Sunday, 19 December 2010

Merry Christmas!!!!

Nothing much to say really other than have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New year!  I hope everything you wished for comes true.  And if it doesn't just enjoy what you've got!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Good Relationships

We all know the value of good relationships in our personal lives, but it's just as important in business to get on with people.

There's an old saying that people buy from people.  That's something I firmly believe.  Have you ever bought something that cost a bit more because you didn't like the person selling the cheaper one?  I have.  It's probably cost me a fortune over the years.  OK so I wouldn't spend an extra £100 on a fridge because I didn't like the Saturday boy in Dixons.  But I definitely would pay extra to have a photographer I liked.

I work hard to build and maintain good relationships with all of my customers, suppliers and colleagues.  It's absolutely essential to pay suppliers on time (obviously) but getting on with them goes along way as well.  You never know what you might be offered just by being nice.  'Oh go on then.  As it's you.'

I also have good relationships with my customers.  If I see them around town I always have a couple of minutes for a chat.  And every one of my customers is treated as my most important.  Whether a portrait sitting or a wedding you will always get a truly personal service.  And it's the little extras that make all the difference.  For instance (and don't tell anyone...) all of my wedding couples get 12 home made cup cakes with their wedding album, iced to match the colour scheme of the wedding!  That always seems to go down well...

Even those who aren't customers or suppliers get a good amount of my time.  It's important not to dismiss people as 'not interested' and move on.  You never know what they'll need in the future or who they know.  People are much more likely to recommend you to their friends if they like you as a person.  Even if they've never used you themselves.

In summary, in the words of Bill and Ted - Be excellent to each other!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Every Snow Cloud...

There's a lot in the news at the moment about the 'chaos' caused by the snow.  The media like to use words like 'disaster' and 'disruption' and 'snow batters UK' and 'grinds to a halt'.  But there is a positive side to it all.

Yes, hospitals are struggling for staff and people can't get the medical help they need, which is obviously very serious and not to be made fun of.  Yes, airports are shut meaning thousands can't get away (and let's not get into the insurance companies blaming an 'act of god').  Businesses are no doubt losing out.  I know I've lost around £400 worth of business this week due to people not being able to get to me.  Although hopefully the Christmas Market will be rescheduled and my lost customers will re-book.  But let's have a look at the positives.

A while ago I wrote about turning a crisis into an opportunity.  Community spirit hasn't been big business lately, but this morning a neighbour I haven't spoken to since we moved in lent me a shovel so I could dig out my wife's car.  I heard from a friend of mine this morning that his whole street helped dig each others cars out!  That can't be sniffed at.

And the schools are shut as well.  Teachers get an extra few days holiday (not that they're short of them...) and kids have time off at a time when their parents can't get to work.  What better time is there to wrap up warm and get out in the open?  There are loads of parks around just begging to have a snowman built on them with good hills perfect for sledging.  Or go out and do it in your garden.  My nephew built a fort to shield him from his friends' snowballs!

I couldn't get my Skoda Igloo out yesterday so I walked to Tesco.  As did loads of other people.  Brilliant excuse to get a bit of exercise!  At a time when massive proportions of the population are the size of a snowman it can't hurt...

And let's not forget how pretty everything looks in the snow.  The perfect time for a photographer!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Is Free Always Better?

Quick answer...No!

I've been having a bit of a dilemma recently about pricing.  There are a lot of photographers around and competition is quite fierce.  Especially around this time of year.  Many of them are offering free shoots and heavily discounted photo packages.  I wondered how I could compete with this and still make enough money to keep the lights on in my house.  Or even if I should.

I decided not to.  That might sound silly in the current economic climate.  Why would I not want to attract business from the opposition?  Well obviously I do.  So why not wade in with my own free offer?

I did a bit of research and asked a lot of people what their thoughts were on the subject.  It basically boils down to value and the old saying 'you get what you pay for'.  I provide a personal service giving all of my customers exactly what they want.  My sessions are good fun and all of the pictures I show are of a very high quality.  What the customer receives is always excellent and everyone goes away happy.  Including me.

If I went in with a free shoot and a £19.99 photo package, first of all I would never earn anything.  But also my customers and potential customers would expect a certain level of service.  I aim (and deliver) higher than that.  My prices are already very reasonable while still giving me the margins I need to live off.  Reducing the price also reduces the perceived value.

I have discounted Christmas shoots to £15, which still retains the level of expected value while at the same time giving people a bit of a break in difficult times.

In short - if you want something that's worth nothing, go get it for free.  If you want something that's worth its cost that you will love and keep forever, come to me!

