.
But as a self-proclaimed wannabe rock star, Miller finds music and live shows to be one of the most important things to him. Logically, Miller ended up approaching Goldenvoice with an offer to shoot Coachella. Instead, Goldenvoice decided to give Miller a shot at their then-brand new Stagecoach festival.
“They absolutely loved what I did,” Miller said. “Most of the other photographers are all getting basically the same shot. What I do is go out and try to capture the emotion of the audience.”
Miller soon became Goldenvoice’s go-to photographer for festivals and promotional materials, a gig that later allowed the photographer to become the house photographer for The Show at Agua Caliente. Miller shoots the portraits and meet and greets, and the work has allowed him to experience many different genres of music and performance.
Today, Miller’s professional passion still lies with the music industry, particularly with musicians and artists in the local community.
“One of the things I love to do is support the local live music scene,” Miller said. “There’s an amazing live music scene in the valley. Any time there’s a benefit show or a cool band, I always go, whether it’s paid or not.”
Miller hopes to do more band portraits in the future, and has done a number of band posters, promo shots and CD liners over the years. He loves working with local musicians, “especially if they’re great people,” Miller said.
But Miller’s not one to be pigeonholed as a rock and roll photographer, a real estate photographer or a fashion photographer. He thrives on the diversity of his subjects, ranging from the recently shot cover for the Weddings annual published by Palm Springs Life and real estate shoots to Coachella Fest and local benefit concerts.
“I enjoy the diversity,” Miller said.
His range of experience and abilities allows Miller to bring a well-rounded and flexible approach to his photography.
“Take my wedding clients,” Miller said. “If they’re getting married at a beautiful property, I’m going to be incorporating my architectural experience in the photos. The bride wants to remember her gown in the best way, and with my fashion experience, I’m able to think about how to frame her and how to light the dress.”
Check out Miller’s online portfolio at ImagineImagery.com. For more information on Miller’s services, contact him at (760) 887-3744.