Loving Two “Babies” Equally?

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Here we are almost at another summer holidays already and another year zooming by! There’s been lots going on here even though you may have noticed fewer posts from me on Facebook of late. Read on and I will explain all!

As many of you know already, I now split my time wearing the two hats, so to speak. Romsey Fotografix being one, and my Zazzle Store – Fotografixgal Designs, t’other.

Now please don’t get me wrong. Just because I have found a new love in my Zazzle store, doesn’t mean I’m no longer “in love” with my photography and Romsey Fotografix. Nah, not at all, that’s still my baby. As we all know, when the second “baby” comes along, you love it just as much don’t you, if you’ll forgive the analogy!  I guess what I’m saying is, it’s possible to love two babies equally.

Of course, finding time to devote to each and give them both my all has meant a little compromising – but not at the expense of letting go of good customer service I hasten to add. So yes, I have cut back on my photoshoots, which means that I can still devote the time necessary for each photo session and the subsequent edit and correspondence, and thus maintain the standard of customer service you are used to from me and, of course, deserve.

My time is split about 50/50, with a little leeway naturally where needs be. Hence, I only do studio photoshoots now on Sunday mornings and outdoor location shoots on Saturday mornings. I edit the images from these as soon as possible afterwards so I can get your galleries out quickly without keeping anyone waiting.

Once I know everyone has their pictures to look at, I devote the rest of the week to designing for my Zazzle store. This really has become such a passion for me, I can’t tell you just how much I enjoy it! Haha my friends and family know exactly how much as I do go on about it a lot!!!

(Goes without saying that I deal with enquiries and orders for Romsey Fotografix regardless of when I get them!)

A little about Zazzle if you’ve not heard of them before. They’re a huge print on demand website and they do all manner of goodies – as you can see from their website. And here’s their story. As a designer, artist or photographer, or indeed anyone who wishes to, you easily set up a Zazzle store, or several stores if you want to. I just have the one store for now Fotografixgal Designs, as that keeps me plenty busy enough!  I also set up a separate website especially for it to help showcase the items in my store.  

There’s quite a complex strategy involved in running a Zazzle store, it’s not just a question of designing and plonking it onto any old products if you want to progress and do well on there. When I first started on there about a year ago, I had no idea at all about best practices for it and it was frustrating not to be making many sales at the time. I took the step of investing in some fantastic training from Elke Clarke one of Zazzle’s top sellers. She was running an offer at the time and I can honestly say it was the best money I ever spent and am so pleased I decided to go for it. I would never have discovered it all on my own. It’s been onwards and upwards since putting into practice everything I learnt (and am still learning). And the training from Elke doesn’t just stop when you finish the course, so you’re not left high and dry. She has a private Facebook group and does regular live sessions so we can ask her anything we need to know. She also assesses our stores if we ask her to and tells us how we can improve and what we’re doing right and wrong which has been invaluable.

A year in, and I’m delighted to say my sales are really starting to take off which has been very encouraging. Ironically, my most popular items are wedding stationery, photo gifts and photo blocks – so the “sisters” Romsey Fotografix and Fotografixgal Designs do cross paths in some ways!  Oh and not forgetting inspirational/motivational quote products, I have loads in store, which I decided to do not only because I love this sort of thing myself, but I reckoned they would be popular as you see them in shops all over the place nowadays don’t you. And indeed they have become bestsellers for me – I’m always racking my brains so I can add new ones.

OK, heading back to the subject of Facebook posting. As I do fewer shoots now, I have less photos from current sessions to post on Facebook and am therefore not posting every day or two, as I did at one time. And I don’t want to bombard you with too many Fotografixgal Design related posts as I guess you didn’t follow me on Facebook to see those 😉!!  Maybe just the odd one or two if you don’t mind lol. In the main though I use my Instagram and Pinterest accounts to promote my Zazzle store. To be honest, Social Media takes such a lot of time to get it right. There’s quite a strategy involved if you want to keep your loyal following entertained. And unless you pay for your posts to be promoted, they invariably only get shown to a small handful of your followers so it can be very soul destroying taking into consideration the amount of time and effort put into creating them. I’m not knocking it, because it’s obviously very useful and brilliant for connecting with your audience. As long as you stay in control of it and not let it take over at the expense of other things.

