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Speakers' Corner - Gary Hughes - part 1 of 1 2

by Gary Hughes Published

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Why photography?
I wish I could say I have some sort of calling or higher purpose, but the simple fact is that the business my wife and I have built around photography affords us the kind of life we want. We travel, have flexible hours, and get to create for a living.

Film or digital? Is there still a place for silver halide?
All digital. Since we shoot primarily in the commercial world, film isn’t very practical. I do see several of my colleagues using film in creative ways as a boutique product. For some it has become a great way to stand out in a crowded market.

Which camera?
My primary camera is the Canon 5D mk IV. For travelling and shooting I carry the much lighter but still impressive Canon M5.

Bit of detail about your own studio set-up/staffing. Why (as a customer) would I choose you?
We offer the ideal experience for our corporate clients, a fast and reliable service, excellent quality, a sterling reputation, competitive pricing and efficiency. For our corporate clients they will generally prefer a vendor that they don’t have to think about. Deliver everything to specifications and on time, make their life easy and they will hire you over and over. That’s what we do.

The problem with professional photographers today is…
That people are always looking for the problem with professional photography. Besides certain technological advances making it easier to put your work in front of people, the industry hasn’t changed much. Running a small business has always been hard. The people who are best at the business part will rise to the top and the ones who aren’t will go out of business, that hasn’t changed. The biggest problem facing the industry is that most photographers have lost touch with the consumer. People think differently, purchase differently and make choices about their lives differently and it’s not going back to the way it was. Photographers need to look outside the industry to see how successful entrepreneurs are reaching their customers and make some serious adjustments in order to survive.

What’s the worst commercial error you have made to date?
Even the mistakes helped us find our way over time so it’s hard to look back and wish things were any different. We learned fairly early on not to talk specifics about our clients or business dealings. We almost lost a massive corporate account because another photographer overheard something we said over a networking lunch and attempted to get the job for them.


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How did you rectify the mistake?
We had to start the bidding process over and eventually booked the gig.

The lessons learnt?
Although it’s important to share with your local photography community and to give back to the industry, we don’t talk about clients or specific jobs anymore.

Is it getting harder or easier to make a decent living?
There are more opportunities now than ever. Twenty year olds can make a million with YouTube, crowdfunding is making the dreams of creatives come true every day, but at the same time, wages haven’t risen in a way that is relative to the cost of living. Success will always come down to the person.

How do you stay ahead of the game?
Read. Read a lot. Consume books, videos, podcasts and everything else you can get your hands on that puts good information in your brain. Follow the trends of thought leaders outside the photography industry. In a lot of ways the photography industry is behind the curve compared to some others. Seeing what’s going on in other arenas can be extremely enlightening and help you stay on top.

How do organisations such as The Societies of Photographers help?
Some organisations provide direct benefit like discounts and insurance, which is helpful, but the main benefit has always been mentorship. I have had the good fortune of learning from some incredible artists and business people over the years because of my membership in professional photography associations.


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