Episode #2 with Xander Casey, wedding photographer in London
Updated: Feb 6, 2021
So excited to share my first guest with you. Xander Casey has been a wedding photographer for long enough to know what he's talking about but not so long that he can't remember what it's like when starting out.
In this episode we hear Xander's background, his story to becoming a professional photographer and how marketing played an important role in the process.
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I just want to say thank you to Xander for being my first guest. Mr Casey, it was an honour and thank you for believing in me on this journey.
Transcription of this podcast
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Welcome to '9 to 5 photographer', the podcast to help professional photographers and filmmakers get more shoots, make more money and spend more time doing the things they love. Now, today we're looking way beyond the confines of lockdown. And if you want to plan now for when life returns to the next normal, then you're going to love this episode. But first of all, let's cue that 15 second intro.
Welcome to '9 to 5 photographer', the podcast to help professional photographers and filmmakers get more shoes, make more money and spend more time doing the things they love. And now your host Simon Jones.
When I speak to photographers and ask them what they need to learn to take their businesses to the next level, many will talk about a shooting technique. Maybe it's mastering flash photography or using studio lights, or maybe it's how to pose people to get those killer Instagram worthy shots. But today's guest. Actually our first guest explains that only a fifth of that success would be down to the technical side of the photos that you shoot. He takes us through what some of the other 80% is Xander Casey that's Xander with an X and Casey with a C has built his business by focusing on that other 80% when he's not shooting overseas. He undertakes photo shoots at some of the nicest hotels in central London, but today he's here with us and he's going to explain all about how he grew his photography business. Let's get into it right now.
Xander, thank you for being here today. It's great to have you on the show. Hi Simon. How are you? I'm very good, indeed. Thanks. Very good. I'm really excited that you're here really excited to talk to you, really excited to find out some answers to some questions I'm going to be asking you. But before we get into the real detail of this episode, I'd love to give our listeners just some context of who you are and where you are in life. So if you don't mind, can you just share with us some basic information that such as you know, where you live your rough age, if you're happy to share that, you know, your family situation, stuff like that.
Sure, of course. Lovely.
Firstly, it's great to have this opportunity to chat to you and to talk a little bit about what I do because I have the best job in the world. I absolutely love what I do. It's not like being an accountant where you stare at spreadsheets all day or something like that. I am about doing different things. And I know I do lots of weddings, but, but everyone is different and everything is just, it's just brilliant. I love my job. So anyway, yeah. In terms a little bit of background. Yeah. As I say, I do lots of weddings and events on the whole, I'm a wedding and event photographer. But we'll probably get into this a bit more. I do some other stuff as well. I have a fabulous wife, Kate and I have two kids and they all keep me grounded.
I'm not quite sure what the difference is between constantly taking the Mickey out of me. It keeps me grounded. But that is what they do. And I love that. We live in leafy Surrey. So we're so close to London. You literally, you drive out of London, you can go past Wimbledon and there's a couple of fields and we're literally the first village you come through with them. It's fabulous. So it means I can get into London really easily. So driving home back from a job is about 35 minutes from in the center of town and I'm close to the airports as well. So I fly quite a bit for work. So it's nice to being close to Heathrow. And we've also got lots of cats and dogs. It's a bit of a menagerie here. I got these, I have a couple of hives of bees.
And it's, it's, it's, it's great. We, I got them as a way of teaching the kids when they were little, a little bit about nature. And these are in trouble. I'm going to, I'm going to take over this podcast with about bees. So I've got to be careful though about people. The Albert Einstein said, if bees disappear, humans only have four years left to live for. So I thought we'd do our four years. So I thought we'd do a little bit to try and help. We use poor bees but we love them and we obviously get lots of lovely honey
Awesome, highly commendable very impressed.
And just in case, anyone's interested, do you shoot with Canon or Sony or Fuji? What would you issue with?
I use a Canon. I was counting in the old analog days of film and when I moved to digital, it made sense to stick with them. As I only had to buy a digital body and I could use the same lenses, DSLR or mirrorless, and I'm still on the FLR, I love my kind of one day X month to it's bit like a tank. No doubt about that. It's fabulous. It's never let me down. I have two of them. And I just love them. However, the world is moving to mirrorless. I appreciate that. And Canada have said they're not going to be concentrating on DSLRs anymore. It's all mirrorless. And in fact, Canon have said, they're lending me a mirrorless camera and as many lenses as a once. So I'll be doing that to give it a good old test.
Very nice. Very nice, indeed. A good opportunity to try out some new glass. Absolutely. Okay.
So Xander, I'm, I'm really keen to know more about how you started your photography business and then in the early days, how you grew that into what it's become today.
