Photographyis still serious business despite the ever increasing personalised photography Gadgets and affordable photo editing Apps. These gadgets range from high quality smartphones
such as the new iPhone 6 with image manipulation apps that can be downloaded from their itunes app store. DSLR cameras are also becoming more affordable at the lower end and can still produce perfect quality even for a guest at a wedding for example. Their is one particular photography company however as with many professional photographers that see this as no major threat. They are Toad HollowPhotography.
Siteformedia.com got in-contact with Scott from Toad Hollow Photography who gave an
insight about his passion, the future of photography and the direction of the company.
How long have been a photographer?
I have been shooting professionally for about 5 years now.
How did you get into photography?
My father was an avid amateur photographer but never practiced it seriously. He was an accountant by trade all his life and when he became ill I tried to help him take his mind off his health issues by focusing on photography. Sadly he didn’t live long enough to appreciate his new-found love of photography, but the act of shopping for and buying him a new DSLR cameraduring the last months of his life left me with a renewed passion
and yearning to follow the craft. I got his camera after he passed away and wanted to do something with it, and thus Toad Hollow Photography was created by my wife and I. My artist statement is available at: http://toadhollowphoto.com/artist_statement.pdffor the full story.
What areas of photography do you cover?
We started out with a focus on architecture, specifically heritage
architecture here on Vancouver Island. From there we branched out to shooting artifacts in museums and have worked with local history and heritage groups from all aspects of interest. We’ve done quite a few feature stories on things of historical interest locally, allowing me to perfect my HDR techniques which I find are perfect for these
subjects. We also shoot a lot of local landscapes to showcase the natural beauty of Vancouver Island. As of today, we are launching a brand new set of services, portrait, engagement and wedding photography. Our new site has just been launched live at http://toadhollowweddings.com. We are also lucky enough to have partnered with some local wedding vendors and will be exhibiting our services and work at the huge and exciting Modern Bride Show http://www.modernbrideshow.com on February 7th,
What parts of the country do you cover?
We are currently covering all of BC, Canada, but do almost all of our work on Vancouver Island. For our wedding practice, we are happy to travel wherever our clients need us.
Do you work solo or what is the team you work with?
I work a lot with my wife who has a fantastic eye for the work we do. I am the primary shooter, but without her assistance on the many details that go into a full session I wouldn’t be able to capture the shots the way we do.
The Big Q, what equipment do you use?
We shoot with a Canon 6D at this time. I use an
assortment of lenses depending on the composition; 50mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.8, 75-300mm f/4.0-5.6 and 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6. We also use a pair of Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT’s and a Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite
Apart from your camera and flash, what tools could you not function without?
I rely on my carbon-fibre tripod, a remote shutter release for hardware. On the software side of things, we use Adobe
Lightroom, TOPAZ plug-ins, and HDRsoft Photomatix for merging HDR brackets.
What are your future plans for your photography business?
Re-branding, new ventures etc. We are just about to launch an exciting and new chapter in our practice, focusing on portraits, engagements and weddings. Our new site http://toadhollowweddings.comhas just gone live in conjunction with our exhibit at the Modern Bride Show and we are anticipating that we will meet
over 20,000 attendees. This is a wonderful opportunity, and we are very excited about having the chance to photograph people on their most special day, their wedding day.
Finally, top 3 tips for aspiring photographers.
Prepare for the future. Technology is changing the landscape of the practice at a speed unseen before. It’s time
to think outside the box in terms of your offerings and services, and to serve your clients using technology they are comfortable with. Many see the burgeoning point-and-shoot and cellphone
camera craze as a detractor for getting into photography, but we see it differently. This is an opportunity to fine tune your craft and your style, and to be noticed in a very crowed space. So in terms of 3 tips, here they are:
1 – prepare to share your images far and wide online
2 – prepare to deliver your services and photographs using technology that is widely
3 – networking with people in your trade and with people interested in your services is paramount in today’s day-and-age
If you would like to contact Toad Hollow Photography,
At April and John’s Wedding at Consall Hall we tried something a little different from our usual bride and groom portraits and combined two photos in Photoshop to create a cool double exposure portrait effect. Here is a brief tutorial explaining the technique behind the effect. First of all, you need to choose your starting […]
Moving from photography enthusiast to a photography enthusiast whose pictures earn money doesn’t just take talent, skill and effort. It takes talent, skill and the right effort. Here are eight things that you need to be doing right now if you’re going to make money from your images.
