Hey, I'm Justin 👋

Photographer & Video Producer in Victoria, BC.
Founder @
BrandStories & @PhotosForTinder.
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Photos  |  🎬 Videos  |  👨‍💻 Blog
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🗓  Nov 20, 2021 
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About Me

I’m a creative entrepreneur with a background in tech/marketing. I'm passionate about building a career around creativity, fulfillment and freedom.

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Video Production
In 2019 I launched Brand Stories™, a boutique video production company that produces high-converting brand & marketing videos. Our roster of clients includes Staples Canada, SPUD.ca, Ethical Bean, VIATEC and Accelerate Okanagan. We work primarily with businesses in the Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland areas.
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Photography
Some photographers shoot landscapes - I shoot people. My style is best described as 'Modern Headshots'; a unique mix of lifestyle and environmental portraiture. This type of headshot isn't "so corporate", which makes them extremely versatile. My clients have used their photos on LinkedIn, social media, marketing, PR, book covers and even their online dating profiles.

In 2018 I took this portrait style a step further and launched PhotosForTinder.com. We help people level up their dating profiles with candid, authentic portraits designed to stand out online. In 2020 we expanded our operations, and we now serve areas such as Los Angeles, Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna.
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Teaching & Mentoring
Before exploring entrepreneurship I was building communities for some of Canada's most notable startups (Unbounce, Indochino and Clearly). It was during this time that I discovered my love for teaching and began teaching Digital Marketing at BrainStation®. Now I help other creatives grow their own creative businesses through workshops and mentorship.
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Outside of work
When I'm not in business-mode, I'm either out shooting street photography or hanging out with my girlfriend and two dogs. In 2021 we converted our Honda Element into an adventure mobile so we could go camping whenever (and wherever) we wanted. Once things open back up, we'll be doing extensive travel to/from Japan.

🖥  Where you've seen my work

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I'm super grateful to have been able to work with some of the most forward-thinking brands throughout my career.

Video Production

You may have seen my most recent video  work online, in paid advertisements or on the websites of the brands below.

Unsplash

In my spare time I contribute to Unsplash - a forward-thinking stock photography website that partners with major brands. My photos have been downloaded over 316,304 times and have appeared in major advertisements, billboards, car wraps - and even in a Netflix documentary.

My work has been featured by (or been seen in apps such as): 

Community

In my previous career track, I worked with major startups in western Canada to build and maintain customer communities.

Milestones include helping Clearly.ca build a +1mm social community across 5 platforms in the US, building the Unbounce Community from scratch.

👇 How to connect with me

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You can find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Medium, Unsplash and YouTube.

🎙 Consulting, Speaking

I’d love to speak at your (virtual) event, be a guest on your channel/podcast, contribute to your blog, or collaborate in another meaningful way.

→ Send me an email with your idea here

🎬 Video Production

Want to create a high-impact video for your brand or business? We specialize in brand stories, product videos, explainers, social ads and website video backgrounds.
→ Apply to work with us here

📸 Portrait Photography

Want a unique, custom headshot that isn't so damn corporate? I specialize in stunning custom portraits for founders, business owners and creatives.

→ Send me an email here (limited)

Why use video for business?

Generalize → Specialize

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View examples of our work →

"A gifted and compelling visual storyteller. I have had the pleasure of utilizing Justin’s videography skills to tell the story of Community Building at Staples STUDIO. As well, we had him present in our Spotlight session. He is a joy to work with and more importantly is hyper-focused on delivering impactful results."

Matt Stewart
Staples Canada

Justin's Blog 📝

This is where I share my creative work and write about things like business, entrepreneurship & building a kick-ass life.

→ Go read the latest on my blog

Photography

Some photographers like shooting landscapes. For me, it's people. My speciality is modern headshots which combines lifestyle, street and portrait photography.

→ Check out my photography here

Brayden
Girl
Manuel
Nutrition
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Back Story

Learn about my professional backstory.

