Sixth and Seventh form High School Ball's

I was talking to a photographer yesterday that two years ago did one of the high school balls that have become back in vogue and found they got, in their words, an easy $4000 with the high school doing all of the work taking orders etc.

The following year they did all of the eight high school balls in their city, again with the high school doing all of the work, and again making good profit that in the quiet wintertime.

There new thrust with the next Ball was going to be to the seventh formers to include an invitation for an 18 year old portrait in an effort to attract them as future clients to their studio.

I, thinking back to the 60s when balls were all the vogue, suggested that instead of the high school handling that proofs that they should get all of the students coming to the studio.  The photographer almost had a heart attack on the spot, saying, we could not handle all of those people!

I thought you can take a donkey to the water, but you can't make them drink.

And that there are none so blind as those that think they are successful.

Okay what I am suggesting would create extra work, there is no doubt about that, but what an opportunity for all of the young teenagers of their city to make an acquaintance with a photographic studio.

What an opportunity for all of these students to see the brilliant photography that is being produced.

What an opportunity to impress them with technology having a large screen television with all of the ball photos in an endless loop, having say three computers that they can navigate through to look at the photographs, having all of proof books there for them to look at (like they would have at school), having several portraits of local high school leaders on display with different backgrounds and different costumes, the ideas and opportunities are endless and of the photographer was an extremely capable photographer they could have established themselves in such a way it would make it very hard for all of their competition.  (unfortunately in this case they needed more development on their photographic ability)

I remember the busiest studio in America that I visited years ago, they were geared up to Photograph teenagers, or I should say high-school seniors, and they had several dressing rooms, many backgrounds, and a lot of seniors being photographed, changing dresses, more photos on other backgrounds, a real assembly-line we are the one photographer was busy with six students and he had no down time was the changing costume, and this is back in the days of film.

Today with digital everything would be so much simpler, and with today's generation being bought up in the instant world that we have today now would be the opportunity to show them what a real modern studio can do.

Yes most businesses would pay thousands of dollars to get several hundred high-school seniors visiting their premises and having the opportunity of selling to them, but unfortunately most Studio's do not see the opportunity when it hits them in the face.

I also had the opportunity to look at their wedding photographs, which I assume was the best work that they had done, you do not show your worst work, and the weddings were just average quality, no that is being unkind, above-average, but there were no photos that stopped you in your tracks, no photos that I call the Wow photos, a lot of photos the styles I first saw 30 years ago, and I'm not talking about the conventional photos, but these were those of the bride in focus and the groom standing behind her, out of focus, with the only difference being the ones done 30 years ago were much better.  Read what I wrote about 20 years ago of the wow photos, still applies today.

So if you are in the wedding business, and you want to be the best, your first endeavour should be to be the best in your town or city, and that is easy to see what the other photographers are doing and do it better.  The next step is to be the best in your province and that will take a little bit more time, then of course check out the rest of New Zealand.  Once you have that licked there is the rest of the world.  There is no need to have just conventional wedding photographs if you consider yourself to be good, you are just going to have to do search out the best in the world and learn from them and never forget about the wow photos.

The best studio I remember producing Wow photos, on a consistent basis was the Charters and Guthrie partnership in new Plymouth in the late 60s, they had set themselves a target of producing one of these photos for every wedding.  Of course Margaret Bake and John Crawford received their training at this studio and carried on producing outstanding photos on their own behalf.

Other outstanding artists of photos that stop you in your tracks are Russell Hamlet of Auckland and of course Yohan Van Kan of Christchurch.


One of the high-priced classical portrait photographers I met on my travels always spoke of never producing a photograph that was larger than 7/8 life-size because your client would feel uncomfortable with an oversized head of their baby or child.  He believed that if you want to make a large portrait to hang on a wall you had to include more of the person in the photograph or have more space around the person in the portrait to achieve a portrait in the size you wish to sell. He did comment that rich people are used to space around them and so can accept it easily in a photograph.

Display photos

It is always pleasant to see large display photographs in studios, providing of course the photographer is aware of head size.  It certainly gets your prospective customers thinking large photographs, that is unless you also display some photographs that you have won some awards with and you display those photographs along with their ribbons. 

Often these award winners are smaller than 25 x 20cm and then you are telling your customer that small photographs get gold medals, so do not be surprised when your customers order the gold medal size.

So what can you do to prevent this?  Very simple, make a display print in your normal display size, and hang the gold medal on that print.

Or of course, you can do what the late Franz Barta in Dunedin did in the ‘60’s prints up to 51x41 were all the same price….


It is often said that “Those That Can Do and Those That Can't Teach”!

However it does require a special skill to be able to teach photography or any other subject, and often it is not the ability to produce incredible photographs but the ability to be able to inspire their students to produce outstanding results.

In my search for photographic tutors to bring to New Zealand in the 70s and 80s I often found that a photographer that was winning awards often sent their students to sleep!

I have also noticed that often the good teachers are not successful in business in a financial sense even though they produce incredible photographs.

This of course means that if you choose a tutor that is a financial disaster, but can inspire you to work magic with your camera make sure you do not listen to any of his theory's on running a business unless you want to go on the same path that he is currently travelling.

This of course means that you have to select your tutors very carefully and choose them for their strengths, whilst avoiding all of those things which they are obviously not good at. 
How can you tell a financial success?  Usually by their place of business, or where they live, or the way they dress, they are not usually driving a very old car.  You do not usually find them advertising for tutorial work, and if you do you usually cannot afford them.