Author Archives: Lisa Devlin

Speeding up Workflow by Outsourcing Editing

Photography Credit: Devlin Photos (full wedding on the blog soon)

So you have worked your ass off and your business is blooming, great! Good for you, give yourself a big pat on the back. Well if you can find the time that is. Working for yourself has many benefits, who hasn’t started their working day in their pyjamas or just not gone back to your desk after getting distracted by the shops when you only popped out for lunch? If like me, you are doing a job that you love then it can be a pretty fulfilling lifestyle and you never have to worry about being told off by the boss.

I hope you have some kind of marketing strategy that it is paying off and the bookings are coming in. However the wedding industry is very seasonal, especially here in the UK so between May and September it’s all too easy to kiss goodbye to any kind of social life. There have been times that if it wasn’t for Facebook, I wouldn’t have a clue what anyone I know is up to. The first year that I switched to shooting weddings on digital, I worked for 7 days a week for the best part of eight months straight. I had been shooting weddings most weekends on film that would be collected on a Tuesday by the lab and then delivered back on Thursday as finished prints. I had time for daytime coffees with friends and evening yoga classes. When I switched over to shooting weddings on my Canon 5D MK II, I became the lab and suddenly was spending more time with my iMac than my family.

I worked hard on my brand and website and started to feel the benefits in terms of how quickly I was getting booked up and the rates I could charge. But what was the point if I never got the chance to enjoy the benefits? So I made a few changes that have helped enormously.

♥ I streamlined my post production.
♥ I became very disciplined about my workflow.
♥ Then I trained one of my second shooters, to process and edit images in the way I want them.
♥ I invested in a second iMac so we can work at the same time or I can run different high powered applications simultaneously.

Photography Credit: Devlin Photos

Top – Unedited RAW file
Middle – Basic edit (done by assistant)
Bottom – Personalised action edit

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Pinterest for Photographers

Are you pinning? I hope so, but if you are thinking, “what is she on about now?” then you need to check out Pinterest. Simply put, it’s an online pinboard for images found around the internet. You can start a board for just about anything but Pinterest has some suggested themes to get you started like Home Decor and DIY & Crafts. Lots of people and businesses are getting on board with Pinterest and it’s not surprising. It may be one of the newest social networking kids on the block but it was the fastest site ever to reach 10 million unique views in one week.

Some of the reasons why it has become so popular are it is incredibly easy to use and a great way to organise inspirational images into a visual feast. You can follow others and they can follow you and comment on or repin your images. To get started, you need an invite from an existing member or you can join a waiting list at the site and you will need an existing Facebook or Twitter account to log in. You can then happily skip around the internet lifting images that have pins on them, by installing a pin-it button as a tab in your browser, or by simply copying an images URL directly into pinterest.com.

Companies such as Gap and Boden have realised that Pinterest can be a great place to promote their products and more importantly to us, brides are using it to collate all their wedding planning ideas. It seems like a natural progression from wedding bloggers posting inspirational weddings to brides now being able to put together their own collections of the images they see on there. In return the bloggers are embracing Pinterest and most run their own boards, you can see Rock n Roll Bride’s here. Some wedding blogs including Once Wed, The Wedding Chicks, and Ruffled now have a pin graphic that appears when you scroll over the images so images can be pinned even easier, and Style Me Pretty has this week hit 250,000 followers for its boards.

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Accepting & Declining Work and Whether to Work for Free

Photography Credit: Sacco & Sacco Photography

As an emerging photography business it can be hard to spot the times when you’d be better off saying no to potential jobs. It’s amazing some of the offers than can come your way so how do you gauge the times when it’s not in your best interests to take something on?

Even having been a full time photographer for twenty years, I still get it wrong sometimes.  Shortly after I did the Big Fat Wedding Bloggers Shoot, I was asked by a vet to do some portraits of him in his practice. I don’t get a lot of time for commercial work usually, but this sounded straight forward and it was right at the end of my road. He seemed like a fairly decent chap and when I turned up at the agreed time, he turned up late but I was polite and asked for a detailed brief. I fulfilled this exactly and did what I thought was a decent and quite flattering job portraying him and how he is at work. He was around 60 and a bit windswept, and as I can only assume that how someone presents themselves at a shoot is how they want to be photographed, this is what I did. I delivered the images the next day with my invoice. That evening I received an email saying that he was disappointed with them, that he didn’t look smart enough and he didn’t feel it really captured the ‘essence’ of his work and that now I had got a feel for the business could I come back for a reshoot? He then went on to point out that he had expected it to look more like the Bloggers Shoot…. er WTF?

