Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Amazing Boudoir Competition Winners

Late last year I ran a competition on my Facebook Page.  The prize was a 2-hour Boudoir Shoot with a selection of pictures on disc. A prize worth £150! The only catch was that the winners had to allow me to use their photos in my publicity; on my iPad portfolio, on my website and on social media...

I thought I might get 2 or 3 entries, but I was amazed when 32 ladies contacted me! I chose 3 and some of the results are below! Yes... I know there are only 2 girls there... Number 3 has decided she's not quite ready yet. Keep an eye out for hers coming soon though! Hopefully...

Thank you to Joss and Dawn and well done!!!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Why Are You Entitled to a Discount?

Over the last few days I've been asked twice if I could offer a discount on photos. One was an "if I bought a lot..." and the other was a "what if I give you cash in hand...". Over the last few years I've often been asked if I'll do a discount. And the justifications for the request have always been the same as the 2 I've had this week.

I wanted to explain why I don't discount my photos and why I don't like people asking me to. This isn't aimed at anyone specifically so please don't be offended or take it personally...

Everyone likes a good haggle, me included. And the truth is, actually I do discount my photos sometimes.  If you've ordered £259 of photos from a studio shoot, the chances are I'll call it 250 quid. It shows good will on my part and makes your payment a round number (even though you're probably paying by cheque or card). But it's generally a small discount relative to the overall cost. What I don't do is knock 25% of your bill because you asked me to!

I take photos for a living, which means the money I take from you has to first pay for my business costs (consumables, rent, rates, electricity, water, advertising, etc.) What's left over has to pay my bills at home. If there's any left over from that I might go on holiday! I have to make enough money from what I do to cover all of that which is a struggle. Especially when what I sell is essentially a luxury. I have worked hard to set my prices at a level that is fair for me and for my customers. I won't go into my pricing structure in depth, but you can read about why pro photography costs so much in my previous posts.

I understand that £15 for a 7x5" photo might sound expensive when Tesco (et al.) are selling prints for pennies. But my prices are there for all to see. I have a page on my website specifically for portrait prices. I don't hide anything from my customers then slap a huge bill on them once they've fallen in love with the shots! So you really should have an idea of how much you can get for your budget before you come in.

The bulk ordering argument is something I find difficult to counter. Many businesses offer bulk discounts, from wholesalers to 2-for-1 offers. So why don't I? Well it's really down to averages. The bulk of my work is done before you even see your photos regardless of how much you spend, so I need my hourly rate to average out across all the shoots I do in a year. That means that people who spend a lot with me are essentially subsidising the small orders. The difficulty I have is when the lower spenders think theirs is a big order and ask for money off. A £500 order is likely to attract a bit of a saving as a gesture of good will and a thank you for your custom. A £50 order is not...

The cash in hand argument is a lot easier. I pay tax. Simple as that. Everything I take goes through my books and is declared to HMRC. Asking for a discount because you're paying cash has an implicit under-the-table subtext. Sorry to disappoint, but cash, cheque, card or PayPal is all the same to me.

What I dislike the most though is the fact that people only seem to ask for discounts from small, local independent businesses. No-one goes into Sainsbury's and asks the cashier for a free tin of beans because they've bought 6 of them. M&S won't knock a tenner off the price of your new dress just because you've asked them to. So why should you expect a local business to do the same?

Please think before asking for discounts and maybe don't do it. Or at the very least accept our polite "sorry, but no" and don't argue the point. You never know, you just might get a couple of quid knocked off next time!

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Ups and Downs of Self Employment

Taking the decision to go self employed is a big one! It's a scary prospect and for most people (including myself) most of it is a complete unknown until you actually experience it. People can tell you what it's like but you can't know until you do it yourself. There are many negatives to being self employed, but (in my experience at least) a lot more positives.

Most of the points below can be both a negative and a positive, so it's really down to your own attitude as to what you take from it. I've chosen to enjoy it, so I do!

Your Income Becomes Irregular
Having a 'proper' job means you know when you're getting paid and how much. Being self employed (at least at the start) means exactly the opposite. For me, I get paid when I work. I'm quite seasonal so I get more money at certain times of the year and less at others. During the quiet times it can be squeaky bum time regarding paying the bills (which annoyingly are higher in my quiet periods). You have to make sure you don't go on spending sprees when times are good and put some away for the off season.

