Member Profile: Prince McClinton
April 12, 2017
The world’s largest and fastest growing community of millennial photographers, Art of Visuals, is building the tools, resources, and technology needed to inspire its community to do what they love. Cofounded by Prince McClinton and Travis Leslie, Art of Visuals is bringing the world of photography to life.
Building Culture, Fostering Community
On the surface, AOV may appear to be a popular everyday Instagram account, sharing some of the most awe-inspiring content found on the Internet. Full of elaborate cityscapes, majestic mountain ranges, and lush tropical forests, you couldn’t dream up the shots found on the AOV account.
“AOV isn’t just a photography company; it’s a lifestyle.”
What most people don’t know about AOV, is the fascinating business behind it. The company is so much more than a social media account. It is a full-blown business. Every move AOV makes is for a reason, and in the end, every move it makes is meant to better its community.
According to cofounder Prince McClinton, “AOV isn’t just a photography company; it’s a lifestyle.” Month over month, the Art of Visuals community has been growing rapidly, buying into the adventurous and vibrant lifestyle that the company encourages.
A sit-down with Prince McClinton
What did you do before working on Art of Visuals?
“Before AOV, I was running an iTunes ‘New and Noteworthy’ podcast on entrepreneurship. I interviewed some of the world’s top entrepreneurs, business owners, marketers, and athletes. I reverse-engineered the high performance success of these individuals in an effort to help a beginning entrepreneur understand how success can happen.
People that imitate are extremely smart. There has been proven success in every market with companies doing different things. Understanding this success is important for an early stage entrepreneur. If there is someone out there that you can base what you are doing off of, why wouldn’t you? Smart people base their businesses off of other successful models.”
What brought you to Boise?
“Art of Visuals is ultimately what brought me to Boise. I met Travis back in 2011 through a mutual friend of ours. I was working with some buddies on a music video project, and one of them happened to be best friends with Travis. We came together and realized we loved photography, filmmaking, and cameras. We started working on some projects together, and hit it off from there.
I was living in San Francisco and was running a podcast on entrepreneurship. I flew out to Boise for Travis’ wedding one weekend. While I was here, we built a prototype for an app. That’s when Travis and I decided it was time to take Art of Visuals to the next level. After flying home from his wedding, I told my girlfriend at the time that I had to move to Boise. So I packed up my stuff and drove the jeep out to Boise.”
How did AOV get its start?
“The Instagram account is what started it all. In the initial days of AOV, we focused on curating high-quality content and sharing high-quality content on a regular basis. I think that’s the reason why people followed the account and spread the word about it to their friends.”
What is the main concept driving AOV?
“Art of Visuals is a lifestyle. It’s funny, a lot of people who don’t know much about AOV say it’s just a photography company, but it’s so much more than that. Photography is simply the vehicle we use to share our experiences, to inspire others.
A lot of what we do is all about getting people outside to go on adventures and explore the world. Nature truly does inspire you. This shows through a lot in our photography, as it encompasses the outdoors a great deal.
As humans in 2017, we spend so much time behind these digital devices. Like right now, I’m sitting behind a computer. I make sure I take the time to get out and go camping, explore the outdoors, and disconnect. Skating, extreme sports, camping, music, fashion, all of these things are held within the Art of Visuals lifestyle. It isn’t all about technical photography, it’s about enjoying the world around us.”
How has AOV evolved over time?
“When you look at the history of the company, you notice AOV is in a constantly evolving lifecycle. You first have the Instagram account, which is where everything started. We began curating these beautiful images that inspired people to pick up cameras.”
“The next step in someone picking up a camera is them trying to imitate the influencers they look up to. What’s the easiest way for them to re-create the photos they see on the AOV account? The answer is to buy a Lightroom preset. In one click, they have an image that looks a lot like the great images we share on Instagram. That’s how we got into presets. It was just the evolution of the community. It was what they needed next.”
“After the presets, naturally, you get more excited about photography. You are creating better images, you might be building a following, and you start getting more likes on your posts. As you progress, you get more into photography, and eventually you come to a point where you actually want to learn about it.
You’ve already received the shortcut, which is the Lightroom preset, but now you want to learn how to build these images yourself. You want to learn about lighting, aperture, shutter speed, composition, etc., and you want to learn how to be more creative. Naturally, with people asking questions about these aspects of photography, we decided to create the AOV Academy. AOV has a global community. It was important for us to create high-quality content that was FREE and accessible to everyone in the different countries we have a following in. This was our way to give back to the community.”
“Going further with giving back to the community, in the past two or three months, we have paid out over $15,000 in commissions to artists within our community. Everything we do is about empowering the AOV following. In the current landscape of photography, it’s getting more and more difficult for artists to create an income through photography. Everyone has a camera, there are Lightroom presets, and there are so many tools and resources that allow people to take photos that are ‘good enough.’
