‘Tis The Season to be Jolly

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Yes, ‘Tis the season to be jolly once again! (Maybe that should be the mantra for all year round really).

It’s not always easy to be “jolly” this time of year is it, with so much extra stuff to be done, but we usually get there in the end!

So, once there’s time to breathe …. chill … and start winding down a bit, you might begin to feel a little nostalgic about Christmases past, as I always do this time of year. Aha, cue for last year’s blog post https://romseyfotografix.wordpress.com/2015/12/ Must be that old cine clip that does it 😉

Also, maybe a time to reflect a little on the year gone by. I hope it’s been a good one for you.

It seems like only 5 minutes ago that we were just coming into 2016 and the approaching ten year anniversary of Romsey Fotografix, back in January. I really enjoyed putting together the Then and Now montages from some of your shoots, delving into the archives and looking back at all your photo sessions over the years.

Speaking of which, here’s a young lady who’s been in every year on her actual birthday in December since she was 2 years old (bar one year when lots of snow stopped play!). Lovely to see her again, looking all grown up, for her 11th birthday shoot last weekend, this time along with some friends – and her gorgeous dog Alfie!

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Giggles galore!!!

For us, both socially and workwise, there’s been lots going on, which I guess has made it feel like the year’s gone by even quicker. Particular highlights of course, my weekend of surprises https://romseyfotografix.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/surprise-after-surprise-after-surprise/ and the beautiful day we renewed our wedding vows https://romseyfotografix.wordpress.com/2016/08/18/renewing-our-wedding-vows-30-years-on/

If any of you have kept up or started a 365 day photo project, it’d be great to hear how it’s going. I’m still doing mine, and am glad as it’s pretty cool having a daily picture diary to look back on, although it’s time consuming and ‘twould be fair to say I’m not quite so enthusiastic about it as I was when I first started!! More about this year’s in another post, here’s last year’s https://romseyfotografix.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/on-the-blog-today-update-on-my-365-photo-project-for-2015-365photo-365project/

I would love to take this opportunity to say a massive THANK YOU to each and everyone of you who’ve entrusted me with taking your photos, whether in the studio or for your “big days” – and in some cases both! It’s always such a privilege to share and photograph the special times in your lives; it really means such a lot to me to be asked. And it’s been brilliant to see so many familiar faces again this year, as well as lots of new ones too!

So many amazing, memorable moments 🙂  As I’ve said many a time, you make this job of mine so joyful, it just doesn’t feel like work!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And have yourselves a very Merry Christmas and a healthy, happy and peaceful New Year.

In the Beginning Part 2: 2006 Getting off the ground

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February 2006.  I had my nice little studio, plus the part time receptionist job to keep me going.  All I needed were some clients.

There was no social media of course in those days to help spread the word. I had placed an ad in a local magazine but that wasn’t due out for a few weeks. As you may remember from the previous post, I called upon friends and family to be my “guinea pigs” to help me on my way, so there were lots of opportunities to test everything out before the ad went live and “real” customers started to book in!

And so it did.

As is often the way with advertising, the enquiries trickled in at first. One booking here, another there, and another, if I were lucky, three weeks later.  I didn’t expect it to take off big time overnight, even if I did live in hope! I knew it would be tough going in the early days.

The part time receptionist job I was still doing wasn’t really for me, so three months in I found myself another local long term temporary job, working there a couple of days a week, which at the time fitted in well with the few bookings I was getting at the studio.

Then fate stepped in.

In late spring, I got a call out of the blue from a college asking to book us to go and photograph their prom. I said a very excited “yes” – but little did I know what I was letting us in for, especially with our somewhat limited experience at the time. It turned out to be quite a night!! Lee and I took our lights and backdrop to the venue to set up a studio there, and our youngest son came along to help – thank goodness! We sure needed the extra hands – it was utterly crazy!!!! I’m not quite sure how we made it through the evening. Although adrenaline and several wine gums helped, I seem to remember! It was absolutely exhausting, and we were frazzled at the end of it, but it was thankfully an overwhelming success – and we thoroughly enjoyed the buzz of it all!!

That was my first lucky break and from it came several new leads and clients.

Yes, business was picking up, but it was still early days. The expense of the studio was no way paying for itself as yet. I got to the point of wondering if I could afford to carry on, with keeping the studio at least, but after much discussion with Lee, we decided we had to give it a little more time. We’d ploughed so much into it so far, we simply had to persevere.

I was also getting requests for larger family groups to come in, but that first small studio just didn’t allow for lots of people at once. Rather than turn down these types of bookings, we took the bull by the horns and decided to move to a larger space, still at Basepoint http://www.basepoint.co.uk/locations/romsey. Fortunately the rent wasn’t too much of an increase and soon paid for itself as the extra space meant I could take on larger group bookings which I couldn’t before.

