Posts Tagged ‘Business’

So January saw yet another new venture for us at the Manor Grange Stud & Show Centre in Yorkshire. As previously mentioned we were put onto the availability of a photographers position by someone who we knew through regional gymnastics. I will be perfectly honest in that word of mouth and existing customer recommendations have been the most beneficial component to our business growth over the last few years and this was no exception.

A random comment on an equestrian thread which mentioned us, followed by a couple of emails and we find ourselves invited to try things out. We made no excuses to the management that this was a filler job, to our main event work, and as such we would not be able to cover every event. With this in mind they initially took on a second company, though sadly this didn’t work out owing to the rather irrational outlook they had on event photography.

Quite simply event photography is totally hit and miss on sales. You can cover an event one week, take a serious four figure amount with little effort, to barely covering your costs at a similar event the following week. I think the other company simply saw the cost of keeping horses etc and thought that this would transfer into a weekly cash bonanza for them. As a product example they offered a 20×16 framed portrait print of your horse for £600. Yes a whopping £600 for a portrait image framed print. Now I won’t go into markups and profit here yet with our associated costs, for a similar product, I can only see that price as obscene and attempting to take advantage. Oddly they never sold any and found this odd …….. go figure. When the cash didn’t begin flowing weekly they began pressuring the management for the bigger events and trying to squeeze us out. Thankfully the management refused to budge and so the other company bailed on them leaving us a sole photographers. The management subsequently decided to keep us as the primary business and invite random guest photographers in when we are busy. This is certainly working, things are settled & people are happy so we hope it continues without interference. Sales vary at every event and no two are the same even with similar entry numbers.

We are now six months into the contract, things are going just fine for us and the management are happy too. We have developed our imagery with multi image montage options that differ from the gymnastics montages. The equestrian customer prefers soft blending of images and no particular text, other than the location. As a business you listen, tailor and develop your product until people are happy. We have done this and sell quite a few of the montages per month.

An example of a montage –

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At manor we cover two styles of equestrian competition which are dressage and jumping.

Dressage is, when it all goes to plan, a wonderful demonstration of harmony between horse and rider. From the basic entry level tests, for beginners, to the advanced where the horses even complete the routine to music is something to see. As someone who has never even sat on a horse I respect every rider out there for the hard work and dedication to just reach these regional rounds.

When it’s all going nicely –

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And when things require that exceptional extra control –

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Surprisingly I have captured several of these rear-up moments which can appear a little scary at the time. The riders I have subsequently spoken to all seem to laugh it off with the lady above almost resigned to this happening as her horse had been ‘flitty’ all day, as she put it. Well I for one am still impressed at their control of such a situation.

The jumping side of things is far simpler than the dressage side. Dressage riders like the horse to look all flowing and majestic, which can be difficult to capture, whereas the jumpers are simply that, jumpers who like to see them and their horse coming over a jump. A slight angle is normally preferred to show the horse in its fullest so the only real thing we can’t guarantee is the weather. When it rains this particular eventing is awful to cover. Standing in the middle of the arena, wrapped up in waterproof clothing all day, shooting through a steady downpour is no fun. Thank the lord for Canon’s Pro sealed weather sealed cameras and lenses.

A typical jump image –

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We have had several of our images published too. Publications Horse & Hound, Equestrian Life & British Dressage all help spread the word that we are out there. Will the call from a major event organiser or publication come asking us to cover a major ever come. Well I never thought I would have been booked to cover gymnastics finals at the Olympic Park, this year, for the third year running so anything is possible.

Horse & Hound –

I have blurred out imagery which is not mine.

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Equestrian Life –

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The next six months sees us filling all of our gap days on weekends along with some steady weekday work also from this venture. We have made some new friends, gained a whole new customer base and hopefully something that will grow as the gymnastics has over the years.

Until next time ……

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The end of 2016 was somewhat manic and so to simply write up about each and every event would be literacy lunacy at best. It would probably bore most people to sleep also.

