Professionalism within commercial photography is a crucial element of earning money from the practice. In addition to having a savvy business mind, a commercial photographer must also have the ability to converse with others and establish a strong network of associates and clients.
A recent client I produced work for is Jimmy Gough. He is the founder and owner of the specialist photographic company ‘ClubCam’, which is now “one of the leading nightlife & event photography companies in the UK”. I have been fortunate enough to discover how it operates.
How did your company come about? Were you always into this style of image making, or was it something to ‘pay the bills’, so to speak?
“It started as a part time job for me at my local club after leaving college. I’ve been into photography since I was 12 mostly doing weddings etc, so it was an ideal job for me. After around a year I started to get the idea of making it into a business so hired a couple of staff and took on a couple other venues, and it’s basically grown from there. Only really the last year or two since it’s become a nationally operating company with a considerable turnover.
Nice man, good going! You said you started after leaving college and now have staff working for you – does that mean you find yourself taking less commercial photographs, and spend more time working on the business?
“Yeah very much so, with the business growing and taking on more work around the country I need to spend more time on the operational side of things. I still work the odd night to cover for staff and find the time to do the occasional private jobs like weddings etc now and again.”
Any personal work that you spend time on?
“Yeah, as I say, still do the odd jobs here and there, in terms of photography being a hobby though it’s very much taken a back seat, you can sometimes loose the passion for something when you start to earn money from it. It becomes a job as supposed to a hobby, to an extent.”
Of course, I can understand that. Is that something that necessarily frustrates you, or is it something that has ‘just happened’? I guess what I am trying to say is would you like to be in a position where you still have time for personal work, or does the business element excite you enough?
“I love what I do so I guess in a way the business has become somewhat of a hobby in its own right. In terms of taking photos though, I think if I had the time I probably would try to do more personal things. I’ve always been interested in landscape photography, but in terms of taking photos of people, which is fundamentally what ClubCam is all about, the passion for that has long gone!”
Perfect answer, thank you! I know exactly what you mean though. It becomes a way of making money, and you are constantly thinking of ways to market yourself, and ultimately expand yourself as a photographer. Is that fair to say?
“Yeah I think that’s fair. There’s a pretty fine line between photography being a hobby and it being a job.
Where did you go to university / college by the way?
“I went to Monmouth Boys School, I didn’t go to university. I wanted to start working as soon as I could.
Yeah for sure, and this was something that almost steered me in other directions away from photography. I was concerned as to whether I could make a viable career out of it, and still enjoy it at the end of it! Going back to your company, roughly how many people have you got working for you?
“I think it depends what you do. Weddings and photo shoots and the sort, where you really work for yourself, you can still keep a passion for it. But in the case of ClubCam it’s very much a “typical” company in the sense that we work with commercial clients, dealing with contracts etc, which wedding photographers for example don’t have to deal with! We currently have around 10-15 staff, depending on the time of year. All our staff are sub contractors, like yourself, so they typically dictate their own hours etc, so we don’t necessarily have employees as such.
Yeah that is a valid point. However, there will not be much change in the ‘going out’ habits of young people in the foreseeable future, so venues, clubs and events always require photos. I really hope I haven’t jinxed that for you! So am I correct in thinking that yourself (i.e. ClubCam) approaches businesses/venues/bars offering your photographic services for monetary exchange, and then you pay the sub contractors an hourly rate? From the early days of working at your local club, how were you hired / paid then, and did you find yourself growing exponentially or did you have to really push and market yourself well?
“The business started with selling key rings to customers, and that was our only source of income. Over time we started gaining a bit of a reputation for being good at what we do so we eventually started charging the venues. We now charge a nightly rate by default and have moved away from sales entirely. A lot of our clients find us, largely through word of mouth or because we operate in a sister club, so we don’t really need to advertise our services too much, most people come to us. It’s taken a few years to build that reputation though so it doesn’t come easy.”
Of course, pretty much the same across the board for photography! I still know of some clubs that sell key rings, and I personally don’t see the appeal so you have done the right thing! That’s fantastic though that you are currently at this stage. Thanks for being so open about your business, it is much appreciated.
“Not problem at all. Thanks for filling in those nights, you really helped, hopefully we can work together again soon! Thanks for now!”