Rammell Photography

Surrey Wedding Photographer

Blog Post 9 - Lets Talk Business Part 1

500px, Podcast, Canon, business cards, marketing, promotion, Photo, 7D, EOS, Squarespace, TWIP, twitter, flickr, wix, weddings, smugmugMichael RammellComment

Blog post number 9! - I'm fast approaching double figures now! When I eventually reach number 10 I should throw some sort of 'milestone celebration'. As part of the celebration I'm thinking I will invite all of my followers to a google online hangout. {checks follower count}...oh hang on, I only have one follower! That wouldn't really be much fun at all...

If you're reading this and don't already follow me..."go on". Join the party and subscribe using the link at the end of the blog. I promise to try hard and deliver some decent photography-related content to you every so often.

Oh well, even if my young blog has just the 1 follower at the moment (thank you by the way!) I shall continue to write persistently in hope that one day I may have a blog with a fraction of the audience of other photographers such as Martin Bailey & Fredrick Van Johnson...although I'm not suggesting for a moment that I am anywhere near their level of photography, what I will promise I have is certainly the passion for it and I think that's proved by me continuing to invest time in this 1-follower blog . Thank you to my adoring fan(s).

Back To Business

My initial intention with this blog was to talk about how I'm starting out, my approach and the things I'm doing to market myself and generally make some money from this wonderful thing that we all love - photography. The last few blog posts have been more or less stories of my travels and jobs that I've been doing, rather than actually talking too much about strategy or business models. I very much intend on writing a bit more about the business side of what I am trying to do and re-focus this blog. 

In this post I'll be talking about my website and how I came to set that up. I'll be talking about business cards and advertising. I'll be talking a little about Facebook and blogging in general. Anything that I've been doing to market my skills as a business. I'll also touch on branding and design, but that can get quite detailed so I may take that into another blog post and touch on that as a subject all of it's own.

Where Do We Begin?

Firstly, until now I've not actually spent much money on my 'business' except fuel to get places to take photographs and making a few home-made business cards to give out when I'm at a wedding or photo shoot. My plan was to make the business self sustaining. After all, photography is my passion, I don't want it to start bleeding me money every month...unless I'm buying new gear and gadgets of course! But the more I think about that approach the more I realise that I should speculate to accumalate. Meaning I am going to invest a little money into this venture to make give the whole thing a more professional feel and actually run it as more of a structured business, rather than just being that guy that people know with the camera and website with the strange domain name. I am just investing a small about to get the ball rolling. 

So, I have my camera, I'm a fairly competent photographer and I want to start making some money with this skill...where do we begin?

Getting My Portfolio Started

Without any pictures relevant to my market (Wedding and Portrait Photography) the business cards would have been quite basic and the website would be quite bare. So I thought the first thing I wanted to do was to get some photographs so I can use them to market myself and showcase what I had done so far. 

Starting a portfolio can be tough - Who is going to trust you (let alone pay you!) to photograph their wedding if you've not done one before? Not many people, unless of course they've spent their wedding budget and they're not really expecting much. The alternative was to find a local & established wedding photographer and get in touch with them - I could be their assistant for the day at a wedding and perhaps get a few shots off of my own use, if the photographer allowed me to. 

I know that I would be very happy to have a start-out photographer come shadow me for the day! (If you're interested please do get in touch!). 

Anything you can do to get some pictures to your name is a good place to start. As long as you're not stealing images and your work is your own.

For me, I was quite lucky. I work for a fairly large business in Maidenhead, Berkshire and a colleague had mentioned that they had seen some of my images on Facebook, Flickr and 500px. Despite them not being wedding related he told me that he was getting married and that they wanted me to photograph their wedding! I was very pleased because I was actually about to start calling around for photographer assistant jobs to get some pictures for my own portfolio. With me being the 'hired' photographer I had complete creative control ('Hired' inverted comma's because I wasn't paid for that wedding!). 

Business Cards Part 1

Now I was between a rock and a hard place because I had no business cards to hand out at this wedding that I was about to shoot. I had no wedding related images in my portfolio yet. So, I had to make some business cards using the images I had in my portfolio at the time. Despite them not being exactly wedding themed, I thought that they were at least better than nothing. After all what's better; someone having a nice picture and your phone number in their pocket, or totally forgetting your name, or your details scribbled on a napkin? 