The biggest event of the year for us was the Trampoline League Finals which were held at the Velodrome in Londons Olympic Park. Some of you may recall that we also covered the 2015 finals at the Copper Box Arena, across the road. Though the velodrome was clearly built for cycling the fact that the track was there made an excellent barrier between competitors and spectators. This kept the main competition floor clear of curios spectators that ignored keeping the floor clear of spectators at the Coper Box. You now have to imaging some 600+ competitors over the 2 days all doing two qualifying routines on the Saturday and then onto the actual finals on the Sunday. To say this is manic for us would be a gross understatement on the physical workload imposed. The two days saw us capture some 12,500 images in total which were all individually colour checked, cropped and uploaded into specific online galleries by the Thursday of the same week. Literally 7am to 11pm, over four days, continually using 2 computers to edit with is a guaranteed headache by 12 noon each day. Plenty of water consumed its almost like a marathon for your mental abilities to remain focussed on what you are doing. As with anything repetitive this can go somewhat wrong at times and this is where you take that 5 minute break and grab some air and refresh your brain.

The weekend was the success that the previous year had been too. As a consequence we are booked to cover the 2017 series including finals, which are again at the Velodrome. Our only niggle was the location for our sales desk which was somewhat stratospheric in location and required quite a trek, by potential customers, to reach us. This year we will be requesting a more local to the people spot.

Here’s my daughter with the view from our desk. This was the Friday evening during setup.

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Other notable jobs we undertook at the end of 2016 where the BSGA Schools qualifiers for the Yorkshire, North West & North East regions. These were held over three weekends, owing to their size, and again kept us busy as they were all held on successive weekends.

The Yorkshire championships were also held which was a mad weekend away in Huddersfield. Another fine spectacle of well drilled kids showing their skills to a most interested audience.

After a few Xmas parties for clubs and businesses the year came to a close for us in the third week of December. To actually sit and not have to worry for a couple of weeks about batteries, printers, monitors, and anything else equipment wise was lovely and allowed us to enjoy both Xmas and the New Year.

2017 was now knocking on the door. Bookings started in the January and with what was already a good solid years bookings did not include the surprise contract which arrived at the end of January. With several bookings already in for 2018 things were looking good.

I’ll leave with the image of our business logo being shown on the giant screens at the Velodrome. When I looked up and saw this for the first time I got one of those big silly smiles across my face. All the hard work was worth it.

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September saw the 4th round of the Uk Trampoline / DMT League take place in Newcastle. These events are huge and extremely demanding for us not only as a business yet also on a personal level.

The weekend starts a few days before with the preparation of online galleries being set up correctly and with coordinated passwords for guest access. Equipment checks follow with essentials such as all batteries receiving a last top up charge to ensure we at least have power. We drain at least 4 of the Canon LP-E6N’s each day depending on usage. Usage obviously varies depending on the amount of competitors which dictates how many clicks are required per day.

We aim to capture at least one present to the judges followed by as many of the 10 subsequent moves as possible or look good and then the final present at the end of the routine to the judges. This can provide a maximum of 12 images per competitor. Consider that every competitor does 2 routines and it becomes obvious that with a minimum of 400 competitors at an event we easily reach 10,000 images when podium images are included. Earlier in the year at Cardiff there were 800 competitors over the 2 days and we came away with some 15,000 images to process.

The weekend starts with a drive to the host city on the Friday evening where we have a pre-booked hotel for the 2 nights. If there is time we visit the venue and start our setup if possible. This saves us a little time on the Saturday morning yet as we have been doing this some time now we can set the desk up in some 10 minutes from bare tables to fully functioning sales desks.