Your Hours Become Irregular
I suppose this depends on your type of business. If you run a shop, your opening hours are generally 9-5 Monday to Saturday. But running a shop isn't just about standing at a till. And for me it's even less regular...  My portrait and wedding work is to the general public, so I have to fit around their free time. I find myself busier after 3.30pm (school) and after 6pm (work) for studio sessions. Saturdays are also popular so my working hours are basically the opposite of someone with a 'proper' job! Weddings are also (usually) on Saturdays, so the first day of most people's weekend is the busiest day of my week! And if I have a wedding on a Saturday, I can't do anything else, so I see people in the studio on a Sunday as well...

The seasonality of what I do means I can be working 10-12 hour days (or longer), 6 or 7 days a week in the weeks leading up to Christmas, have no free Saturdays in the summer, but then have almost nothing in January and February. My commercial photography and Google virtual tours level it out a bit, but not completely.

This does mean, though, that I often don't have any bookings on week days so I take my appointment free days as my weekends. I rarely get 2 together mid-week, but at least I do get some time off which I think is important. Too many people work all hours because they think they have to and run themselves into the ground. Don't feel guilty about having time off! Just don't over do it...

The real positive to this though is that my girlfriend works shifts so her days off aren't always on a weekend. So we can take a mid-week 'weekend' and spend it together at a time when places are quiet!

Always on Duty
For me the biggest negative is the fact that I'm never completely off duty. I take time off when I can, and having the studio means I can leave work at work at the end of the day. But I always have my phone on me. People don't seem to think twice about ringing at all times of the day. I regularly get calls at 8 or 9pm while I'm sitting at home or in the pub. I even had a call on New Year's Day enquiring about wedding photography! He even seemed a little bit miffed when I pointed the date out to him and asked if I could call him in a couple of days...

But I do understand why they do it. People can't be researching and booking wedding and portrait photographers during work hours. They come home, have dinner and sit down with a glass of wine and the laptop, find my number and ring. I always answer if I can (after losing a very lucrative wedding to someone who did pick up) but it would be nice sometimes for time off to actually be time off...

It Can Get Mighty Lonely...
I see plenty of customers and clients who are all entertaining in their own way, but for quite long stretches of time I'm on my own in my office. I might be editing photos, designing a wedding album or producing leaflets so I'm busy, but there's no-one to talk to. That's the one thing I miss about having a 'proper' job in a big company - workmates. It would be nice to nip out for lunch with my team, or have a quick pint on a Friday with the rest of the office...

But there are ways around it. I've joined a few networking groups which gives me a good social aspect to my day. Yes, they're very good for business, but more important than that, it's a few hours of social interaction with people who aren't my customers. Customers are great, but you can't have the same relationship with them as you can with a colleague or a friend...

Doing What I Love
That's all there is to it. I love what I do and enjoy all of it despite the bad stuff. I'm happier now than I've been for years and happier than I ever was with a 'proper' job! So if you're thinking of going self employed - do your research, make a plan and just do it!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Another Stunning Wedding

Here's a few pages of the album that went out to Elaine and Jason recently. The ceremony, wedding breakfast and evening party were held at the Ashbourne Hotel, North Killingholme.  An absolutely stunning venue for a wedding and wedding photos!

Congratulations, guys.  I hope you like your album...!

Monday, 22 July 2013


No. Not the dance troupe! I'm talking about adding as many strings to your business bow as possible. I've talked before about surviving in a recession and one of the ways I've managed to do that is by diversification.

Obviously I am a wedding photographer, but they are mostly only on Saturdays. That gives me all week to shoot other people! Hence my portrait work.

I've have a target market for my family portraits and target my advertising accordingly. I don't exclude anyone but targeting a certain sector of the local population will naturally limit my market. So to extend my market a little bit I started taking different types of photos in my studio. As well as family photos I also offer boudoir photography, maternity shoots and animal and pet photography.  That has the studio covered but is still mostly evenings and weekends to fit around school and work. I still have the daytime to fill... Which is why I started the commercial photography part of my business.

Businesses are generally open 9-5 Monday to Friday, which is when the studio is quiet. So why not go out and do some work for them?! I spoke to a few businesses and built up a good list of contacts which enabled me to go out and photograph businesses and their products to be used in their marketing materials. This in itself has been diverse from hotels, to restaurants, to Vulcan bombers, to massage therapists, to food, fitness and fashion!

I'm also a Google Trusted Photographer, which means I am able to provide Google Business Photos. That basically means I create 360 degree panoramic virtual tours for businesses in Lincolnshire!

View Larger Map

Even with all of that I realised there's a sector of the market that would actually like to take their own photos. So why not let them do it in my studio! It's only a small part of what I offer, but I have made my studio available to hire to pros and amateurs alike! But once I started renting to amateurs I found a lot of them didn't really know what they were doing, so I started running studio photography courses!