So by the summer of 2006 we had moved into Studio Number 2 !

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Studio Number 2

Then along came another great opportunity.

A local school rang and said they were looking for a photographer to go in one October weekend and do mini-sessions with as many of their families as possible and they’d like us to do it.

Woah – really? Did I hear that right? “Why, yes of course, thank you so much!”

It turned out to be just the opening we needed and a fantastic weekend – if very hectic – 40 photoshoots in two consecutive days – yikes!! Completely shattering, oh yes, but we learned heaps. Not to mention, we met loads of lovely families, some of whom could well be reading this.  You know who you are!!  Delighted to say many of you are still coming in today, as well as over the years pointing several of your friends in my direction, which was, and still is, fantastic.

So by the end of 2006, things were progressing just fine. I had a regular ad in prime position on the back page of a local free magazine which worked very well at the time, along with referrals from folk who had been in during the year and were spreading the word. And as more and more people were coming in and telling their pals, the bookings really started to snowball.

I was so very glad I had kept on going and not thrown in the towel when things got tough earlier in the year. It became time to give up the part time temporary job that had been keeping me afloat. I’d been happy there, but the studio was now at the stage of keeping me so busy, there just weren’t enough hours in the week for me to do both.

By January 2007, one year in, came another defining moment. I had outgrown studio number 2. I desperately needed room to hang all my sample wall display products and photobooks. I had accumulated quite a few by this time, but there just wasn’t enough space where we were to show them to their best advantage. Also, ideally, a separate reception area.

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Studios 1 & 2 were both in this building at Basepoint

We knew Basepoint had several workshops on site which were much larger, so decided to take a look at one. As we gazed around the huge empty warehouse, with its brick walls and stone floor, it was Lee I think, who said, “you know, we could make this work”.

And indeed we did.

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When I took the above pic of the Basepoint car park in August 2006, I had no idea that Unit 45, which coincidentally happened to be in the shot and at the time housed another company, would within a few months become home to Romsey Fotografix.

We went home and planned the layout, then took a trip to B&Q to order board to make partitions and flooring, wallpaper, etc – plus lots of white paint!  Then a lorra, lorra hard work over one weekend to put it all together, with the brilliant help of my lovely sister Lynne and her hubby. Shameless plug for Lynne’s page https://www.facebook.com/Lynne-Arty-Stuff

Back to the story …  once all the building and decorating was done, I had a carpet fitted over the rest of the stone floor to give it all a more homely feel. Then added some comfy chairs and display cabinets for the finishing touches.

Phew! Before you could say “cheese”, I had this amazing new studio with its large fixed backdrop for taking photos (hooray, no more paper backgrounds!!), a neat little waiting area, and plenty of space for displaying all my products.

Golly. Dream. Come. True. Pinch. Myself.

And so our third studio at Number 45 has served me well to this very day 🙂

Needless to say there have been lots of changes in other aspects of running the business since those early days – the advent and huge rise of social media for one and so many advances in technology. More about the impact this has all had in another post!

How it all Began: Dreams DO come true

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Have you ever had a dream and felt it could never in a million years come true?  Me too. But when you really set your mind on something, dreams can become reality! 

As mine did.

I guess it was in the October of 2005 I had yet another one of “those” moments in the job I was doing at the time; you know, one of those days, nothing going to plan, just banging your head on a brick wall despite your best efforts. You feel like screaming rather loudly and walking out there and then.

I didn’t walk out at that moment, tempting though it was, but I did think, “what on earth am I doing, spending the best part of my life feeling unhappy, doing such a thankless task” (as indeed I felt the role I was doing was). A feeling which was becoming more and more regular. If it hadn’t been for the smashing people I worked with, I’m sure I wouldn’t have stuck it out for the 5 years I did.

One day something happened, I can’t even recall exactly what, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I knew I couldn’t put up with it any longer. I rang Lee and asked him what he thought of the idea of my opening a photography studio?

He didn’t bat an eyelid! Well he knows I can be very determined when push comes to shove and best to go with it than against 😉 So he just said, “Why not? Go for it!!” Bless him.

We both knew leaving my job AND taking on the commitment of a premises was a pretty drastic move all in one go. But I’d been doing a bit of research as to the units Basepoint http://www.basepoint.co.uk/locations/romsey had to offer and because of their easy in/easy out clause, I knew I wouldn’t be committed to the premises for a long period of time should things not go to plan.

We’d been doing photography in our spare time for a number of years, at clients’ houses and a few weddings for friends, so it was something I knew I really loved and couldn’t think of a more enjoyable way to spend my working days.

