INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Honing Your Photography Business while Pursuing New Opportunities
Dominique Shaw of York Place Studios tells us about wedding photography and videography.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Dominique Shaw: Thankfully, so far, everyone is healthy and unaffected by Covid-19. We have kept ourselves locked down, and when permitted to do work with the outside public, we have been fully embracing all the face-covering & social-distancing rules to keep ourselves, our family, and our clients as safe as possible.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded York Place Studios.
Dominique Shaw: I started the company in 2006 with my brother and photography business partner Liam Shaw. We started off as a very studio-centric photography business focused on portraits and commercial shoots but, after being asked to shoot one or two weddings, fell in love with the art form and have slowly grown into an international wedding photography brand that travels the world shooting weddings and other events.
How does York Place Studios innovate?
Dominique Shaw: Rather than embrace the traditional wedding photography tropes, we brought our street photography influences to our wedding work, combining and developing these two very different genres to create our own completely unique style. The style and brand we created is something that hadn’t really been seen in the wedding industry before and has led to invites to speak at photography events all over the world, something that we also really enjoy. We also like to use those international travels as chances to shoot street photography in some incredible places, something we see as an opportunity to hone our skills for our wedding photography work.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Dominique Shaw: We have been unable to shoot weddings or portraits in the studio for almost a year. We have been able to accommodate clients during the brief windows and photographed some micro weddings of 15-30 people (depending on restrictions) and a few small outdoor photo sessions. We have been able to move some of our photo training and speaking events onto digital platforms. Naturally, though, as wedding and event photographers, people being unable to gather massively affected our ability to work.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Dominique Shaw: Thankfully, being a small company with no employees but only directors, we didn’t have to worry about that side of the Covid-19 pandemic.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Dominique Shaw: As an international photography business, we tended to have a mostly online relationship with our couples and clients already in the lead-up to any shoots, but the remaining face-to-face meetings have all been over Zoom. All of our photography conferences have either been postponed or moved online, which was a fairly natural progression for us and thankfully something we were well prepared for with video facilities provided by our film-specialist sister company York Place Films who, in the absence of large meetings, were able to pivot towards providing live-streaming services.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Dominique Shaw: Yes, we were fortunate to receive grants from the UK government as a self-employed business partnership. While this, of course, didn’t replace our expected earnings, it meant that we were able to keep working on developing the business ready for a return to normality and hone and develop under-utilized skills to open up new opportunities for the future.
Your final thoughts?
Dominique Shaw: Everyone has been in the same storm, but not everyone has been in the same boat. While being behind the lens is where we love to be and is something we miss terribly, we are incredibly grateful for the grants we have received and have used this unprecedented break in our usually extremely busy shooting schedule to really push all elements of our business and examine and hone each section. We have re-invigorated other areas of our photography that have perhaps been neglected in recent years, improved and reworked our social media presence, creating new systems of automation for our printing and album sales, expanded our training on our business management & other software to simplify our workflow and worked to develop our website, re-focusing our attention on our principle London market. We have also started entirely new projects, from expanding our writing about photography to opening up an online fine-art print shop and writing new talks and workshops that can be adapted to digital platforms as required.
Ultimately, while we were incredibly fortunate to be in a position to do so (and it’s been far from easy), we tried as far as possible to see this time as not just a setback but an opportunity, with the aim to come back stronger than ever before and with new structures in place to allow us to spend our timeless on the day-to-day admin of running a business and more on what it is we truly love to do: taking photographs.
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