I responded saying that I had fulfilled his brief and I had even pointed out to him that his tie wasn’t straight but he wanted to carry on. I also explained that the shoot he liked on my site was of girls in their twenties and was achieved with a team of hair stylists, make up artists, stylists and professional lighting. To recreate a similar shoot would cost thousands and had abso-friggin-lutely nothing to do with a suburban vets business. I told my best friend about it and she said it sounded just like her Dad who had his passport photo done 11 times because ‘they just didn’t capture him’. I declined his offer to go back for a reshoot and told him that I didn’t feel I could do the job any better and he was welcome to commission another photographer. I was right to say no as I believe he was never going to be happy because he had very unrealistic expectations.

However at other times it can be difficult to spot when something isn’t right for you. When establishing your business the pressure is on to accept anything that may come your way. Certainly if it’s weddings that you really want to concentrate on, then some portrait and commercial work undertaken during the week can be a good supplementary income. It’s important to ensure that you are getting paid a decent rate for these jobs, especially if they are not something that you want to promote on your blog. So many upcoming businesses think it’s acceptable to try to get photography for free to use on their own marketing material. As if it’s just an honour for you to be asked. I’m not saying never shoot for free because I certainly do, but only if it’s going to promote my business and is mutually beneficial. But if something comes along that’s just not right for you or you feel is beyond your skill level than its okay to say no or at least command a fair fee to do the job.

Another dilemma for wedding photographers and other suppliers is what to do when a friend asks you to do their wedding. I have actually only been a guest at a wedding two or three times as almost everyone I know who has got married has asked me to photograph their days. As awkward as this can be, I guess I am flattered. One of my close friends got married last year in Scotland (photo above) and though she had been my bridesmaid, she asked me to be her photographer. At first I was like ‘Really?’ but she said she would feel weird having anyone else do it and she loved my work, so maybe I was flattered into it! I had to be ready by 10am (no mean feat with two kids in the hotel room!) and she was stressing as she got ready, but as soon as she walked down the aisle I started crying as I knew her so well and had been a part of her life for over twenty years. I tried my best to hide behind my camera for most of her ceremony.

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The Art of Second Shooting

So you want to be a wedding photographer but what is the best way to get started? Second shooting for an already successful photographer is one of the best ways to fast track you in the right direction. You can see how someone else does it, learn on your feet and make industry contacts. But how do you get the gig in the first place and how can you make the best of the opportunity for both you and the main photographer?

Finding second photographer jobs

Most photographers will be flattered that you know who they are and that you get in touch. Target the ones whose work you like the best that feature on your favourite blogs or wedding magazines. However be aware that the more well known they are the more likely that they will have regular second shooters. Some, like Marianne Taylor use the same photographer each time. I work with a small team but they are all wedding photographers in their own right. Gaps do arise, especially in the height of the summer season.

When you make initial contact, please don’t just send a generic email to a few people. Busy photographers have busy inboxes and if you can’t be bothered to put my name on an email then sorry but I won’t take the time to reply. Do attach a link to your work and a CV or BRIEF biography but don’t send dozens of files that will take time to download. Unless you get a complete no, then its good to follow that email up with a brief phone call. I get several emails a week asking for work so how does someone stand out? Personal contact goes a long way and I appreciate that it takes guts to pick up the phone. I have been in that position as have most people who are perceived as successful.

When I was trying to get assisting work with music photographers I was aware that so were several others so I phoned and asked if I could pop along to their studio for a cup of tea and a chat. This approach soon secured me work experience and then assisting with some of the best music photographers around. Within months I was getting second photographer work, shooting major recording artists and building my own portfolio with images of celebrities that i simply wouldn’t get anywhere near at my level. Similarly Jayne who now works with me, made initial contact by phone and asked if she could meet me for a coffee. Us photographers spend a lot of week time at our desks and I for one am usually quite happy to get out every now and then. When I do have work opportunities, I will always go to the people I know first. Avoid phoning first thing on a Monday or last thing on a Friday as these are times when someone has just got to their desk or just wants to get away.

Make sure you follow lots of photographers on twitter and Facebook or forums as this is where the jobs will come up. Last August all my second shooters were booked out so I put a shout out on my business Facebook page to fill dates. One of the girls that came forward was a great second shooter and I felt like we worked together really well so she is now shooting with me regularly while developing her own work.

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The Price is Right

Perhaps one of the biggest issues that those of us who are self employed and supplying a service rather than selling a specific product, struggle with is How Much to Charge? It can be very difficult to put a value on your time and skills and of course a lot of areas in the wedding industry are over saturated with keen part timers and hobbyists. How do you find your place in the market and still make a decent wage?