So, having got the go ahead from his nibs, straight after that phone call I gave in my notice. Shortly afterwards we went to see Basepoint to secure a unit.

All too easy. Then it hit. Errrrr …. Yikes what have we done!!!! #ScaryMoment

Our premises would be ready in January, and I was lucky in that my boss allowed me to work a couple of months’ notice, rather than the usual one, so the timing was great. I left there at Christmas 2005; in the meantime I’d found myself a part time receptionist job to begin from January, to coincide with starting up the studio. Had to keep some pennies rolling in while I was getting it off the ground!

Then it was all systems go – loads to sort out!

A real toughie was coming up with a name for the new business, knowing that once you’ve settled on something you’re kind of stuck with it for the duration. Lee and I did a lot of brain storming and came up with all sorts of things, eventually settling on Romsey Fotografix. I’m probably more fond of the name now than when I first decided upon it. I ‘spose it’s the familiarity thing and relating it to the good times it’s brought me. The biggest drawback was, and still is, the spelling which seems to cause no end of confusion. Invariably Fotografix is spelt wrongly … Photografix, Fotographix, Photographics, and all sorts of other weird and wonderful varieties!

In a previous life, I’d run a small graphic design business for several years, Lasting Impressions, so I was familiar with what running a business entails, although on a much smaller scale as I’d had no premises and overheads as such.  Luckily our accountant at the time, who I’d known for years through working with him on the other company, gave us some great advice and generally helped us along our way with that side of things.

A website of course was crucial. After a bit of Googling I found a provider who specialises in websites for photographers called Photium and I have kept with them until this day. They are great to deal with and it’s very straightforward to update and put my own slant on. Ideal.

MOVING IN

So having spent the best part of January 2006 sorting out the nitty gritty, it was finally time to move in!

So this very date, 27 January 2006, we got everything in and set it all up. Then I took stock of the space that was to be my very own studio. Wow! It was a heady mix of emotions for sure … thrilling, exciting, nerve racking, daunting … you get the picture! I had to pinch myself as it all seemed a bit too good to be true!

That very first studio space was in one of Basepoint’s smallest offices. It was a tight squeeze that’s for sure, as you can see from the pic! But we managed to fit in a backdrop and a few chairs, plus those trusty tubs which have travelled along the journey with me!   It was a lovely light and airy space so worked pretty well.

But …. eeeeek … there was still such a long way to go!

I did loads of practice shoots with the help of my lovely family and friends. This gave me much needed valuable experience, as well as some pictures to put on the website and use in my advertising. I was learning a lot, discovering what worked best and what didn’t, both in the photos I was taking, and the way the studio was set up. Even though Lee and I had been taking pictures in people’s homes for a while, they had been of the more traditional and formal type, with the old style backdrops and the sort of “sit and smile” approach, as was still fairly normal at that time.

However those types of images were a definite “NO, NO, NO” for my new studio. Oh indeed! Nothing formal about it! It was going to be fun, fun, fun all the way!! Fortunately it was a way of working  that came very naturally to me. But nonetheless, lots to learn.

Do you know what my biggest wake-up call was? A month or two in, a (needless to say) anonymous person sent me a very rude message via the website basically saying that my photos were awful – and that would be the polite way of putting it! I was absolutely mortified! Talk about give my confidence a rocking. I had thought I was coming along OK, but then again I was mainly still taking photos of family and friends who were, naturally, being very complimentary.

That nasty comment in fact did me a huge favour. I took a good hard look at my pictures. Then I took a good look again at other more experienced photographers’ websites, plus those of some of the pros who are top of the game. Then another look at my own. And I thought to myself, “hmmm, maybe this person has got a point”.

From that moment on I knew I had to seriously up my game else it might be game over!

Being a successful people photographer, is much more than having an expensive camera and being able to take a decent photo and all the technical stuff that is part and parcel of that. It’s also, and probably more importantly, about bringing out the best in folk, making them feel great in front of the camera, knowing when to click the shutter at just the right moment, and lots more besides. These things start to become instinctive the more experienced you become.  This quote by Paul Caponigro kind of sums it up “It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.”

It made me realise that I must never, ever rest on my laurels or get complacent. There is always room for improvement and always will be.

A philosophy that sticks with me to this very day.

And so things were underway. Now it was just the small matter of finding some clients 🙂 I’ll save that one for the next instalment!

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Spilling the Beans Part 2 – To Crop or Not to Crop …

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.. aha – that is the question! Cropping a photo can transform an image from average to “Wow”  But not always.

