Over the years, I have had many conversations with both clientele and patrons and have noticed there are themes of similar questions and conversations that come up - so what better opportunity to cover all these and more in a new blog!
A good place to start is what I do as Lilly Pilly Arts, primarily what I have focused on is event photography. It sounds like simple job - going to venues and parties, taking photos of the people and the going ons, which is always fun. However, there is a little more that goes into this equation. What goes on behind the scenes is the approaching or being approached by new clientele with personalised customer service and consultation of their vision. Once the times have been locked in, equipment needs to be prepared and visualisation of how the event will go and the photos that I want to take. When I arrive I will engage in casual banter with the owners/ managers or event runners and with all the patrons - as well as the main part of photographing the event.
After the event/ project is done, there is post production (photo editing), publishing/ uploading of the end product, and basic administration (i.e. creating and issuing tax invoices, maintaining profit & loss spreadsheets, etc).
That is what I do in a nutshell - however, this can change from time to time depending on the nature of work that is required.
What is Lilly Pilly & how do I operate?
While Lilly Pilly has been mainly an event photography brand throughout the years of operation, there have been moments of rest and trying to figure out which direction to take the name. There is also the question “how will my other artistic skills be incorporated?” (I will go into a little further detail later on in this blog).
I started photographing events for the Rock Like This, Lounge and Ghetto Funk crews in Melbourne with the occasional branch out with other crews such as For The Record and GASHE Magazine crews. The events carried out to councils in North Melbourne, Melbourne City and Monash to help photograph their youth and art project events. Additionally, visiting majority of the capital cities of Australia to photograph Architectual Information Services (AIS) expo nights there was corporate exposure to the brand.
The way I operate is in an open (communication), compact (technically) and quick (timely) manner - I do not own or work in a studio. I work with what I have and make what I have work.
How does Lilly Pilly help facilitate clientele visions?
When I am speaking with new clients I will always ask them what do they want photographed and what they are ideally wanting to achieve with the end product. While I can capture things my way - I do want to hear the voice of my client and see how they want to be viewed by their audience.
Some clients want more action photos, others may want to concentrate on the set up of their venue or their drinks and food menus. Whatever the concentration maybe, I do take pride in having open communication with my clients and rather work with them than for them to help them achieve their goals.
I have had clients that did not know how they wanted to facilitate their vision and put trust in me to come up with creative ways to incorporate their best features and main focus into one photograph! If clients have a particular vision in mind, I do encourage them to present me with some examples of that vision and to brainstorm ideas on how to achieve their vision.
Patrons and Ethics
In regards to this topic, yes, I do have to (on a regular occurrence) deal with people who have had a few drinks - this does make them more photogenic, however there is a rule of ethics that do come into play here.
In the past I have taken great shots of people being super photogenic only to be messaged on the following Monday asking it to be removed because their employer had seen the photos and for their reasons did not want that image to attached to their business. These photos were not incriminating to the individual, but it is to the employer’s discretion what kind of image they want to represent outside of their business. This is very reasonable to care about a reputation that they have built. However, one thing I like to reassure patrons of is my golden rule, “I do not post photos of other people, that I would not want posted of myself” - this includes extreme bass faces and knocked off my butt photos, were it does go on the borderline of incriminating and embarrassing. This is not to be confused with dance floor action shots which hold a whole different beauty all together - and I am just as involved on the dance floor as my subjects are.
Majority of my job of photographing events is talking to patrons and reassuring them that the photos are going to come out great, otherwise, they will not be published. I want my clients and their clients to feel reassured that they will be represented in a way that is enjoyable for everyone.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are these photos for? Where are they going?
The photos that are taken at bars and events are mostly used to promote and document my client’s events.
The photos taken will be published on social media via my client and the Lilly Pilly Arts business (I.e. Facebook, Instagram, etc) as well as official websites of Lilly Pilly Arts and the client.
Where and what did you study?
This is defiantly a valid question, however, the answer may or may not surprise you.
I have not really studied at university - I have completed two six-week courses via Open House Family and Rotatory Arts when I was 17 years of age. These short courses exposed me to the post production methods of digital photography as well as different styles of photography.
While the short courses were informal training wise, they did influence me a lot with the work I do in the present day.
At some point down the track, I would like to perhaps formally study photography or Fine Arts further, as I do not know everything there is to know.
How long have you been into photography for? How did you get into photography?
I have been into photography since my early to mid-teens. And, one year for my birthday (quite possibly when I was 15 or 16) my parents had bought me a digital point and shoot canon camera.
