This week, I would like to share with you a podcast that we participated in recently, thanks to a lovely organiser Sara Jones. We spoke about where we started as an art business back in 2009 and how we got to where we are today. Hopefully, you will enjoy it and let's dive straight in!
Here is the timeline to help you navigate the podcast:
00:20 How did it all start?
01:30 Light painting technique: let's talk about the magic behind
03:30 How did it start as a business?
06:00 The website: choosing the best platform for fine art prints
08:10 Marketing artworks: SEO, social media, art galleries etc.
11:40 Embracing online: Facebook ads and alike, email list and newsletter as a way to show the ideas behind each artwork and what goes into the technique itself to build the trust
15:40 Inspiring others: light painting course/training - most of the photographers know what long exposure is, but not many are aware that this technique even exists
18:40 Who does this type of art appeal to, who is the ideal buyer?
19:50 Main challenge: missing art fairs and meeting people in person
20:40 UK only vs global market: the sky is the limit
21:35 It's hard to make an original still life
21:53 Printing and shipping: certified archival pigment ink prints
23:35 Any mistakes that there were on the journey?
25:55 Let's talk about dreams and goals
And here is an excerpt from the podcast to give you a flavour of what it's like:
Sara Jones (SJ): Today I'm joined by the husband and wife team Vadims and Zhanelya. Together they run a business called PHOTOPORTRAYAL. Vadims is a fine art still life photographer who creates limited edition prints using light painting techniques. Welcome to you both!
Vadims (V), Zhanelya (Z): Hello, Hi
SJ: It's really good to have you here.
SJ: Now, obviously I've been on your website. This is I think a very unique product that you're selling. So, could you just tell us a little bit more about how you started and how you turned this, you know, how you got started with this as a product and how you turned it into a business?
V: Yes, sure. Well the company itself was founded in 2009. I had this idea from 2005 and in 2009 it was officially launched. My whole life I was interested in still life. And I actually started as a painter at the beginning. I was studying as a painter and later I kind of converted into photography.
V: So, I am using the techniques and the kind of ideas from my painting experience and apply these to the photography world. So, what you saw on the website - that's the result of this.
SJ: For some of them, when you're looking at them, you're sort of questioning - is that a photo or is that a painting. They are... Mmm, they are... Just fascinating when you're looking at them isn't it?
Z: Yeah that's true. So many people in the past asked us "Is it a painting?" or "Is a drawing?" Some couldn't even realize that it's actually a photograph.
SJ: Yeah, yeah! So, how did you come to this? Is this because of the sort of lighting you use? You said you use the lighting to create these images and these impressions? It's a very unique way of doing the lighting. How did you come about to do that?
V: Let me tell you just a couple of things about the technique itself. Just so that people can start to understand how it's done. So, the whole process of photographing is happening in complete darkness. So in my studio, it's completely dark. And I'm using just one source of light - like a small torch to illuminate every single piece of the object. And later I'm combining these light layers In Photoshop. So, at the end of the day, it's like let's 10, 20, 30 or however many images, photographed on a long exposure. And one exposure can take me about half a minute or even more and later I'm combining them layer by layer. So, the end result is what you actually see on the website.
Z: He's just sitting there in the darkness, almost like painting with a piece of light - drawing tiny little lines and details with it, stroke by stroke. And then like he said - he combines it all together later on.
V: Yeah because for me, it's really really close to the paintings that I used to do in the past - just instead of the brush I'm using the torch.
SJ: That's fascinating! They are really beautiful, really beautiful. So, how did you first start setting this up as a business? Did you sell prints in person? Did you start off online or how did that side of it work?
Z: As Vadims said, originally he started forming ideas around 2005 but then around 2009 he started commissioning works - like photographing other people's things and product photography, things like that. But it was never at the fine art level at this stage. It was only a couple of years ago,...
V: Well around two and a half years ago...
Z: ...Yes, when he started investing his full time into the actual light painting technique itself - like developing the technique, the style, the ideas behind it.
Z: And he even introduced some new twists into this whole thing. For example, he spends a significant amount of time before he even starts - he does a bit of a DIY on the composition itself to put things together, most of his compositions are handmade. For example, that flower that you can see at the back - that is completely handmade.
Z: And then, a bit later, I joined him and we launched the website, started investing in marketing etc. and that was pretty much when we took off.
V: So, yes, at the beginning I was doing it just by myself. But, to be honest, there's no chance to do it all just by yourself, as a one-man band, you know. You don't really have the skills to run every single aspect of the business just by yourself. So, Zhanelya is, in my opinion, brilliant in giving the infrastructure for the business. So, I'm kind of the creative head and she is building the infrastructure around it.
SJ: So, did you have any sort of background knowledge? Had you sort of run a business yourself before? Or were you sort of learning as you went as well?
Z: Yes and no - because we had another business smaller than that - which helped to learn how to manage the business financial side of things, marketing etc. But other than that we had a very small experience. So, I think we were just learning on the journey.
Z: It's looking at what other people are doing and analyzing competition, other platforms that are offering limited edition prints for sale, for example, doing comparisons. So, yes, it was ups and downs, just learning on the way.
SJ: So, did you build the website yourself or did you get somebody else in to do that side of it for you?
V: Yes, we built the website by ourselves actually. In the beginning, we used a platform called Wix. So, I was like a one-man band so was doing the website as well just by myself, and trying to to to do my best. I was looking at what other people were doing and tried to implement this kind of small features on the website. But later Zhanelya found another platform that is much better in our opinion and we kind of switched everything to that platform and that's what we're using now.
SJ: Sorry, what was the platform?
Z: Shopify. Yes, because originally Vadims started off on Wix. It is a beautiful platform but it was more like a gallery website rather than a proper selling kind of engine. Plus, it's not overly SEO friendly as well so it was not appearing a lot in google search and things like that. And when we started working together it was a bit challenging to integrate it with the printing company that we're working with. So Shopify just automates the whole process now for us. When the person orders - it just gets passed on to that printing company, they print and ship it straight away. Shopify has allowed for lots of other integrations as well - for example with social media or Mailchimp and newsletters and lots of other things that we couldn't find an easy way to work with Wix.
Z: And even the shop itself it was not as straightforward to set it up there. Well, it was possible but not as easy.
SJ: Well, Shopify is certainly very straightforward to do it once you know how to.
V: Yes, the platform just builds straight away as a shop which was one of the main goals of that website and that's why we switched to Shopify.
SJ: Yeah, sure. So, when it comes to marketing and putting yourself out there how has that worked and what kind of things do you do to actually tell people about your artworks?...
Today, we shared one of the podcasts that we took part in recently, thanks to lovely Sara Jones.
Feel free to explore our store to see more artworks or reach out if you have any questions about my practice or anything else. And I will be happy to connect with you on Instagram(@photoportrayal_), Facebook or Pinterest.
Until next time,