Let's start with college  🏫

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I've always loved learning and creativity, so when it came time for post-secondary, I decided to go all-in on Graphic Design. Going to design school taught me three things:

  • 1. Traditional schooling is broken. I learned more through tutorials on the internet than I did actually in school learning from outdated curriculum. The only reason I completed my schooling was because of pressure from family/society to "get my education."
  • 2. I didn't do well in a this kind of learning environment. I had a lot of trouble focusing in class. This caused a bit of friction and disruption with my professors, on which I reflect regularly. I got diagnosed with ADHD in my first year of college, but medication butchered my creativity, so I didn't continue taking it. Needless to say, I struggled.
  • 3. I didn't want to be a graphic designer. Don't get me wrong, I love graphic design and still to this day believe that the skillset is extremely valuable (case in point: I built this site myself without hiring a designer/developer)... I just didn't want to design for someone else. I was much more interested in what design could do when applied to things like apps, or campaigns.

Working in tech / marketing 📈

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After school I made it my mission to "work in a tech startup". I remember reading about the foosball tables, bean bag chairs and beer on-tap - and the creative people who made magic happen behind the doors. I hopped on a one-way flight from Windsor ON → Vancouver BC and elbowed my way into a trendy online eyewear company, Clearly.ca.

I started in customer success, but eventually made my way into the marketing department as a Social Media Moderator. This started my career path in both Community + Marketing. After helping to build their US brands' community past +1 million, my role evolved to Social Media Coordinator and then Social Media Strategist.

From there I did a short stint at Indochino, but ultimately left as the company was in it's infancy and wasn't quite a culture fit for me (I hear it's much, much better now).

Unbounce CTA Conf 2016 in Vancouver, Canada.

I left directly for greener pastures and joined the team at Unbounce. This is where I helped design, build and curate the world's strongest community of landing page marketers on the web.

We built a customer advocacy program with all-star marketers from around the world (dubbed the Unbounce Experts) and took surprise & delight to a whole other level with the Unbounce Market. We held class-leading conferences and did some really amazing stuff there.

I left the company after a few years to move to the Okanagan, but the whole Unbounce team, especially the founders, have my highest regard. Unbounce CEO, Rick Perreault, reminded me a few years ago "Once an Unbouncer, always an Unbouncer." I can't recommend this company enough.

Presenting a strategy at Loop Digital in Kelowna, BC.

After Unbounce I also spent some time at Loop Digital, a Facebook Advertising agency, as Creative Director. I learned really valuable lessons at this company, particularly around what kind of creative actually converts and what falls flat (hint: it's a lot more complex than you think). This knowledge gave me a huge head-start when I decided to open my own creative video agency.

Discovering teaching 🎓

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While traditional education wasn't my cup of tea, I still loved learning.

I continued my education throughout my entire career, but it wasn't through any kind of traditional school. Books, blogs, podcasts, tutorials, youtube, Udemy... I was, and still am, obsessed with learning.

Speaking on stage about social digital marketing trends.

While at Unbounce, I regularly had the opportunity to speak in front of the company (150+) which led to me becoming more comfortable with an audience. I also had the opportunity to mentor or speak for really interesting initiatives, such as Girls Learning Code and Epicentr Academy.

But my love for teaching came from working with BrainStation, where I stumbled into an instructor role, and becoming Lead Educator for their popular Digital Marketing Course for 2+ years.

At BrainStation HQ in Vancouver, BC.

BrainStation flipped the traditional education model on its head and brought in industry experts  who were actively working in their field to teach niche, specific classes, like SEO and paid search. It was phenomenal working with such passionate, career-focused individuals who wanted to give back.

And over time, I got the joy of watching my students (and faculty!) go on to land phenomenal roles in companies like Adidas, Herschel, Lululemon and Netflix.

Road to entrepreneurship 🚀

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After college, I also opened a boutique wedding photography business that focused mostly on destination weddings. I don't talk too much about this because, well... it tanked.

There was definitely demand, and I got to capture some truly phenomenal destination weddings while we were open, but I didn't have the proper skills to develop the company without becoming overwhelmed.