The weekend then just steam rolls along taking us along with it. Photographers almost hold the 4.5kg of camera & lens to our faces for 9hrs straight. This can be extended if delays are incurred by competitors crashing out and requiring medical assistance. This has a massive effect on your arms and back which can start to stiffen by lunchtime. The Sunday becomes a mind over matter exercise with the pain that just doesn’t go away. The desk is a continuous queue of people wanting to view, and hopefully purchase the images taken. As Sunday ends for the photographers the desk continues to run. It can, and has, run on for over 2hrs after an event has finished. Still with a queue of parents waiting, the venue almost cleared and up to a 4hr drive in front of us every potential purchase is important so we stay. We arrive home late on the Sunday night, sometimes gone midnight, and after unloading the van its bedtime.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and sometimes even Thursday are then solid editing and uploading of images to the respective galleries.Whilst most people understand the process I can guarantee at least 2 emails are sent on the Sunday, whilst we are still shooting the ongoing competition, asking what they can’t yet see any images in the gallery. We even place a notice at the start of every gallery notifying visitors of the process and yet they still email. Sometimes you just wonder how some people cope with life.

Once Friday arrives its simply time to check everything again if we have work on that upcoming weekend too. We are working almost every weekend of 2017 with just a few free or deliberately crossed off because of birthdays or holidays etc. You have to be busy to survive yet sometimes you just wish things would stop or at least slow down.

This particular weekend produced a reasonable 10,100 images which were edited by the Wednesday. With just one more qualifier to go in a few weeks time it’ll soon be the finals down at the Velodrome in London and thats a big one.

The images are simply what we post on social media to announce when certain panels and beds have completed galleries, though the second one just goes to prove that the competitors can still have time to enjoy themselves too.

You can read all about the league here – Trampoline / DMT League

All serious but with smiles –

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Having a bit of fun too or in one case how not to bounce –

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The following image is one of a series that I have undertaken with a very lovely young lady who has participated in several ideas I have had over the last few years.

The idea of body painting someone in either a single colour or multi colours is certainly nothing new yet something I would recommend to any photographer who has the time, a studio and a willing model. The whole experience is something different to the usual humdrum high key imagery normally produced in the studio. With the right people involved you can also have a jolly good laugh as we both did on this occasion.

The model is simply painted in silver dust mixed with body oil. This allows the dust to spread easier whilst giving it a shimmering almost alive look. We had sampled just applying the dust in its raw form yet I believed, and the model agreed, that it looked somewhat dull in comparison to the liquid version. When I say painted the silver was literally applied with a 1″ paint brush from the pot in which it was mixed. Nothing fancy about that at all.

There was nothing outstanding about the shoot and things progressed as with any other shoot trying out different lighting and poses. A whole series of different image styles and poses were accomplished however I will keep the imagery appropriate for all to appreciate whilst retaining the dignity of the model on such a public forum.

The gold liquid was added towards the close of the shoot to simply add a different dimension within the colours. This almost made it look as if she was either melting or indeed oozing the gold from her mouth which we both agreed was a quality look.

With the ‘melting’ idea firmly afloat I added the flame effects in Photoshop to create a set of finished images the model was extremely pleased with. All in all it was a most satisfactory finish to what had initially been a “what if?” idea.

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I’ve been meaning to catch up with this and splash a mediocre editorial overview in here but to be perfectly honest I’ve just been busy.

Since my last entry we haven’t had a weekend off from work. A total of 35,000 more images have been added to our galleries and today represents a totally clear day from editing or compiling montage images from eager customers. It’s all back to normal this Friday when we have a local Academies prom to cover which should be eventful.

So what have we been up to? Several local gymnastics competitions, 3 x regional competitions and 1 x two day national competition over in Cardiff. 1 x wedding and a couple of family portrait sessions complete the recent workload. The event photography is now so slick it’s almost a pleasure to do other than holding 4.5kg of camera for several hours which is like being down the gym all day. After the second day at Cardiff we stopped off for tea, as we left, with both my lad and I having the shakes from holding that weight all weekend. Arms, shoulders and back muscles certainly take a pounding.

