Archive for the 'photography' Category

23
Jul
12

Licentiate Panel

Well it was an early start today, as I had to be in Hertfordshire by 9.30 am, and, for me, that means trekking around the M25, which, on a Monday morning can either be fairly smooth, or, more usually, an mutation of a car park.  Fortunately, it was fairly easy today.

The reason I was heading to Ware was to get a panel of photos judged to qualify me to become a Licentiate of the Master Photographers Association.  Of course, I got there far too early, and had to kick my heels for a while, whilst they were getting everything ready.  So an endless stream of coffee and cigarettes kept my nerves vaguely under control, whilst the sound of one of the lights they use to illuminate the panel exploding had me wondering which one of the judges had been shot.

So the panel is made up of twenty photographs displayed in two rows of ten,  ten photos must be five photos each from two sessions, and the other ten must be a selection from another eight sessions.  All must be paid work carried out in the last two years.

My photos looked like this

Image

Well not quite like this, what you are seeing is the 8″x10″ photos, which I had printed on 10″x12″ paper and card mounted.  Laid out on the display boards it looks a lot different.  One of the other photographers who walked passed where they were on display told me that they looked great.  That settled my nerves a bit.  The judges dare all Fellows of the MPA, and an esteemed bunch they were.  Soon they went into the room and closed the door behind them, whilst I paced nervously in the reception area.  After about five minutes, I was called in to be told that I had passed and that it was an excellent panel.  Then came the most useful part, where one of the judges, Hoss Mahdavi, who runs a studio in Watford gave me some useful pointers.  One of the nicest things he said, was that he would be happy if any of these had been produced at his studio.  More useful was his criticism that there were too many head shots, and that some of the cropping was to tight.  He also said I should practice different lighting set ups and get more creative.  My secret weapon was, in case the judges didn’t like my photos, for my mentor to let them know that I was photographing in people’s homes and not a studio.  Fortunately that wasn’t needed.

After twenty minutes, I walked out, beaming from ear to ear.  What’s next?  Well I plan to start entering some competitions run by the MPA, and work towards submitting an Associate panel, which is a different kettle of fish all together.  For a Licentiate, you only need to show “competence in their chosen field of photography, show a thorough understanding of camera techniques, lighting and composition and ability to create merchantable quality photography.”  For Associate you need to show an “excellence in technique, lighting and composition. The candidate must show creativity and an understanding in the art of professional photography.”  Wish me luck!

 

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01
Apr
12

Another record month!

Well March was, again, my best month yet – record number of sales, record sales volume and my largest order yet.  To make it even better, I only got one parking ticket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With regards to hunting for a studio, I have decided to re-work my budgets, and am now looking for a property in the range of £10,000 per year.  Still tough to find somewhere of a decent size that ticks all the right boxes, but it does give me more options.  I looked at a likely property recently, that used to be a solicitor’s office.  The landlord is returning it to a bare shell condition, so I have made an offer.  The space is just over 600 square feet, and on the ground floor with street access.  It is among a small group of shops in an affluent suburb, not far from Kew Gardens.  The landlord is away on holiday at the moment, but I hope to hear if my offer has been accepted in the next week or so.

21
Mar
12

Sales Bootcamp

So, last Friday, I took a day off work, to go up to London to attend a sales and marketing workshop being run by James Derbyshire of Julio Boggio Studios at the Hasselblad Studio.

First the studio, is great.  There is about 2,000 square feet of space, and the main studio area is two storeys high, dominated by a huge, 15 foot high infinity cove.  It’s good to hear that the studio is fully booked for the next few weeks, and the sessions are as varied as gravy granules one day and six or seven models the next.  I arrived at the studio before it was open so I went and had a cup of coffee close-by at the Barrel Cafe.  This is a real gem; its run by really friendly people, has free wi-fi, and although i didn’t try any, the pastries looked divine.

Anyway, back to the boot camp, we covered a lot of ground.  I filled pages and pages of my note book.  A few things stood out; firstly, imagine your perfect customer.  For instance, for a family portrait studio, maybe the perfect customer may looks like this:- the family drives 2 cars ( a Lexus and a BMW), both children attend private schools, they live in a good size house (to display those lovely portraits you are going to sell them, fitted with a burglar alarm.  The wife likes to get her hair done at a hair saloon each month, and goes to a spa every other month.  The family are members of a gym, and eat out in restaurants every other week.  From this little description, I have just created a list of businesses to target for promotions and cross-marketing.

