Monday, 28 January 2013

question time {part 2}...



How did you manage to make photography your job as opposed to something you did on the side?  How does one take the big step and make enough money to live off it?
This is a hard one to answer as everyone's circumstances are completely different.  My jobs before the photography were pretty low paid (I was Acting and a Support Worker for Deaf Adults) and they were also quite flexible so I had some free time and not much to lose in terms of financially.  I've always chosen to do my dream job rather than the financial security so for me it wasn't such a big step.  The hardest thing for me was booking myself up so far in advance as I'd never done that in the past just in case a good acting job came up.

I think for a lot of people.. they are possibly in decently paid skilled jobs so the leap to actually give all that up for photography with no guaranteed wage at the end of the month is a much bigger decision.  A lot will try and do both jobs but at some point I suppose this will get too difficult.  I expect there will always be some sort of leap that needs to be done and with the security of the 'day job' always there.. your photography business can only go so far.. you need the leap.. the unknown.. the 'have to get the work' drive to really make the dream a full time reality..

Most wedding photographers post the more photojournalistic shots from a wedding, but they usually do formals too.. we never get to see these.. could you post some formal shots?
Yeah.. sure.. we always do family shots.. these are the ones that we printed for our own wedding and gave to family as presents.. they are always the ones that family members buy from the online gallery.. and it's our chance on a wedding day to really get to know the family and have a bit of banter.

I have photos of my Parent's wedding and my Nan and Grandad's and these family photographs are part of my family history.. they are SO important.  I want all of our couple's grandchildren in years to come to look at these photographs and know about their family history too..


What are your most influential and favourite blogs?
I'm an every day reader of Bleubird Vintage, A Beautiful Mess, Steoffrey Language and DesignLoveFest

Where or how did you gain the confidence to know you were worth what you wanted to charge and after how many free to cheap shoots?  
I think knowing what you're worth is an ongoing struggle but the more experience you get with both shooting and the business you learn what is a good decision and what isn't.. you start valuing your time and your skill.  I like to think of it as a little shop.. someone comes in, takes something off the shelf and wants to buy it.. how many times would you give that item away for free?  The same should apply to your photography business.

How do you keep your confidence and creativity up?  What inspires you most?
Shooting, collaborating, dreaming, scheming, being open to other arts.. theatre, film, music.. 

What are the best ways to get your work seen?
Submit them to blogs and magazines.. collaborate with other vendors.. with other photographers.. build your blog.. get out there and meet people.. give your couples the best possible experience..



How long were you shooting before you booked full time weddings?  Did this come from your first Rock n' Roll Bride feature?  Also I've read that you haven't ever paid for advertising.. so what advice could you give on how to get your name noticed and start getting full time bookings..
Pete bought me a DSLR for Christmas in 2008 but I actually didn't really pick it up properly for about 6 months.. in October 2009 I started my blog which was a blog purely for somewhere to put my photos and to document my little journey.  In that same month I shot a wedding for a friend and it was blogged by Rock n' Roll Bride.  I then started getting enquiries and had to make the decision to start the business.  At the time I was working as an Actress and a Support Worker for Deaf Adults so work was flexible to a degree and financially I wasn't exactly earning the big bucks.. so the business was a real opportunity to create something that could actually give us more security and a better future.

At the time we managed to fill our calendar with bookings for the next 18 months.. we were pretty cheap and there wasn't too many wedding photographers out there.. well, not many with a similar style so I guess at the time I stood out.  With every wedding I shot they were then being blogged by the main wedding blogs which was my advertising... and since that first year it's kind of snowballed from there.. we've never paid for advertising but I'm not saying we never will.. just at the time we didn't really need to.

I think the market is quite a different place now.. there are literally hundreds of wedding photographers.. all competing to get that booking.  I think it's a much harder place to be seen now as blogs are inundated with possible features and getting your name out there can be difficult.  I would say.. first and foremost.. shoot as much as you can.. put your best work out there.. advertise with a blog.. work with your local vendors.. collaborate.. submit weddings to blogs.. blog yourself.. be yourself.. concentrate on yourself rather than concentrating on trying to be someone else.. concentrate on your clients.. be the absolute best you can be.. give yourself a good work/life balance so you can be the best you can be.. have a life.. stop chasing and just start doing.  For me, I just want to take photos in my style with couples who get me.. and when you concentrate on that I think you're on the right track..


