Articals

2015 Anual Review and 2016 Plans

London 

Social Media

This year has really been about building on last year in regards to my online presence with the use of social media. I started 2014 with possibly around 100 Twitter followers and I am now up to 420. While it's not a huge amount it's a start and I hope that it will only increase further.

The growth has really been down to interacting more with companies and associations that own or are involved with the photographs I take, for example when I visit a Nature Reserve owned by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust I share them and occasionally they will retweet them which generates interest around my work. 

In my experience with social media is that it's a full time job. What I really need is to plan out a week's tweets ahead of time based around sharing my blog posts and schedule them to be posted automatically which should be far more effective than just posting the odd link or picture one a week.

There are tools such as Holosuite that can do them on a bulk upload which would be the ideal solution. Unfortunately these are not free and the basic unpaid version does not come with that feature. With my blogging and photography generating a very small income I am unable to justify paying £10 for a paid monthly subscription which seems to be the standard fee for most third party services. 

I can of course use tweetdeck which is free but lacks any bulk uploading features, I will just have to enter them in manually for the time being. 

Potter Heigham on the Norfolk Broads

Blogging 

Blogging works best when used along with social media to promote articles therefore drawing traffic into the website. Again the time issues with using social media also applies to blogging where my free time has become limited. 

My idea for 2016 is to create a number of shorter articles based on a single image where I talk on what caught my eye and any stories behind taking the image along with the technical information for other photographers to learn from. Once I have a format created for these I should be able to write a few in one session that can be published and shared over the following week using social media to promote them.  

I know from the camera club that the most interesting talks from visiting speakers are not necessarily their images but more of their story behind them and that is what I want to include with these articles. 

Taken on Christmas Eve over Norwich City

Products 

This year I have launched my online store using Etsy which has been an interesting and time consuming experience. Over the 6 or so months I have redone the listings a couple of times and I will be doing so again over the next few weeks. 

Over this Christmas break I have had the time to put together a comprehensive catalogue of images which I can manipulate for various purposes that gives me a list to work against for creating listings and what images to feature in my blog posts.

I have had some success in selling greeting cards that I have produced myself that have been in local shops which I hope to expand in 2016 now that I have tweaked the product that I can be proud of selling. At the retail price of £2.50 these are affordable and disposable which is why I think these have been selling much better than my larger prints which where I have only sold a couple of smaller 10x8. 

Holkham Beach near Wells on the North Norfolk Coast

Plans and ambitions for 2016

Despite trying on a number of occasions I still haven't seen a Swallowtail Butterflies which I intend to try again next spring. 

Taking images of the night sky has been a new genre of photography which I want to continue with and capturing the Northern Light is right at the top of my wish list which can be seen along the North Norfolk Coast. Unfortunately these tend to occur at very short and often at inconvenient times. 

Quite a few of my better images of 2015 were from London and I would like to visit the Capital more frequently.

Youpic Update

Back in February I signed up to the photo sharing website Youpic to try out another outlet to share my images. In that blog post I outlined what was good and bad based on the user interface. Interestingly the article has been the most viewed page on this website.  

My last posted image on the service was about 4 months ago in May 2015. Comments on the original Youpic blog post pointed out some very valid points mostly around who owns the images once they have been uploaded considering there are no adverts and they don't charge to open an account to support the website. Other services I use such as 500px and Flickr charge for a pro account to remove the ads.

I stopped using the service mostly because the newer updates introduced a ranking and points system which felt to me the service was becoming like a videogame where you would get more points for uploading images as if you were killing an enemy or completing an objective which I don't like. I take images for fun and not for meaningless points or scores. A potential solution if I were to start using it again were to upload in low resolution like 2048px on the long edge with a dpi of 90 to make it not usable in print. I always upload to Flickr and 500px in high resolution, partly as a form of an online backup.

Sharing my images is very important to me which is a core attribute to a photographer and I assume it also applies to any other a artist. Protecting your work is important and with a medium such as photography that is being shared on the internet it's easy to lose control. 

My current attitude as a very keen ameture photographer who is aiming to generate some income with my work is that I have to be prepared for someone to use my images without my consent. I occasionally get enquiries from people and organisations who see my images on Flickr for example that turn into sales which I hope outweigh the risk of people just taking my images. 

Without sharing my images online I wouldn't have build up my relationship with the Wildlife Trust or my local business association were initially I give my time and/or images to be used (non-profit/editorial use) without payment (and I still do) that has lead to paid work.  

