The next wedding of the year after Lucy and David’s was Kevin and Karen's. They had found me through their daughter who had seen my advert on gumtree, after going down to Caerleon to meet them they were happy to book.
Their wedding was a really beautiful day in Caerleon, they got married in a great little church then had the reception at a local pub, shooting a church wedding was great as I got to test the x100’s amazing quiet shutter, which worked a treat, this has since become an incredible tool to use for the ceremony and in general where people just cannot hear you taking a shot.
The day went very well over all and I was thrilled with the photos, the evening presented a challenge with the light being very low and the space we were in being very small, the Fuji XE1 really helped with its small profile and awesome ISO abilities.
Here are some shots from the day;
Summer soon rolled round but all my weddings were at the end so I still had a bit of waiting to do, thats when by way of the SWPP forum I met Richard P Walton.
Rich had put up a request for a second shooter in Newport for the next day, I had the next day free and saw an opportunity to try some new skills and broaden my knowledge, the next day I met up with Rich and helped him shoot the wedding. Being the second shooter was great as I could focus on shooting documentary while also trying out some more risky ideas that wouldn't be possible for a real wedding.
I managed to shoot twice more with Rich this year and I can say I learnt a lot, the best opportunity that this gave me was at the last wedding I shot with him where I was able to use just the Fuji XE1 to shoot the wedding, and all with the 35mm lens, this was something I had felt I could do and really enjoyed it, it has made the XE1 + 35mm my go to wedding combo.
Here are some shots from that wedding:
So I was getting into my work and before I knew it the summer weddings were almost around the corner, at this time decided to go part time with my job so I could focus on the weddings and building the business, something that meant I would have much more time to focus on the work, but less money as a result. The trade off was worth it.
I was continuing to research blogs and reading magazines it was at this time I discovered an american photographer called Zack Arias, I found an interview with him about if he had to start out in this business once more and how he would do and this advice was sound, keep things simple and slick, stay out of debt and work hard. I started to follow him and bought his book, photography Q & A which answers real questions about the photography industry in a vey real and honest way, it is really worth a read, just to get an insight into the reality of things and how the industry works.
The summer came round and I shot 5 weddings in a row, this was great I was on such a buzz all this time, after these I got to work on their albums and started to develop my business for the new year. One major change was going from a 90 page photobook to a much more professional and higher quality 30 page lay-flat album, I turned to Sim2000 whose products are of awesome quality and their service is just great. This is the product I am currently offering along with the option to purchase a higher cost luxury album which is just incredible, I'm trying to keep my offerings simple in the form of albums, the choices are so wide and varied that one can get lost. Keep things simple and slick.
Gear wise I've pretty much stayed the same for most of the second half of this year, I'm always keen to get new lenses and upgrade the cameras, but I have to restrain myself, I don't need more lenses to make me a better photographer.
That said I would like to change a few bits in the future, go towards Fuji that bit more and swap out my canon glass for more Fuji stuff, but this kind of thing is always done as economically as possible, If I don't use it enough then I don't need it.
So after the summer I looked back at what I had made and the work I had done, several things needed to be addressed and took the time I had at the end of the year to get things done, in no particular order they were:
Zenfolio can only do so much and it is somewhat limiting, I needed something much more clean and sleek and that just looked more impressive, as well as something I could create myself and edit as and when I needed to, as such I turned to Squarespace and created the website you see before you. Along with this was the search for a new site on which to host my client galleries, I needed something that matched the slick feel I was going for, I still haven't chosen my definitive one yet, this will come in time I feel.
With the new site I decided to finish and refine my branding, I went for a different look focusing on white , grey and orange. After I had made something I liked I passed it onto a friend of mine who is a designer to finish it off and sort out some handouts and letterheads.
I realised I was missing an opportunity at my weddings to make more post-print sales and book more clients, and this was simply not having any business cards for people to take, or even giving that many out, I also looked into having the password for the wedding photos stamped onto the card. I wanted to start making viewing the images a very social thing, getting more people to see them and share them around, Facebook and Pintrest are areas in which I'm developing, you may notice the lack of any watermarks on my images, I want them to be seen and shared, and anyone who knows a bit of photoshop can get rid of a watermark, these days watermarking is becoming a useless task that only serves to impair the impact of the original image.
Offer more choice:
One thing which I'm very keen to keep is the simple nature of the pricing and service, by offering only one choice it cuts out the confusion, it does however put people off asking about extra albums and more expensive albums, as so I've added two products, a small photobook thats great for a gift and a very large and more expensive book that, if people wish to, allows them to have a much more up-market album.
I got to work on the website in October and wanted to spend a long time making it as perfect as I could, and creating a quick change from the first, out with old and all that. The date I had set was the 1st January, I had everything in place to spend one day and chafe it all over, website, branding, twitter, Facebook & Pintrest, it would all change in one nice smooth movement.
From here till about the end of 2013 this is how my website looked:
I was happy with the general layout and choices that come with Zenfolio, even if some things require a bit of playing around to get how you want them to look, that is my main vice with Zenfolio and thats the level of customisation is limited and you have to have certain things in certain places. Even so I still managed to make a website I was happy with, and more importantly worked as a tool for securing bookings and keeping a blog, to date [end of 2013] the Zenfolio site has had 15,000 views, thats in about 18 months so really happy with that!
AFTER THE SUMMER
After the summer was over I was onto album design, I had decided to offer the much nicer Sim2000 albums to my clients and got to work designing and delivering these.
Over this time I secured two more bookings for December this year which at the time of writing this I'm currently planning, along side the wedding work I kept up with the personal stuff and started down the avenue of food photography thanks to my friends who set up 'A Rule of Tum'.
This work involved some studio photography of food and some location photography of their supper clubs and popups, these guys make some really great food and have helped to explained my portfolio in another direction, I'm still shooting for them and plan on getting into some video work really soon.
MY FIRST YEAR
Well if you have read this far then well done to you! By now you have seen the way in which my business has grown and how I too have grown as a photographer.
I never expected to secure as many bookings as I did in my first year, and by the end of this year [second shooting included] I will have shot 11 weddings, I hope to increase that amount up to 25 for next year and I'm on track for that with 7 weddings booked so far at the end of November.
This new website was built in the hope of being easier to navigate and understand as well as being more visually impressive, which I feel it achieves, I'm keeping up with the SEO and the blogging, as well as shooting.
I still do the odd job for free, but mainly for subject mater which I've never photographed before, this is rapidly building up my portfolio and my skill set in the hope I can generate some income from non-wedding related projects.
I still have my job part time at the pizza restaurant, I'm looking to leave once I'm making a comfortable living from the business.
I'm still living will my parents, which is the only reason I've been able to launch the business the way I have and put so much time into it, again I'll look to get my own place once the income from the business is at a reasonable level.
I'd also like to thank all the couples who've booked me and the individuals who have hired me, without you I would have nothing, so thank you.
Thank you for reading this, please leave a comment below if you wish, and give me a shout if you have any more questions,