Who knows... maybe I'll spot another gap and start doing even more types of photography soon! We'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Weddings - A Guide for Guests

That might seem like a strange title for a post, but the guests at a wedding play a massive part in the day. No one guest can really make or break a wedding, but there are things you can do to help make the day run smoothly. Naturally my advice is mostly based around the photos, but anyone who has been to a wedding will know that the photos can take up the vast majority of the time between the ceremony and the food. This isn't an exhaustive list, but addresses some of the gripes I (and other photographers) have at weddings that could be greatly helped by reading this!

Pay Attention
I know you're not at a wedding to be photographed, but the bride and groom have probably written me a list with your name on it. Please listen to me while I'm trying to arrange the groups! No-one likes the group photos, but the bride and groom have asked for them so the quicker we can get through them the better!

Don't Wander Off
This is an extension of the above... It's difficult for a lone photographer to corral more than 100 guests into one place when I don't know anyone's name. It's even more difficult if Aunty Mabel has nipped to the loo or Uncle George has gone to the bar! I know you're bored watching me take my shots, but there's every chance you'll be asked to be in one!

Don't Be A Comedian
I keep saying it, but no-one likes the group photos so I will try and get through them as quickly as possible. If you're one of the people who we've had to spend 5 minutes trying to find, please please please just come over, get into position and smile. Don't make jokes about being late, don't do a deliberately slow silly walk and don't make yourself the centre of attention. Apart from it annoying me (not that I would ever show it!) it annoys the happy couple. Weddings are fun, but can be stressful for the bride and groom so the less fuss the better. Don't be remembered for the wrong reasons...

Don't Assume I'm Not Talking To You
With 100 people all in the same photo together, sometimes I'll need to ask someone to move. That might be you. If I look at you it probably is you. Please don't look over your shoulder or to either side. It'll get everything moving a lot quicker!

Don't Get In My Way
When I'm posing the couple or setting up a group shot, please at least let me finish what I'm doing before you wade in and take your own shots. I need everyone in the shot to be looking at me and smiling. If you're there with your camera the chances are at least one person will be looking at you or talking to you spoiling the shot. Which means I have to take it again which makes the whole process last a lot longer than it needs to...

Don't Hide
If you take one thing away from this post, make it this. Don't hide from me!!! A lot of people don't like having their photo taken. I get that. But the bride and groom have chosen me to photograph their wedding because I take a lot of photos of their guests. They have paid me a lot of money to do so. If you are constantly hiding from my lens it make that part of my job a lot more difficult. It makes no difference to me personally whether I snap you or not, but it does matter to your hosts! Think about them... I will get you eventually, so you can either just let me do it early doors or spend 4 hours looking over your shoulder!

And Finally... Smile!
You're at a wedding! It's a happy occasion! Tell your face... I'm going to get a shot of you anyway and it might make it to the album so you might as well make it a nice one!

Hopefully you'll take something from this and maybe you'll even apply some of it next time you're at a wedding. Either way, have a lovely day!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Surviving in a Recession

Before I start, this isn't a bit about saving money, recycling old furniture and finding bargains. If that's what you're after you're better off looking at Martin Lewis... This is more about being self employed at a time when people have less disposable income.

My business, like many others, falls into the category of "non-essential" or maybe even "luxury". It's not something people absolutely must have (like food) and it's not something people need in an emergency (like a plumber for a leaking dishwasher). Photos are very much a "nice to have" item. It's nice to have fun family photos to display at home. It's nice to have some sexy boudoir photos to give your other half as a gift. But these things are not necessities.

In a recession, people have less disposable income to spend on niceties. And the media's over hyped, sensationalist reporting of the situation makes people think they have even less than they actually do! The first things to be sacrificed are the luxuries. Fewer people will come to have their photo taken and the ones that do will spend less on prints and canvasses. So how do we deal with this?

For me, it's about making the most of what I have and trying to maximise what's available. I try to make myself as visible as possible so as many people as possible know about me. My website ranks well in Google. I have a virtual tour on Google and on my website, I'm on Facebook and Twitter, I have a visible shop front, I have leaflets and I network. I've also extended the range of products and services I offer to maximise my audience.

But what's more important is that I work hard to build and maintain my reputation and high level of customer service. Happy customers will come back. But what's more, they will recommend you to their friends which is worth more than any expensive advert I could put in the newspaper!

My business started in a recession so I haven't had to deal with a fall in revenue. In fact, year on year, my business has grown, which gives me a lot of confidence. So if I can ride out this recession and continue with the trend I've started, when the newspapers finally tell people it's OK to start spending again I can only grow even more!