CityX took five minutes to talk to Lincoln based photographer, David Harrison, to find out more about his business and its plans for the future.
Tell us about the business, what is it you do?
I am a specialist commercial/ business photographer. I use my creative photography skills, combined with my sales and marketing experience, to produce images for businesses to use across all aspects of their digital marketing strategy.
I work with marketing professionals, business directors and entrepreneurs to help them stand out from the competition and attract their ideal customers.
I mainly concentrate on headshots, personal branding, business images and corporate events.
When was the business formed and how has that changed over the years?
The business started at the beginning of 2019, six months after I moved to Lincoln. I was only going to be here for a few months, but I soon realised it was a great place to live and set up my business.
I saw a opportunity in the market to focus on what the business community needed to promote themselves more effectively online. I love photography but for me it’s all about an effective outcome – i.e. what’s the image for? That’s why I take time with customers to understand the real business needs and how the images will be used before creating something.
Tell us a bit about what the business has done in the past year?
The last year has been a challenge but also tremendously rewarding in many ways. I got my first customer (Make an Entrance) in mid-2019 and worked with several small businesses doing headshots and personal branding images over the summer. I went to pretty much every networking event I could afford to go to.
I also joined Lincoln Business Club in 2019 and became their event photographer, leading to a place on the committee. I am always keen to get involved in the business community and use my skills to give back. I also do volunteer work with Sage Gardener which included creating their fund-raising calendar for 2020.
2020 started off positively as I was commissioned to photograph the Business Expo and the Lincolnshire Living launch by CityX and to do a luxury indoor swimming pool shoot for Njord Ltd alongside headshots and other branding projects. I have also photographed St. Barnabas’ Adventures in Networking, The Leap Ball for Acts Trust and The Lincolnshire Tourism awards with Visit Lincoln.
But, as with many businesses the Coronavirus pandemic stopped me in my tracks, and I had to halt my work. However, things have picked up recently and prior to their re-opening I was asked by Soper of Lincoln to create images of their Covid compliant BMW showroom for promotional purposes.
What are your proudest moments within the business?
I’ve worked in business a long time, not necessarily working for myself, but under the autonomy of a field sales role. In business there are many disappointments, but the highlights are twofold.
Firstly, getting the recognition from business people that my work is of a high standard and they therefore want to work with me makes me very proud. I remember early during the lockdown I had a Zoom call with Peter Watson of Distract. He said, “You’re smashing it; I see you as the event photographer in Lincoln and you’ve done that from nowhere.” That kind of recognition is priceless.
Secondly, giving back to the community is extremely important to me, both in a charity sense and in an added value sense. I’m happy to say that many of my business connections and customers are now good friends. I love helping others achieve their ambitions.
How has the current Coronavirus pandemic affected your business?
As I said, work had to stop because of the lockdown and many customers were affected by the pandemic. Uncertainty is by far the worst thing about the current situation. It would be fair to say that at times it has been a huge mental challenge – it’s tough as a sole trader living on your own.
As a one-man business there was no-one to furlough, but as a new business there were also no grants or other schemes that were applicable for me. That hasn’t stopped me remaining positive and moving forward.
Are you doing anything to diversify your business in response to the pandemic?
I haven’t specifically diversified or pivoted, as seems to be one of the new pandemic words. However, I have spent time carefully considering my purpose and what I can achieve with the business. This has involved a huge amount of reading and learning to ensure that I can take the business forward.
I am going through a rebrand and developing a new website designed to provide potential customers with a clear understanding of how I can work with them for maximum benefit. The aim now is to show how I will maximise their return on an investment in photography.
Can you offer advice to businesses struggling during this time, whether they are in the same industry as yours or not?
I think it’s vitally important to have a support network round you. That means family, friends and, of course, your business network. Early on in lockdown, I started a peer group called Learning in Lockdown – initially this was a few business contacts checking in to see how everyone was doing, give everyone a boost and provide any useful information.
That soon developed into sharing valuable information on doing things that made a huge difference – like creating a better LinkedIn profile or guest speakers talking about how we should be marketing ourselves.
I know it’s easy to say but being positive and talking to others goes a long way and getting some of the excellent help that’s out there does too. Being part of Lincoln Business Club and its sense of community has been hugely helpful. As one of the committee members I was involved in the decision to take our monthly meeting online. Over the last two months we have managed to recreate the same buzz as our previous in-person meetings.
I’ve also heard great stories of businesses that have either pivoted or spun completely to something new. A business owner making pizza in his pizza oven in the garden and a Michelin star restaurant delivering meals and turning over more on a Friday and Saturday than when they were open! Entrepreneurs will find a way.
I’ve said it all the time in the last 3 months, but #strongertogether is the mantra for me – we will only get through this with collaboration and helping each other. There will be many challenges ahead but whilst there are sadly many casualties, there will also be many opportunities to bounce forward.
What are your future plans for the business?
Despite the pandemic hitting at just the time the business was taking off, I am still very positive about the future. Now is a time when businesses need to consider their brand image and get themselves seen above everyone else. Standing out is hard, but it’s surprising just how many businesses don’t use high quality images.
The main thing lockdown has given me is time. I’ve been able to reflect, reboot and reconnect – work out what’s important to me and the way I can help potential customers.
A clear focus and providing added value are key in my opinion.
It’s about ‘photography and’ – what I mean is I offer photography and sales/ marketing help. Many SME’s don’t have those skills so it’s an area I can add something. As I’ve always said, I’m not just another photographer!
What do you think the future holds for your industry?
I think there is an incredibly bright future for photography. No matter how good mobile phones are, great pictures are created not ‘snapped’. Over the coming months and years there will be more need for photography not less.
That’s not to say it’s going to be easy – anyone can pick up a camera and call themselves a photographer. But you need lots of skills to be a professional photographer. I started with a film camera before my days at Dixons selling them!
Click Here to find out more about David Harrison Photography.