Photo by Rounack Deb Roy on Unsplash

Fast forward to 2018. I photographed a friend and colleague of mine for a blog post, which I then found out he used on an online dating app called Tinder. The next day he came in and said "Man, I've never had that many matches in my life!", which was odd to me, seeing as he's an arguably handsome dude and a beautiful human being.

Turns out, building your profile is kinda like marketing - you need to know your audience, make the offer appealing and showcase great photos/copywriting. A mix of skills that I happened to have.

After consulting with friends, colleagues and conducting some highly-scientific market research (ie. I swiped a whole lot)... I decided to open a side hustle, aptly named PhotosForTinder.com.

I had no idea it would become successful - but within 6 months I was making more from photography than I was at my day job. What's even better is that my clients, who pretty much all turned out to be  amazing individuals who take self-improvement seriously, started matching with more and more amazing people because of my efforts. Their results have been out of this world, and some of them are now even engaged to be married.

My very first client! Yes, I took their proposal photos. :) 

A year later, I saw another gap in the market while working at Loop Digital, this time in the B2B content space. Companies were heavily investing in video production for ads, commercials and content, but many of them were getting back low-impact/low-converting videos.

There was no shortage of videographers, but there was a shortage in video people that knew the in's and out's of marketing, conversion, copywriting and paid advertising.

Video shoot for Haven Mattress Co. in 2017.

Again, I saw where my unique cross-section of skills could come together and offer immense value for my clients, and soon after opened Brand Stories™, is focused at helping small-to-medium sized businesses achieve better marketing results through strategic video creation.

This video production company seen some really impactful results in the 2.5 years we've been in business, and I've had the opportunity to work directly with major brands such as Staples, VIATEC, Ethical Bean, Accelerate Okanagan, Spud.ca and so many more.

On set filming the finale for the Angel Summit by Accelerate Okanagan.

Growing and scaling this business is where I spend the majority of my time. Turns out, helping business owners achieve better results is super rewarding.

Fav books and resources 🎬

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Books
  • Essentialism - Doing it all can lead to burnout. Great read on the pursuit of less but better.
  • Company of One - Why staying small is a profitable/flexible way to grow a business.
  • Dark Horse - Why engineering your passions and living a life of fulfillment matters.
  • 4 Hour Workweek - The original lifestyle hacking guide. Don't let the spammy title fool you.
  • Show Your Work - 10 insightful ways to share your creativity and get discovered.
  • The E Myth (Revisited) - Every entrepreneur/business owner should read this book.
  • The $100 Startup - So many amazing businesses that got started on a shoestring budget.
Creators
  • Matti Haapoja - Phenomenal filmmaker from Ontario. Best buds with Peter McKinnon.
  • Sara Dietschy - Creative entrepreneurship, tutorials and how-to's.
  • Gerald Undone - Straight facts about cameras & filmmaking. Super technical. Nerd fodder.
  • Gene Nagata (Potato Jet) - Filmmaking info & tutorials, with a hilarious and personable tone.
  • Ali Abdaal - Doctor turned online educator. Talks about mindfulness, growth and productivity.
  • Bryce and Rasa - Showcasing how the world is moving to less, but better, through tiny homes.
  • Manny Ortiz - My favourite introverted photographer with no B/S photography tips.
  • Matt D'Avella - All about personal growth hacking, minimalism and productivity.
  • Matthew Encina - Phenomenal Designer, educator and public speaker.
Podcasts
Apps / Software
  • Notion - The ultimate productivity, planning, organizing, life wiki and writing/content tool.
  • TickTick - The best "to-do" app on the market, bar none.
  • Honeybook - How I manage bookings, invoices and client comms for both of my businesses.
  • Final Cut Pro X - My linear video editor of choice.
  • Unbounce - Best landing page builder on the market (by far).
  • Webflow - The web-building platform I used to build this site (and my business sites).
  • Spotify - All the music. All the time.
  • Headspace - Guided meditation to help you think better.
  • Adobe Creative Suite - From lightroom to photoshop, I use this to do 90% of creative tasks.

My five year plan 💭

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Build a rich and fulfilling life for me and my family by providing an absurd amount of value to people.