by Ron Pybus Published 01/04/2008
Part 10 on the business aspects of being a successful photographer by Ron Pybus
46 36 In this article I want to remind you all of the importance of image - your image. We are, after all, in the image business. It was interesting to wander round Focus just looking at people.
I accept that as a body of photographers we were all 'off duty' - or were we? Many of us had appointments with our suppliers, but few seemed to have given consideration to appearance. So many photographers were lugging large camera bags around or worst still, had cameras round their necks. The general feeling in the trade is that the more visible the camera at such shows, the less professional the person. You only have to go to Focus on Sunday, when all the amateurs are present, to see cameras round the necks of every other person.
It is not just the display of cameras, but the state of dress and often the overall cleanliness that is of concern. It has to be said that 95% of my comments are aimed at male photographers. Females usually make the effort to be attractive and clean. I am not saying that male photographers are dirty, only that, in several cases, there is room for improvement. It is not just at such shows, but on stands in shopping centres where we let ourselves down. At such a stand today I saw a well groomed female, together with a young male assistant trying to market a well known-brand. At best he could be described at unkempt or better still as scruffy and totally presenting the wrong image.
Visiting photographers in their studios is often a revelation. I am usually uncertain as to when the studio was last cleaned and certainly when it last had sight of polish on anything. The loo is often not the cleanest of facilities and towels have often seen better days.
The majority of photographers dress in black, and I am just as guilty as anyone. It was only when I was photographing a couple of very reticent children the other day that a parent commented that if I had been wearing light colours I might not have seemed so forbidding to two young children. We were certainly having trouble with them. During a break in shooting I changed my shirt to a white one which was highly patterned. Whether it was the break in shooting or the change of shirt that made the difference I am not sure, but the change was dramatic. The children were responsive, not afraid of being separated from parents, and we ended up with a set of great pictures.
It is not just a personal image that is important, but the image created by the whole experience of visiting your studio. You have to be careful just how you fit out your studio. Some of the larger photographic companies employ designers to create an experience, but many photographers do their own design or use things that happen to be around. Using a design company is expensive and if you get the wrong designer it can be an absolute disaster. Doing it yourself can be just as much a disaster unless you really analyse how you want to present yourself and your studio. For wedding photographers without studios, how you present yourself, whether you are on time, whether you are knowledgeable about the venue and your prices, all have an effect on the image that you portray. On the big day, whether you match the dress code for the occasion or stand out like a sore thumb will give a clear impression of your professionalism to all the guests.
To give you an example outside the photographic world I will relate a very recent experience - in fact the trigger for this article and for a review of my studio, its decor and facilities on my return.
I decided that I needed a couple of days' break and as the weather was good at the beginning of March I took a couple of days out at a hotel in Wales. It looked brilliant on the internet and from its image on arrival it appeared excellent. It turned out to be a designer's dream but a customer's nightmare.
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