These were just three of my first business card designs.

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Click to Enlarge: 'Stairwell to Somewhere'

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Click to Enlare: 'King of the Jungle'

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Click to Enlard: 'Classic at Covent Garden'

I will admit I thought I was groundbreaking putting different images on each card. I'd not seen that before (Honestly!). It now turns out that it is quite common (10% off business cards at moo there thanks to yours truly!) and has been done before. Still, I was very pleased with the business cards I'd managed to throw together using Microsoft Word and pleased with the result that my local 'KallKwik' had given me. Not bad for less that £20 considering I ended up with some 150 business cards.

I knew that I wanted to go for a classy theme. I wanted to (and still do want to) brand myself as a classy, up-market wedding photographer. Hence the reason for the typography and use of black and gold. I have since changed my branding a little and am opting for white in place of the black, but still very much trying to keep that gold colour in there. 

Note the range of services I was offering on those business cards too - although I will still happily shoot for all of those occassions today, I have since also opted to not be so generic and stick to simply Weddings and Portraits. I think I will order some more generic business cards to advertise my other services on offer (the point of being a specialist or generalist will be touched on in brief below) but, I think you should have different business cards for different services and just carry a few of each with you. 

So, I photographed that Wedding in December and did a relatively good job considering it was my first attempt at a wedding. I managed to give out a few business cards and generate some interest. The clients got the photographs they wouldn't have otherwise gotten if they didn't know me. I had a whole load of photo's to start showing off (I made sure I agreed with them both that as part of the deal I could in fact use the images to market myself on blogs, social media sites, business cards etc - seeing as I was free they were happy to agree!) We were all very happy.

The Website Part 1

Outside of photography I work in IT and come from a web-based background. So I understand the importance of a web presence - people take your details and often the first thing they do is Google Search you. I've designed websites before from the ground up and I've been really pleased with the results, but they were more for earlier ventures as a young teenager, trying to start an IT business in my local area, fixing people's computers and helping them out with their own websites - as a result my early attempts always ended up being quite static, text based sites. The thing is with being a photographer is that it's all about the pictures. What's more it's about having lots of good, high quality pictures appropriate to your photographic niche (weddings photography, sports photography etc). After all, who would employ a wedding photographer who's website is full of speeding cars or food photography!?

So, I had to set about creating a website that would showcase my images in really pleasing way. Based on my background creating simple, static sites it proved very tough for me to create a site that displayed my portfolio's and galleries in just the way I wanted. As a result rather than creating the site from scratch by myself I decided to make use of an existing website creator and hosting service. One that I had come across before was Moonfruit.

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Click to Enlarge: RammellPhotography.com - the early days

I setup my site making use of the wedding photo's I had taken to make it look more like a wedding photographers website. I set out my colour schemes etc to match my business cards. and was generally quite excited with what I had just managed to produce for free. Even now I think it looked quite smart. The website creator tool is excellent and very, very easy to use. What's more it's free and you can create a website without spending a penny. The caveat being that your domain name will have 'moonfruit' in it. In my case: www.mikerammell.moonfruit.com. This is both un-professional and generally quite forgettable. You can of course if you like purchase a domain name and point your moonfruit site to that, thus eliminating this bizarre domain name, however I decided that for now I wasn't making much money and didn't want the outlay so stuck with it. 

Please don't get me wrong Moonfruit is good. There is no doubt about that. However It didn't offer me the right themes that I wanted and it really was not capable of displaying my portfolio's and galleries in the way I wanted. to combat this I simply linked to my Flickr and 500px portfolios which in a way did the job as people were seeing my work, however again, this wasn't very professional and I wanted to keep all my visitors on my site rather than navigating them away to other places. Also, I use services like 500px to show more of my work than just weddings - things I don't especially want to show off to potential wedding clients. 

As a result I decided that I really needed to find a service that would match my needs more closely. For me Moonfruit isn't a service that caters to photographers (or least to me as a photographer) as well as some of the other's out there. 