I did a talk last year in London and at the end I got asked a lot of questions but one that sticks out in my mind was from a girl who wanted to know how to set up as a wedding photographer going straight for the top end of the market. She wanted to charge £3500 and up per wedding yet had no qualifications and very little experience. Erm, I was like I have no idea. Was she thinking there was a magic formula or ultimate place to advertise that would reel in the richer clients? She had no concept that the more someone spends on their wedding services, the more they want to feel assured that they are investing in a business that has proved its worth. Part of what you pay for at the top end is a high level of experience not just a fancy logo.

Your price has got to realistically reflect your level of skill, experience and equipment. A photographer goes from one challenging light condition to another at a wedding. You need to shoot at low light levels often without the use of flash in ceremonies and then go straight out into super bright sunlight. You have to be creative in bad weather or able to photograph a winter wedding which might mostly be inside. You just need to look at this disastrous set of images to see how easy it is to get wrong. Imagine you had paid this photographer £3500.

I have been photographing weddings since 2000 and started out charging £600-£750. I had already been a photographer for 10 years so was pretty adept but that had been in music. While some of the skills were similar, like being able to shoot on the hop and only have one chance to get it right, I was aware that I had some new skills to learn. My rates reflected this as did my clients’ expectations. If someone knows they got you at a reduced rate while you are still gaining confidence, they are a lot more likely to forgive any mistakes you may make. I certainly made a few along the way but as my experience grew so did my rates. I still don’t charge as much as some photographers (my prices range from £2000-£4000) but I am comfortable in that bracket. Occasionally I get told I should charge more but I like to pick a good range of weddings to shoot. I love a grand Stately Home wedding but also love to shoot quirky creative weddings. The overall budget of the weddings I have shot range from £5k to 100k. If someone really wants your service they will push themselves to afford it, for others it is a drop in the ocean of their budget. It is however important that you feel you are worth your rates.

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Finding Your Business Mojo

Sophie & Barney

These days it seems that everyone and anyone is setting up in business and despite a recession, the wedding industry is experiencing a boom. Historically, glamorous escapist activities like going to see Hollywood movies or musical theatre peak in tough times. Perhaps weddings are our new glamour fix and chance for everyone involved to dress up and forget any money woes. For the enterprising and creative amongst us, this is exciting times. With the Digital Revolution and onslaught of Social Media, it has never been easier to promote your new or existing business. The entire planet is at your fingertips via your computer/phone/tablet, there is a potential global marketplace for your product or service. Most likely precipitated by having minimal or non-existent marketing budgets, suddenly the small businesses are leading the way in viral marketing. Big companies have noticed and are now employing the same techniques, backing up their traditional ad campaigns with social media. In 2007 Cadbury released their TV ad for Dairy Milk featuring a gorilla playing the drums. It was very quickly uploaded to YouTube and the link shared by hundreds of thousands of Facebook users who also set up fan pages for the ad. Cadbury then joined Facebook and now has pages for several of its products.

By successfully harnessing the power of all the social networks and with free blog providers, you can set up your own marketing campaign for minimal costs if any at all. I have a Facebook business page for Lisa Devlin Photography plus separate ones for my training courses – Photography Farm and for the Photoshop Actions that I sell. My clients may be a bride and groom or photographers so I have different things to say on each page. I also have separate Twitter accounts and I regularly tweet a mixture of chat plus some promotion of my services & products.

Hannah & Olly

The flip-side of all this accessibility is that the market is over-saturated with suppliers in most areas. When I started as a wedding photographer in 2000, I really had very little competition. I was offering natural editorial style wedding photography when most of the established photographers were still shooting very staged images and old fashioned albums. My first groom was a website developer, so instead of payment I traded my services for a website. I listed in a couple of online wedding directories but it was word of mouth that established me very quickly. Brides love to talk about their weddings and this is still the case today… they just have more platforms to do it now. So how do you stand out, how do you find your business mojo?

First things first, whether your business is brand spanking new or you have been getting along just dandy for a while but now feel a bit stuck in a rut, the new year is a good time to have a good long hard look at your business. I do this every year, because things are quieter so I have the time but also to ‘Spring Clean’. I work out what is working well and what needs reviewing. I reassess all areas of my business, then I set myself some goals for that year. These are usually quite ambitious but I don’t beat myself up if I don’t achieve them… I just carry them forward to the next year. They help me give my business structure and direction. It is all too easy to busy yourself up with time consuming tasks and never sit back to see the bigger picture. Ask yourself, who is your ideal client? Where are they looking for their wedding suppliers? Then make sure they are seeing you or your product there.

Rock n Rainbow

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