London and Cambridge wedding photographer Tom Catchesides will visit the flagship Apple Street, Regent Street tonight to talk about his acclaimed work.
Join Tom as he discusses the fundamentals of setting up a photography business and running it on the Mac.
The free event starts at 7pm tonight, Monday 13 September, 2010, all are welcome. Tom's also running an intensive one-day course on 8 November, entitled 'Delivering the goods: post-production for wedding & portrait photographers'. It's taking place in Cambridge and you can find out more about it on his blog (http://www.catchesides.co.uk/blog/seminars/).
Macworld recently caught up with Tom to discover more about his work.
Q) How difficult was it to turn an interest in photography into a business?
It came naturally for me. I started taking my photography seriously when I went to university and started taking pictures for the student newspaper. I started out photographing live music, which led onto submitting pictures to an agency and eventually onto taking private commissions.
However, as many photographers soon discover, earning beer money from occasional jobs is easy but turning that into a full-time career is much harder.
Q) How did you get the message out that you were available for hire?
I started getting into 'social photography' (i.e. portraits, weddings, etc) the year after I graduated. It frustrated me that the only graduation photos available in Cambridge were taken in a studio and could have been taken pretty much anywhere. So, the following year I set up a small company with a friend, hired locations in several Cambridge colleges and started photographing students in the places they'd lived and studied in for three or more years. That got the word of mouth going and led onto other jobs and, eventually, wedding photography.
Q) Once you start getting commissions, is it word of mouth that drives new business?
Word of mouth is very important to my business, but there aren't any magic marketing bullets that are guaranteed to work for every photography business. I know a lot of photographers, some are friends I've known for years, some have come to my courses ( http://www.catchesides.co.uk/blog/seminars/ ) and others are users of Light Blue: Photo ( http://www.lightbluesoftware.com ), but all of them find work in different ways. Some do very well out of wedding fairs, others have built up strong businesses through local print advertising, others do very well out of online directories, but it all depends on where they are in their careers and what type of clients they are trying to reach.
Q) You take a lot of wedding photos, how do you avoid the cliches?
I specialise in photographing weddings, and over the years I've established a clear style that's all about documenting my clients' wedding day without imposing what I think a wedding should look like upon them. That creates an amazingly strong emotional bond to my work for my clients as well as avoiding the cliches!
Q) Looking at your blog, your work seems to be about capturing the moment. Is that something see through the lens, or it is something you are only aware of later?
My approach to wedding photography is very much about seeing the moment and capturing it. If you take the "if I take enough shots, some of them are bound to be good" approach to photographing weddings, you miss opportunities to anticipate great pictures, compose them in your head and capture the action as it happens. I shoot more images than I present to my clients because I'm not setting up shots and need to allow for blinks and missed expressions, but I wouldn't be able to consistently produce the work I do if I was taking the "spray and pray" approach - everything that I shoot at weddings is very deliberate.
Q) And do people generally want a traditional wedding album or something a bit more adventurous?
Part of establishing a distinct style is making sure that your work is always consistent. I spend a lot of effort ensuring that clients who get in touch with me already know how I go about photographing weddings, but if a couple who want something very different to my style slip through the net then I'll recommend a photographer who would be more suitable for them and their tastes. Photography isn't just a business for me, it's a very personal thing, so it's important to me that I work with clients who share my vision.
Q) Despite the recession do you think people are still willing to spend good money on a professional wedding album?
Definitely. 2009 was my best year so far, and 2010 looks set to be even busier. Couples aren't necessarily spending their money on albums (I sell beautifully designed and crafted albums, but most of my clients also choose to purchase a licenced set of high resolution digital files from me as well) but there's definitely a market for wedding photographers who can make their work stand out from the crowd.
Q) Is it difficult to convince people that black and white photography should be part of the package?
Not at all in my case, because it's a key part of my style. Understanding how and when to use black and white can be an important part of any photographer's style and I've chosen to make it a big part of mine.
Q) How much of your work is in camera and how much is done in the 'digital darkroom' with Photoshop?
My images are created in camera but polished in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Post-production is very important to me because it allows me to present the image that I saw to my clients, but with documentary wedding photography you need to get as much as you can right when you shoot the image.
I've always used Macs in my business because I grew up with them and love the tools that Apple provide to improve my productivity. I'd be lost without my AppleScripts or if I had to spend all of my time worrying about viruses and security.
Q) Finally what advice would you give to anyone looking to start a photography career?
First, be clear about what you're aiming for. Are you building a full-time career for yourself, or are you happy with occasionally making a bit of extra money to supplement your full-time job? If you decide that you want to build a career, do whatever you need to do to get your work and your business there as quickly as you can. If your portfolio is full of budget jobs, it's going to be hard to attract the clients you need to sustain a full-time business.
There's much more to running a photography business than taking pictures. You need to be comfortable with admin, sales, marketing, post-production… you name it, you'll be taking care of it unless you decide to hire staff. Get yourself into good practices and invest in a business management system like Light Blue: Photo to let you concentrate on taking pictures and building your career.
Finally, do no evil. The wedding photography industry is a small one and competition is fierce, but other photographers can and will be amazingly supportive if you've got integrity. Don't take shortcuts, don't abuse copyright and don't treat your competitors as things that need to be climbed over on your way to the top.
Tom Catchesides - photography