Evolve Photography – progressive photography business
Evolve Photography was founded by owner Mark in the year 2000 having recognised a considerable gap in the wedding photography market for a forward thinking, progressive photography business.
With a provenance of 7 years previous working as an employed photographer Mark was well placed to identify mistakes being made in the business in which he had been trained in and had worked in since he left school.
His former employer didn’t offer customers any degree of flexibility and worked within a very constricting set of parameters that limited the customer base and clientele and ultimately provided a poor customer experience; this was reflected throughout the sector and was in fact the norm in 1999.
With a customer service focussed set of values and a less insular horizon Evolve soon led the way in wedding photography in the South West of the UK.
One of the first initiatives that Mark implemented in this pre-social media/internet age was to purchase telephone numbers from areas outside of the Exeter area the business was based. For example, he purchased a Plymouth, Torquay and Taunton dialling code number and advertised in these areas. In an age that saw many customers choosing only photographers local to them this expanded the customer base exponentially. Other initiatives Mark introduced was the offer evening appointments in clients’ own homes as many of them were working couples this went down very well and had an almost 100% conversion rate for bookings. In a pre-Instagram tagging time Mark also printed and posted relevant photos of the wedding to other suppliers involved; such as car-hire, florists and make-up artists along with a covering letter thanking them for their work on the wedding day and what a pleasure it was to work alongside them and of course the obligatory business card.
All of this served Evolve Photography well and within 6 years they were covering more weddings than any other photographic company/photographer in the Southwest.
Giving customers a choice on their wedding photography coverage rather than a set-in-stone set of packages Mark offered a bespoke, personal tailored pricing structure. This combination of high-level customer service, supplier networking and flexible working outlook gave Evolve a huge head start in a rather closed sector, an industry that closely guarded it’s regions and didn’t really radiate a friendly face to new-comers.
Fast forward 23 years and aside from a secondary business; Devon Photography School, Evolve is very much at the forefront of the competition in wedding photographer for the South West.
Our marketing has moved on from Yellow Pages and Wedding magazines to online. It’s important to have active social media accounts, especially important for our business in 2023 is Instagram and somewhat lesser so Facebook. Most of our social media reach is organic with wedding venue specific hashtags and helpful articles both on social media and our blog. Our marketing budget is invested into advertising with online wedding directories with zero going into print for the last ten years. Submitting real weddings and articles to top wedding blogs is another way to increase exposure in a very competitive business.
With the advent of digital cameras becoming much more affordable and the internet providing an easy platform from which to launch a new business there is no doubt that the professional wedding photography market has become much more competitive.
The challenge now is to educate prospective customers on the difference between a camera owner who has a template-based website and social media pages and a professional photographer with many years’ of experience. As The Dragons would put it there is absolutely no barrier to entry in wedding photography and as a single use business if things go wrong and are not as expected it’s far too late to complain. To put this in context, in my role as a PR Photographer working for sizeable client, if my last PR photography shoot was awful, unusable and not as per the brief they have options. Firstly, to withhold payment due to the service provided not being up to a professional standard, secondly, they can re-shoot/stage the photos with a different photographer and finally they certainly won’t use my services again; I would quickly go out of business.
As a couple who have been disappointed by the quality provided by their wedding photographer there is little recompense. They cannot withhold payment, as this would have been paid in full beforehand, they cannot re-stage the event, those one-off moments will be lost forever to blurry, out-of-focus images and finally aside from perhaps some family portraits it’s unlikely that any photographer will shoot more than one wedding for each couple. Yes, they will forfeit any chance of recommendation business but there are plenty of other couples who won’t know of any previous disasters.
Currently, like all businesses we are facing the issues that the cost-of-living crisis has dealt us. Weddings are a big investment and are not always paid for by parents. Couples have dwindling budgets and are looking for ways to save money or to bargain with suppliers and the added value that 20+ years of experience brings is hard to quantify.
This coupled with many employed individuals taking on wedding photography as a second job at the weekend is devaluing our work. When you can find a 9-5 Mon-Fri IT technician who is willing to shoot your wedding all day on Saturday for £250 to help towards paying his/her utility bill, it’s much harder to justify paying £1500 plus for a full-time, experienced, quality photographer, even though it’s fully justifiable and you it’ll never be regretful for choosing to do so.
If I were coming to wedding photography as a new start-up now, I would first want to gain at least 3 years’ experience working with/for more experienced photographers; weddings are not a “learn on the job” business and a few terrifying or even just bad experiences in your first couple of years could see you put off for life.
We are working in a market saturated with both full-time and part-time photographers but with the right attitude and outlook combined with a willingness to learn there are always opportunities for talented photographers. Those just seeking to make easy money will undoubtedly come unstuck pretty quickly and struggle to make their mark in a flooded marketplace.
Keep posting on social media, daily if you can. A trend you will see with a lot of suppliers in the wedding sector is that in the high season, from April-October the social media and blog posting tails off due to the businesses being overwhelmed with actual wedding work and then as seasonal as migratory birds they will return in low season (Nov-March) saturate posting their work from the previous year. Try to stay consistent, don’t over-post but don’t lapse your social media accounts in the busy times.
Twenty-three years of running Evolve Photography has taught me never to underestimate the power of customer service. Networking with suppliers is of course an important aspect of this close-knit world but the customer is king, always put them first.
One last word of advice, and quite possibly a surprising one. Look after your competition, your fellow professionals. Keeping a closed circle network of referrals is one key strategy in the wedding world (as long as you only recommend photographers whose work you can genuinely vouch for) but just as important in a sector where many of us are sole-traders is to keep a network of friends who you can call upon should you have a serious illness, or as I did in 2018 a car crash.
Looking forward to 2024/2025 and beyond we are looking at ways to add value for our current customers, which now includes the option to add video and drone footage (stills and video) and to enlighten our prospective clients as to the difference between a sub £500 wedding photographer and a £1500+ photographer without sounding conceited.
Evolve Photography (evolvephoto) – Profile | Pinterest
evolve photo (@PhotoEvolve) / Twitter
Wedding Photographers in Devon
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