So you have marketted your business, and the phone starts ringing.  People are wanting to come to your studio.  The next stage is setting the scene that these people are going to be parting with a serious ammount of money.  So you have to treat them right, find out about their expectations, tell them how to get the most from their session, tell them how special this event is going to be, after all having a family portrait session is not the same as going to the hairdressers.  Next is the photo session and taking the photos that they are going to want to buy.  In your own mind you already have the ideal package you are going to want your family to buy; maybe its a nice large family portrait to go on the wall, and a triple portrait of the children – a nice £1,200 sale.  If thats the case, there is no point in only photgraphing head shots of individual members of the family, make sure you have a family group.  If its a triple of the two children, make sure you have a photograph of one child looking to the left, one to the right, and one of both of them looking at the camera.  Julia, the main photographer at her studio, gives her other photographer a shot list of 10 photos, which then leaves them some time to get creative.  This was an insight to me, because, although I have a mental shot list for my babies, I have nothing written down, and occassionally, I do forget to get a particular photo, and kick myself afterwards.

One of the other issues discussed at the workshop was whether to sell the image files or not.  I was of the firm belief, never to sell the image files – I make my money by selling framed portraits, why would I sell my raw material?  Would you go to a greengrocer and buy a tomato plant; no, you buy the tomatoes.  However, another school of thought was proposed, and that was to sell the image files, of course, you don’t call them computer files, you call them something amazing, like,photo-electronic portraits (the idea put forward at the workshop was ‘digital negatives’), these would be fully retouchedd files ready to print at almost any size.  They would be presented in a style that reflected their cost, and would be priced to reflect their value.  The pricing suggested was 10 digital negatives for £1200 (i.e. £1,000 plus sales tax).  That little idea certainly got me thinking.  I have started to introduce it into my sales pitch, but have had no takers, yet.

There was a whole host of other ideas, pitched into the tour de forcxe of the boot camp, a lot of which are jotted down in my note book, and I will look back on when I get the chance.  Also, at the work shop were representatives of Hasselblad, who had some very nice cameras there, Broncolour with some lights, Lightblue, who have a studio management software application, Bob’s Books who produce albums, photobooks and other printed matter.  The food provided at lunch was very nice as well.  All in all, a very useful day, as well as being enjoyable.

11
Mar
12

So what make’s a great job?

I love taking photographs, and I love taking photos of people.  Although, I am not, by any means, brilliant at it; it seems I have the skills to make people cry when they see my photos of their babies, not always, but sometimes – and they do get out their wallets and pay me for these photos, again, not always, but, more often than not. Better than all this, though, is meeting really nice people.  I don’t think I have ever worked as a photographer for anyone that has made me say, “I won’t be going back there again”.  Some of my customers can be particularly trying, and some of them are absolutely brilliant, and exceed my initial expectations by miles.  I had one such customer this weekend:- the initial appointment told me that the customer was Ukranian, and living in run down part of my territory.  I didn’t have great expectations, but, oh how wrong I was!  When I arrived at the door the Mum was nicely dressed and had put on some make up, Dad was in the shower, and the baby was awake and alert.  Further more, they had cleared a large space in their living room to give me enough room.  The to top it all off, when I asked Mum if she wanted a light or dark background for her baby’s photos she knew she wanted the darker background, which is my preference as well.  So there was a great photo session, followed by the product walk, no problems there, and they didn’t baulk at the price list.  So all is looking well for the viewing later this week; and, even if they don’t buy anything, it will have been nice meeting with them and working with them.  So, I can safely say, that taking portraits reflects my passion:- tick box number one.

As a photographer and part of a franchise, I have the opportunity to be coached by some very talented people, whether they be other franchisees who have bee running studios for a few years, or multi-award winning photographers who have been taking photos for over 30 years.  Also, by joining various professional photography societies, you can get access to some great talents, who are happy to share advice.  Additionally, you can go on training courses.  For instance, I don’t see myself as a natural salesman, so I am going to a workshop on Friday, aimed at improving my sales techniques.  Maybe changing my terminology will help?  I thought it was a workshop; but it seems to be called a ‘Bootcamp’!  So, great mentoring is available – tick box number two.

Learning a lot and fast; oh, yes, I have had to do that!  Pointing a camera, with the correct settings, and pressing the shutter at the right time is only a small part of it all.  Taking photos that sell is important, but how do you get those customers in the first place, and once you are taking photos for that customer, how do you get them to part with their hard earned cash?  What did I learn today?  Don’t believe Mum when she says that its safe to take their babies nappy off.  Fortunately, I had already learned to keep a spare blanket in the back of the car, for the next client.  So, continual learning, tick box number three.