I think, if truth be told, most pictures can be improved a little by cropping, even if only a teeny amount is cropped away. Personally I tend not to zoom in too closely to the subject when I take a photograph, so I have plenty of leeway afterwards to allow for it to be cropped in most sizes.

When you crop a photo which you’re going to get printed, it’s important that the aspect ratio you crop it too is the same as the aspect ratio of the size it will be printed at. There’s a bit more about the various ratios and how they differ on my Pinterest board https://uk.pinterest.com/fotografixgal/print-size-guidelines/

Next thing, how much to crop away? This of course comes down a lot to personal taste and the type of final image you’re aiming for. No right or wrong answer.

I usually try a few variations of crops on an image in the initial edit: baby-1

Then it’s just a question of deciding which looks best – or in the case of when I edit your portfolio images – which I think you might like best. If it’s tricky to decide, I may well use one of the other crops on a similar image so as to include as much variety as possible.

Cropping away part of a subject’s face can have great impact, which loads of you love. However, I know from comments I’ve heard over the years, for some, cropping off the top of a head, seems a really strange thing to do, even in the name of art. Again, I try and include a good mix in your portfolios so hopefully catering for most tastes.

I used to think that cropping tightly into the subject was generally the way to go when there was a busy background to the scene. However my experience of photographing weddings over many years has changed my views on this and, where appropriate, I keep most or part of the background in where it sets the scene or conveys more of the sense of the story that the picture is telling. Some shots are equally good cropped both ways.

For instance with the following wedding edits:

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Wedding venues are generally pretty awesome, so of course have to be shown off as much as possible in the photos. I included as many backgrounds as possible in the pictures at the Clovelly wedding (above) which we photographed last year https://romseyfotografix.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/a-beautiful-wedding-in-clovelly/ so as not to hide those picturesque views! But I also cropped some of them in closer to the bride and groom and included both versions in some cases.

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Another stunning venue! I didn’t do too much of a crop on this one (above); the guests in the background add to the storytelling and the blue sky shows what a beautiful sunny day it was! https://romseyfotografix.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/beautiful-south-farm-wedding/

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With the above image, I could have cropped in closer to the bride as per the version on the right, but in this case felt that by incorporating the black and white pictures on the wall, showing the family in years gone by, made it much more poignant. Not to mention to show off the full length of the back of her gorgeous dress!

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The above shot of Andover works OK cropped in any of the above modes I reckon. It would just come down to a matter of personal taste.

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Cropping out the table and empty coffee mugs, and rotating the flower slightly, made quite a difference to the above picture.

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The shot above left of Edinburgh Castle was straight from camera (and no, I wasn’t toppling over when I took it lol !!). I cropped it to portrait and rotated it, aiming to keep as much of the plants in the foreground as possible to give it depth. I kept a bit of the tilt though – I know not everyone’s cup of tea, but I actually like the effect (occasionally!)

So there we are. It’s amazing how such a simple action as the humble crop can make quite a difference to the end result.

Back to normality … and a special anniversary coming up!

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There we are then. The holidays are done and dusted for another year; decorations are all back in the loft, house is back to normal, delicious festive treats are (nearly) all eaten and enjoyed. 2016 is officially underway!

Hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year break? Ours was one of mixed emotions, we had a super Christmas Day itself with all the family. But December was overshadowed with sadness, with two funerals to go to, both on the first and the last day of the month. Made us count our blessings even more so than usual.

So, into the New Year. This month, as you may remember, is the 10th anniversary of Romsey Fotografix. Those years have sure flown by in the blink of an eye but have brought with them a giant bucket load of fantastic moments and opportunities along the way.

Gold 10th Or Ten 3d Number Closeup Representing Anniversary Or Birthday

It’s been such an amazing decade in my life; meeting so many lovely families; photographing your children as they grow up, and (hopefully) providing you with some treasured memories at the same time. Also, learning so much along the way, doing my best to keep up to speed with all the latest technology and software, along with the onset of social media and researching all about that, and joining as many training courses as I’ve been able to fit in.

All of which I find extremely fulfilling.

As I’ve said many a time, it’s a job I absolutely LOVE! In fact, how can I call it a ‘job’? OK, it keeps me extremely busy, but no complaints there! Most of the time it doesn’t feel like work at all.

In the next few weeks I’ll be posting about how Romsey Fotografix came about and the way things have changed over the years, as indeed they have in so many ways! Oh, and look out for some giveaways and offers!  Also I’m delving into my archives to show several of your ‘then and now’ pictures. Thanks to everyone so far who has kindly given me permission to do so – if you haven’t already and would be happy for me to include some of your previous pictures from way back when, alongside your more recent shoots, please let me know.

 Onwards and upwards !!

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year 🙂