Do you send your pricing brochure out as a pdf or a printed brochure?
My brochure is a pdf brochure that is emailed.  I don't think a printed brochure is very cost or time effective.  

How did you cope in the beginning when you maybe couldn't afford the best equipment or sample albums?
At the beginning we couldn't afford anything.. and the business was a slow burner.. a real slow burner. At the beginning we made sure that I could comfortably shoot a wedding, so in other words.. I had a back up etc if anything went wrong.. and then along the way we have bought equipment as and when we can afford it.  Some of our cameras we lease from a company called Photolease.  They specialise in finance for Photographers and at the start we wouldn't have actually been able to purchase a lot of the equipment without them.  At the beginning we offered cheaper Blurb albums and then when we could afford to.. we got our first Folio Fine Art Album... and it felt wonderful.  I remember just staring at it.. it signified such a huge journey and such a huge accomplishment.. my photographs of one of my couples in my very own sample album.. I think it's important to celebrate these little milestones and always take note of how far you've come.  But I think the equipment thing never changes.. we still need a desktop for Pete (he works off a laptop).. we need to look into upgrading our Mark II's for Mark III's.. there are lenses I'd like to get.. we need a new sample album.. the list is always there.. but we're getting there.. slowly..



Have you ever looked at your work at the beginning of starting out and thought it was missing something e.g. that professional look where everything is perfect.  I don't know how to see my work in the light of the professionals which then means I find it hard to know the value which then makes it hard to know what to charge.
I don't think I looked at my work at the time and thought it was missing something but I now can look back at when I first started out and see how far I've come and how much I've learnt... and my price has reflected that along the way.  When I started out I was cheap.. super cheap.. but I had little experience.. basic equipment.. so the cheap price was what I felt I was worth.  With every few weddings I was gaining experience.. my portfolio was getting bigger.. my equipment was getting better.. so the price had to go up accordingly (although it took me maybe a little bit too long to realise it).. I would say look to your peers.. photographers with about the same level of experience etc.. see what they are charging.. and then maybe every three bookings put your price up a little.. remember whatever you're charging now is generally what you'll be making in a years time so you can't afford to under price yourself.  And every photographer always shits themselves when they put their prices up.. it comes with the 'being a creative and not a business person' territory... :)

How does your pricing structure work?
We have a basic price for 7 hours coverage.  Couples can then add hours and any extras such as an album or an Engagement shoot if they want to.  We also will do a bespoke quote if someone wanted us for less than the 7 hours.  We've had a few different pricing structures but we like to keep it simple and let couples tailor their package according to their budget.


I've had trouble blocking out the noise and opinions of others.  I'm easily swayed but I finally feel like I'm finding my feet.  Have you or do you struggle to keep your focus?  Your work has a consistency to it so I guess you're winning... right?
This is a toughie.  I'm sure everyone has moments when they feel their work isn't any good.. or they're drowning or they're not doing as well as they should be.. or hang on.. everyone else seems to be doing amazing and I've just cried for no reason.  On social media all we see is the shiny side.. which really doesn't help anyone when they're having a wobble.  I have plenty of wobbles.. I'm constantly playing with my edits.. I often look at other people's work and smack my head on the desk at how good they are.. I sometimes have a cry that I've taken too much on.. I sometimes edit a whole shoot and then go back and re-do it cus I'm not happy.. I sometimes have to come off Twitter and FB because it all gets a bit too much.. it's all normal... but I know that all these feelings will come and go and the following day I'm shooting an amazing wedding with a lovely couple and I have that fire in my belly and everything is ok again.. but I think it comes back to knowing who you are... I feel really comfortable with who I am and why I'm doing this job.. I feel like I really know my style and over the past three years I've learnt how to stick to it.. so my wobbles are part and parcel of being creative and often they help to create your best work. 

I'm going at this alone, I'm not friends with all the right people, I don't second shoot, I follow only a very few blogs of other shooters, but I still want to make it.  I just don't know how right now.  Just need a few pointers in the right direction..
I think it depends on what you mean by 'make it'?  Making it could be shooting 10 local weddings a year with couples that you really click with.. it could be giving your clients the best possible experience you could give them.. it could be making enough money for you to personally live off.. I think firstly you have to decide what your 'Making it' is and then look at the best way to do it.  