Does the job encourage rapid change?  Well that’s a good question.  The franchise I am in is growing rapidly, with new studios opening, and new, national marketing campaigns, so yes I am having to adapt rapidly.  The photography, I would say isn’t changing that much.  At the moment I am reading a book on lighting for portraits, written by Walter Nurnberg in 1948. Although the language is quaint, and the terminology different, everything he writes in that book still holds true today.  For those of you interested, if you can get hold of a copy from a book dealer, I would say its worth every penny. Tick box number four.

So all in all, its a great job that I really enjoy; but, everybody needs to earn a crust, so I am not planning to give up the day job yet.  When I can turnover £200,000 per year in sales – then I will definitely consider it.  My target is to reach that target in 3 years.

 

26
Feb
12

February – best month yet!

Another month draws to a close, so its time to report my KPIs.  Well February was a good month, with my highest number of sales, and my highest total sales volume.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The average order volume stays fairly steady at just under £200, which for baby photos, ain’t bad.

The search for a studio is proving to be painfully slow, and difficult.  Based on an annual turnover of £60,000 per annum that I hope to achieve once I start doing family portraits; that gives me a budget for rent of £6,000 per annum or £12 per sq. foot, and I haven’t found anything like that yet, but I am still looking.

31
Jan
12

Another Month Over

 

So we are supposed to be in a double dip recession, and everyone is meant to be feeling the pinch, but the orders for baby photos are still flowing nicely, thank you very much.  Despite it being a short month (my first sitting wasn’t until 14th January) I still managed to sell over £1,600 worth of photos, a record.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So sales are climbing, but I am still trying to find the right balance of appointments to work load; I reckon 10-12 sittings a week is about right.  I need to spend more time doing marketing, in order to secure the customers who will spend more to increase my average order volume, which this month was just over £200.

I also need to work more on my processes, as I am still getting a number of sitting and viewing no shows, and a few families who only take the free gift.  One of the great things about being part of a franchise is the support I get from other franchisees.  One franchise holder is a whiz with software, and he has been a great help with ProSelect and loading up templates.  Another has passed on a lead for some work he can’t undertake.

On the negative side, this month, I received a ticket for illegally using a bus lane, and my car was clamped when I parked in the wrong place.  These have pushed up my motor transport costs to over £500, which is around the same I would hope to pay on a month’s rent for a small studio.

The search for a studio has started; I am looking for a premises of around 500 square feet, in the middle of my franchise area, with adequate parking, but not on a high street. Preference is for a ground floor premises, as a lot of my clients will have push chairs/prams and won’t want to negotiate stairs.  I am hoping to keep the annual rent below £6,000 per annum, but that may be hard this close to London.  I have spotted a warehouse on a business park and a couple of shops where I may be able to negotiate the rent to within my budget.

14
Jan
12

First week back and I have been busy and sick!

So my body just wasn’t ready to come back to a British winter, and I soon succumbed to a cold, which laid me out for a couple of days – not nice when combined with jet-lag.  And, I didn’t have time to relax, having several orders of photos to deliver, but seeing the happiness and satisfaction on the customers faces was a real tonic.

On Friday, I went to the Society of wedding and portrait photographers (SWPP) convention, in London, which was combined with my franchise day.  OK this convention is nowhere near as big as CES, or even the FOCUS on Imaging convention, but its nice and chilled out.  Looking around the trade show, there were three things that caught my eye; first was the Canon EOS 1Dx – this was nice to hold, had a couple of extra buttons, but I think I will stick to my 1Ds, thank you very much.  The next to attract my attention was the Pentax 645D.  This 40 million pixel behemoth was just beautiful, they allowed me to play with it, and the enjoyment is to hard to describe.  The autofocus is slow, but, oh, so sexy – like driving a car with a well engineered gear box, it just feels right.  In the UK, these are retailing at £10,500 – basically out of my price range (hmm, that insurance policy matures in March), but the guy at the stand told me they were trying to set up a 2 year interest free loan deal – which could make it very attractive indeed.  The final item to grab my interest was the Wacom 24HD Cintiq tablet.  Oh, yes, you can keep your sports cars and luxury yachts, just get me one of these babies!  And, at a snip under £2,000, its a purchase that may use up part of my bonus this year – along with a re-enforced bench to support it – the think weighs close to 70lbs or 30kg.

Speaking of weight, I may have to rename this blog soon, as I have started to go on a diet.  I had lost 10kg, since my return from Hong Kong, and basically I was back to my pre-Hong Kong weight; but, having been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I need to make some changes.  So, week 1 of the diet I lost 7lbs, lets hope i can keep it up, theres another 42lbs to go!

Anyway its back to the baby photos this weekend.  Good to get back into the saddle.  The main target this year is to open a small studio.  More on progress to do this later in the year.  Just wish I could incorporate a fish tank full of beer!