Light Blue Software Just Got Better

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. A mantra that should be stuck to like glue in many aspects in life, but in some annoying circumstances people see fit to fiddle with things that just don’t need it, and make things, well, worse.

This however can’t be said of the guys at Light Blue Software. Any tinkering they do to Light Blue seems to be minimal, very considered, well informed and very well implemented. They have a great habit of listening to users concerns, thoughts and ideas and where needed they will part with there thoughts and advice to help the users get the most out of what is a great piece of software for photographers and on the odd occasion, where possible, may even introduce new features to suit the working photographer and his or her admin workflow.

Now I’ve no idea where or how they come up with this latest gem, but they have just tinkered with it once more, and this one was a big addition. Online Contract Signing, and the ability to have clients pay their deposit via Credit/Debit Card or via Paypal as soon as they have just signed their contract!

I’ve now sent out 3 contracts in the past 24/48 hours and all of them have been signed, and I now have them back as PDF’s and I’ve already printed them, its worked like a dream.

I could very well waffle on about how it all works, but Hamish, from Light Blue, has kindly put a video together, so why not check it out the link below and see what you think. I give it a huge thumbs up, it’s going to make one more thing in life that little bit easier.

Click Here For The Contract Page And Video

Dom :-)

Wedding Fairs : The Worst Part Of Them Is…

Oh boy, where do we start with this one. There is so much about wedding fairs that could be seen as a negative, I guess it just depends on who you are and what your situation is and what your views are.


Today, Sunday 18th of January, the wife and I have done yet another wedding fair. This time at the very prestigious Stanhill Court Hotel near Gatwick. I've kinda lost count of the fairs we've done over the past few years but for me it must be somewhere in the 12-16 region. The wife has done more than me in the same time period, and that is down to the first negative.


Getting on board the “good” wedding fair circuit, as a photographer, is a bit of a nightmare. The reason is that there are so many photographers in the South East and yet each wedding can house only 3-5 per fair to keep things fair and not overcrowded, and I see the validity in that, but, it's normally the same 3-5 that get in at the same fairs time after time because they are the regulars or they get a heads up on fair dates and get it booked there and then. For me, this is no longer a big problem as I'm getting into a good few of them now, so that's not my worst part.


Depending on the venue, and the popularity of the fair, the cost of attending one can be fairly astronomical as a photographer. You'd think the price would be a set fee for all attending, but most will set the fee depending on the size of space needed, and as we photographers wish to show off albums and the like, we have to have big stalls so we get the biggest fees. The obvious downfall to this is, big stand or not, we are no more guaranteed a booking from being at that fair than the invites lady with her small stand does. It's quite simply a gamble, and down to your own portfolio to show your abilities off and your own personality to sell yourself. So you could end up spending a small fortune and getting nothing in return turning it into a big waste of money.


That said, we have done two “Freebie” wedding fairs in the past three years that have obviously cost us nothing, or did they. They were free for a reason. Run by someone who sadly had no business or marketing sense, so no advertising was done and guess how many people turned up. I think it was about 14 people in 5 hours, and 8 of those were friends of the organiser. One big waste of time and fuel. At least I know with the paid ones that they are run by experienced people who advertise them properly and get a decent number of brides through the door.


I think I spoke to about 10/12 couples today, of which 3 of those couples had to be told that I was already booked on the 30th of May, 22nd of August and the 5th of September. However, the rest either hadn't confirmed a date as yet or I was available on the date they had chosen. So, with a little bit of luck I might be considered by one or two of them, which would be fantastic.


So is the cost the worst part………I'd have to say, no, not really. No matter which way we choose to advertise ourselves, the best ways usually involve a cost of money or time. Most wedding fairs tend to get me a return of two weddings per fair, sometimes less, sometimes more, but only twice has it returned me nothing at all.


So what else could it be. Standing on my feet all day is a hard one to bare, specially at quieter wedding fairs, but today's was really quite busy, so I didn't notice it so much.


Meeting so many different people with different ideas and requirements is definitely not a negative as I really do enjoy talking with the brides and grooms about what they have in mind or what they have already planned and thinking quickly on my feet to let them know how I would be able to work with them on their big day, complement their ideas and bring them to life to get them the photo memories that they and their big day deserves.