The wedding was breeze as were the studio shoots. I have my first gay wedding next Monday in Scunthorpe which I am seriously looking forward to. Both are mad as hatters and lovely with it so ready for some fun imagery to be captured.

I would love to undertake more wedding photography yet I fear the market is being undermined by individuals whom don’t know their worth. I was sat in a certain coffee shop last week with my wife where a photographer was peddling her wares to an eager couple. We could both hear her pitch, which was fine, as she removed an assortment of large photo albums from a carrier bag. Her final price for covering this couples all day wedding, night function and large A3 style album ……….. £200!!!!!! I nearly choked on my coffee and the look on my wife’s face was classic. £200 for what would be some 12-14hrs work plus editing and the cost of the album. Take the album at £50 (ish) leaves her working at roughly 14p/hr on the day. Suggest double the time editing the images and creating the album and it becomes less than minimum wage. Why I have no idea.

Back to our event work we now have further multi image offering we give at events. This is a deliberate move to continue maximising net profits. Whilst the cost of the print, mount and bag remain the same the increased customer purchase cost of the multi image prints enhance our profits substantially. Whilst I won’t discuss the exact monies these multi prints have increased our revenues by some 40% year on year making things far more comfortable when we come to replacing hardware. It is still interesting that the southern part of the country will happily purchase multiple prints for their kids who are competing along with one for grandma & grandad etc where the more Northern we get money is more sparingly spent. There’s certainly a divide of some sorts in this country.

So the next few weeks see us at weddings, nursery portrait shoots, gymnastics, trampolining and swimming events. Given the time I’ve spent editing all the images from the last few weeks I should be updating this around August time lol.

Until then here are the 2 new additions to our event print options –

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Edit – After feedback from the young lady on these images a small border was placed between the images on the left image.

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Fantastic day in the studio with a semi-pro model trying out several different portrait styles and a myriad of lighting techniques. Got myself a final image for No.10 in my interpretations section of images though this will stay under wraps until very close to the date required owing to it’s potential sensitive nature to some viewers.

A whole selection of portrait images were taken for the models hobby with which she was most happy, even pre post production. I must admit that since completing my studio lighting set up giving me 5 x 750 Pros, a boom arm for that all important hair lighting, plus additional lighting modifiers things have become a lot more slicker whilst lighting position and power alterations take place.

Used my 24-70 for the whole shoot duration and controlled the lighting to f/8 at all times. Yes it would have been easier to just meter and alter the f/stop but I wanted to maintain the depth of field in all the images just as a challenge to myself. My continuing efforts in learning and understanding of the Inverse Square Law within the studio is enabling me to make well educated adjustments to lighting which when re-metered 99% of the time came out at f/8.

One of the images from the day is below. Minor PP, plus some desaturation, created the exact effect to the image that the model wanted. There is some obvious further PP required to bring the image to an acceptable standard though and the model was made aware of this. Outline blend to background being the main issue along with sequins and general outfit corrections. My main annoyance was that I had made a very basic mistake allowing light spill onto the black background. Whilst easy to rectify I really should be getting this right first time and attention to the basics must not be forgotten.

And the technicals are 55mm, 1/125th, f/8 and ISO 100.

Image

4 Nov 2013 – Update

Spent some time on the image cleaning up the blending of the model and background and colours. I also replaced the missing sequins from the straps. The elasticated “V” in the small of her back has also been removed. Though this is supposed to be there for expansion purposes I feel the image benefits from the cloning out.

I decided to complete and show her two copies of the same image. One was coloured as shot in the studio with the second being desaturated by 70%. I preferred the desaturated version yet she preferred the full colour version which serves me right for showing her the two images. She had originally preffered the desaturated version.  I had briefly looked at completing an enhanced colour and vibrance version but it just looked silly and out of place against the black background. The model wanted a low key subdued image and the added colour and vibrance did nothing to enhance the image in any way.

