Follow your dream
We've all been there. You're sitting behind your desk, counter, wheel or wherever you spend most of your time at work and you think to yourself, is this really my life now? For me this thought was coming to me more and more often in my past corporate life. Then one day I decided there had to be a better way.
One day I had a breakthrough, I remember it well! I had always photographed my friends weddings, sometimes officially, sometimes just in the background, but always out of the way and making their day the best day possible whilst capturing what made it special. Every time my friends appreciated my work and told me I should do it as my profession. Until the final incident I didn't think it was possible.
The day I made my mind up what I had to do, was the day I handed my friends an album I had created for them and their faces were so full of joy. You see, they had a professional photographer booked, I just happened to be there with my camera too. The difference was this time, their photographer really let them down. Out of focus or blurry, missing the great moments, taking over their day and getting in the way. All things they didn't want. When they told me, "If it wasn't for you, we wouldn't have any nice photos of our wedding" I decided, you know what, I'm going to do this.
For them it was a lesson in 'you get what you pay for' having not realised the importance of a photographer, they found a couple who threw everything in for a bargain price. But they ended up with nothing. For me it was a life changing moment where I realised I could make this my living.
My past self was a high flying IBM corporate man, traveling around to very large companies and telling them how they could improve their business and get the most out of their IT systems and technology. But this corporate life wasn't really for me, I enjoyed what I did, I was good at it and people appreciated it, but my impact on the world was that of a cog in a machine. I wanted to take control of my own destiny. Nia my wife was recently made redundant from her job and so after a lot of talking about it, we decided we should go for it.
We'd always both enjoyed photography and thanks to my career I was lucky enough to be able to afford a nice camera, Nia focused on getting herself trained up whilst I focused on the technology side. We knew where we wanted to be, but getting there was a long journey. I still needed to be earning money at this stage to fund the business growth, and we still needed a way to distinguish ourselves from the mass of photographers, yet make ourselves worthy enough to ask a higher price than the bargain photographers that throw it all in for a low low price. Thankfully my passion for technology was the answer.
Not long after we decided to go for this venture, my thoughts were turning towards drone technology. We were working in a saturated market against people who had been doing this for years in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk which would be our main areas of focus. We knew we could match them in skill, but how to gain the confidence of a customer, and what would make us stand out.
The drone was my answer to this question. With a professional drone I could get to places no photographer could get to, take photos that no one could take and also gain a bit of street cred in the process! I researched the drone market, which at the time was still very young and unknown, and decided on the Inspire 1, a state of the art camera platform capable of taking incredible photos from great distances, highly reliable and stable in even blustery winds. My first challenge was learning to fly it, this however didn't take long, since I had a lifetime of computer games as practice. The next challenge was learning the laws and becoming licensed. This was a bigger challenge due to the fact it was so new, no real legislation had come in yet, but there were guidelines and tests to be taken. Once ready it was time to fly and the first wedding we launched the drone, we knew it would be a success as everyones faces lit up and the amazing photos started to roll in.
The drone was obviously not enough to build a business on alone, we needed to be good, very good. The area has a number of very well established and very skilled photographers, each with their own style and specialty. We needed to establish our style. This part of our story came quite naturally as it seemed we complimented each others photography. I have a very artistic eye and see beauty in natural moments, whilst Nia has a fantastic ability to frame a shot and has the eye for detail to make sure everything and everyone is in exactly the right position. Together we capture a day with all the beauty it can offer, yet still remain largely unnoticed and unobtrusive to the day.
We soon realised how much time and effort wedding photography takes, its not just the day, but the many following days of effort to process the images to a high standard and really make our photos shine with style. It was then we realised that to be the best, we really had to limit the number of jobs we took, this would allow us to focus on a couple and give them the very best photos possible. It worth noting, if a photographer manages to provide you photos quickly, its likely they didn't process, you get what they give you. We however wanted to ensure top quality of every shot we take. This takes time, but provides the artistic flair you just can't get with automatically processed images. With limited weddings we then realised we needed a more stable income, bread and butter. With this in mind, we started branching into studio and lifestyle shoots. This was surprisingly something we very much enjoyed, but we were also pleased to find that we each had a passion in this area too. Whilst I loved taking photos of people, families and couples, Nia found her passion in pets and equine photography. Each market has taken off considerably for us now and also gives us the new dynamic of being able to really expand our skills.
As part of our transition into life of photographers, we learned that you never stop learning. And its not just photography you need to learn. Running a business has many challenges, and so we had to establish partnerships and learning opportunities.
We were very lucky to fall into two very highly regarded crowds from which we were able to learn so much about photography and running a photography business. We'll forever be thankful to Mark Cleghorn who's incredible knowledge in both photography skills and business taught us so much through the Xperience group. And also through him we joined the Photographer academy, a highly regarded professional body of photographers. We also teamed up with Catherine Connor and her team from Aspire, who was able to give us a wealth of information on how to better market ourselves and focus on what we wanted from photography, really drawing out our strengths and focusing them into everything we do.
Together we've learned more than we knew was possible about photography and how to run our business. Its been an amazing journey and its a journey that will always continue, as we grow our skills and our business, so that we can hopefully shine in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk against the more established.
We now strive to bring all we've learned together to offer the best photography possible to people who appreciate photography. Be it weddings or pets, equine or families, we want the best possible photography for you. We want to bring you the best products of the highest quality that will take pride on your wall or on display. We are always learning new skills and I'm always looking at the latest technology to see how it can improve our services. We want the best for our customers, so they leave with a smile and treasured memories. This is now what gets me out of bed in the morning, I'm no longer a cog, but someone that brings happiness to people by showing them just how amazing they are through the power of photography.
By James Corbett
Nia & James The Photographers