One thing that is a bit of a drag, is the big shift of stuff from studio to wedding fair location, the set up beforehand, the tear down and take it all back to the studio afterwards routine. If there was a magic button to press that would sort that all out automatically I'd invest in it tomorrow……..but there isn't, so the manual labour of it all remains part of the routine, but without it I'd have nothing to show, and quite obviously I wouldn't get any bookings from it, but, you guessed it, that's still not the worst part.


Ok, so what is, “and get to the darn point already” I here you say. The worst part is right now. The fair finished 8 hours ago, but right now I'm awaiting that first contact from any bride and groom who saw me at the fair today. Well I say waiting, I'm not literally staring aimlessly at my email app like some deranged creature from the back of beyond waiting the “plong” of an email to the inbox, but it is the waiting game that is now underway that is quite unbearable.


As I write this now, the wife has already had two separate points of contact from today's fair, one she can't do as she's booked already, but thankfully one she can on the 5th of September. So for me now it's just a case of fingers crossed and see what happens.


Wedding fairs are quite simply a case of, some you win, some you lose, but if you don't roll the dice you'll never find out which it is to be. I'll be rolling that dice again next month at fairs to be held at Crawley Town Football Club and the Gatwick Manor Hotel, and with those it'll be fingers crossed as well.


Well that's it from me for now, catch up again sometime soon


Dom :-)


2014 : A Year Of Progression

Another year done, and this one held yet more steps forward in terms of business progression, along with the number of weddings and portraits shot and thankfully the number of happy customers has grown as well.
My 2014 started quite slowly with only one wedding for January and rather sadly it cancelled with only a few weeks to go before the big day, so that was a bit of a downer, so my first actual wedding shoot happened on the most romantic day of the year. Sarah & David chose Valentines Day to be their wedding day and although Mother Nature tried her hardest to be the centre of attention, she failed to dampen the spirits or blow away the party atmosphere as a great day was had by all.
Lauren & Max
Work on the wedding shoot front then went very quiet for two and a half months as my next wedding shoot wasn't until May, but that lull was filled with other work. Mainly in the form of family portrait sessions, but also in the form of some new born baby shoots, a new service that I had started to offer. It was in March that I set myself up with some props for the studio to use on the new born baby shoots. It was a task made very easy when the wife and I took a three day break down in Rye, East Sussex, for our wedding anniversary.
Sarah & Adam
Basically I dragged the wife round pretty much all the antique type places where you can find all manner of things, including the wicker baskets, fruit boxes and wooden buckets. All in all I spent about £40-£50 and I had 5 props to use, and with some baby blankets from home along with some cuddly toys I was all set …..bargain!
The weddings kicked off again in May and it was pretty full on from there right through to September, where it started to slow down a bit, however, I still had at least two per month all the way up until Christmas.
Jessica & Kevin
It's at this point that I'd like to thank all my brides and grooms from 2014 and say it was a privilege to be part of all your big days, I personally enjoyed being part of them all, and that also goes for the weddings where I was hired in as a second photographer.
Carly & Andrew
This year I have shot 24 weddings as the main or only photographer, and I've been a second photographer on 4 weddings, working alongside Katie, Stephen and Karen. At this moment in time, being New Years Eve, I have 23 weddings booked for 2015, 4 for 2016 and even 1 confirmed booking for 2017. So my 2015 is already looking very busy and we have the spring wedding fair season to get through yet.
Kate & Stuart
This growth in work is what basically lead me to shutting down my part time business in private hire driving two months ago. It was time for it to stop to be able to give me more time to service the photography far more efficiently, and it's already doing that as I'm far more on top of things than I used to be. Image editing is still playing catch up to a certain degree, but even that is being cleared mildly faster than it was, which is exactly what I was aiming to do.
Lauren & Max
Well that's it then for 2014, and goodbye to what was an excellent year, here's hoping 2015 will be bigger and better for all of us……..have a good'un!
Dom :-)


Nikon SB-900 Overheat : A Problem For Me?

A few weeks back at a wedding shoot, right at the end of the day, I managed to smash one of my SB-700 flashguns. I was doing one last image of the bride and groom outside the front of the Hartsfield Manor Hotel in the darkness of night time, where the front of the hotel was mildly lit by outside lights and quite a glow of light was pouring out of the windows. So I lit the couple with one flashgun through a 45×45 softbox.