1. Promote yourself on Flickr and 500px
Flickr has gone some way towards rehabilitating itself since Marissa Meyer took over Yahoo. It might face much tougher competition than when it was the only photo-sharing site on the Web but it’s still the best place to meet other enthusiasts and it’s still used by buyers and art editors looking for image ideas for their products. You’ll need to network hard, leave good comments on other peoples’ images and participate in groups but if other photographers are noticing you, buyers will notice you too.
The same is true of 500px. Buyers might drop by this site less often than they do on Flickr but it does have a well-promoted marketplace where people can order prints. You won’t make much money here but if you can build up a good collection of fans, you should make some sales.
2. Build your Instagram followers
Facebook is good for wedding photographers who can earn referrals from image tagging and enquiries from targeted advertising but if you’re looking for some benefits from effort that’s all fun, Instagram is the place to be. If you’re active on the site, posting plenty of good images and commenting on other photographers’ images, you will—eventually—build a big following. That following can turn into commissions from agencies like The Mobile Media Lab or brands that hire those agencies to shoot commercially.
3. Sell your own stock
The saturation of microstock means that while it’s still possible to make a few bucks uploading to iStock and other sites, in practice, you’re unlikely to make enough to cover your expenses let alone a profit. You can apply to major stock agencies (and Flickr provides one way to reach Getty), but the best option is to license your images yourself and take all of the revenues.
Building the site will be relatively simple. There’s no shortage of template sites that include galleries for stock sales. Some even have an in-built pricing calculator. The trick, though, will be to build up a collection of buyers who return to find the specific niche images that you supply.
4. Plan an exhibition
Gallery exhibitions are where sales are made and reputations are built. Gallery owners will show pictures from unknown artists (although they prefer known artists) but you’ll need to be ready artistically and be prepared for plenty of rejection.
An alternative approach is to organize your own exhibition. Cafes, restaurants and community centers are all willing to support rising artists but you’ll have to handle all the publicity and organization yourself, and pay the expenses out of pocket. Expect to pay up to $1,000 — and put in a lot of work.
5. Take a workshop
Even professional photographers continue taking workshops to sharpen their skills, stay up to date with the latest trends and learn from more other professionals with more experience than them. Those workshops though are also great networking opportunities and they teach more than the best way to photograph a wild animal. Spend time learning from a professional working photographer and you’ll also pick up some great advice about marketing your work, if not from the teacher then from your fellow students.
6. Pitch your work
Art directors and buyers at magazines and publishing houses are always in need of images and story ideas for images. Not all of them will take unsolicited photos but many will. Head to a bookshop, take a stack of your favorite magazines and look through the mastheads for the names of the art editor or image editor. Crosscheck on the publication’s website or in The Photographers Market to see if they accept submissions and how they accept those submissions.
You’re unlikely to get a hard promise let alone a commission but you might well receive an agreement to look at your photos. If you’re pitching travel photography, it’s a good idea to make the pitch before you leave. While, again, you won’t get more than an agreement to look at your photos when you get back, you might well be given some clues about the kind of photographic travel story the publication is looking for. That can make a big different to your trip and to the photographs you take on it.
7. Visit galleries
Sometimes the biggest—and the most profitable—fun you can have with photography is when you put the camera down and take a look at other people’s images. Going to galleries—as well as art fairs—will deliver a number of benefits. It will be inspirational, sending you out to try new techniques and giving you new ideas. It will give you an idea of pricing, letting you see how much you can charge for your photographic art. And it will also give you a chance to talk to gallery owners and art fair sellers. That could lead to a pitch to a gallery or a booking at an art fair.
8. Practice and specialize
The most important efforts you make though will be behind the lens. Until your images are professional quality, you will struggle to make sales. And even when your images are professional quality, you’ll struggle to make sales if your pictures are the same as everyone else’s. Yuri Arcurs has managed to succeed at microstock photography not just because he takes a hard-headed business approach to an industry filled with part-timers but because his images have a particular, bleached look. You can always tell a Yuri Arcurs stock image—and so can buyers. They know what they’re buying.
As you practice your photography, practice a unique style or shoot a topic that’s rarely photographed. If you can stand out in the crowded photography marketplace, buyers will find you.
We shot this image at a wedding at Wotton House, a classic old country-style house in Dorking in the middle of the Surrey Hills (where the Olympic Road Race took place last year). As a portrait it’s a little different from our usual style (which is quite relaxed) but we wanted a classic, formal portrait […]
As a wedding photographer, one thing I’m always curious about is what makes people choose a particular venue for their wedding. Of course cost is a big consideration but that aside, what else? When I used to live in London, I always got the impression that for most, it was what the hotel (as it […]
Wedding photographers who aren’t using Pinterest are missing an important opportunity to both inspire current clients and to win new brides. That’s the opinion of a number of leading wedding photographers who have turned to the picture-heavy pinboard to show off their work and market their businesses. They’re shrugging off concerns about the uncontrolled spread of their photos and the site’s reliance on sharing copyrighted images, and are enjoying the benefits of building contacts with engaged women looking for photographers and with clients looking for wedding ideas.