Yeah. Good question. So I think like lots of other photographers I started when I got given a SLR by my dad he wasn't using anymore and I instantly fell in love with it. Here was this visual medium that I could use I'm dyslexic by the way. And so being able to do this thing that was particularly visual rather than having to rely on words was absolutely fabulous. And I fell in love with it straight away. And the other that I loved was the developing the photos yourself and swishing their chemical round and the little tray and seeing this image appear. I mean, it's like magic. I still don't understand how it really works. I'm not the most technical photographer, but the fact that you add the chemicals together, you mix it and there it is in this little tray, it's just, it's just fabulous.
I don't really understand how digital photography works either to be honest, but, but but anyway, that's a side point, but anyway, I loved it. And so growing up as a teenager, it was my hobby and I loved taking photographs. And I've got loads of loads of photographs. But I actually didn't think photography was a proper job. And so I did my a levels. And then I did a degree in business and then I did a postgraduate degree in marketing thinking that as well wants to do, which is go work in marketing, which I did. So I went to go work for a great big global telecoms company. And I was traveling all over the world, telling them about their marketing. And I loved it. It was jobs go, but I was doing a lot of traveling on my own.
And when you're traveling on your own, you don't really have anyone to share it with. But but that was that. And about the same time I had kids and I realized actually my work life balance, isn't really where I would like it. And you know, the nine to five job, which is what we all think we're going to be doing turns into the eight to eight job. And I'm thinking of working eight til eight, I should be doing something that I love doing and something that I'm really super passionate about and why can't that be photography? And he took me as a proper job. And literally the month I was thinking about this the company I worked for offered voluntary redundancy and I put my hand up and said, yes, please I'll have some of that. So I've got a nice big payouts and paid for some new photography kits. And when then sort of three or four months I had, I was beginning to get excellent autism. And it all took off from there.
So really interesting point in here, if you hadn't been in that situation of the voluntary redundancy coming along, do you think that you would have actively quit your job in order to start a photography business?
Unlikely, to be honest, I just had my daughter. So she was a tiny baby and that was not the right time to take a leap into the dark. But having the voluntary residency and having the payouts made all the difference. So it tied us over for the first few months, enabled me to buy some kits. But you're right now, I don't think I would've made that. How would I've made it then? I don't know. It feels strange now to look back and say, of course I would have made it to I'd have to, I have the best job in the world now. Taking photographs is just brilliant. But I'd like to think of word, but it would have, I dunno, would it have been harder? It would have been harder to sell to my wife though.
Sure. You mentioned case earlier on how did she feel when you decided, or when you told her that you weren't going to be going back into the corporate world after that voluntary redundancy that you were going to start your own business and you were going to be self dependent on an income from that point on,
She said, go for it. We had to pay out last us for the first few months. And she knew she had a good job to go back to after maternity leave. So, and it meant I was more round with the kids rather being able to make this eight to eight job every day. I mean, I was at home for part of it. So immediately we had a much better work-life balance and started doing wedding photography. No, I'd originally when I started off, I wanted to do fashion and portraits, but that's really where it, where I thought I wanted to do it all. But then I had a photo published in Vogue magazine and an American lady bought Vogue to read on the airplane on the way back home to the States. Okay. and then when she got back home, she literally got back home and rang me straight away and said, can you photograph my wedding at the Barclay hotel in six months time?
And I was like, Ooh, I'd love to. And I said, how did you hear about me? And she said, I just saw your face and Vogue. And so I want that style from my wedding and I thought, wow. So, so I did. And the pressure on the wedding day for new photographers, it's immense. Does it whole schedule that you have to stick to? There's lots of things that go on and you always have to thinking one step ahead, but I loved the pressure and I loved all of it and thought, Oh, hello, I'm really enjoying this. This is something I should do more of. So then after the wedding I showed the photographs I took to the hotel and they loved them and that they started recommending me to their clients. And this is the Barclay. Exactly. So very swish five-star hotel that also part of a of a group who also owned Claridges and the corner hotel. And so then they heard about me, it's all my photos and said, Oh, can we recommend you to our clients as well? And I said, of course you go. Exactly. So between those three hotels, they really do have, have sort of the segment of the five-star hotel markets the cater for the different styles of, of, of clients at that top end. And I've been working at those venues ever since.
How long ago was that, that the, that, that lady saw your photograph in Vogue?
This was, this was the mid noughties round about then it's been a while ago. Yes. We've had a very good relationship with these hotels. Cause they obviously know me. And part of working with a photographer, it's not just about loving their photos. It's about being able to work with them as a person then being able to stick to the schedule. So lots of things. So it's yeah, no, I've, I've been, I've been very lucky and very fortunate to be able to work with them for, for such a long time and
All of that time. What would you say your favorite wedding has been to photograph? Oh, wow. I love all the weddings.