The weather had been mild all day with very little wind, however, just as I finished shooting I went over the bride and groom to double check that they were happy with the coverage and that there was nothing more that they wanted. As I turned to walk back to my bag and light stand a gust of wind appeared and took the light stand, which was set to its highest position, for a quick journey from high to low as it toppled rapidly to the floor. One very alive flashgun met a swift end.

So I was left with a dilemma. Although I have two other flashguns I operate with three when I shoot the first dance, and so I needed to get a replacement as soon as possible.

My options were basically another SB-700, which would be a new one, or an SB-910 or SB-900, but there would be no way either of these would be new. As good as the top of the range one maybe, it’s just not worth over £300, not a chance.

Instantly I was put off the secondhand price of the SB-910 as it was still to high for me to be fair, specially when the SB-900 was far cheaper, but oh yeah, it suffers the overheating issue that has been so well documented by plenty of people eager to put this flashgun down as a failure, that’s why it’s so cheap.

So is it worth the risk?

I weighed up the odds by looking at my finances and then reviewing the way I shoot weddings and how I set my gear up to shoot and came to the conclusion that I would rarely go anywhere near the rate and power output that would see it overheat.

So I bought one, and what was the first thing I did with it, I tested the overheat problem. I set it to manual, set it to full power, and simply fired it time and time again each time it recharged and it took about 18-20 shots and sure enough “bleep bleep bleep”, it overheated and went into stand-by.

That’s all fine and dandy but was I right about my own shooting style not being in danger of tripping this problem. Well right now I’m actually typing this on my iPad whilst I’m at a wedding shoot. The preps have happened, the wedding is done, group shots shot, bride & groom portraiture is in the bag and the speeches have been captured.

The couple an there guests are currently having some food so I’m on a break and having some food myself, but what I can report is the the battery life of the SB-900 is pretty awesome as I’ve only just changed one set of batteries in it and they weren’t even dead yet, or is it that awesome, because I have not suffered the overheat, meaning I’ve not exactly strained the flashgun and so it seems I was right about my shooting style. To be honest I have tried to keep an eye on the temperature gauge as and when I can remember to do so, but each time I’ve looked it’s always been at the lowest value.

Basically, a secondhand, well looked after Nikon SB-900 is an absolute bargain at around £170 and will serve you well, unless you have some odd need to fire off 20 full power flashes one after another without giving it a chance to catch its breath.

The reality is most normal shooting togs would be nuts to by a brand new or secondhand SB910. When the time comes to get another flashgun for my kit I’ll definitely be bagging another SB-900.

Right I best get back to work, I still have the cake cut and first dance to capture.

See you again soon


Now 100% Photographer

A couple of weeks back on my Facebook page I posted that I was going to be making a big and maybe scary decision, and the result of that decision means that rather unbelievably I can say I’m now 100% photographer!

What, you mean you weren’t 100% before now? I hear you say.

Well no, as a business it’s only been going a short while and so it has never generated enough of an income for it to be my sole job, however my attitude towards photography and my business within it has always been at one hundred percent, though having to start from scratch meant it had quite some way to go until it could provide us with a decent income, but seemingly and thankfully it’s now doing just that.

So what was my other source of income?

For the past 15 years I’ve been in the private hire chauffeur industry. Its been a fun and interesting ride throughout those years with many ups and downs. Contracts coming, contracts going, driving businessmen & women around, pilots and crew between airports and celebrities from A to B.

About 9 years ago we took on a contract with a fairly major airline. The work was brisk, non stop in fact, but it was worth it. The journeys were mostly easy, the pilots we drove were good people and the pay was decent, couldn’t have asked for better really. On a couple of occasions we even had the opportunity to board a proper commercial aircraft simulator, courtesy of an excellent Training Captain. Still to this day I’m not entirely sure it was the done thing so I won’t mention his name but many thanks go out to him for that opportunity.

Sadly 6 years ago, that fairly major airline had a big shake up and decided to put most of its employees on new contracts, and the pilots who were once privileged enough to have us drive them around suddenly found themselves behind the wheels of either their own car or a pool car and we were no longer needed.

