TPPA’s New First Family
by Bill Hedrick
We often hear inspiring stories about how people got into professional photography. Quite often it is a parent or teacher who introduces one to a new world that stretches the bounds of their creativity by placing a camera in their hands. Others discover it on their own, sometimes simply by chance. All of a sudden, they are irrevocably hooked.
But Robin Janson, the new President of the Texas Professional Photographers Association, says that just wasn’t the case with him. “In fact, I remember in the 7th grade wanting to be a part of the school newspaper as a photographer and, as I walked into the class, the teacher said, ‘Nope. Not you… not here in my class’ and that kinda ended my ambition as a kid.”
However, things changed when Robin was in his mid to late 30s. It was his wife, Jennifer, who first developed an interest in the photography business. “She felt there was a need for quality photos for pre-schools. Being the geek-head in the family, I loved learning about lighting, metering, and all the cool tech stuff,” says Robin. That’s when he became a very willing photographer’s assistant.
It began with a simple desire to fill a need in the community and to express creativity. That was the easy part. The next step in the venture was learning how to actually make it all happen. “The first thing we did was to buy a DVD from the local camera shop on how to be a professional photographer. Having worked closely with the Professional Photographers Guild of Houston, I learned about the Texas School of Professional Photography, so Jennifer and I started attending,” says Robin. Texas School, as it is commonly referred to, proved to be more than a learning experience for the couple. “That is where we met life-long friends and mentors like Ralph and Cindy Romaguera, Don Dickson, Tony Corbell, and others who have helped us along the way.”
In fact, one of the things Robin and Jennifer treasure most about the profession of photography is the relationships they’ve made along the way. “Overall, it’s the people you meet. It doesn’t matter if they are your clients or folks within the industry. They’re all great and we are blessed to be a part of it,” says Robin. One particular vendor has proven to be a tremendous asset to their photography business… Bill Porter. “I love gear,” says Robin, “and we are very blessed to have such awesome support through Arlington Camera. The Porters are incredible people and so generous.”
The original name for the business established 16 years ago was Kadien & Company. But late one night, while discussing their studio branding, Jennifer and Robin realized that volume photography would be their main focus and that a more “kid friendly” name for the studio was in order. “I was browsing Amazon and came across Sock Monkey Party Wear,” explains Robin, “and that seemed to be the perfect name for our studio branding. After searching Go-Daddy and learning the name was available, we purchased it.” That was 12 years ago.
In the beginning, the Jansons had a home studio that was primarily used as a “test lab” for the backgrounds, props, and lighting they would ultimately use on location. However, it wasn’t long before the business outgrew the home studio and Sock Monkey Photography found a new home in a 1,400 foot retail center. Although the majority of their photography is done outside the studio, some of their volume work actually comes to the studio.
Volume photography covers a lot of territory and it’s not for everyone. But those who have mastered this type of photography and who have learned how to market it will attest to how lucrative it can be. Sock Monkey Photography does it all… pre-school, sports, high school seniors, and even Santa photography. But the Jansons are selective about who they market to and target only those who will be good customers. This includes some of the finest private schools in the Houston area.
And if that wasn’t enough to keep them busy, Sock Monkey Photography is also the Houston Astro’s corporate photographer. “We don’t get to photograph the team players or anything like that,” says Robin, “but we cater to major corporations who book their stadium.” This is the commercial side of Sock Monkey Photography.
Like everyone else, the past year or two have been challenging for Sock Monkey Photography. Recently, on the nudging of Bill Porter at Arlington Camera, the Jansons upgraded their entire studio with Canon R6s cameras. “At the time, it seemed crazy to be upgrading during the pandemic, but I am so thankful we did. It was a game changer for sure and I am equally in love with Godox. Their lights are incredible and so affordable… it’s crazy good.”
There are all kinds of photographers. Some consider themselves to be artists while others consider themselves to be technicians. Each one has his or her role. Robin Janson says he is a “triangle,” meaning that he is part technician, part artist, and part businessman. “I truly believe you need to have all three or else be able to align yourself with others who can make up for the deficiencies you lack in those areas.”
Over the last 16 years, Robin Janson has transformed himself from an event DJ to a photographer in one of the finest volume studios in the Houston area. But Robin will tell you that his greatest accomplishment is finding his soulmate, Jennifer. “She is my business partner, best friend, and a fantastic mother to our children.”
Family is important to Robin. Along with his wife, Jennifer, they have two lovely daughters. Kadien, the youngest, is a freshman at Tarleton University. Devery, the oldest, is a sophomore at West Texas A&M. Then there is the celebrity of the family, Marzo… “the greatest bulldog that ever lived.”
Robin Janson enjoys life. In past years, he’s been a DJ and still owns Rockin’ Robin, although his time nowadays is spent doing photography with his wife. As a people person, he’s found his calling and is blessed to have a loving family and a job he enjoys. “I’ve always had a reputation as a party guy or funny guy. But, honestly, I’m a homebody. There is nothing better in life than sitting at home with my family and enjoying their company.
As the new President of the Texas Professional Photographers Association, Robin Janson shares a bit of advice he has learned along the way: “Get involved! While I’m happy that photographers are trying to better themselves with online education and social media platforms, they are missing out by not being involved physically within our industry. There is a very real and tangible difference between one’s interactions with being online or an in-person experience.”
When asked if he was able to go back and do anything differently, his reply was, “I probably would skip going to college as I’ve done nothing with my degree.” When asked about his goals, he quickly replied, “My very near future goal is to raise our studio sales to over a million dollars.” Our bet is that he’ll do just that.