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.. :)


house makeover..

If you follow me on Instagram you may know that we've been doing a bit of decorating the past few weeks.. well, we're trying to make the most of being a little quieter in January and getting some things done before wedding season really kicks off.  The main thing for us was the house.. we've had this little house for a number of years now but have rented it out a few times, done a lot of quick fixes.. and now it really feels the right time to make it our home.  Over this quiet period I've really been thinking about this coming wedding season and how I want it to be on a daily basis.. it can be very easy to work every day.. all day and then all weekends and before you know it 7 months have whizzed by and all you've done is work.  In previous years I've always preferred to stay at the office.. I loved working and what I had to come home to wasn't what I would call my home.. it had all my stuff in it but I didn't love it.  It was practical.. sleep there and dump my stuff there.. that's what it became.  So this year is all about enjoying my space.  I want to want to come home of an evening.. to slouch around on a Sunday.. to have people round.. I want to make it as inviting as my work is.. and the first step is to decorate..

You'd think we had a mansion for how much mess we've made but it's slowly starting to come together... although my non existent patience doesn't really help the process as I want to dress everything before paint is dry and am so ridiculously indecisive that pretty much everything has had about 9 coats of paint in a rainbow of colours until I can decide..

In the past any time we've decorated I've always played it safe.. this house isn't our forever house so I always steered away from doing exactly what I wanted as I didn't want to put people off if we were going to sell.. well.. we've now been in the house for about 6 years now so I've actually just wasted all that time when I could have had it how I wanted it.. so no more waiting.. :)

I also love it that I've finally been able to find a home for all the things I've been collecting.. the mustard sofa was an ebay purchase.. most of the frames and pictures were from car boots and flea markets and my favourite is the kitchen wall unit that we found in a skip.. obviously they all have to have Maximo's seal of approval before they are permanent members of the family..

We've still got a little way to go.. there's still rooms to paint and we're getting carpet and a new kitchen floor which I'm actually fighting to contain myself on how happy that makes me.. it is so long overdue and I literally cannot wait for it to all be finished and for me to come home from the office and enjoy our little home..


question time...

I sometimes get people email me with questions about photography or the business and one day last week I wrote on my Facebook page that if anyone had any questions then pop them below and I'll do a little blog post.. thinking that nobody was gonna ask a question.. *cue tumble weed*

Well it seemed that you guys did have a few questions.. quite a few in fact.. (I'm always surprised as I actually thought I wouldn't get anything) so what was going to be one tiny blog post.. might just have to become a few.. :)

So I've chosen a few questions for this post and will be following it up in the next few weeks with some more... (oh yeah.. and sorry for rambling....)

What was the thing you found most difficult in your first year of business, and how did you overcome it?
My first year was a roller coaster.. one of those really scary ones that flip you upside down and then jerk you in a different direction when you least expect it.  We had booked 30 weddings in our first year and pretty much hit the ground running so I think our biggest challenge was keeping up and learning at the same time as doing.  With each wedding I was learning so much and then coming home and editing and again learning.. we then were having to set up and run a business so before we could do something (send paperwork for example) we had to create it.. before we could design an album we had to learn how to use the software.. find an album supplier etc etc.  There were a lot of very late nights and just an awful lot to digest.  Everything was new and I would say that that first 18 months was the most valuable as we learnt a lot on how not to do things.  That's the great thing.. you really learn from every decision you make (and every mistake you make) and actually I think we now have a much better business for it.

Best camera to use for a newbie starting out?
I expect there are quite a few cameras that are great for when you are just starting out but I started with a Nikon D40.. then moved up to a Nikon D90 which I used for my first 6 months of shooting weddings.  I then moved over to Canon (I was Second Shooting for a photographer who used Canon so could borrow lenses and he could teach me about the camera if I moved over) and started using a Canon 5D MKII.  In my first year to 18 months I'll be honest it was a struggle to build up the finances to buy equipment.. I had a couple of bodies and a few lenses but there was such a long list of things to buy.. and what to buy first?  A better camera body or a new lens? Which lens? How many memory cards do I need? I remember seeing a photo of a photographer's desk with a little pile of memory cards and thinking "Wow! They've got like 10 memory cards! That's a shit load of money right there!.. Will I ever get to that stage??"  But you get there.. don't get me wrong.. it's a slow process.. and we still (and always will have) things to buy on our list but you do it.  I think the biggest piece of advice I can give is however expensive.. definitely have back ups.  This is vital.  If your camera breaks or you drop it you need to have a back up with you that you are totally happy to shoot that wedding with.  Shit will happen and you have to be prepared.

What lenses do you generally use?
I'm a 35mm 1.4 and an 85mm 1.2 kinda girl..

When looking around at photographers for our wedding we noticed many photographers rip off others. Knowing you have been a victim of it in the past.. have you got any advice for those who get their creativity ripped off on the internet?
I think there's a difference between being inspired by people's work and then ripping them off.  I know that I definitely did not invent the cutting people's heads off.. I find myself naturally doing it when shooting but I know that other people did it before me.. BUT everything I do I will make it my own.  If, on the other hand someone was to create a website and it looked like a carbon copy of my website then that's different.  I think when it comes to photography, especially wedding photography.. things can quite easily look pretty similar as we're all constantly working with the same components.. but I think there's always room for making something your own.  I would say, it's it's blatantly obvious they have copied something then by all means, talk to them.. but also you must be doing something right if someone wants to copy you in the first place.. ;)

How do you manage your workload and what is your process from after you have backed up your images to delivery to the couple?
I'm constantly trying to streamline my workflow and over the past three years it has changed quite a bit.  I've had periods where it's been pretty overwhelming and in peak wedding season have been literally drowning.. these are the points where we've often had to do more work (by setting new things up) which help ease the workflow in the long run but at the time seem easier to not do and just struggle on.  But I'm telling you from experience.. JUST STOP AND DO IT.