That for me was a big hit to take. That contract had been so busy I pretty much only dedicated my time to that one contract, basically I had no time for anyone or anything else, and so losing that work meant I went from decent earnings one month to pretty much nothing the next. Not ideal, but throughout the course of the recent recession there will have been thousands of others facing similar hardships so what I was facing was pretty much no different to anyone else.

Thankfully, even though I had little time to work for others throughout that 2/3 years of driving pilots, I did still stay in contact with one Private Hire company called Parkers, an Executive Car Service based in Reigate and they came to the rescue and started to give me work, mainly in the shape of a school run, which meant regular guaranteed work and income. As an income it wasn’t on the same level as I had made with the airline work but it meant we wouldn’t go under and that was all that mattered at that point, and for that I will always be grateful to Emily, Fred & Phil at Parkers.

The obvious side effect of not being quite as busy work-wise any more was that I had more time on my hands and so the long-standing hobby of photography took a more prominent position in my life and that’s kinda where this all started. I started to get involved in more and more photowalks, started communicating more with other like-minded people via Twitter, Facebook and photography forums and built up a good network of photographer friends who have helped, advised, critiqued and given support.

I’m not going to bore you with all the in’s and out’s of the whole journey but the real turning point was shooting my cousins wedding out in Wales where I was accompanied by Scot Baston, of Zooming Feet Photography. Scot took more of a lead role than I so I could shoot with a bit of freedom knowing full well he would do a good job, regardless of what I did, because he had shot quite a few weddings before.

I still approached the whole thing as if it was a paid job for someone I had no relation to and I shot it to the best of my abilities but was guided when needed by Scot’s knowledge and experience. The result of that wedding shoot convinced me that it was something I could do and would enjoy doing, but the personal mental turmoil of trying to convince myself I could actually do the job justice and charge people took a few months to get through, but in time I hurdled that and the business slowly started.

Over the course of the past few years my abilities, experience and confidence has grown and my gear has gone from amateur/enthusiast to fully professional and finally it feels like I belong in this job, this is now completely for real and as a business it is now doing the minimum I need to be able to live off of it. I find myself at a point where I have a lot of work on and I could do with extra time to operate the photography business properly, but I also need time to be a Dad and a husband. Lately I’ve been trying to fit to much into every 24 hours, most days would see me getting up at 06:30 to get ready for the private hire school run and then end the day at the computers at around 1am to 2am in the morning, then getting up at 06:30 the next morning to go do it all again.

The 3 hours a day spent on the car business with the school run was taking up time that could be used on the photography and so in order to progress further and keep on top of things more efficiently with the photography I have made the decision to shut down the car business. In doing that I have obviously shut off an income source but I have also shut off quite a big expence when you consider what was spent on insurance, private hire licensing and fuel. It all adds up to be the right thing to do, but it’s still a bit scary leaving behind something that was my job for 15 years and in recent years, where the photography business was getting under way, it was my safety net for the winters where weddings, and photography work in general, has always been more scarce.

My Motor: No Longer A Part Time Taxi!

With that safety net gone it’s now up to me to continue to generate enough work to keep things ticking along nicely until next wedding season gets under way. So I shall be hoping that the portrait side of things is as busy through January and February 2015 as it was in 2014 where I ran a special offer, and so the same offer is in place and starting to be advertised now. At the time of writing this (25/11/14) I still have three weddings to do this year, and I have  17 booked for 2015, 4 booked for 2016 and even 1 booked in for 2017, so things are looking good and hopefully it’ll continue that way for quite some time to come.

The most bizarre part of this journey is that I have already clocked up 56 weddings and that just doesn’t seem possible, and it won’t be too long until I’ll have clocked up 100, which if I’d have listened to and believed one local, unsociable, photographer who told me when I first started “I’ve seen thousands like you come, fail and then go”, may never have been possible.

Thankfully I didn’t believe him or take his words to heart, and although I’m hardly doing all this just to prove him wrong, it is nice to know that, so far, I’m not one of his thousands and if I have anything to do with it then I would hope never to fail at this as I truly do love doing what I do and I enjoy every day doing it.

Well that’s my big news done for now. Thanks for stopping by to read it all, catch you all again soon.


Dom :-)