When it comes to photoshoots, many people just count the hours when a Photographer is actually taking the photos.
“She was only there for one hour, so that’s an hour’s work”.
Most people don’t consider the time before or after that hour, in preparation, or post-production. So I just thought it would be useful to write a little blog about what a photoshoot entails from a work perspective, plus how a Photography business needs to make money, so that it isn't just an expensive hobby!
I trained to be a photographer at Trafford College, where I did a Photography A-level over a two year period at night school when my kids were toddlers and babies. (It was also a cheeky excuse to escape the house on a Monday evening! Shhh...don't tell my husband!).
I then spent two more years doing Levels 1 and 2 of a City & Guilds Photography qualification in the evenings, learning more practical skills, processing images in the dark room and studying other photographers. For all of my photographic studies, we had to complete lengthy journals, create extensive portfolios and exhibit our work at the end of the year, which was open to the general public. Here's a snippet from my journal, which i genuinely loved doing!
But when I was about to sign up to a 5th year of photography learning, my husband put his foot down and insisted I get working!
After my first few shoots, I needed to invest in studio equipment, mainly studio lights and backdrops. And I started buying various camera lenses and bodies, so that I had the right gear, plus spares for that “just in case” moment.
With every shoot, preparation is key. With each client, we start with a phone conversation or email chat, so that I can take the brief and find out exactly what images they need. This may involve numerous emails and Whatsapps, where we talk outfits, accessories, locations, branding and general logistics. Sometimes we create a joint Pinterest board, so that I know exactly what kind of images my client is wanting to capture. Here's one we created together for a recent model shoot for a teenage girl:
For a family shoot, I prepare for each shoot differently, as I have small props to make the kids laugh, so I may pack my Peppa pig props for little ones, and then other props to get the teenagers laughing. Peppa pig does NOT get the teens smiling, I can assure you!
Then before any shoot, my kit needs to be ready to go, with empty memory cards, clean lenses and powered batteries! For my commercial shoots on location, I have to pack up all my studio lights, roll up my white paper backdrop and pack all the wires and cables, ready to set up home somewhere else. (I normally eat about 20 Weetabix's on the morning of those location shoots!)
I have travelled all around the country taking photos for clients, from Glasgow and London, to Lincoln and Bath! I’m happy to travel anywhere, but obviously need to factor in time taken to travel, plus fuel and occasionally overnight accommodation. Here's my kit at Euston station!
Yes...it was heavy! Luckily i took less on the Glasgow trip!
After each shoot, I upload all the images onto my hard drives, and start the post-production process. This involves whittling the photos to a decent number, then working on them in Lightroom and Photoshop to make them perfect. Sometimes, I send the images away for expert post-production, like head swops or adding extra people into images, which are really specialised and look dreadful if not done properly.
Here is an example of a new joiner coming for an individual shoot at my studio, so we could photoshop him into our team shoot from the year before, which took place in a warehouse (much more cost-effective than a whole new shoot):
If clients want to look at framing options, I talk them through the frames, canvas’s and acrylics which I have hanging on my studio wall, and find out which works best for them. To get this right, we often spend a good while measuring, deciding on mounts, mouldings, colour schemes and sizes of images. I then outsource the chosen images to my preferred supplier in Scotland to print, then I take the prints to my local framing supplier, who transforms them into works of art! Then finally I get to enjoy the best part of the process... delivering the frames in person to my client, which I LOVE, because seeing their face light up makes my heart skip a beat. It really is the best feeling ever.
I always get a huge buzz from my annual pilgrimages to The Photography Show at the NEC in Birmingham, where I've been lucky enough to hear talks by some of the world’s greatest photographers - like Bruce Gilden and Mary McCartney:
... and sometimes I even get to meet them. Like the time when i met the legendary Martin Parr - see below!
Plus I have time to check out the latest photography trends and kit. It’s always an inspirational pilgrimage! Then for the rest of the year, i continue my learning, by signing up to tutorials online, to hone my skills and learn new techniques. The learning never stops.
As you will see, the process is so much more than just the shoot! The final costs which need to be factored in, include my public liability & professional indemnity insurance, website hosting, dropbox fees, Photoshop & Lightroom subscriptions, hard drive kit, branded packaging materials (stickers, tissue, paper bags, ribbons and business cards), photography kit (camera bodies, lenses & memory cards), studio kit (replacement flash tubes & white paper rolls), servicing and kit repair costs, accountancy fees, memberships…oh yes…and finally, the dreaded HMRC bill!
It goes without saying that I absolutely love my job. I get to meet and work with brilliant people, often becoming friends with my clients. I get to capture exactly what they want, while having a laugh with them. I feel that i'm really making a difference, along with having the flexibility to work around my family. It really is a dream and I do feel grateful on a daily basis.
I hope that this blog has helped explain some of the back story to running a photography business and how I price the way I do. If you would like to book a shoot, or if you want to contact me about a brief, please do get in touch. I’d love to help make your photography plans a reality! Thanks for reading. x