That those benefits can flow on Pinterest to wedding photographers in particular isn’t surprising. The site’s demographics are about 70 percent female and the 25-34 age range is the most common, making up about 27 percent of the site’s users. With more than a quarter of those users in households with incomes of over $100,000 per year, those twenty-something and thirty-something women are a prime market for suppliers of wedding services, including photography. And they’re buying. According to one study, 70 percent of Pinterest’s users say they turn to the site to get inspiration on what to buy and 43 percent want “to associate with retailers or brands” with which they identify. The site reports 10 percent more purchases than any other social media platform, including Facebook.
That reach and those statistics are pulling in wedding photographers. A search on the site for “wedding photography” boards produces an apparently endless stream of images.
Create a Board Before the Shoot
Lisa Devlin signed up last year after noticing that a number of her clients and other people she know in the wedding industry were already using it. A UK-based, former music photographer who has worked with acts as big as Eric Clapton and Boyzone, Lisa switched to wedding photography after shooting her agent’s nuptials. Her quirky wedding shots have won her the title of British Journal of Photography and Wedding Magazine Wedding Photographer of the Year. She now also runs workshops at PhotographyFarm on the outskirts of London and develops Photoshop actions for photographers.
Lisa’s initial goal in joining Pinterest was to collate and share her ideas with stylists for PhotographyFarm. They start a board which evolves as the themes for the workshop come together. Those goals, though, have developed too. Creating a board is now the starting point for any shoot that Lisa is involved in. In 2012, for example, before a shoot in Nevada with leading bloggers Rock n Roll Bride, Gala Darling and Nubby Twiglet, Lisa started a board called Vegas Baby to share concepts between everyone involved.
“It’s a great tool for bringing visual ideas together so I also run some general inspiration boards for anything I see online that inspires me,” says Lisa. “It might be processing, concepts, fashion or quite obtuse things that appeal to me in some way.”
Inspire Current Clients, Win New Ones
Leeann Marie uses Pinterest in a similar way. Like Lisa Devlin, the Pittsburgh-based wedding photographer has also been on the site for about a year. In addition to seasonal fashion boards, she has a number of more professional boards that include montages of wedding details and color-themed weddings.
The content that Leeann posts to Pinterest from her blog and website is primarily intended to get new brides talking, but she divides her audience on the site into two. For people who have already made a booking, the ideas that Leean shares become a precursor to the photography experience, an opportunity for brides to get excited about the prospect of being photographed looking their most beautiful. For engaged women wondering who to hire, Pinterest provides an outlet to meet photographers and understand their style.
“Think of how you can use Pinterest to appeal to current clients and future clients,” advises Leean. “Those are two different markets. Your current clients need ideas to inspire them and help them through a session. Your future clients need you to remain in their minds and be interactive.”
Photography: Leeann Marie
The approach is paying off. Not only has Leeann seen one of her detail collages repinned more than 100 times to different wedding inspiration boards; she is also aware that her efforts on the site have translated into new bookings. A bride whom she photographed in October 2012 was a keen Pinterest user and was very excited to see her own wedding images appear on the site.
Not all clients may be that generous about their photographs being spread across the Internet, however, and the same is true of many photographers. One of the biggest criticisms of Pinterest is that it encourages the unauthorized publication of images owned by their creators. The site has responded to the criticism by rolling out a “no pin” feature that websites can install on their pages to prevent their images from being placed on a board. Flickr is one company that has applied the function to all the pictures on its pages. The assumption that photographers approve of sharing unless they take action to prevent it, however, may be worrying to some.
As far as Leeann Marie and Lisa Devlin are concerned, though, there’s little point today in worrying about where images placed online end up. Lisa invested money in enabling Pinterest on her site and instructed her Web developer to produce the first Pinterest-compatible lightbox. A “pin it” button now appears whenever a user hovers over an image on her site.
“We are in a digital age of online sharing. If you are overly concerned with your images appearing anywhere on the internet then do not post them on there yourself,” she says. “My attitude is that we should embrace this brave new world and be flattered that anybody else takes an interest in our work.”
The result, she notes is that only Google is a better source of traffic to her website, outdoing Facebook, Twitter and even her paid advertising.