With the two short courses and the digital camera, I fell into the realm of taking photos.
Fast forward a few years, I would go to a lot of parties with my digital point and shoot camera take photos that captured the nights out. One night someone suggested to invest into a digital SLR. Taking that advice, I also started Lilly Pilly up as a brand.
Can you teach me photography?
A flattering question indeed, however, the most I can offer you is tips to finding your groove - my recommendation would be to find institutions or places that do short courses that will cover the basics of photography, even reading or watching online tutorials. I have just recently found a fantastic website that goes into camera, post production and career advice - check out Digital Photography School.
If photography is something that you would like to take further then you can enrol for formal studies in photography where the materials, appropriate knowledge and assistance in detail can be provided into getting you in the right direction.
Some good tips to get you started:
Oh, my friend is a photographer you might know them - their name is…., have you heard of them?
While there is a creative network out there, photography is one of the most competitive creative trades out there and it does continue to grow with its technical availability. This being the case I may have heard of your friend who is a photographer but the chance of actually knowing them are very slim - sorry!
I’ve done something with my camera and I do not know what I have done, can you fix this for me?
We all have “WTF?” moments, and we can generally figure them out by prodding and poking around on something or somewhere for some information. So, if it is something small like a setting or an unrecognised flashing symbol appears I would gladly have a poke around to figure it out and once I have your answer I can tell you and show you why.
However, if there is something seriously up with your equipment, my best advise is to have a professional (who works in camera repairs) to have a look at the situation.
Oh, you do photography, I have a house, a costume/ outfit for a fashion festival, etc. that I want photographed what are your prices and availability?
While I would love to take on as many jobs as possible I am not a photographer that can dabble in all styles (ie. fashion, real estate, studio, etc), I do have my limitations and preference to the type of work that I can do and what I choose to pick up.
This does not mean that I do not enjoy a new challenge, it just means I have limitations to the types of challenges I take on.
I want to get into photography, can you give me recommendations on what equipment/ camera to buy?
That’s great that you want to get into photography, however, I could not tell you straight out what equipment you should buy.
Like shopping for food or clothing, buying photography equipment is based on preferences of the user.
There are many different brands out there, but it will all come down to what you want out of your equipment and what you are comfortable with. My suggestion is to ask friends or family who already own digital SLRs to see if you can borrow theirs so you can get a feel for that brand. Test out a few brands to see if they are right for you before purchasing - there would be nothing worse than putting in lots of money into a piece of equipment that you did not enjoy.
What can you offer my business/ my vision/ my message?
While the obvious answer is awesome photography - there is also the stuff that people tend to forget like cross promotion, promotion of venues or events, even band/ artist promotion. There is also other less obvious things such as art work and unique greeting cards.
What is your structure? How do you work?
The structure is simple; I engage with the client to obtain as much information on their vision as possible. Once the visualisations of what the end product might look like, this is presented or put forward and if it suites then great! If not, I am more than happy to talk through some alternative ideas.
The magic happens and I begin to create the end product (whether that be photography or art).
The only difference between the art and photography process is the below:
Art: progress updates are provided for feedback and to let the client know where I am at with the project.
Photography: the photos go through a post production and cull stage which generally takes 24 hours before the photos are then Dropboxed (delivery preference) and published on my Facebook page and website - this is for public events, anything privately booked is negotiated with the client to whether they would like photos publicly published.
While the art will take some time and adjusting through out the process, the photography is straight forward and quick.
Each process has clear communication with all clients from start to finish.
How much do you charge?
The pricing arrangement for photography has changed in recent months from a one full payment for an event to a per hour basis, which is $85 per hour - however, if 3 or more hours is required then the full cost will be reduced accordingly.
All costs for photography include the consultation, my time on location and my time used in post production, soft copies of the photos with and without watermarks. All clients receive a tax invoice for their records.
For art costs will vary on multiple factors like materials used, size and time taken to draft and create the end product. Clients will receive an invoice for all art purchased and commissioned.
How do I get the photos?
My preference to delivering photos will always be Dropbox as it is quick and easy. However, if you do not have a Dropbox account then I can easily revert to personal delivery of a USB stick with the photos.
Unfortunately due to size and amount of photos completed in each session, emailing and messaging photos via Facebook is not the quickest or easiest option so I do not use these forms of delivery.
What can I use the photos for?
The photos can be used for anything from social media platform promotions, photo albums or for memories sake. It is up to you if you want to use the photos with the watermark or the ones without. If you wish to credit Lilly Pilly Arts for the photos that is appreciated but not completely necessary.