I looked at SmugMug, Wix and a few others. I signed up for their trials and created dummy sites, uploaded some images and was quite impressed with them. Wix in particular was quite good. I didn't find the editor that intuitive and I found that whilst they did have quite a few widgets that I could plug in and show off my photo's, I didn't like the way they make use of the 'Window' style website design. It can look very good and I've seen some stunning Wix sites and they do have some flash based templates to allow you to show your photo's in a far more rich fashion, however flash fis bad for SEO. SmugMug was simply okay. I had heard of various well-known podcast's that people were raving about SmugMug. I just didn't get it and those same podcasts are no longer raving about them in the same way. Perhaps it's just me but I wasn't keen on the user interface or available templates in general. 

I stuck with the old Moonfruit site for some time and decided to leave it as it was until I'd made some more money and had some more time to look at alternative solutions. I also really wanted to get a few more weddings under my belt so that when I eventually did invest in a website for keeps I would have plenty of varied content and images for potential clients to see. 

Social Media!

I had my business cards and those pointed people to my website and my website pointed people to other places. 500px and Flickr are a nice, clean way of uploading your photo's for all to see, but I needed a means to be able to communicate offers and promotions to people and get them coming to my site. It goes without saying that the next steps were Facebook Pages and Twitter. 

Seeing as Facebook was actually how I had secured my next few weddings I started there. Like 99% of people I was on Facebook already and I had seen people making Facebook Fan and Community pages. I looked into and found that you can make a page for your group, business etc. I decided to set one of these up as I already had over 200 'friends' (another word in inverted comma's there) and could easily tell them all about my services and skills. So, I setup Rammell Photography on Facebook and began posting updates and comments. It seemed to work. From Facebook alone I had managed to secure 3 more weddings. The people who were looking at my Facebook page were then heading off to my website and stumbling through to my 500px and Flickr pages and looking at my work that way. So Facebook was doing the trick.

I have setup a Twitter account but don't really use it and don't really see the magic in it. Maybe I'm missing a trick I don't know. I should get more into it really. Please do feel free to follow me!

Until now it was all a bit...cheap

I had done a few more weddings and now had some varied content, mostly thanks to word of mouth and Facebook. 

I said at the start of this post that I like to market myself as classy and up-market. However, I never ever felt that way just relying on a free website with a dodgy domain name, home made business cards and a Social Media outlet bringing in more business than the other two combined (although, I'm sure that Facebook will always be a good source of business ). Photography to some is a luxury product, to others it is a requirement of their wedding. For me it's one of the most important things to consider when you're getting married. Sure the DJ or band will give a good atmosphere and the venue will make the day more beautiful, what if, after all that, all you have to remember it are pictures that your friends and family have taken. All the money and time spent by the bride and groom organising and planning their big day and they are left with a bunch of over or underexposed images to remember it. Not happy viewing at all! 

I looked at other photographers websites and most of them looked content rich, professional and just, better than mine. I had to do something about it. I wanted my website to look far better and portray a fine service.

The Website Part 2

I listen to the This Week In Photo (TWIP) podcast and for some reason remembered that SquareSpace sponsored an episode.  I had a look at them next.  

Before I was even aware of SquareSpace something I knew I wanted, something I had in my mind was was the ability to display my images truly full screen on my website. Either by going into a gallery on my site and then scrolling through them full screen at the click of a button, or, what SquareSpace do and just have my images as a full screen background as it were. What really inspired me to start looking at alternative sites again was the new Martin Bailey Portfolio website. Martin had achieved exactly what I was looking for by making his images appear large and page-dominating. Photography is all about the image and I wanted a simple site to show off my photo's. I wanted my site to make my images imposing and striking:

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Click to Enlarge: The new Rammell Photography Site

For me I liked the way that my images pages could be displayed full screen. I liked the fact that you could upload .png images. I liked the way that despite the page taking up a full screen it seems to scale it and shrink it to fit any screen or resolution. For example at work I have my HP ProBook 4530s hooked up to an external HP 1740 monitor and am using extended dual-screen. If I drag my browser window across from my laptop to the 17" monitor and then full screen the browser window it still seems to look how I want it - the aspect ration is constrained very nicely. Also, the templates are all great, the user interface is smart and simple and it is very flexible with some very powerful tools available too. They also offer a 14 day free trial and there are always offer codes for money off your subscription...when you eventually decide to buy. 