Currently I upload almost everything worthwhile to Flickr and being much more selective on what I add to 500px

Please add your thought and comments below or to me on twitter @nealtraf

My £23 DIY Home Studio

Now that my Epson 1500W A3 printer has arrived to produce greeting cards and prints I decided it would be a good idea to set up a small home studio to take product images of cards to use in my online shop. I went out and purchased the following:

  • 2 Lamps £ 4 each
  • 2 Lightbulbs £2.49 each
  • 2 Frames £1 each
  • Black and White bedsheets £ 3.99 each

Materials I had laying around 

  • Duck Tape
  • White fabric (T shirt)

The frames were to make diffusers to sit in front of the desk lamps to make the light even, I didn't even want the glass or backing being at a £1 each they are tacky and horrible but useful for what I was using them for.

I used an old white t shirt to cover the frames in order to create a more even light produced from the lamps. Using wooden skewers and duck tape I managed to make crude stands to support the frames.

Using a picnic table and tall MDF wood I created a backdrop using the black bedsheet which worked quite well and the result was quite good, once I got the whole thing set up it took little time to photograph 30 cards plus groups to sell as a package. There are tons of different DIY setups online all using the same principles which is a must when taking images of items to sell online and will work well even when using a smartphone.

Using an MDF backing board was essential as the thickness of the fabric was very thin and any light coming from the back will show up.

Home Printing Or Printing Service ?

Over the last week I have been researching on the best way to create greeting cards using my images to increase my range of products. What I want to create is a high quality product were the quality is equal to what you find in any high street shop. 

After purchasing and testing various materials I have come to the conclusion the only way to achieve this goal is using a printing service to create my cards. 

To print at home I would need a printer suitable which would cost £120 minimum for an Epson XP 55 and I would rather put any money towards an A3 printer which are about £500. However producing my own work would allow me more flexibility in my range.

A printing service offer superior materials from what I can  aquire which should produce a more professional look to my products. This method has its disadvantages in I would need to order a significant quantity to make the unit cost acceptable therefore putting money into stock with unproven sales potential. I will also be initially limited to about 6 to 8 designs.

Over the next few weeks I will be contacting various printers requesting samples and creating designs. 

 

My Week Off

My photographic activities for last week were based around a self imposed theme of sunsets, the idea was leave in the afternoons to capture sunsets and then the night sky.

This time of year the sky doesn't get completely dark till around midnight and after all the walking to locations I weren't in the mood to wait around too long and I try and avoid driving when tired.  

With Norfolk i'm spoilt for choice when it comes to locations with the Norfolk Broads and the North Norfolk Coast providing ideal scenery which I were rewarded with the effort in traveling to Berney Arms and Burnham Overy Staithe.

The online shop is now open for business which is still being improved and I intend to expand my product range to blank greeting cards once I have a sourced the materials I require to create a high quality product.

My next holiday won't be till the end of July for a week on the Norfolk Broads with family. In a couple of weeks butterflies should be in big supply to photography which I am looking forward to, Swallowtails in particular which only appear on the Norfolk Broads. 

 

 

 

Online Shop OPEN

In the planning for weeks I have finally got my online shop now up and running.

Using the Esty platform will allow me to expand the shop as needed without being limited to the amount of listing on Squarespace which I use for this website. Like Ebay I am charged per listing.

Over the last few weeks I have been going around in circles on how to present my images to customers. I have settled on shipping orders directly from a professional photo lab based in the UK. The advantage is I can offer limitless images without holding stock myself therefore not having money tied up in stock.

To print images here at home would cost a fortune in equipment, an A3+ printer would cost around £550 for an Epson P600. I can only justify this expense if I were selling enough images and printers need to be used regularly to be kept in good working condition otherwise they dry up.

A week long competition is now running to drive traffic towards my Facebook page, Liking and or sharing my photography page will automatically be entered into the raffle, the competition is limited to UK addresses. 

Berney Arms Windmill

Not being at work this week allows me to travel and living in Norfolk there are plenty of places I have yet to visit. Berney Arms windmill has been one of them since seeing pictures of these on facebook by other photographers.

Reaching this windmill isn't the easiest or quickest of places to get to,  Parking at Wickhampton: St Andrew Church NR13 3PD and following the paths down to the river which is quite a distance and I am unsure if all of these paths are public access. I believe you can walk from Great Yarmouth or Reedham. The easiest way would be to travel by boat.

The forecast for this week is to be unsettled which potentially creates interesting skies for landscape photography if you don't mind the risk of getting wet. When I have weeks off I try and make my photography interesting by having a focus with long exposures being the last theme and sunset & night time this time round. Leaving later in the day paid off as I had a great time seeing the sunset over the River Yare and the clouds soaking up the colour of the sun as it disappeared.