“Brides have embraced Pinterest probably more than anyone else so if you are a wedding photographer and not active on Pinterest then you are missing out on a great marketing tool.”
In the last few years, we’ve seen photographers push unique sales points by offering reportage wedding photography that drops the formals for shots taken on the run, and Trash the Dress photography that gives brides a chance to let their hair down and soak their gown. Kevin Mullins, a British photographer working in Wiltshire, UK, takes a relatively unusual approach: he offers reportage wedding photography shot entirely in black and white.
Mullins has only been a full-time professional photographer since 2009 shortly after a move from London forced him to look for a new job. He’d been dabbling with photography for a few years and after receiving compliments on his work decided to turn his art into a business.
“I had been told I had a good eye many times so decided to embark on a career that offered me flexibility, as well as a decent income,” he said.
The following year he shot 58 weddings, an average of more than one a week. He hasn’t looked back since.
While his first jobs contained more formals and portraits than he would have liked, all of Mullins’ weddings have been shot in a documentary style. His ideal wedding shoot would provide no time for formal photography at all, a goal he’s now able to achieve in most of his bookings. But the bulk of the images he produces are also free of color. After beginning with a mixture of 50 percent color photography and 50 percent monochrome, one of Mullins’ “standard” albums will now contain a proportion of black and white photography as high as 80 percent.
And some of his clients will opt for his “wedding noir,” an album shot entirely in black and white. There are no colorful bouquets, no lavender bridesmaid dresses and no red carnations pinned to the lapels of suits and jackets. Instead, couples are given an album filled entirely with shades of grey.
Selling the option can take a little effort. Brides, in particular, often balk at knowledge that the money spent on garlanding the venue with flowers won’t be reflected in the photography, and the time spent choosing the right pastel tone for the maid of honor’s gown may be forgotten. But Mullins’ website does include a special section for black and white weddings, and he usually makes the pitch when he knows the client appreciates the lack of color.
“I often ask my clients what it is that drew them to my work and when they mention the black and white coverage I ask them their opinion on a totally black and white wedding for themselves,” he says.
Editing is Easier, Composition is Harder
The benefit of shooting entirely in black and white, he argues, is that the image takes the viewer straight to the heart of the story. Without the “distractions” of tones that could influence the opinion of a scene, the shot is more direct, distinctive and exciting. A beautifully matted album with black and white images throughout can be more appealing than mixed process coverage, says Mullins.
Shooting entirely in black and white doesn’t just affect the album and influence the viewer; it also affects the way the photographer works, thinks and looks for shots. Editing the image after it has been taken is simpler but getting the composition right requires a sharper eye and a keen understanding of how the image will look and how the gray tones will impact the mood of the picture.
“The mindset does need to be different when you know you are only going to be delivering black and white images. You have to be conscious of the light direction, shape and contrast in the scene. There is more latitude when correcting color or white balance issues with black and white wedding photography but you have to be more on the game when it comes to the structure of the image in camera in the first instance.”
Mullins concedes that not all images work in black and white and there may be some aspects of a wedding that should only be shot in color. But for him, black and white photography creates albums and memories that are exceptionally beautiful — and which also help him to stand out from the crowd.
That is essential. Mullins notes that in the UK, it can feel that there are more wedding photographers than wedding couples. Having an offer that’s unique, distinctive and can give couples a reason to choose you instead of the next photographer on Google is a necessary part of business. Price is the easiest and the most common way for photographers to win work from competitors but that’s a route that can only lead to lower profits and a sinking income. A style that’s different to one being offered by other photographers won’t allow you to win every job but it will let you pick up work from people who want their wedding memories to have a particular mood.
“People talk about a USP (unique selling point) all the time and whilst I think a genuine USP is probably a bit of a tall order to reach, I do believe you need to do something to put your head above the local crowd at least,” says Mullins.
For clients, owning a monochrome wedding album means that they get well-composed images shot in a mood-filled, atmospheric black and white. For Mullins the marketing advantages of having an offering as unique as noir wedding photography means that he can steal an edge on other photographers pitching for the same jobs.
But the real reason that Mullins combines documentary wedding photography with black and white photography is much simpler: he enjoys it. Describing himself as “never having been very gregarious,” he dreaded the idea of having to corral guests against a wall to have their pictures taken. Although he appreciated color photography, his biggest influences were black and white street photographers and portraitists like Jane Bown and Elliott Erwitt. Asked for advice to help other photographers stand out, his suggestion was to follow your instincts not the crowd:
“Don’t go down the route of shooting weddings the way you ‘think’ they should be shot because the industry dictates it. Shoot weddings the way you want to shoot them. You will enjoy them more, attract the correct clients and hopefully make a good living too.”
