It’s time for another Small Business Chat update, this time with Charles Davis, the photographer. He was first featured on 21 January 2012, and when asked where he wanted to be in a year’s time, replied “I’ve recently been lucky enough to pick up interest from a number of up-and-coming fashion designers and been asked to become their official photographer, which is flattering to say the least. Whether reportage, still life, or traditional, using a variety of photographic styles is still key for me when telling the story. My photographic work offers a visual representation of my unique perspective, exploring the depths of beauty and style, whilst hopefully still portraying elements of the classical. I feel my work retains relevance to 21st century client, and I plan to keep it that way!” So, how’s he doing now? Well, 2012 has gone well for Charles, and he’s looking ahead to another good year, I’m pleased to say …
Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
What a year 2012 was, with a number of assignments leading up to the fabulous Olympics in London. Here’s a link to some of the images from the sponsor shoot for members of the TeamGB Beach Volleyball Team. I also took part in the Press & PR coverage for the ever-growing Clothes Show Live with fabulous performances in the Suzuki Fashion Theatre including JLS & Peter Andre.
A lot can happen in a year and overall I’m delighted with how 2012 went. Indeed, at the time I was starting to be commissioned for assignments in the fashion sector and that has progressed well, with my next assignment as Official Photographer to the inaugural Birmingham International Fashion Week in March, in aid of UNICEF.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
My Commercial, Lifestyle, Press & PR work has increased, especially through agency bookings, plus I managed to reinvest back into the business with extra kit and equipment that has provided greater scope and creativity. What has stayed the same is that I am totally enjoying myself.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
Hard work, tenacity and always going out of your way for your client pays big dividends. How lucky I am to be able to do something I thoroughly enjoy.
Any more hints and tips for people?
Please see below …
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
A number of International opportunities have recently been presented to me, with potential assignments in California and Washington, DC together with a number of other interested locations. I’d also like to further invest in the business to eventually have a sustainable stream of studio-based work and a permanent studio, although that might be a three-year plan.
Charles also offered me a few Q&As to help with the hints and tips – who am I to turn this down? So, here goes …
What was your first professional break to get you started as a photographer?
It’s difficult to pinpoint one. My initial approach when first starting my business was Marketing Marketing Marketing! Having an extensive network of contacts from my previous careers gave me the opportunity to just update people as to what I was doing now, LinkedIn is perfect for this! This opened a number of opportunities with different companies and agencies who very kindly commissioned me for a number of their assignments.
However, if you’re booking a photographer, there are a number of immediate requirements. Is he/she results driven? Can they meet the brief and expectations? Are they cost-effective? Are they reliable? I think if you can demonstrate competency in these areas, it goes a long way!
Also join relevant associations that will give you an adequate return in features and benefits. I’m a very keen member of MIPAA – the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association and also the NUJ – National Union of Journalists. It can be surprising the contacts you make.
What challenges did you face when you first started?
Everyone is a photographer, with most mobile phones having cameras that are capable of taking a high quality image. Plus the market is flooded with people offering their part-time services as a photographer. You often hear from some established photographers how they denigrate new talent for giving their skills and services away for free. The reality is that they’ve all done this when they first started.
How would you advise others to overcome them?
You need to use the best quality kit and equipment you can afford. I use all Nikon Equipment and Nikon Lenses and I’m currently looking to upgrade my two Nikon D3s DSLRs to the fabulous D4. I also prefer to use Prime lenses that give such beautiful results.
I pay particular attention to lighting, again using portable lighting units, e.g. Elinchrom Ranger Quadra which has fundamentally changed the way professional photographers can work since 2009, especially on location with their outstanding capabilities and portability.
Always look for key opportunities where you will be able to highlight and demonstrate your abilities as a photographer. This means doing different assignments potentially for free or a few expenses until to start to become established.
How did you market yourself and get leads / jobs in the early days?
Your website is your shop window: make sure it portrays you and your work well whilst giving the visitor / potential client the information they require. There was a time for any new business, where you would have to advertise at a considerable cost and wait for the phone to ring. My approach has been to embrace Social Media in a joined-up strategy, using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc., to drive interest towards your website.
People often ask, what type of photographer are you? Well it’s fine to just concentrate on a particular photographic style and if you can secure enough interest then that’s great. However, in such austere times many photographers are finding it difficult to bring in enough business and its therefore important to have a broad approach to the assignments you’re prepared to take on, given that you have the skills, technical knowledge and equipment to meet those needs and hopefully exceed the clients’ expectations. So, in simple terms, I describe myself as a Commercial, Lifestyle, Press & PR Photographer and I work on the basis, if I can meet the client’s expectations, then I’ll shoot it!
Good advice for any budding professional photographers out there!
NOTE: Charles and Professional Photography are definitely still going, but he’s been too busy with work commitments to update his chat interview. We’ll welcome him back when he has time, of course!
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more freelancer chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.