Rest of the week is going to be spent setting up my online shop using ESTY as the platform to sell my images which I aim to have ready for Friday this week.


Online Shop Update

Been wanting to setup an online shop to have somewhere I can offer my images for sale for quite awhile.

My virtual market stall

Like with any activity or skill it takes time and practice to become good at something, there is a quote by Henri Cartier-Bresson "Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst" which sticks with me. Now I have enough images that are worth selling or perhaps images that  I am proud of, it's a completely different story if any sell.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been ordering prints and packaging to see what works and put into place a good product that I can offer. A business bank account is now setup and I hope to launch next Friday on the 22nd March. 

Currently I still need to finalise my pricing scheme and finish up the branding. Visit very soon to see for yourself.

 

Bluebells & Business

To me April to me means Bluebells, Luckily living in walking distance to Wayland Wood make it convenient to see these beautiful flowers. Being busy at the weekends with work and family gatherings will limit my visits to after work and I will be unable to visit other nearby woodland also famous for their bluebells. 

This week I have been researching on what is required to sell my pictures.

Currently this is what I need to do;

  • Open a business bank account
  • Upgrade website hosing & Refresh the website 
  • Register as self employed

To sell products I need to register as self employed with the HMRC to make any income I generate legal.

One of 2015 first bluebells

Research has told me it is good practice to keep the business activities separated from any personal accounts and banks don't like business transactions going through personal accounts. The issue is unlike personal bank accounts, business charge a fee and the vary between banks and the fees for services. 

Many banks like HSBC, Natwest, Loyd's TSB have 12/18 months free introductory offers and then switch onto a monthly tariff and finding these charts are more difficult than it should be which shouldn't be much of a surprise. 

My initial plan is for customers to order images on this website and I then order them from a photo printing service, most likely Photobox which will require me to use a debit card which will inure a charge for using each time I place an order (after the 12 month offer). Finding the right bank with the cheapest tariff has been time consuming as they are all very similar. So far Loyd's looks to be a good option.

I use Squarespace to create this website which offer eCommerce, but being on the basic option I need to upgrade to the next one to allow me to list up to 20 items which will cost some money to do.

Currently I am just waiting to build up some capital to allow for these upgrades and working capital which shouldn't be too much as I don't intent to tie up money in mounted prints just yet.

 

What's Holding Me Back?

On todays post I will be explaining why I have yet to offer my work for sale. The short version is I now have good quality images to offer but lack any savings to fix past mistakes that is stopping me from creating a business to sell through.

1. Suitable Images.

Sample of what can be available for sale

My photographic interest started in August 2008 with the purchase of a Nikon D80. At the time I was living in the seaside town of Sheringham which is near Cromer.

A friend of mine had recently bought a Canon DSLR which sparked my interest and got mine after a customer had walked into the family owned restaurant with his Nikon D80 and recommended it. At that time I had no clue about what I was doing.

Only recently have I been capturing images that are good enough to sell. There is a quote by Henri Cartier-Bresson, a famous photographer "Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst". It takes time to learn a new skill.

I can look through my early images, which are on my Flickr profile. At the time I thought they were great and only too look back at them now to see how terrible they are.

2. Presentation. 

My mentality about selling is that I have to offer a finished product which has taken time to figure out what I like.

Over the last few christmases I have been giving friends and family prints as gifts and receiving comments "You should sell these". I think giving images as gifts is a good idea and I enjoy doing it. Each time I was assembling mounted prints I was learning on what sized images were suitable and what colour mounts to order and with every batch I was improving the quality

My recent batch of prints will be on display at the local gallery soon and I am happy with presentation using good quality photo mounts that are protected in a plastic bag with a brief message from myself on the back. This method however is not currently viable for online selling as it takes time and money to produce these.

To sell online I will incorporate a border into the image, once the customer receives the print through the post they just need to insert it into a frame without a mount. These can be ordered one at a time and not have any money tied up in mounts and images and can have these send these directly to the customer. 

Another advantage to ordering the prints online is I can be more flexible in offering different sizes as holding different sized mounts will be costly. 

3. Setting up a Business.

If I am to sell my work I need to setup a business which will not be straightforward. Due to a previous misguided venture I am unsure how my self employed status is. I have a fear of past mistakes catching up if I were to reapply for self employment as I lack any savings to fix any errors.

Unfortunately I cannot see this being solved anytime soon as my current career prospects are looking poor which is limiting my ability to save any money. 

4. Audience.

Creating an audience through social media is a priority with the hope that potential customers will find this website and to see my images. Currently finding this to be a slow, challenging and an enjoyable process. Other avenues would be to find more galleries around Norfolk and possibly craft fairs.