It was important for us to discover new avenues for the photographers in our community to drive revenue. We were the first company to actually go to artists and influencers and say ‘Let’s do a preset package together. We will put it into our store, and we will cut you a commission on the revenue each month.’ AOV is super excited about this. It’s awesome to find a way to put money in people’s pockets.”
What is the process for selecting the AOV Instagram photos?
“Originally we would scavenge through Instagram looking for them. This has become a lot easier as we developed our hashtags. We now have over 10,000,000 combined hashtag photos on Instagram. For a while, we would look through those hashtags finding photos for the account.
Most recently, we developed the Art of Visuals mobile application. It’s a mobile app that allows people from our community to upload two high-quality, full-resolution photos to us per day. The user can select which category the photo belongs too, the location, as well as the gear used to create the image. We’re most proud of the new viewing experience we created that is unique to our app called immersive pano. Download our app, select and image, then select the image again to experience immersive pano for yourself. This allows AOV to find photos in specific categories and specific geographic locations on the backend. This saves us a ton of time curating and posting new content.”
What are your short-term goals for the company?
“First and foremost is to continue to build and engage our community outside of Instagram. We’ve made a heavy move into AOV Academy and into our blog. We have an awesome blog that has some great content and thousands of shares. We also want to get more active with our email. Instagram has been great, and we’ve been lucky enough to build a massive following on it, but it’s not a good idea to build a business on a social media platform. We saw what happened to the early players that did that on Facebook.
We also want to continue creating high quality products that our community loves, and continue to build a brand that our community loves being a part of. We’re at the forefront of the world’s largest creative movement, and we’re leading the charge. People don’t realize what’s really happening, and it’s going to smack everyone in the face here pretty soon.”
What is your long-term vision for AOV?
“Our mission is to create the tools to empower the next generation of creators to inspire the world.”
What has been your greatest success with AOV so far?
“Being able to change the lives of people from all over the world. Anyone battling depression, people going through breakups, those losing parents, etc. They can use photography as an outlet, where they can relate with like-minded people.
What we are creating is real. Within a year, we have created a home for people that didn’t have a home before. We have built one of the most badass communities in the entire world, and that’s awesome. The community is strong, it’s engaged, it’s growing, and there’s no sign of this thing slowing down anytime soon.”
What have been some of the greatest challenges faced by the company?
“Trying to avoid doing too much is the greatest challenge. We have this awesome community, we are constantly getting fresh new ideas, and finding new things we can do, but we have to realize at the end of the day that there is only so much we can do at any given time.”
Where is your favorite place to shoot?
“I can’t say favorite, because I haven’t been everywhere I would like to go. Thus far, my favorite place I have shot has been San Francisco. Shooting in the Bay Area and Northern California is amazing, because it is so photogenic, so beautiful, sub-tropical, and green. There are hills, mountains, beaches, and it just photographs really well. It’s an awesome place for photography.”
Why are you interested in entrepreneurship?
“You know what, that’s a tough question. I think some people just have the gene, and are just innately born with it. My entire life, I have always had different little businesses or ideas I would come up with. I enjoy the thrill, I enjoy helping people, and I enjoy delivering impact. I enjoy the challenge of asking myself, ‘Can I do this? Can I make this happen?’
It’s exciting for me. I’ll probably never retire, because I love to build stuff. It’s a lot of fun. I’ll probably be starting and building things my entire life. Hopefully at some point, I’ll be able to give back and help other young entrepreneurs start and grow their enterprises as well.”
How did you hear about Trailhead and why did you decide to become a member?
“My buddy, Danish, showed my podcast to Jeff Reynolds, Trailhead’s Director of Engagement at the time. Jeff wanted me to come in to Trailhead and give a talk on how to create contagious content. I came through Trailhead while I was visiting Boise and gave this talk. I was still living in San Francisco.
When I moved to Boise to work on AOV, we were working out of Travis’ place for a while. We started talking with Jeff and Raino about some things, and next thing you know, we were Trailhead members.”
What has been your favorite Trailhead program or event thus far?
“By far, Johnny Schillereff from Element Skateboards speaking at Trailhead was my favorite event. He offered such a raw, unfiltered experience and story. That was really refreshing. I grew up skating so I had a deep connection with the event.”
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs starting a company in Boise?
“My blunt, honest opinion is to quit talking about it, and just build something. That’s my honest opinion. Don’t run around asking for everyone’s advice and opinion. If you want to create something, just do it. Don’t worry about money and talent, just do it. If you have a strong vision and you believe in what you’re doing, other people will believe in you, and everything will come together. People waste so much time talking. Take action. Don’t do it tomorrow, do it now.”