Peter Barlow, a portrait photographer based in Cumbria, has been working in the photographic industry for over twenty years. A master of boosting business with social media and an expert in his field, he has built up a reputation for taking distinctive modern portraits and was the proud recipient of the prestigious Kodak Gold Award for professional photography. We hope you enjoy…
Tell us a bit about how you got started in photography.
I started off as an amateur photographer, but then it gradually progressed to me printing and having my own permanent dark room. A friend of mine started his own studio which I got involved with on a part time basis and through that I ended up photographing weddings which eventually boomed. I did my first wedding in 1984 and had ten booked in 1986, after that I was doing between fifty and sixty weddings a year.
How long have you been a photographer?
I was so busy with weddings that I became a full-time photographer in 1988 and now have a team of people working alongside me.
Did you assist? If so, to who?
Yes, I assisted a photographer called Mike Notman, who had a studio in Carlisle called A Studio North. Mike was originally a press photographer and he was a proper pro. When I would go on a shoot with him he would continually take pictures and always ended up with brilliant spontaneous images. He was definitely an influence to me.
How would you describe your photographic style?
I am a social photographer and my job is to produce nice sell-able pictures to the public. That’s the number one thing, because you’ve got to get the public in the door if you want to survive.
What type of cameras do you shoot with?
I use Canon but to me it’s really not important. Most professionals I’ve met aren’t really interested in equipment to a point, and for me I just prefer to work simply and not worry about the equipment.
The best part of your job?
The best part for me is getting to be social and meeting new people.
The worst part of your job?
Probably when you spend a lot of time promoting and then have few sales because people take the free print.
Why did you start to use social media to generate business?
Because the old tools that we used to use, for example newspapers, don’t work any more. People, especially young people, don’t buy that kind of media nowadays, they access everything via the Internet and social media. So obviously, you have to change with the times to keep your business going.
Back when I used to do weddings, I was in front of the public all the time and a lot of my future business came from guests that had been at those weddings. However, I stopped shooting weddings about ten years ago, because I was so busy doing portraits. Now, when you do portraits you don’t have that public to boost your business, and that’s where social media comes in. Social media allows you to have that public again, and at no cost.
For the foreseeable future, do you think you will always use social media for your business?
If you asked me that question five years ago, I wouldn’t have even known what Facebook was! Things change so quickly now, and I’m sure that one day social media will have its day. So, I will use social media for as long as it is profitable.
Do you only use Facebook or do you use other networks as well?
I don’t know a huge amount about the other social networks but personally, I think it’s hard to promote my kind of business on Twitter etc. But, with Facebook it’s great because we can upload photos and people obviously tell their friends and family about it.
Would you advise a photographer just starting out to use social media?
In my opinion, photography is like the music business – a lot of people want to get into it but it is a very very difficult business to survive in. I know lots of very very good photographers and even better business people who lost a lot because it is so hard to be successful in this industry.
If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be doing?
Probably a film lighting and cameraman because I would be surrounded by pros not just the public.
What talent would you most like to have?
A psychic gift so that I could pick the winning numbers!
What do you love to indulge in?
Lots of food and drink!
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
I would stay here in Cumbria. I’m half an hour away from the Lake District so it’s a lovely part of the world to be in.
First thing you would do if you won the lottery?
I would love to have a holiday home somewhere like France.
For your business, what is your favourite thing on theimagefile?
We use the website side of theimagefile to great effect, it’s very important to us.
To see more of Peter Barlow, check out his website!