Sunday, 7 November 2010


Inspiration comes from all sorts of places.  Since I started working for myself I've been to a lot of networking groups and seminars and listened to a lot of inspirational people.  The inspirational and motivational speakers are good but I get far more from people who aren't trying to inspire.  They just do.  And it has far more of an effect.

At the networking groups I attend, each week 1 member has the opportunity to speak for 10 minutes about their journey to where they are now.  There are obviously some who leave school, train in their field and work in that field for years.  That's great, but it's the ones who hate their job and accidentally fall into another profession that are really inspirational.  Or the ones who lose their jobs and start a business.  Or the ones who go through massive upheaval in their life and turn it around.  Or the ones who have a good idea and take a massive risk.

Some examples... A friend of mine had a very good job working for a frozen food manufacturer.  He moved around the country a bit and ended up in Grimsby.  A opportunity came up to buy a local driving school in Grimsby so he took the plunge!  Brilliant!

Another friend was in the army.  He got shot and blown up (his words) and left.  Instead of letting his head go down he started a first aid training business.  Brilliant!  He has also just started public speaking to share his story and motivate other people.  Double brilliant!

I could go on but I won't.  I'll leave you with a quote from an insurance broker in Lincolnshire who spoke at this morning's networking group.  It takes all of this and takes it that little step further.  "Don't look to others for inspiration... learn from your own experiences and do something inspirational"

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Test Trading

It's time to come clean.  I have only just become official...  For the last 6 months I have been working on a Government scheme called test trading.

I lost my job in January (under circumstances I'd love to discuss but can't...) which was a bit of a shock but also a massive relief!  I'd aggonised for a couple of years about quitting and taking the plunge as a full time photographer.  Can I afford it?  What if I don't get the customers?  Will my house get repossessed?!?!  But that decision was made for me at the start of the year so I did it.  OK, not straight away...

With the help of eFactor I went and signed on and got myself onto the Test Trading scheme.  It allows you to continue receiving benefit while starting your own business.  It gives you a chance to see if being self employed is for you, if you're any good at what you do, if you can make any money doing it and generally if it's going to work. 

For the last 26 weeks I have had to check in fortnightly with my Business Adviser who checks what I've been up to and how much I've made (or lost!)  Any profit the business makes has to go into a jointly controlled bank account so I can't get my hands on it (hence still being able to sign on), but the money can be used to buy stock and equipment for the business.  Something I've made full use of!

So now the 26 weeks are up and I'm being let loose into the world on my own.  The profit in the account is now mine to use as I please.  I will still be using eFactor though.  Their advice, courses and networking events are excellent and free!

I need to say a massive thank you to eFactor and especially Judith Hancock who have given me more help and support than I could have hoped for.  I urge anyone who has a business idea or who finds themselves in the same situation as me to get in touch.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Houston... We Have an Opportunity!

OK, so I nicked that off a T-shirt. But it says everything I want to say. Problems come along all the time, but it's how we deal with them that makes us successful.

A fresh problem can knock you back and it's a natural reaction to let it get you down. You focus on fixing the issue, minimising the damage and generally getting yourself out of a mess. But that's all a bit time consuming. Which means the things you should have been doing get put off, timelines get compressed and the day-to-day things become the next problem leading to upset customers and unnecessary stress.

So why not flip it on its head? Turn a problem into an opportunity. OK some things need fixing but a bit of bad news can lead to something bigger and better! A couple of examples from me then...

I'd been wanting to start my business for a while, doing a bit here and there for friends and family. Doing a bit of promoting but not really trading and certainly not making any money! I was working full time getting a reasonable, regular salary. OK I hated my job but it was secure and regular and taking the plunge to take pictures for a living was a massive step. Which I was too scared to take. In January I lost that job. It was a huge blow to my confidence and a big worry as to how the mortgage would get paid. Even then I didn't start my business. I was focused on the worry of an income. I got a bit of a payout so I was OK for a few months. So I started looking for another job. Not easy in a small, out-of-the-way town in a recession. In April my wife suggested I went to eFactor to see if they could help me set up my business and do it properly. I registered at the start of May and here I am! From jobless to self employed, working for myself and choosing my own hours (sort of) in less than a year!

The latest "opportunity" came a few weeks ago. My studio in Grimsby is within another business and the owners told me they were selling up. I met with the new owners who told me there was to be no space in the new plan for a photo studio. So did I give up the portrait work completely? Did I find another studio to rent in Lincolnshire? Nope! I went out to find my own premises. I've found somewhere and I'm currently in negotiations with the agent and the landlord. All being well [searches for wood to touch] I should be in for January or February. A bit of a gamble though... It'll cost 3 times as much as I'm paying but I'm confident I can make more than that in the new location! Watch this space...