So at the moment this is our workflow..
Shoot Wedding
Monday (if possible) I will cull the wedding.
Send to Fotofafa..

So.. Fotofafa.. if you haven't heard of them then you need to look them up.  I can hand on my heart tell you that they changed my world.  Fotofafa are a post-production company based in California and they gave me my life back. This is not me being over-dramatic either.  I send them my RAW files and they do my basic adjustments.. white balance, tweaks to exposure, colour etc.. I then get all my images back ready for me to add my own artistic edit.  The time it saves me is incredible and whilst the images are with Fotofafa I get to concentrate on other things, shoot more, do more personal work, workshops, even karaoke.. ;) 

For the first 2 years of the business I was constantly at my desk.. and shooting a wedding every week meant that to keep on top of things I was working constantly.. all day.. all night.. and it felt like it was becoming a chore.. I was dreading the start of a wedding edit as it seemed such a huge mountain to climb.. but now the weight is off my shoulders and the workload feels manageable.. it is also the BEST thing when the images come back and you get to watch the adjustments appear in LR.. it's actually like Christmas.. :)

Once the images are back I then spend a day artistically editing the images.. converting any to black and white that I want, dodging and burning etc.  The following day is then spent creating a slideshow, uploading their client gallery and creating their package ready to send.. :)

Obviously sometimes weddings don't get culled on the Monday straight after the wedding and sometimes they come back from Fotofafa and I might have shoots or a weddings so again they might have to wait a few days but I give my couples a timescale of 4 weeks (5 in peak season) so I give myself a decent amount of time to do the job and to enjoy it too... :)

Along the way I've definitely learnt that one of the most important things for our business is to make sure our workflow works.. and is as efficient as it could be.  As it's improved the business and our work/life balance has improved.. and for me that is vital for us to be able to look after ourselves and our couples better..

I also have to mention how great Fotofafa's customer service is.. they have always been ridiculously helpful and have really become another member of our business.. there is always the time difference that you have to take in to account (them being in America).. but they have answered all my questions (however stupid) and are always on the other end of an email.. I'm totally smitten.

I've added some examples below of my original RAW image next to the (basic) adjusted image that I get back from Fotofafa.. good hey?!? :)

What techniques do you use to get clients to laugh and relax during your shoots?
I want them to be comfortable first and foremost.. and most, if not all my couples are not comfortable having their photo taken (I don't really know many people that are).. so for me.. my job is to make them feel safe and to know what to expect as most of their nerves are to do with not knowing what is expected of them.  You need to lead it.. if you are confident then they will have confidence in you, they will trust you and then they will relax.  I've found knowing comfortable and easy ways for couples to get close helps.. (as in comfortable ways to hold each other) and then giving them little exercises or chatting about how they met etc can all help for them to forget about the camera.  I would definitely recommend having a few different poses/exercises/games/conversations ready but at the same time relax and let go yourself.. the more you worry, the more stiff you'll be and they will feel that tension which will then make them more tense.. I want to not be worrying about what settings or what the hell am I going do to next etc and just be able to enjoy getting to know them and giving them the space to have a bit of fun together..

What would you say to other photographers who are just starting out who are searching for their own voice - and feel bombarded by all the visual imagery there is out there online?
I always get very passionate about this question.  I think it's very easy to sit for hours looking at other photographer's work and then try and emulate it yourself.. because you like what you see them doing.. they're successful etc.. but they are not you.  Every one of us is an individual.. we all like different things and are drawn to different things and when it comes to art I actually think you have your own natural style buried in there somewhere just waiting to be let out.  Yes, you can *learn* to shoot a certain way but is it you?  For me.. I always think a good starting place is to look backwards.. what has made you who you are.. photography is such a personal thing that all your experiences, all your traits, your family, your relationships, your personal style, your likes.. everything is knitted together to form your voice.. so I would probably say.. instead of looking at those blogs and constantly looking outwards.. maybe start looking inwards.. go out and shoot... shoot for yourself.. and rediscover who you are first..

There are quite a few more questions that I'll answer in a future post.. but for now.. I hope these are helpful!

We also have a few spaces left for our Birmingham and Dublin Welcome home Workshops in March.. so if you have got lots of questions and want to know more then I really encourage you to come along.. it's such a good day and I promise you'll get super shit loads out of it.. :)


lick of paint..

Yey! The website has had a little facelift for the new year!! We now have some new galleries to feast your eyes on and a few little tweaks to the home page too! It's always nice to give things a lick of paint and to swop things round a bit.  I love it.. and I'm currently going back every now and again to take another little peek myself.. :)


bits and bobs..

Last year, in-between weddings it was nice to be able to collaborate with a few different peeps and to photograph some non-wedding bits and bobs.. it's always so much fun to do something different but at the same time to still be able to carry your own style through..

I was in my element shooting behind the scenes for Pearl Lowe's new book.. 

We spent the best day playing with balloons and pretty shoes for Rachel Simpson's new collection..
To get me in the festive spirit I spent the day shooting Pearl Lowe's Perfect Vintage Christmas Workshop.. 

MIH Jeans in London needed some images of their work space for Rue magazine..
 ..and I headed to Bath to rummage in the beautiful shop that is Susannah's...It's always nice to do something different....