This is the image the client decided on.

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This however was my preferred version with the 70% desaturation.

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Took full advantage of the lull in the weather to develop the idea I have for this particular image. Created exactly what I wanted to yet upon returning home found my DoF, even at f/14, on the macro to have still left the signs out of focus. All I need to do then is increase my DoF and make sure that the signs remain on the same focal plane as the men and loo.

So this is nearly the image I wanted.

100mm Macro, 1/13th sec, f/14 and ISO 100.

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And this is a wide shot in the roadworks just for scale purposes.

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Back again later I think to make minor adjustments if the rain holds off.

Well I’ve popped back after lunch as the wind is increasing, the clouds darkening and all things weather wise not looking too favourable for Slinkachu shooting opportunities. With the weather forecast for the next several days being poor I felt that this needed to be done now.

Changed a couple of things with the set up and image content. Changed one of the figures which I felt better complimented the man with the jack hammer. Also decided to bring a few micro picks and shovels in to give the illusion of more workmen around though not actually in the image.

So the final image from this shoot I’m actually happy with.

Image details are 100mm Macro, 1/5th sec, f/20 and ISO 100.

My camera was sat on the floor with the lens supported, at the hood, by a small rock to allow the slow shutter speed.

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And the overview image for scale purposes.

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Ok so a few hours have passed and I think I actually prefer this image. f/25 rather than the f/20 of the previous picture I personally think it’s just a tad sharper all round. Anyway this gets the nod for me.

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Got myself a boom arm for the studio today and decided to have a play. As usual I accost one of my family to suffer the indignity of sitting in the studio whilst I test new equipment out. I’d rather do this than have a paying customer posing for images sat watching me calculate exposure values and mutter about Inverse Square Law effects during their shoot. Took quite a few images though at one point in my “lets just try this….” thought and application process my daughter adopted a prayer position. I paused for a moment and then took the shot anyway. Thinking she was just bored and messing whilst I adjusted things I asked her what she was doing. Opening one eye and looking straight at me she replied “Praying for the people of the world to be safe”. Lost for words I gave her a hug.

The prayer image.

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And a few of the others though they didn’t compress too well, for web, in PS or the reduction process for this 4 in 1 montage.

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All the above images were taken with my new 24-70mm 2.8ii, at various focal lengths, 1/125th sec, ISO 100 and metered with a Sekonic L308s. Lighting was a mix of 3, 4 or 5 Bowens 750 Pro’s using beauty dish, brollies, soft boxes, 60 deg reflectors and honeycombs. Various lighting setups were used to simply see what permutations of lighting could be used with which modifier to achieve different results. Some were truly awful, some ok and a few I actually liked. I still find it beneficial to look at my first year studio stuff in a critical way which is not too difficult to do. What I thought was good is actually not that good at all. This does however warm me to the fact that I am actually learning something whilst doing my degree.

My daughter is off school today, as the teachers amazingly need a training day on the day before half term, so might convince her to get back in the studio and practice some hair/rim lighting. She has the most shiny blonde hair I have come across, in a studio setting, which represents a superb challenge in attaining the correct balance of light for her hair without blowing it out.

Finally got the white duck eggs today and went back into the studio. More time spent actually balancing the egg than actually taking the pictures. Simple 3 point lighting used but as a duck egg is smooth opposed to the far greater textured chicken egg the egg turned out as a white outline. Only underexposing the egg helped with this but then the egg wasn’t white so no point in that.

Three that I liked…..

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Following the duck egg I moved onto my first Slinkachu shot and kept it simple with a chocolate marshmallow tea cake. Used this as an idea for scale and effect as my main image is destined to be in some roadworks if the weather will be nice for a change.

One was taken on the box and the other on one of my studio stools.

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All these images were taken using a 100mm macro lens to aid in the clarity of such close up work.

A few funny ideas on the “red ball” but finding it difficult to source a large ball at a low price.