There's loads of books available about the power of positive thinking. None of which I've read... But it works. Get your head in the right place, know that every problem is just an opportunity in disguise and just do it!

Sunday, 26 September 2010


I've been to another Wedding Fair today.  This one was at Oasis health club.  It's not the first I've done and certainly won't be the last.  They are really the best way for a wedding photographer to get his/her name out there and get noticed by the right people (i.e. brides and grooms to be).

One thing you notice though is that there are a lot of wedding photographers in Grimsby and Cleethorpes!  I did a fair in September and there were 10 of us!  It seems like a lot at first glance.  And second glance.  And third...  There is a lot of competition.

So it's important to stand out.  Yes you have to have good pictures (although not all do - just my opinion!), but you also need something else.  I like to give a really personal service to all of my clients.  I have the packages like most others, but I also offer a completely tailored service so you can have exactly what you want!

I also offer a few little extras that no-one else does.  For example, every package comes, at no extra charge, with 50 personalised thank-you cards featuring the photo of your choice.  I will soon be adding a framed "guest book" picture as part of the Gold package as well.  Something a bit special...

I don't know if it's enough, but people seem to like me and book me to be their official photographer for their big day!  There's always room for more bookings though...

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Fashion Photography

I am proud to say I am now the official photographer for Capital Collection.  For those not in the know they are a high end men's clothing retailer in Grimsby.  It is now my responsibility to take all the photos for their website.  OK, it may not sound very exciting, but the standards expected by Stuart and his team are very high.  He needs excellent quality, well lit fashion shots of all of his stock to sell online.  And he has a lot of stock!

For me personally it is a very good job to get.  It's not working with people which I love, but it is good regular work which still gives me scope to be creative.

 OK, I have had to buy a new mannequin  for the shots but I can add it to the equipment I can provide with my studio to rent in Grimsby.

I am incredibly grateful to Stuart for choosing me and I hope it is set to continue for a long time to come!

It's a good advert to anyone else who has anything to sell online.  It's well worth spending a bit extra and getting some good quality professional commercial photographs to properly market your product.

(I should probably say as well that if you do go onto the site for a look they're not all my shots.  Not yet anyway...!)

Monday, 13 September 2010

Art or porn...?

So I've had a problem recently.  I wanted to expand my portfolio a bit and offer something a bit different to my potential clients.  I already do Boudoir Photography but wanted to expand a bit and offer Nude Photography.  Now this is obviously a very personal subject matter and I wouldn't expect any previous clients to allow their nakedness to be used for my own personal promotion (although some may be happy).  And besides, I didn't have any of my own photos to use, which was really more of a problem...

So I paid a model.  Heidi was excellent!  Very attractive, slim and super professional.  And not afraid to pose nude.  I got a set of photos that I was pleased with and proud of.  I put them up on my website.  (Go to or Google Photographer in Grimsby to have a look.)

I also put them on Facebook.  Which is where the problem arose.  It seems I breached their content terms and condition regarding nudity.  I checked the rules, changed my age restrictions and deemed my photos not to be pornographic or offensive.  Facebook disagreed it seems.  My account was disabled with no explanation and I was left without for a week!

I'm back on now with the offending pictures removed.  But I still feel a but aggrieved.  I'm wondering at what point art nude becomes offensive...  Have a look at my gallery in the nudes section and maybe you could let me know...?

(By the way... I haven't posted any of the pics here for obvious reasons!)

Saturday, 4 September 2010


I don't know about you but I find it difficult to advertise.  I never really know how many people see the ad in the paper or read a leaflet through the door.  If the responses I get from the "where did you hear about me?" question it's not many.  I've found it a bit of a gamble at best.

So I started networking.  I was invited to the BNI, BoB, 4Networking, the BGG and the LBN.  I many TLAs!  They all have a similar format but vary in price and what time of day they meet.  BNI is a great group but wasn't for me.  A bit expensive and far too early.  There's really only one 6.30 in a day...  I did join 4Networking, BGG and LBN though.

The BGG meets on a Friday morning at a fairly civilised 7.45.  We have breakfast, talk about ourselves for a minute each, listen to a 10 minute talk from one member (which is always really interesting) and pass referrals between members.  This is the most supportive of the groups I'm in.  You really get the sense that everyone is looking out for you and will do all they can to help.

