Startup Diaries from the UK: Photography Can Transform Your Business

Next in the series of Coral Turner's Startup Diary entries about the challenges of a fashion entrepreneur. To read her first blog, click here.

‘A picture speaks a thousand words’ – visuals play a huge role in our psyche; the attraction to colour, detail, artistic layout, the environment in which a picture is set - the story without the words.

In a previous issue of The NextWomen's newsletter I was drawn to the image of CEO and Founder Simone Brummelhuis (shown below): the surroundings, large pillar/columns in the shadows, with Simone sitting on one of the plinths wearing a black trouser suit. From a visual and fashion perspective this speaks to me of confidence. The fashion element, the trouser suit; I think women in trouser suits are quite dynamic - think Yves Saint Laurent and his version of trouser suits for women. This image was quite powerful. I read it to say, I am who I am, and if I can be here, so can you. 

All of this from a photograph – we each have our own perception, and draw our own conclusions rightly or wrongly.

How does this relate to photography on a website? 

Good photography for your website is just as important as the product/service you want to engage your audience with.  Fashion is a great example; flick through any magazine and the image looking back at you is saying either ‘buy me’ or ‘be me’.  The celebrity wearing ‘that dress’ on the red carpet, the actor wearing ‘that suit’ which looked beautiful with ‘those shoes’, and so the list goes on, feeding into other areas of lifestyle.

The garments that were first on my website were all on mannequins, and whilst there is nothing wrong with this, as a small brand in a tiny boat on the ocean of fashion houses that are huge ocean-liners, you need to do more to help your boat sail through unknown waters.

Admittedly, the garments on mannequins also needed a lot of work with Photoshop (something else I had to learn), getting rid of the curtain backdrop that was creased, the carpet, angles of light, to name but a few.  That said, and the photos in my eyes looking fairly OK, (she says, fingers crossed), they were now ready for the website.  

Family and friends, always encouraging, conveyed messages of “well done, they look great”, the thumbs up of approval. 

Yet there was something niggling me, and even though I was pleased that finally I had launched my online boutique, something still wasn’t sitting right.

Through my business advisor I was introduced to a chap named Jerome Redfarn of inkyfilms, a film-maker, and as it happens used to travel to the major fashion events in London, Paris, Milan and New York. Yes I know, jet-setting around the globe clicking away sounds wonderful; well it’s not that straight forward for photographers either, they too have to make their mark with eye-catching imagery.  Jerome’s critique of my newly launched website and his subsequent email made me laugh; well it was either that or cry!

He started by saying “sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your garments on mannequins, for what you do, just aren’t cutting it.... to portray the quality of your work they really do need to be on models, to bring your garments to life”. 

Of course you can’t shoot the messenger if you asked for their opinion; however, deep down I knew he was right, and, more importantly, that niggling feeling just disappeared.

So it was back to the drawing board, only this time the question was, where do I start?  Do you remember previously, how I’ve said that synchronicity plays a huge part in our lives, especially if you are paying attention to the signs on the journey?  Well there is another part to this, which is where to focus your mind.  Don’t focus on the problem, but on the solution. I wasn’t focused on the problem which was the website and the mannequins (focusing on the problem will not provide the answer, which is why your head will often feel like a washing machine just going around and around until you are exhausted). The solution to my dilemma was a photographer.  In my thinking, I had set out the following criteria.

  • I needed a photographer
  • I wanted that person to be female (no offence guys, it’s just the way I felt for that shoot)
  • I also wanted that person to understand what I wanted to achieve, where I am now and difference I need to portray

On the train to attend a marketing seminar I was trying to read my book but couldn’t concentrate. I just kept thinking about the photographer that I needed to help transform the website.  I arrived at the venue and signed in, took my seat. A lady sat next to me and introduced herself as Paula Hemmings, we got talking about the event and the conversation turned to what work we do, I said “I’m a fashion designer” and Paula said “I’m a photographer” (you knew that was coming)!! 

Paula proceeded to show me her business cards, and we were both so excited, she then informed me that normally at these events she sits in the back-row but for some reason today, she felt like sitting at the front, and then she saw me!

From there we arranged to meet up and put the wheels in motion (more on models, makeup and photo-shoots in another article). 

 

My first fashion photo shoot was fantastic, I learnt so much. Paula’s work and my designs went onto be featured in a magazine and published book.

Later on I was to meet with another photographer Minna Rossi, who as it happens was working in collaboration with other fashion designers and experimenting with different techniques of visual art and photography. Like Paula I loved her work and energy. I thought I was a perfectionist, but Minna took this to a whole new level. It was great watching her work and talking with the model, giving her direction and setting the mood.

These great ladies with their professional photography knowledge provided my designs with studio setting, good quality lighting, engaged with the models to capture a look, a moment.  From this, I in turn learnt so much about their world of work, and received high resolution images of great looking ladies bringing to life my work and designs.  The zoom feature on the website also allows visitors to get up close and personal, examine the look of the fabric, its texture, the detail of the design and finish.

I’m not a photographer; I’ve got more than enough to be getting on with, which is why I strongly believe that when you put all of your energy into making a product or the service you represent, you want to show it at its ultimate best.  Great photography creates desirability whilst at the same time reassuring your potential customer/client that you are sincere about your business.  

Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to let the photographer do what they do best (with your input of course)? In the long run your business will thank you and grow.

To your continuous success.

Paula Hemmings can be found at at http://www.paulahemmings.com/Minna Rossi at http://www.minnarossi.com/. 

Coral Turner is a fashion entrepreneur with an online boutique http://www.coralturner.co.uk.  In addition to her design work she also writes articles in relation to empowering self image and confidence through the clothes that we wear.

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