Hmm? Weddings.. (pt ii)

Rosie & Ben -2One of the things that I’m enjoying about writing this blog, is that it’s like my internal dialogue. When I was going to be a famous musician I practised my interviews with Michael Parkinson. When I was en route to becoming a millionaire entrepreneur, it was Peter Jones or Theo from Dragons Den. It helped my to rationalise my thoughts, work out a plan. Sometimes saying things out loud in my interview, would make me realise what a great (or more often, absurd) an idea was. The blog goes a little further, as I’m writing slowly (due to my typing ability), and it’s written down if front of my. I can re-read in a couple of week and see if it still looks viable.


Any way, Weddings…  I have to admit that the 3 days that I spent on the wedding (shooting and then processing) have been my most enjoyable 3 consecutive days for quite a while. Although there is a responsibility as the ‘official’ photographer, it didn’t stress me. There was the concern of not being especially proficient with my new Speedlite, and that there would be a technical hitch and the flash card would decide that it wasn’t going to share the wedding shots with my PC and keep them locked in its memory forever. Both of these were unfounded, and I now have the images on servers in 3 different continents, 2 separate hard drives, and on the original flash card. So I think I’m safe there. I soon got the hang of the speedlite, but need more hands-on with any new kit next time. But that’s the same for any shoot, or probably any profession.

So, having had such a  good 3 days, am I ready to add Wedding Photography to my offerings? Still unsure to be honest. Lets look at the reasons. First off, I don’t have a portfolio, so getting new work would be tricky. I have a few shots from this wedding that I could include, but to get a good portfolio together in time for bookings for next season i’ll need to hire some models and stage a few ceremonies. Not impossible and would be fun. Secondly, do I really want the responsibility of being the only person that really can’t afford to make a mistake on the day? The dj can miscue a song, the bride can get  his words wrong, or the wedding car might take a wrong turn, but at the end of the day it’ll all be forgotten about. If  I don’t get the shot, its gone forever in most cases, and it’s there to see (or not in this case) in black and white. And lastly, the prices! A typical days wedding coverage is costing anywhere between £795 and £2995 and on the face of it, I can’t honestly say I’m worth that. My images were good on the whole. But £800 for a days work? But lets break that down. On this wedding, I knew the couple, so the pre-wedding discussions and planning were a more social occasion, but in the normal course of things, you’d have 2 or more meeting, venue scouting trips, ceremony rehearsals, then a full day shooting, travel expenses, salary for the second photographer, and then a few days of post processing. So if I look at it that way, £800 becomes about £150 per day after expenses, and I’m beginning to see that my skills are, even at this stage, worth more than that. So for a 2 camera, full day shoot with an album (forgot to mention that) £795 is sounding cheap all of a sudden. What does a dj charge? In my simplistic mind, they set up, play some songs for 4 hours, then pack up and go. And the wedding cars? They probably only are on the road for an hour or so, but I know they’re not cheap. However, I do appreciate that the other vendors at the wedding have expenses, maintenance of their equipment, travel time etc etc, but i bet that their hourly rate is lots more than a photographer charging £795 for a day.

Hmm, I can feel myself being convinced that I need to keep weddings in my arsenal. Even just a handful of weddings a year would pay half of the rent on a studio pretty much. And that’s not to mention any extra sales or services that I could add-on. Yes, I’ll need some more kit, but any professional needs reliable equipment. Just changing my camera body to a twin card model would pretty much eliminate the fear of losing all of the images. And a longer zoom? Well I was going to buy one anyway.

So, on reflection, weddings are IN. It’s too much of a large portion of income to ignore. As things progress, and a potential studio picks up business, maybe then I can start to  become a little more choosy with the work that I take on. But I know of many pro photographers that started out doing wedding, kid, pets etc. and now specialise on a particular field because social photography has given them a little stability, their bread and butter income, whilst they practice on the prefered activities. Who knows, I might even keep wedding as my speciality?


Wedding Day Approaches…

Not mine!! No, tomorrow I am honoured to be the official photographer for friends of my daughters at their wedding. Don’t panic. It’s not the first one I’ve done, but it is the first one for a few years, so i’ve been revising.


It’s funny how much things have changed though. The equipment has obviously changed completely. Back in the day, I would never have shot a wedding on 35mm, it was always on my Bronica 6×6. And it never really crossed my mind that I’d get the exposure wrong because I had my Gossen Lunasix to give me the settings. But now shooting with a pretty competent Canon 5D mkii, the only thing that I can think about is corrupt files, or even losing the CF card. To think that not that many years ago, I was taking 2 shots of every pose to make sure that I didn’t only get a shot where the bride was blinking, which meant that i’d only get 6 poses per roll. Now, my memory cards will hold in excess of 1000 shots each, so I can take half a dozen of each pose just to make double sure.