The photography I create will be used on my social media platforms and website - while doing this, there is opportunity for cross promotion.
What photos have you done or will be doing for other venues?
All venues will vary in what photography they require - the umbrella of the requirements are generally for events and drinks. While my techniques will be the same throughout my work, I am open to hearing what my client would like to try and their ideas on how to photograph their events, venues or drinks this will optimise chances for your photos being unique as well as challenge me to widening my perspective.
What feedback was given in the past and what improvements have been made since then?
When I first started Lilly Pilly in July 2011 - I was not great and I was not amazing. This took a lot of practice and being open to honest feedback, even when it hurt to hear it, the feedback was needed for improvements and change to the operations. While I have improved and changed a lot over the 7 years, I still need to learn more on my talents and try new things.
Back in the era of 2010 to 2012, the business was not exactly a business - I was working in hospitality as a cafe waitress and was in the know of a lot breaks and broken beat parties that were happening in Melbourne, the photography was a great way to go out for cheap as most times than not, venues would pay in free drinks. I felt that there was no reason for me to be serious about the work I did, as I did not hear anything but the good feedback and receiving ‘thank you’s’. That was because I didn’t make a conscious effort to seek honest feedback.
Looking back I think my first piece of advice or feedback was given to me by a good friend who was a lecturer and a curator - she had just launched an exhibition that I took photos at and we were going through some of the photos that had been taken. And, let’s be honest, the photos we good in depth but not the best in lighting, contrast and white balance - this is where I learned the importance of good lighting, contrast and exposure with some post production tips. My friend later went on to tell me that I should study photography, whether that be via a course or reading photography books. I am a very stubborn person by nature, however, I really did appreciate the feedback and advice - even if it takes me a little while to catch on and utilise it.
There were other little bits and pieces of advice that was given to me about exposure and flash photography - even one of my friends/ clients loaned me an external flash then later gave it too me for Christmas. This was greatly remembered.
It wasn’t until post 2012 where I created a small survey for my then clients to complete and return. This is where there honest feedback came from and really hit some foundations for change. Some of the feedback provided in the survey was both personal and technical - for example; how I presented myself during events and ensuring equipment is up to date and serviced for the best results.
In addition to the client feedback, there was the occasional message to the Facebook page asking to remove a certain image because it was not flattering or a friend of someone at the event that I had photographed not really digging my style of photography telling me that I destroyed their friend’s beautiful image. With these scenarios, I had to try and remain optimistic and think about why they are messaging in the first place and request from them what could have been done differently, i.e. angle, lighting, editing, etc. While I didn’t really get much in a way of constructive feedback from them, they realised that I was trying my best to see where the errors lay and do differently next time.
You will be happy to hear that my first change was indeed how I present myself while photographing events. All other improvements in regard to technical and techniques, they are continuous improvements constantly evolving. Some technical improvements do not happen as quickly as others, like the purchasing of a camera upgrade to a canon 7D in 2014 and the recent migration from a Windows operating system to a Mac. These improvements do take time and a big budget.
Over time my technique has evolved into a colourful yet busy format to show movement and light - while I really enjoy this style, I am currently trying to challenge myself into thinking more differently about the photos that I take and their impact.
What is on the horizon for improvements and where to next?
This kind of question I would ask myself a lot in the earlier days and my answer was always the same, “well, I just don’t know!” These days this answer has changed as I have a little bit of a better understanding and a better idea of where I would like to take Lilly Pilly - while it is a better understanding it is still open to being changed as time passes on.
As I am gaining some better knowledge of my trade, the main goal is to improve my techniques on taking photos and open myself up to taking other styles of photography. Along with this improvement, I am also gaining a little more understanding of different post production techniques and learning about other alternative software that can be used to achieve different results. So there will be a lot of exploration moving forward.
Technically speaking, I would like to invest in a versatile lens that can cover event and non-event projects and a mirrorless camera. As time moves on and I delve more into alternative software there will be opportunities to purchase new software (stand alone or subscription).
Throughout the past year, I have received some client projects that have evolved outside the standard event photography realm. For example; venues wanting food and cocktail/ drink photography to use for promotions on their social media platforms. Whereas, another client has just recently asked me to design their single cover - while I may not be a graphic designer, I used my artistic skills to create a canvas interpreting the song’s message to the audience. I would like to work towards gaining more projects such as this, as they challenge me to really think about the projects before attempting them.
Lastly, I would like to keep my motivation game in the loop as over the past 7 years my motivation has not been all there and has been rather sporadic, this is something I would love to greatly work on more as I know that I and the Lilly Pilly name have potential.