Posts Tagged ‘portrait



I haven’t blogged in a while, because things have been kind of hectic.  There are a few developments bubbling under the surface that I haven’t written about, because, well, I don’t want to put a curse on them by telling everyone too early.

One, that I am happy to talk about now, is the fact that I am applying for a Licentiate qualification in portrait photography with Master Photographers Association.   Licentiate is the entry level that shows  “an established level of skill and competence.”  Its not as easy you think!

I need to submit twenty photographs, that will be judged by a panel of three Fellows of the Association. The photographs need to be taken from ten commissions undertaken in the last two years.  So, no problem there, I think I have undertaken about 120 jobs in the last 8 months.  Picking the sessions to show was more difficult though.  Although the judges are looking for sound technical competence along with “composition, control and lighting of the subject”, the images have to look good, not just individually, but when they are displayed together in two rows of ten photos. So I needed to pick two sessions, from which I would have five photos from each.  Which sessions to choose?  Maybe the ones that I sold the most from?  Well that didn’t work – the baby just lay there with a blank expression on its face.  So in the end I picked 2 sessions, one from a baby boy and one from a baby girl, where there was a lot of expression and eye contact with the camera.  The other 10 come from a variety of sessions: baby boys and girls, a mixture of ethnicities, a variety of clothed and unclothed. I had some help with the selection, I sent a whole load of photos to a fellow of the association and got his advice on which ones would work.  I have the ten main photos selected, but we are still trying to narrow down the other ten from about sixteen.  Once selected, I will need to get them printed and mounted.  The usual size is 12″ x 15″, so that will cost about £120.  I also have to write a Working Profile, that includes a comprehensive CV and details of the organisation and management of each image.  This will be read before they see my photos and allows them to make a better judgement of the quality of the photos.  This could be an advantage to me, as I can explain that I am not working in a studio but photographing babies in their homes.

The judging takes place in about three weeks, so i will write about how I get on later.


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.



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.



Movember (the month formerly known as November) is a moustache growing charity event, that has seen several of my friends and colleagues who have sprouted hairy upper lips to raise funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostrate and testicular cancer. You will be pleased to hear that, although I have sponsored several moustaches, I have remained clean shaven throughout.

On the photo business side, things are looking a lot brighter. Firstly, I removed the cap on the number of client leads I receive; and, secondly, I started to do a sitting after work, followed by a viewing. My diary is now full, until I leave for my holiday on 19th December, and I already have eight sittings booked for January.

In November, I did 24 sittings – I would have done more, but there were a few cancellations and rearrangements due to the baby coming out in a rash, or getting a cold. From those sittings, I secured six sales. My largest sale was £425, and there were two of those – for November my average order was just under £250. I really could do with some more £400 plus, sales though. But the real bonus, is I am starting to get referrals. On Monday evening I was doing a viewing for a young couple, and one of the grand-parents walked in, saw the photos and burst into tears, so I will go back and give the grand-parents a viewing sometime, also in January, they want a family sitting undertaken. My second viewing, on Monday, Mum burst into tears during the slide show (this is not so unusual), and she has several friends who are pregnant or just had babies; she will recommend me to them. If they all live in £600k apartments then I will be happy.

Having said that, I am just as satisfied selling a single image of a baby to a couple, that they will treasure. And, the job is still fun, especially, the viewings. On Sunday I did a viewing for a single Mum, and Granny was there, and two of Mum’s sisters. All of them loved the photos, and the presentation was hilarious with the girls making comments on the expression of the baby I had captured. It took a while, but I walked out with a healthy sale from that, but, even if they had just taken the free gift, I would have been smiling.

The biggest expense this month, was replacing my car. My little run around, that I purchased 18 months ago to tide me over until I went back to Hong Kong, finally gave up the ghost; well, it had done 130,000 miles. So I have replaced it with a nearly new, Nissan Qashqai, which is one of only two cars that is designed and built in Britain, but, mainly, is the ideal car for me to lug my photography gear around the urban landscape of Twickenham, Richmond and Hounslow.

This coming weekend, I have to travel to Norwich for my wedding photography exam. I haven’t done much revision, so will have to see what the outcome is, but hour for hour, portrait photography seems to be more profitable.


Sort of busy weekend..

Saturday started off with 4 appointments in my diary for photographing babies.  The first appointment went well; I was pleased to see that there was a studio portrait of their eldest child on the wall, so, they were going to be used to buying studio portraits, and weren’t going to be surprised by the prices.  Finished that job, and picked up my voicemail – it was my 3rd appointment wanting to re-arrange!  left a message with some alternative times, another job to follow up.  I found somewhere to park near my 2nd appointments house, dragged all my gear round, knocked on the door – no answer!  Tried to phone them – no reply.  Oh well another no show, it happens.  So not having another appointment for 3 hours I decided to head to the supermarket and do my shopping, halfway down the detergents aisle, my phone rings – it was my 2nd appointment, waiting for me to show up.  The long and short of it was, they hadn’t given me the correct address.  So that one was re-arranged!  Fortunately, the 4th appointment went smoothly.

Yesterday was the last wedding seminar before the exams in December, which went well.  We went over some of the standard shots, and went over some of the theory questions.


After the seminar, I dashed back to do a viewing for the 1st appointment on the Saturday.  We started off with 41 pictures. from those they rejected 4.  After further comparing we got it down to seven photos.  They were determined that they only wanted to pay for 1 print, so with the free gift.  There were 5 photos, that they really liked, but wouldn’t pay for.  They just couldn’t afford the photos, still a £50 sale is OK.  I have another viewing this evening after work.  We will have to see how that one goes.


The first month under my belt

So, with all the preparation needed, such as getting stationery printed, and sorting out insurance, and marketing; I didn’t start the sittings for baby portraits until the 15th October.  In that time, I have had 13 appointments for sittings.  From those, I have had 2 cancellations and 2 no shows.  Out of the remainder I have had 3 sales, with an average order of around £170.  So far, I have 15 appointments lined up for November.

Putting the numbers to one side, I am really enjoying the work, well certainly the marketing, sittings and viewings – the sales side I need to work on.  What I have learned this month, is I need to show a wider choice of shots – different poses, backgrounds, clothed, unclothed, and to a lesser extent, different expressions.  Customers seem to want a wider variety of shots, especially, if they are buying a collection – which offers them the best value.

Something that was reinforced to me this month, was never do a viewing when Dad isn’t around.  I had a viewing yesterday evening, where Dad had been called into work at short notice, and Mum loved the photos.  We chose her favourite photos, a selection of 12 different ones, enough for a collection number 3, but she wouldn’t part with a penny unless her husband was there.

The unforeseen aspects of the month, were that I had to replace my exposure meter, which failed on me, and more importantly, my car is now starting to play up, and will probably have to be replaced since its done nearly 130,000 miles.  The car has served me well, as a run around I bought 18 months ago for less than £2,000.

One of my favorite customers, was a young couple who lived in Richmond.  I received a phone call from the Mum two days before the sitting asking to change the appointment, because the sitting was due to take place during the Rugby World Cup Final, and her husband was from New Zealand.  I readily agreed, and re-arranged the sitting for the afternoon. Partly, I wanted to watch the rugby myself, but, mainly, it was all part of my flexibility to my customers.  They went on to spend a couple of hundred quid, and look like being returning customers, with friends to recommend me to, as well.  So, in conclusion, I am not ready to give up my day job yet; but, I am gaining in confidence – and my customers all say they love my photos.