As you can imagine, it’s all hands to the pump here at McGillicuddy HQ as we gear up to for The Photography Show at the weekend. And I have to admit, I’m pretty excited about this one! Obviously I’ve been speaking and presenting at the NEC show for years, dating back to when it was Focus on Imaging. Last year I broke the mould by holding the first ever live art nude masterclass in the event’s history, and this year we’re “doing the double” with another first: Olympus and Team McGillicuddy will be hosting the first ever live baby photography session at the show!
I truly believe that Fleetwood Mac had it right when they said Go Your Own Way, and this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately – especially with the work I’ve been doing with the Baby Whisperer Academy. The team is comprised of three Photographer of the Year title holders, that being myself and two of my students – Karen Wiltshire (who is now a two-time Photographer of the Year) and Jocelyn Conway (known as the “Celebrity Baby Whisperer”, with clients from the premiership!
We’ve just completed a weekend-long baby workshop during which I took the photograph below, which I absolutely love. Coming from my fine art background, it floats my boat in so many ways; I think it succeeds as a great piece of artistic photography, not just as a great newborn portrait. Of course, not everyone sees things quite the same way! Not that she disliked it, but when I proudly showed my image to Karen she explained that, “It’s definitely you. It’s not quite my cup of tea but it’s definitely you!”
Now, some people might have expected me to get on my high horse and say, “How very dare you! Do you not know who I am?!?!” But the truth of the matter is, this kind of “vive la différence” is what’s great about the Baby Whisperer Academy: photographers who come on one of our workshops get the benefit of learning from three top practitioners in the field, literally three Photographer of the Year winners. And we all see things in very different ways – and that’s a massive advantage.
We’re three different teachers with three different backgrounds and three different perspectives – but all those different opinions are underpinned by great technical skill. Because I’ve taught and mentored Karen on Jocelyn on lighting and technique, their photographic fundamentals are rock-solid. But while we all teach the same skills, the benefit you get from the Baby Whisperer Academy is that you get three completely different aesthetic approaches and appreciations – and when you’re building a business, that’s massively important.
Where Karen might favour a more traditional form of portraiture, and where Jos might go for something more “glitzy” to cater to her celebrity clientele, with my fine art schooling I might favour a more conceptual image like the one above – though equally I can shoot something that’s cute and more what you might expect of a baby picture, like the below shot with the teddy bear that I equally love. The point is, you get our three sets of eyes, all shooting the same thing but producing three very different results.
At the end of the day, with newborn photography in particular, we’re all using a very similar set of tools: similar lighting, similar props, similar cute babies… it can easily leads to a genre of photography that’s very homogenised and “samey”. And if you’re a newborn photographer and your end product looks the same as everyone else’s, with the same props and the same lighting, there’s only one way left to make your product different: the price. You start to undercut someone’s price, because that’s the only advantage you can get, then someone undercuts you, and soon everybody’s working like busy fools for nothing (just see what’s happened with wedding photography).
When you learn with the Baby Whisperer Academy, you get three sets of opinions from three proven names in the field. You get exposed to ideas that you wouldn’t necessarily have gravitated towards, because of the idea that newborn photography “is supposed to be like this” or “like that”. Ultimately, the secret to success for any photography business is simple: a product better than most (not necessarily the best product!) and customer service second to none.
We teach the service and business side as well, but the most important thing we do is give you three sets of eyeballs and three different perspectives on the photographic side. And without question, learning from those three proven perspectives is how you will make your product better (far better, I hope!) than most.
I’d love you to come along to The Photography Show and see the Baby Whisperer Academy do what it does best, live in front of an audience in the Olympus theatre. Of course I’ll be shooting everything from babies to babes, so you’ll also get to see everything from high-impact portraiture to hi-resolution still life shots to throwing paint at models to another art nude masterclass! Whether you’re there over the weekend or on Monday or Tuesday, please feel free to stop by and say hello.
Here are a few more from the last workshop weekend…
Till next time,