And families? I’m sure they’re not, but they seem so complicated now. It was hard enough when one of the parents was on a second marriage and you were asked to keep the old and new spouses apart, but now I’m having to shoot certain poses in secret and not let the others see them, deal with too many grandparents then there should ever be in a family, make sure that Emily doesn’t stand next to Gemma, and be finished within 15 minutes just incase uncle Neville’s IBS flares up!

And the ‘set list’ of poses is now completely changed. But this is possibly my favourite part. My first wedding couple have asked for some fun images, and have virtually left me to it. They really are up for anything. There’ll still be the traditional poses, but lots more casual, informal and, hopefully, humourous images. After a few years away, I must be careful not to introduce too much cheese!

So tonight I’ll be writing my set list which i’ll probably ignore tomorrow when I switch on auto-pilot. I’ll charge all of my batteries which I’m dependant on, format the memory cards and check they’re still functioning, clean my lenses, and practice folding up my Lastolite reflector so that I don’t look like a complete amateur on the day.

So, do I want to include weddings in my business plan going forward? Yes, probably they will form a major part for next year. Assuming tomorrow goes well of course, else I’m emigrating on sunday morning! If I can cope with the stress and pressure of knowing that my work will be one of the few things that the couple have to remember the day by, if i’m happy to wait months, or years, to get the final order in for the album and guest prints, if I can accept responsibility for not getting a shot of Aunty Jean with Pat from the newsagent that nobody told me about, then the rewards are pretty good as I seem to remember.

I have a friend that runs a wedding village. They have units which are leased to florists, dressmakers, entertainers , and of course photographers. It’s like a bit of a network. If the MC gets a gig, he’ll recommend the car hire, and they’ll recommend the dress hire etc etc. And they hold regular wedding fayre so I need to start paying attention to their Facebook page, get my portfolio up to date and start to network.

That’s enough for now. I’m off to watch YouTube wedding photograph tips for the rest of the evening. See you on the other side!!

Teaching Lightroom

I signed up for Photoshop CC a few years back, and got an odd ‘free’ piece of software called Lightroom. I’d never heard of it and had no idea what it did. Photoshop did really cool stuff (that I couldn’t do anyway), but Lightroom was some sort of catalogue thingy. So there it sat as a lonely un-opened icon in the tray along the bottom of Windows 7.

To lots of photographers this might sound familiar. After chatting with the guys at the local camera club, 95% of them had a version of Photoshop, 80% of them had the CC version (so had Photoshop and Lightroom) and only 10 of them used Lightroom the way that it was intended. Most, like me, wasn’t sure what Lightroom did, so didn’t use it. Shame. Such a great piece of software.

By accident, I was watching some YouTube tutorials on Photoshop. The guy (whose name escapes me now) also did a bit on Lightroom. The more I watched, the more interested I became. At this point virtually all of my processing and editing was done in Photoshop. The more I learned from ….whatshisname, the more the balance shifted towards Lightroom. I scoured YouTube for more Lightroom tutorials. Phlearn, PIC, Serge Ramelli and Julianne Kost from Adobe. A font of knowledge. Some of the stuff was amazing, and to me it seemed very intuitive.

Couple on Sea Wall
With Lightroom processing.
Couple on Sea Wall
The RAW image

The guys at the camera club knew that I was ‘into’ Lightroom, and I’d spend the drinking time afterwards being questioned about Lightroom. Eventually I was asked to put on a short crash course at the club to show what Lightroom could do. Gerry (his name hasn’t been changed to protect his identity) was against Lightroom and Photoshop. “Digital witchcraft!!” He would mutter. But generally, the guys were interested in this underused tool on their desktop. A number asked for one-on-one sessions, and even paid me for my time! It is probably the best hourly rate i’ve ever earned. I must do more. Learn more. Become a certified expert, then I can advertise and then charge an even higher rate.

So that’s the plan for Lightroom. The certification exam is held locally, consists of 50 multi-choice questions, and cost £58. Sound like a good deal, assuming I pass of course. And if i get a studio space set up, I could run small seminars. Judging by the chaps from my local club, there’ll be a fair amount of other photographers looking for some teaching in Lightroom.

Taking Stock

Clematis Florida
Clematis Florida

Most photographers and media people would be aware of the role of stock agencies or libraries (although I was once ripped to bits by a Canadian who was livid that I’d used the term ‘library’ whereas I was talking specifically about ‘agencies’. Some people are so touchy!). But if you’re not, here it is in a nutshell. I take pictures of pretty much anything, the agencies put them on their sites, somebody buys the licence to use the picture, the agency get paid, the agency pay me. Simple enough.


