Please tell us about yourself, your background, and your main photography specialty.
Happily married with two kids (now young adults), residing in, and working outwards, from Kent, England. I’m no spring chicken at 54!
An unrealised aspiration to be an architect was the foundation to a meandering path toward built environment photography, specifically architecture and interiors.
Admittedly a cliché but I was interested in photography from an early age, together with a liking for technical drawing at school (vanishing points and all that…).
I’m self taught and in my late thirties started approaching local architects (Thank you Guy Holloway among others) offering to shoot their projects for nothing in order to build a portfolio – which could be used to prospect for paid work.
Shooting architecture lead to work with interior designers (more thanks to Staffan Tollgard Design Group and Niche PR for believing). The rest is history.
What are all the components of your online presence now? (personal site, social media, other profiles)
My website has been and still is my main driver for new business, followed by Instagram, a Google Business profile, Facebook and LinkedIn.
How do you balance photography work between commercial/assignment and personal projects?
Prior to the pandemic, it’s been one sided toward assignments. 2019 was most my most successful year commercially with several overseas shoots as well as almost back to back work in the UK. Inevitably paid work slowed at points through lockdowns which left some gaps and gave me some much needed think space.
We have a little place in Gower, Wales. It’s totally chilled, photogenic and offers the chance to shoot without the pressures of paid assignments.
I’d like to action more personal work and have a long list of ideas, particularly experimenting with motion and story-telling with a view to offering this as an addition to my stills services.
What has been your business’s biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge, and I’m not alone here, was making the transition from infrequent assignments to generating consistent levels of business.
There was no lightning fast fix with lots of stopping and starting for two to three years. Just as I was achieving a consistent flow of work I would hit a false horizon and assignments dried up. At this time social media was not as prominent – so having a strong website presence together with a targeted personal emailing and telephone follow-up strategy was essential.
Clients liked the images I produced and commissioned me for their next project – in cycles of anything from 2 months to 2 years. By continuing to market my services to new clients during my quiet periods my base expanded, which created some consistent levels of work going forward.
Where is the photography industry going, in your opinion? And what can photographers in your niche do to differentiate themselves?
I think the industry is slightly dazed and diluted by the massive uptake in phone photography and video-making driven by social media.
Having said that as long as there is a demand for the still image I’m hopeful the industry will rise to the new challenges.
There’s no denying the near photo-real quality and potential cost benefits of 3D /CGI, particularly product imagery. It’s coming on in leaps and bounds. You’ve only to look at car photography and Apple’s website to see its already making an impact. In ten years time the photography landscape will look very different!
Story-telling interiors and architecture with video (even if only producing zooms and pans with stills) is gathering pace and should be on a photographer’s radar. Opportunities using this medium to increase differentiation are attractive.
How is your niche affected by the pandemic?
Affected negatively by full lockdowns but luckily my niche has not been as devastated as other specialities like weddings, events and travel.
Here’s hoping for a quick return to some normality for everyone.
At what point in your career did you start using a website and what effects did the websites have on your business so far?
I used a basic off the shelf website from the get go (circa 2008) with the aim of having some online presence. I’m now on my third iteration.
Through more luck than judgement (Interiors and architecture was a far less crowded sector 10 years ago) my second site managed a respectable ranking on google. My current effort has continued to generate new business and form the basis of a strong portfolio.
Around 2018 it was starting to look dated next to a then more slick and responsive generation of websites. It was at this point I found Alex and ForegroundWeb who did a tremendous job migrating me to a new WordPress platform. 2019 was my best year for business to date with 90% of new enquiries coming through the site.
We have recently worked together again to revise the design of my home page. His resourcefulness and knowledge is spot on and I’m very happy with the results!
What social media platforms do you use, and how do you find time to manage these accounts? How have they helped your business so far?
Instagram – posting regularly once or twice a week currently.
Facebook Business – autopost from Instagram
LinkedIn – seldom use currently
I have yet to fully embrace social media as my website has served me so well and kept me busy with assignments.
Instagram has been useful and I try to post regularly – once a week at the moment. I’ve built a modest following organically, without outsourcing, and been grateful for leads and new business via direct messaging and indirectly via my website.
I do have a gripe or two with Instagram:
- Shady Instagram terms and conditions on image copyright.
- It’s difficult to appreciate photograph’s subtle qualities when viewed on a 5 x 2 inch screen.
- The flipside of perhaps the biggest pro. Images are overly accessible (and disposable) so that even the best shots and, to an extent, the photographic genre itself has become devalued and diminished.
Many photographers are looking to transition more from services to products (prints, books, workshops, photo tours, etc.) Do you plan on creating such products?
In a nutshell not at the moment. I’d like to publish a book for a personal project but, in reality I can’t see me finding the time to action it. Maybe one day.
What is your least favorite aspect of managing your photography business?
It used to be administration, particularly accounting although I have been using Xero for a couple of years and it’s been a revelation.
I hate turning down work when fully booked. Shoot windows are incredibly tight in my market, for various reasons. If I can’t meet the client shoot dates I lose the opportunity to the competition.
What inspires you? (now, in the industry)
During lockdowns I’ve plugged into the Karl Taylor Education platform. It’s a top learning tool for understanding and modelling light.
What do you think are the qualities of an effective photography website?
It should offer “good user experience.” By that I mean:
- Simple navigation.
- Rapid upload times.
- A frictionless route to making contact with the photographer.
- Imagery and copy should clearly describe your photographic specialism.
In your experience, what mistakes are people usually making on their photography sites?
- Too many images and not enough remarkable copy (I’m in this camp at the moment).
- A scatter gun / generalist approach to what they do. Eg baby portraiture and travel work on the same site!
What website metrics do you track and what informed decisions do you take based on them?
I’m lite-touch with Google Analytics and track numbers of visitors to site, their geography , device, how long they spend on site. It’s an incredibly powerful tool which I need to utilise further.
What are your plans for improving your site and growing your photo business in the next year?
My bounce rate is not as good as I’d like. something I need to work on with ForegroundWeb’s help.
Generating more copy describing my services and keeping my news section current should hopefully maintain and improve my rankings. My site is too minimalistic which I guess is another way of saying I have too much image and not enough words, so re-balancing.
As a one person business it’s a challenge to scale up. I will be more than happy to invest my efforts to maintain what I have already achieved.
In this crowded market, how do you avoid getting stuck in the “background” and start reaching the “foreground” of your audience?
Make your imagery and website the best it can be.
Select companies you would like to work with and reach out to them personally. Social media is great for this.
Prove yourself on your first shoot and enjoy the benefits of repeat business.
Quick-fire round (shorten answers as much as possible):
Your favorite sources of reading material?
I use my eyes enough in my day job so I’m a big “Audible” fan.
What’s one thing you’re deeply proud of — but would never put on your résumé?
Having a kick around with legend Michael Schumacher in Le Turbo above Monaco. He set me up a goal!
Do you have any irrational fears?
What are you BORED of?
Lockdowns and sitting in traffic in-between lockdowns.
Great having you on ForegroundWeb, thanks for taking the time. Where can people get in touch with you if needed?
Thank you very much, it’s been cathartic!
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