Have you any tips on getting featured in magazines and on blogs.
Read their submission guidelines and then really follow it... make it as easy as possible for them to feature you.  But under no circumstances should you ever photograph a wedding to get it blogged.  I think with our current blog culture it could be very easy to just concentrate on a wedding day on just the images that you know blogs will want.. but remember that is only a very, very, very, very small piece of a wedding.  Shoot it for the couple.. shoot it for their family.. and their friends.. and make sure you tell the whole story..



I hope these two posts have been helpful in some way.. I know that this job can be pretty isolating at times and sometimes you're watching through your screen at the rest of the photography world being all types of incredible and it's tough.. but it doesn't have to be like that.. there are lots of peeps out there willing to share and collaborate.. and is a really good thing in my book.. :)

If you guys have got lots more questions then I really encourage you to come along.. to our Welcome Home Workshops in March... it's such a good day, a wonderful group of people and I promise you'll get super shit loads out of it.. :)

18 comments:

  1. Emma, LOVED this post! I've never commented, but I've been following and loving your work for awhile now. It's always SO good to hear that a photographer you admire deals with the same kinds of struggles you do. (Even though I *know* it deep down, it makes a difference when they actually *say* it.) So anyway, thank you for taking the time to share your heart. Such a great read! xo

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  2. Hi Emma, same as above really. Plus I love to look at pictures rather than reading through a lot of text but found your replies very honest and informative.
    Lovely photography.
    Jaime from Jamball

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  3. Emma, thank you soo much for answering not one but two of my questions! You are such an inspiration and really lovely of you to share your experiences with us. You've really put my mind at ease.. i am on the right track. it just takes time & a lot of hard work.. Thanks again!

    Laura x x x

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  4. Hey Emma that was such a great post. I've been following your blog for many years now and although we've never met I am so pleased to see how well you are doing. I loved your honesty when answering the questions and even though I've been in business a fair bit longer than you there was still loads I could take from your answers. Amazing Stuff!

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  5. Art photography is by nature different as it involves capturing a performance where practically anything can happen.

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  6. I have loved these posts, Emma. You are SUCH a sweetie answering so honestly and openly. You are definitely an inspiration to me. x

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  7. This is so inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing!!!!! X

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  8. Hi Em - LOVE this post and so excited to meet you in March at Welcome Home. I'm sure it'll be a blast xxxx

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  9. Thank you, Emma! I can't wait to meet you some day. You're inspiration posts like this are the only thing that can shake me out of my funk. I get down b/c I have basic equipment, can't afford sample albums and only book enough to help my husband with the bills. I would love to "make it" by not worrying about bills each month. I love what I do, and I know I'm creative and talented, but I question my business sense when my business lags. I'm going to bookmark this page and just keep on keeping on. Just know that you are a daily inspiration to this Texas gal!

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  10. Hey Emma, loved reading this and part one. Like you said it can be an isolated job and finding out you've had similar struggles and growth starting out as I am now is a relief. It's my first time on your site so I'm going to read the rest of your blog posts to get to know you a little better Tx

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  11. Thankyou Emma for your honesty and your openness. Can't wait for the welcome home workshop in march : )

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  12. Nice photos Emma! I love the bird's eye view shot of the garden! It’ll help the newly-wed couples to easily remember who shared their most special day with them.

    Kelli  Mueller

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  13. Excellent Q & A! Emma, thanks for your time effort and honesty. Good stuff.

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  14. Mmmmmm, Ema,I think this is one of the best stuff I have ever seen in my whole life. Really, You have done a really good job with your Lens.
    Photobooth Lincoln NE

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  15. Thank you so much for posting this and being so open and honest. You are a true inspiration.

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  16. You are amazing and fantastic and wonderful, thank you so much for these Q&As. Seriously. So much. Thank you.

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  17. I'm going to bookmark this page and just keep on keeping on. Just know that you are a daily inspiration to this Texas gal!

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  18. This is indeed a fantastic resource. Thank you for making this publicly available.

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