When you’re looking to sell photography services, you know you’re going to need a website — and ideally one that’s free of Flash, easy to browse and contains an impressive but select portfolio. You might also want a Facebook page, either for advertising or as a way to stay in touch with previous clients. But what about a YouTube channel? Should photographers be thinking of video-sharing as a way of showing off their talent for stills?
Certainly many photographers seem to think so. Search for “photography” on YouTube and you’ll be offered over 450,000 results covering every aspect of photography from rules for street photography to time-lapse photography of the Earth shot from the International Space Station. A large portion of those videos, though, tend to be didactic. They’re often tutorials in which one photographer explains to other photographers how to take certain kinds of images. Andy Booth, for example, is a UK-based photographer who shoots in the evenings and at most weekends. Despite holding down a full-time job in the insurance industry he might also complete a couple of paid wedding photography jobs a month, and since 2010 has uploaded more than 50 photography-related videos to YouTube.
“I don’t have any set rules, themes or targeted audience for the videos,” he said. “The subject/theme is usually decided by subjects that just spring to mind.”
Measured by views alone though, those random videos have been relatively successful. Altogether, Andy’s uploads have been watched over 330,000 times, with two videos picking up more than 60,000 views each. The traffic comes in largely through his Twitter account and Facebook page, a platform that also serves as Andy’s main website. Sometimes, he’ll also place a link to a new video on his Twitter stream. Mostly though, he banks on YouTube’s search engine to turn up his videos in search results and present them to interested viewers.
Ed Verosky, a professional photographer in New York, takes a similar approach to YouTube. He started uploading two years ago with the aim of sharing some behind-the-scenes footage as well as some music video work. His 23 uploaded videos, many of which are audio podcasts, have now been seen more than 111,000 times, with his most popular video an explanation of a one light portrait setup that picked up nearly 31,000 views. Like Andy Booth’s channel, the bulk of his uploads are tutorials.
“I started sharing tips and being very open about my work and how I do things,” he said. “Other photographers responded to that content and I found that I really loved teaching and inspiring other photographers to do better work. My videos are about sharing what I know and love about photography.”
Ed aims to keep his shoots simple and casual. He even shot his first videos on a low-end cell phone or a “toy video camera.” As his videos became more complex though, so the time he needed to invest in shooting and post-production, and in learning new techniques, became greater too. Editing takes the most time now, he says, but he’s also had to learn how to do 2D and 3D animation, rendering, video lighting and audio recording and editing.
The question though is whether that investment pays off financially — and the answer is that it probably doesn’t. Neither Ed nor Andy could a recall winning a booking from someone who had first seen their YouTube videos. Ed wins most of his work from search engines, word-of-mouth, a good sales page and through his portfolio. Some clients have said that they hired him after enjoying one of his blog posts but none have mentioned his YouTube videos as the factor that led to the hire.
“Photographers, like myself, look to YouTube for entertainment and tutorials,” he says. “As for targeting potential clients, I just don’t see them looking through YouTube to find a photographer.”
Even Information Products Don’t Sell
But if YouTube is primarily used by photographers looking for an education it should be a good place to promote information products created by photographers. Even that though, doesn’t seem to be the case. Ed Verosky offers a number of guides and ebooks on different aspects of photography but doesn’t believe that any of the sales of even his educational products can be traced back to his YouTube videos.
“I’m sure the videos must help,” he says, “but I have no hard evidence of that. I think everything helps in a cumulative way.”
The problem with video-sharing as a way of winning clients might have less to do with the videos and more to do with the sharing, particularly on YouTube. Our book The Successful Wedding Photographer contains a chapter on the benefits of video advertising in which Lan and Vu Bui, photographers who double as videographers, discuss the importance of shooting behind-the-scenes videos in which the photographer talks to the camera, relaxes and builds a connection with the viewer. It’s that connection, they argue, that can be more powerful than any other marketing technique.
The marketing though has to be aimed at the right market. If YouTube’s photographer channels are watched primarily by other photographers looking to improve their skills, they’re going to be the wrong place to upload a video aimed at potential clients. To persuade leads that you’re talented and reliable, easy to work with and capable of producing the images they need, you should be putting that video on your website, not on YouTube. And that video itself should be about you and the way you shoot, not about the viewer and the shots he or she would like to take.
YouTube can be useful for photographers. It can be a good way to teach other photographers how to take pictures, to spread your love of photography and photographic technique, and to dabble in images that move. But if you’re looking to make money out of photography — and you want to use videos to help you — watch it for the tips but shoot for the clients.