So please forgive me if I don’t post as often. However, I’m always very grateful when you give me permission to post pictures from your session as this allows me to showcase my work for others to see and also give you a little sneak peek and to share with your FB friends.

Another decision I have not taken lightly is to introduce a small booking fee for my studio photoshoots from August 2019. This won’t apply to outdoor shoots. I’ll only be taking one or two studio shoots a week on a Sunday and will request and pay for the studio as and when someone contacts me to book. This session fee is to safeguard me against late cancellations and no shows and cover my costs. I know I have never charged a session fee before as I didn’t feel it necessary when I had my own studio and was doing loads of shoots in a week, therefore I wasn’t out of pocket in the event of no shows. However, now if someone doesn’t show up on the day, which does happen sometimes, I won’t be able to fill that slot at that short notice and may even have turned other clients away for it, it’s just to ensure I’m not out of pocket. The good news is I’ll refund you the booking fee when your order comes to £150 or more.

You may also have seen that we have now photographed our last wedding as the official photographers.  I was going to tell you all about that in this post however as it’s already quite lengthy (haha sorry that’s not like me at all 😉 ), I’ll do a separate post shortly about the reasons behind our Wedding Swansong.

I truly hope you understand my decision to veer in a slightly new direction wearing my two different, yet complementary, hats. I am a firm believer in doing what you love most in life, after all you only get one shot at it (excuse the photography related pun!!) Grab those opportunities as they arise!

You gotta be content and fulfilled in your work. I have found my very Happy Place.

As ever, thank you so much for your support. It means the world to both Lee and I and we look forward to taking your next set of pictures!

The secret of being happy is accepting where you are in life and making the most out of every day 

anonymous quote (but oh so true!)

It’s Christmas!

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Christmas is just around the corner and 2019 is on its way!

Haha, just stating the obvious!

I hope 2018 has been a good year for you.  In some ways, it seems to have rushed by. To me, it feels like five minutes since last Christmas – but on the other hand, it seems like forever ago since I had the old studio at Basepoint – even though I only finished there at the end of March.  The mystery of time, eh?

The move was a massive decision for us at the time, but happily it’s worked out really well. Hive Studios feels like my second Sunday home now! To find such a great studio, so close by, was incredible luck.

It has also given me the flexibility of concentrating on my artistic pursuits, as well as my photography.  I enjoy both immensely; now I can split my time equally on each. Best of both worlds.

It has been really lovely to see so many familiar faces this year and welcome you to Hive Studios, as well as meeting lots of new faces of course!  Not forgetting the numerous shoots in the great outdoors during the summer months too! Great fun, and we were mostly lucky with the weather! I am so appreciative of your continued support. It means such a lot to me, thank you.

Lee and I have also photographed some beautiful weddings this year, come rain and come shine!

christmas keeping place

With my artist hat on, earlier in the year I started some courses spanning the whole year, which I mentioned in a previous post. I have managed to work my way through most of the lessons, and golly have learned so much! Not only to improve my drawing and design skills, but also learning lots of new tricks and techniques in Photoshop, which have helped speed up my editing processes for my photos too. It has been very inspiring.

The most amazing outcome of the art courses though was to set up stores on a couple of Print on Demand websites.  Firstly Red Bubble, and then, WOW, I discovered Zazzle.

I promise I won’t gush too much about Zazzle but I can honestly say it has transformed my life!  Best. Fun. Ever. I invested in a course from one of Zazzle’s topsellers, Elke Clarke, and through her I have learned the very best strategies for making it work. And I am over the moon that it is paying off 🙂 My store is still growing but after only a few months sales are already going well and I know with the techniques I have learned, and am still learning, it will get better and better as I add more goodies to it.

I truly believe everything happens for a reason. This time last year I had no inkling I would be leaving Basepoint (I would have shuddered at the thought!!) but fate stepped in with other ideas for me and I am actually very grateful it did.

I’m closing for the holiday this weekend. We have a wedding to photograph on Sunday; Christmas weddings are always especially magical! Then we have our eldest son’s birthday to celebrate on Christmas Eve, and a big family get together on Christmas Day, followed by a trip to Brighton on Boxing Day. Then a little R&R before reopening in January.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Healthy, Happy and Peaceful New Year.

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!

First year graphic for blog-1

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 🙂