Triple the Giggles!

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So, this week saw the latest birthday visit to the studio of these gorgeous triplets. One I always look forward to!

And this time, celebrating their FOURTH birthday!

They’ve been in each year on their actual birthday, and before that at 8 months old. It’s lovely seeing how much they’ve changed each time they come in. Growing up fast!

Here’s the post I blogged after their First Birthday Photoshoot back in 2014: https://romseyfotografix.blog/2014/03/01/a-sneaky-peak-behind-the-scenes-of-the-adorable-triplets-first-birthday-shoot/

They usually bring in a favourite present or two that they’ve been given for their birthday – and this time was no exception. They were very excited to show me their new toys when they arrived. And these of course featured in one or two of the shots!

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There was lots of running around and squeals of laughter, along with some great cuddles for their mum!

And they really got into the swing of dressing up and having a little song and dance at the end of the session.

So funny 🙂

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And a few highlights from across the years…

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You see why this “job” is so rewarding 🙂

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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9 Candles on the Cake!

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Sunny smiles and giggles galore!

Sunny smiles and giggles galore!

I can hardly believe it, but Romsey Fotografix is celebrating its 9th birthday this week!!

It seems like only yesterday that I made the monumental decision to give up my full time job (just like that!) and open the studio. Sometimes when you want something real bad, you have to just go for it!

Even if it is a bit scarey!! Well, actually VERY scarey …

But, as it turned out, it was the best decision I ever made!

Although I won’t pretend it wasn’t a bit touch and go at first. What new business isn’t? It takes a while to establish yourself and build up a customer base. There were lots of sleepless nights and asking myself “have I done the right thing” – taking on the expense of a studio was an enormous commitment in the early days. Many a time I thought I would have to give up my dream, but it gets to a certain stage and you simply can’t give up on what you’ve achieved so far. You reach the point of no return, having invested such a lot in to it.

Fortunately some very lucky breaks in the first year really got me off the ground, and once word of mouth started kicking in, I was on my way!

Advertising in those early days was completely different – unlike social media now which is spontaneous and instant, back then it was a question of booking some space in a paper or local magazine, wait for it to go in, sometimes weeks later, and then hope for the best! It did work to some degree, but nothing like the impact a post on Facebook or a Tweet has these days.

Word of mouth has always worked best.  Which is down to lots of you of course, thank you so much 🙂  I’ve met so many lovely people over the years (another perk of the job!), and you’ve told your friends and families, and they in turn have spread the word, so thanks to you and yours, my bookings snowballed.

One of the most special things has been seeing your children growing up. One minute you bring them in as babies, then toddlers and the next thing you know they’re 8 or 9!!  And the 5, 6 and 7 year olds who came in during the early days are now well into their teens. Unbelievable!  It’s a real privilege to have been asked to capture the various stages of their lives.

It’s also been brilliant to have photographed many of your weddings, christenings and other memorable times in your lives. Such an honour.

Technology has of course come along in leaps and bounds since I started. Today’s amazing cameras and lenses, and the speed of computers and latest software, have made my workload much more efficient and even more enjoyable.

There was a time when we would never have imagined being able to message each other and get emails wherever we may be on our mobile devices, not to mention all the incredible Apps etc.. In fact lots of things we take for granted nowadays were virtually unheard of in 2006!  Even Facebook.

Creating Romsey Fotografix has been an incredible experience; as well as meeting so many great people, I’ve also learned such a lot, not only via training courses, but through lots of research and online learning, not only to do with taking pictures and editing, but also the best ways to tackle things such as social media marketing – possibly one of the steepest learning curves might I say – and essential when running a business these days! Certainly it’s reaped rewards, but it can be very time consuming, particularly as a one man band. Keeping up with the changes on the various platforms, and finding fresh things to write about nearly every day without becoming mundane is a little more challenging than creating a quarter page ad in a magazine every couple of months! Fortunately my love of writing and graphic design experience (I ran a graphic design company in a previous life) have really helped, not least for when I’m wearing my marketing hat!

One extremely important lesson I’ve learned from very early on … it’s a tough and very competitive world out there, so resting on laurels and taking things for granted is definitely NOT an option. And also treat everyone as you like to be treated yourself. All of which apply to life in general, I guess, not just in the business world!

You know what?  It’s all been truely awesome and has far exceeded my expectations 🙂

So here goes, heading into Year 10 …  and in the words of  Edward Steichen  “A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it.”  That’s you and me both, folks – your emotions, my lens 🙂

Thank you 🙂

Sunshine and Pink Wellies!

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Had a brilliant pre-wedding get-together today in Winslow, wandering round the venues in the glorious sunshine with the bride and groom-to-be.   Of course we had the cameras to hand!

The reception is taking place at a family farm and to say we were overwhelmed by it would be an understatement – a photographer’s dream!  The views are quite frankly breathtaking, and we were also introduced to the horses, sheep, dogs, some adorable 9 week old pups (awwww) and the fascinating Alpaca (who are prone to spitting if you upset them apparently so we stood well back just in case!). They all posed beautifully for us! As did the cows in a neighbouring field, along with a rather large bull.

It was an absolute joy to photograph in such a scenic place – so looking forward to taking the wedding pics there later in the summer.  Hopefully, the bride won’t be needing her pink wellies on her big day (mmmmm, maybe for some quirky and fun shots as the day goes on…bet they’d go well with her dress!)Bride and Groom to be

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Bride and Groom to be

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