The LBN is an evening group and I'm Chairman (for the next 6 months at least).  The format is fairly similar with a 1 minute round, a 10 minute slot and referrals.  It's a different mix of businesses at this one though so you get to talk to a wider variety of potential customers.  This is the most relaxed group I've ever been to.  Even with the laid back atmosphere we still get plenty of business from it with an average of around 10 referrals being passed each week.

4Networking is a bit different in that there are no referrals.  It's all about building relationships with people, making friendships and growing trust.  As a passport member you can also visit any club in the country meaning you can throw your net a bit wider and network up to 4 times a week if you have the time!  It's a bit more of a slow burner but this is the most fun group I'm in and the passport makes it a bit more varied.

I would really recommend networking as a cost effective method of promoting a new business.  It really is a good way of getting your name known to as many people as possible.  Don't expect big things in your first week, but put in the time and it'll be worth it.

Saturday, 28 August 2010


So this one has nothing to do with photography.  This one's all about chickens!  We have 4.  We used to have 2.  Then we had 1.  Now we have 4...

We started off last September with 2 rescue chickens.  We called them Zinger and Nugget which we though was hilarious (and still do!)  We got them via a friend from the British Hen Welfare Trust.  I've never really been big on animal rights.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not for it, I've just never really thought about it.  But these 2 arrived skinny, pale and with only half their feathers.  It's disgusting.

We put them in their new house on the lawn.  The lawn was quickly destroyed!  So we built them a new run which was much better for them (and the garden).  We would let them out to roam the garden and let them dig up the beds and have a mud bath wherever they wanted.  And they saw snow for the first time!  Until one day, in broad daylight a fox took Nugget.  Didn't eat her, just killed her and dropped her in our neighbours' garden.

So we were down to 1 poor little lonely chicken.  She didn't really know what to do with herself.  Until April when we got 3 more!  Then I think she would have quite like to be back on her own again.  Tilly, Rosey and Poppy arrived (again from the BHWT) and peace was shattered!  Tilly soon established herself as head chicken and Zinger had to take a bit of a back seat.  They all get on OK though.

I could go on for days but I won't.  Instead I'll just say go and get some chickens!  They're brilliant!  And if you can why not rescue some?  Anything you have to offer has to be better than a battery cage with no room to stand and nothing to do all day but peck each other's feathers out...

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Christmas Pressies

It's only 127 until Christmas!  I don't want you to panic but I do want you to start thinking about pressies...

Schools are still off for a couple of weeks so why not use the time to get ahead of the game and beat the rush in December?  A good portrait in a quality hand made frame makes the ideal gift for grandparents or even your special someone.

Book a session in the studio over the next couple of weeks and avoid a long wait nearer Christmas.  Or why not try some lifestyle portraits?  We can go to the beach, the park or anywhere else you can think of!

A portrait sitting is also a perfect present for someone, whether they've got kids or not.  Why not buy someone a voucher this year.  It's something a bit different and will give them something they can keep and treasure forever!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Prom Shots!

Not really got much to say about this one but I wanted to get the photos out into the interweb because I'm quite proud of them!  This was a group on their way out to their prom.  They had their hair and make-up done, came for a photo shoot, got picked up in a limo and were whisked away to a great night!

For no reason I can fathom though blogger won't let me put the pictures up side by side, so rather than stacking them all on top of each other I've put them on Facebook.  Go to and have a look there.  Become a fan as well while you're there!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

What makes a great photographer?

Well there's a question!  It's not easily answered, but I asked it so I'll try...

A great photographer is 50% technical ability, 50% creativity and 50% personality.  Maths buffs amongst you will spot a problem.  But that's the difference between a good photographer and a great one.

Almost everyone has a camera these days and most (being kind) know how to use it to take some good snaps.  But you need to really know how to use the camera.  A correctly exposed picture may look good, but knowing what range of shutter speeds and apertures that can be used can really improve a picture.  Close ups of flowers look much better if the background is blurred giving good bokeh (Google it... it'll take too long to explain!) so set your aperture as wide as it will go and speed up the shutter.  A fast shutter might freeze a fast moving car, but try slowing it down a bit and pan to add a bit of movement into the background.

Creativity is just as important as technical know how.  There's no point having a technically brilliant picture of a rubbish subject!  Think about splitting the picture into thirds horizontally and vertically and positioning the focal point on a third line.  Or maybe lining things up on diagonals to change the dynamics.  Think about different view points as well to capture subjects in an unusual way.