I personally like taking nature (plants and flowers) photographs. Apart from times when it’s windy, they are mostly very cooperative subjects. They are colorful, intriguing, and sometimes attention grabbing. There are a handful of specialist garden and plant agencies with specific requirements for me to become a contributor, which is one of my aims this year. The image of the Clematis ‘florida’ has been a best seller in terms of commission. It’s also been licensed several times since September, so that’s encouraging.

And when the weather’s not as good, I can create some sets in the ‘studio’. My best seller in terms of numbers is the New Years Resolution set. It was a single diary page with some Photoshop handwriting added with various resolutions. The 20 different images have sold well over 100 times, and will continue to sell over the coming years, so it starts to create for me a small, but regular revenue stream.

Get a New Job Diary Resolution
New Years Resolution in the diary

There are lots of agencies out there. I submit to 4 on a regular basis, and have a handful of pictures on a couple of others. Its been calculated that I’d need around 10,000 images on a good agency to generate a decent income. Well, I have just about a thousand on my favourite  site, so it’s probably right. So if I added 50 shots per week, I’ll be at ten thousand by 2020 or so, assuming none get rejected (they will).

Full time stock photographers look to upload about 1000 per month! I just can’t imagine that kind of workflow. With all of the processing, titles and caption, and then keywording, it would be full-time and then some more! I’ll just aim for my 50 per week. I’ve almost managed that since the beginning of the year.

Here are my favourite agencies:

Alamy. I sell less volume, but the commissions are much higher, so overall my income is on par with the micro type agencies.

Shutterstock. With almost half of the images that I have on Alamy, Shutterstock gives me regular daily sales. They are only for small amounts each time but it soon adds up.

Getty/iStock. iStock is one of the Getty agencies. They seem to be a little more selective with the images that they accept, but again I receive a small but regular income, but they no longer report in real-time, so I have to wait until the 20th to see what my commission was for the previous month,

Adobe Stock/Fotolia. A couple of the good things is that I can upload to Adobe Stock from within Lightroom, and that users of Photoshop have easy access to images on the Adobe Stock portfolio, so almost a captive audience.

Stock photography for me is almost like my pension plan. If I make regular, and saleable, uploads it will provide a regular income for years to come.

Time to sort my head…

For some photographers I’m sure it’s a simple decision. They will decide early on which discipline of their art form they will follow. Some will choose  fashion, reportage, sport, wildlife or maybe wedding photography. To make any living from any of those takes time, money (for specialist equipment) and a passion for that type of work. I, unfortunately, don’t have the luxury of any of those yet so I need to fit my photography around the small amount of time that I have to devote, and the limited kit that is available. So, for my own benefit only, this is the current list of photo avenues that I will be exploring:

To get these clear in my own mind, I’ll post about each of them over the coming days. It might look different once its written in front of me!

Until then, here’s a picture of my dog, enjoying herself on the beach….. (I’ll explain that later)….

My Labrador Retriever and part-time model, Ruby

Another Blog!!

Well, they say ‘5th time lucky’, or something like that anyway. The fact is, is that this is my 5th attempt at a blog. I have little doubt that it’ll be just as dull as it’s predecessors and will sit in a darkened corner of the internet where Google bots rarely go.

But I thought i’d give it one last shot, just like my career. I’m at an age where it’s difficult to start a job with any career prospects, as my years make me less likely to be a long term prospect due to retirement, ill health or death. So no company in its right mind will invest in training me to do a job that i’ll only do for a few years. I get that entirely so no hard feelings. But you know, I get bored of doing nothing too easily, so i’ll keep going, looking for fame and fortune until i’m physically unable. And when i’m in the hospice, bed bound and incontinent, i’ll still be on eBay trying to make a few quid!

IMG_1064 job.jpg

So, whats the plan then Dave?  Back in my teens, mum bought me an ‘proper’ camera for christmas. Photography stayed a hobby for a number of years, I went to night school and got some qualifications, some letters after my name and ended up in a little portrait and wedding studio where I rotted away for a handful of years. I have to admit that I produced nothing during those years that I was artistically proud of, in fact I can’t remember any of it if i’m honest. It all went a bit sour (I had a business partner), and I eventually sold all of the kit and got a job in a betting office.

Many years later……

I felt that we needed a ‘proper’ camera for our cruise vacations, so off we went to Curry’s and handed over £199 for a Canon 1200d with a couple of kit lenses and the promise of £20 cashback from Canon (It never happened). Like most/all of my hobbies, I become totally engrossed and start to work out how I can turn it into a income source. I’ve learned to put such ideas to the back of my mind for a couple of weeks, and if they still seem like a good idea, I’ll look into it more. And that where I am today. I’ve made a small amount of cash from my photography which has funded some additional pieces of equipment, whilst still being able to hold down a full time job. So thats a start. My mental calculations tell me that if I spent ‘full time’ hours on my photography then i’d eventually have a full time income. Now to convince the family…..