I really like the level of customisation - I can do almost anything I like with my navigation bar and move that all over the place too.

A bonus of Squarespace is also password protected galleries - something that I wanted to implement for my clients to show them a few of their wedding photo's to keep their interest piqued whilst I'm developing the rest. I do have to crop some of my images to suit SquareSpace a little better. For example when the 'Rammell Photography' logo is sitting on top of something predominantly white in colour it cannot be seen. Either that or I have to choose images more suited to the site. 

SquareSpace were a great match and I decided to go with them. As a result I also decided to update my business cards, logo's and everything else present on the internet. 

If you're looking to make a website for your photography business I certainly would advise you check out what SquareSpace can do. 

Business Cards Part 2

I now have a site that I am very pleased with. So I need to get my business cards to match the site - I want my brand and appearance to be consistent. I had looked around again on the internet to see what was out there. I wasn't necessarily looking for the best price, but wanted something premium. Something classy. I looked at Vista Print - a company that my employers use and that other people had mentioned to me before and I they looked promising to start. However, I found that I couldn't have a variety of images and that I was restricted to using just one design. As with my home-made business cards I wanted to be able to display my portfolio somewhat on my cards. 

I then remembered an advert that I had seen on television for Moo.com. The Moo adverts showed a large variety of business cards and other printed media and it all seemed quite fun and modern. I decided to have a look at their website and was very impressed with what I saw:

I was able to upload a number of images (I uploaded 4, but I think the max was 6) and was able to re size, recompose and even had the option to turn on 'photo enhancement'. As far as I could make out this just seemed to sharpen the image for print. I actually already went into LightRoom and exported my images using the 'Sharpen for Print' option before uploading meaning when I turned this option on the side-by-side preview (showing your business card design both with and without enhancement) seemed to show the enhanced version being a bit 'jagged' and not smooth in the places it should be. I think this option would work well if I had not already enhanced the image before uploading to Moo. So, I disabled this option on my designs. 

I was wary of ordering a large number of cards and not being pleased with the print quality, so I decided to take up the option of first ordering 50 free business cards. Well, they weren't free - I had to pay postage of £3.90, but that's not a bad price as a sample pack. If I was pleased I could place an order for more. 

As I've mentioned, wanting to market myself as up market and classy was my aim, so I was quite intrigued when I saw what Moo call their 'Luxe' business cards:

These epitomise quality and I must have them.  

I have ordered a batch of 50 cards with a red center. I ordered them using DHL Tracked delivery at £8.50 and the total order came to £36.11 (including VAT and my 10% discount

Here are some of the designs I put together for the front of the business cards:

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Click to Enlarge: Design # 1 - "Those Bridesmaids"

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Click the Enlarge: Design # 2 "The Bouquet"

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Click to Enlarge: Design # 3: Logo on a gold background

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Click to Enlarge: Design # 4: Logo on a red background

So, the business cards are on their way, the website is up and I finally feel like I've managed to get a 'quality' looking brand going. Something that I am personally pleased with.

Until Next Time

I think I'll leave it at that for now. I've spoken about how I started my portfolio, how that lead to other things and more business, business cards and websites. I think I'll save the rest of this for a part 2 for next week. 

Next week I'll be talking about logo design, permissions on the models seen on my business cards and just go into a little more detail about my approach to getting my name out there in my local area and circle of friends to begin with. 

If you have any questions relating to anything in this blog please do get in touch: 

Thanks for reading, If you enjoyed my blog today be sure to follow me and come back next week for more!

Update:

I shot a series of images to show off my new business cards:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/105471713119292677513/albums/5762169461240876129

Links

  1. Rammell Photography: www.rammellphotography.com
  2. Martin Bailey Photography: http://martinbaileyphotography.com/
  3. 10% off at Moo: http://uk.moo.com/share/#7qftdq
  4. Moo.com: www.moo.com Squarespace.com: www.squarespace.com
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