But the bit that makes a photographer great is the personality.  I can only take a photo of what's there so it's up to me to put my models, whether adults or children, at ease and help them relax.  They have to feel comfortable with me for me to get the absolute best out of them.  It's just as important at a wedding as well.  The photographer is there all day and spends a lot of time with the bride and groom and their friends and family so it's important to choose a photographer you get on with and who you feel comfortable with.

I like to think I can get on with everyone.  Give me a ring, just for a chat if you fancy, to find out!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

First LIVE interview!

I've had my first live interview today!  Valerie Prentice (lovely by the way) asked me if I'd come on and talk about myself for 20 minutes or so.  As that's a subject I know about I thought why not?!

Have a look at to see me wearing a flowery shirt talking about photography, chickens, sexy industrial components, nightmare weddings, naked pregnant ladies and girls in their undies!

Let me know what you think...

Friday, 23 July 2010

The Terror of Weddings

Weddings are a bit special.  It's a massive privilege to be asked to photograph the couple's big day as their one lasting record, but it's more than that.  It's a book of memories and will be shown to everyone (whether they want to see it or not!) so it has to be stunning.  Which really ramps up the pressure!

I always get a bit nervous before a wedding.  It's a massive responsibility.  I have a pre-flight check as rigorous as a trans Atlantic passenger plane to avoid anything nasty happening.  If it all goes wrong at a portrait shoot it can be re-done.  OK, people might not be happy, but all's good in the end.  It's a bit harder to re-do a wedding...  You get one go at it so it has to be good!  I have loads of low capacity memory cards rather than one big one just in case.  A problem with a 1GB card might cost me 100 pictures.  A problem with an 8GB could cost me the whole day!  A spare camera is a must as well, which is next on my (ever growing) shopping list.  Other useful bits and pieces are a white brolly (this is England after all...) and some white clothes pegs to stop a veil blowing around in the wind!  And a tripod of course.

Weddings are good fun though.  I like to think I get on with people ad that's essential at a wedding which is all about getting the best out of people.  Directing a big crowd is fun although can be a bit like herding cats.  Get a good rapport going though and people usually do what you want!

I like taking a good mix of classic portrait style shots along with the more relaxed reportage style photos.  Much more relaxed and natural that way!  I take some fun shots as well.  You know the type... Reservoir Dogs style boys walking, peeping round a tree, jumping off a hill, that type of stuff.

All in all a wedding is a pretty scary day for a photographer but well worth it!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Lifestyle Portraits

I absolutely love studio portraits!  You get complete control over everything that happens (unless the kids are acting up of course).  The light does exactlty what you tell it too and if you don't like it a couple of presses of a button fixes it.  You know exactly what the background will look like and it doesn't matter what the weather's like outside.

But if you want something a bit different a lifestyle shoot might be just what you're looking for.  So what's so different about it?  Well for a start it's not in a studio.  The idea is to capture those relaxed fun moments when you're just enjoying yourself outdoors.  They are usually taken in a park, a field, on the beach or anywhere else you can think of.  Yes you can pose the shots, but the best lifestyle shots are the ones where the subject is just relaxing and having fun.  A natural smile is much better than one where the photographer has told you to smile!

For the photographer it throws up a whole load of new challenges that you don't get in the studio.  First is the light.  You're relying on the sun.  You can't move it or change its brightness so you have to adapt every shot to the lighting conditions.  Yes it can be 'modified' with reflectors or diffusers (or trees!) but you are limited.  That's good though because you can achieve some fantastic effects that you just can't get in a studio.

Next is the background.  White backgrounds are great, but they don't come close to a dramatic sky, a beautiful beach of a brick wall.

So if you fancy something a bit different this summer why not give lifetyle portraits a go?

Saturday, 17 July 2010

One small step...

So here I am with my very own blog.  I suppose I should say something...

I'm a photographer based in Cleethorpes, with a studio in Grimsby town centre covering the whole of Lincolnshire and even further if you want!

I first found an interest in photography in 7th Clee Cub Scouts - I had a space on my arm and that photography badge just fit nicely.

So what do I do?  Studio portraits are my absolute favourite but in the last few weeks I've taken pictures of a baby on the beach, a 5 year old on a trampoline, a man up a tree, some industrial relief valves, a VERY pink wedding, nine 16 year old girls in prom dresses and a naked pregnant lady!

I love what I do and try and inject a bit of my own personality into every shoot, whether a studio session, a lifestyle shoot on the beach, a wedding or some arty shots of fruit!

So if you or anyone you know fancies having your picture taken give me a shout!