This one is different. That, that all so much, so much fun. Even the little ones during the pandemic, you know, these, these, these small weddings for two people. I did one recently at Claridges where it was just the bride and groom. And, and a couple of the staff were with the witnesses. And that was just as fabulous. As some of the big weddings I do, but one of my favorite ones was a three-day wedding in Ibiza and it was just fabulous. Everybody flew out to it on their jet, apart from me who came out on each side yet easy to exactly. And I said to my wife, Oh man, one of them could have give me a left on their private jet at and my wife said, that's the whole point of having a private jet thunder is that they don't have to travel with the riff-raff you're officially riffraff.
There you go. Yeah. Yeah. but anyway, so the wedding was fabulous on the Friday night. They they booked a whole restaurant on the beach and the sun was going down. You could see the whole sunset, but that was fabulous. And then there's the whole wedding day itself. And they, they flew out VICA to come and come and do the ceremony out there to throw it flew out synchronized swimmers to come and do two, three minute sets in the swimming pool. It was just spectacular. And then on the Sunday there was a pool party. So none of the oldies were invited to that. It was just the younguns and it was just, it was just a fabulous party even a little bit hung over until they've had their first bloody Mary. And then suddenly the parties back in full swing. That was great fun. It's hard work. Everyone thinks you're flying abroad as a photographer, just enjoying the party. You're not so much enjoying the party as, as photographing everybody else enjoying the party. But it was, it was brilliant all the time.
Now, Xander, one of the things a lot of photographers tend to feel is that fair that you won't have enough work coming in. Now, given that you've been doing this full-time since 2000 and mid noughties, I think you said it was, and it's very much a full-time and a professional thing for you. How do you keep that ball rolling to ensure that you continue to have business coming in for you?
It's something you love with experience. And I remember, especially to begin with having sleepless nights thinking, Oh, how am I going to pay the mortgage? Especially at the time I handed my notice at the telecoms company, but very soon actually that you realize that actually you've got no one else to rely on. It's just yourself. So that's when your sales skills kick in and you understand what is it that you can do? What are your unique selling propositions as a photographer? What can you do that no one else can do. And it's a combination of your style, it's who you are as a person. And then I I began to understand what the wedding calendar is. So once I understood that, then everything else sort of falls into place. So for example, most people get engaged on either Christmas day or Valentine's day.
Okay. So once you start that with those number engagements, then, you know, around that time, couples are going to go and look for their venues, that they want to get married in book up the venues. And then once they've got the venue booked, they then look into photographers. So January, February, March time, you get lots of bookings and lots of deposits in. So, so that, that sorts out sort of the beginning of the year, and then get into the summer full swing, where you're solid booked with weddings. And then to begin with the weddings, just to tail off around Christmas time. But as soon as the digital photography and digital cameras got better, then winter weddings became a real thing. And now that just as the popular December is just as popular as August now for wedding dates. And so that's really helped balance out the photography year. Wow.
Did you just say December is just as busy as August?
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. There'll be, I'll have five or six weddings at least with Fridays and Saturdays booked up for, we went to weddings have went to wedding because everyone's in the Christmas mood. Everybody loves it. It has, you know, imagine a church with hundreds of candles in it and it looks lovely. And now as I said, the digital sentences are so good that you can, you don't have to rely on flash and you can get really atmospheric shots.
Cause back when I used to photograph weddings, clearly August used to be a busy time, you know, June, July, or may, June, July, August. But in December time back then, I mean, and this was around about mid naughties as well, actually. Back then I would shoot probably one December wedding and that would be it. And it would be the Saturday between Christmas and new year usually.
Oh, wow. Yeah. Okay. No, no, no. We'll change. Another benefit of the pandemic is, is, is that it's meant that obviously Saturdays are the busiest wedding day, but now people got used to having weddings on any day of the week. So that has really helped balance out the the number of weddings the wedding photographer can do.
It must be frustrating at times when you're asked to photograph a wedding on a date that was already booked.
Yes, absolutely. And that's actually something we were going to talk about in a bit, but it's worth bringing up now. Don't look at other photographers as your competition, look at them more as your partners, because the more you grow your business, the more likelihood you're going to have of dates where you're double booked and you can either just say, no, I'm booked or pass it over to a friend and colleague who has a similar style to you and someone you like working with. And it's reciprocal because then when they get off of books, they'll start passing jobs onto you grow your business organically. That's a very good way of doing it. So I was also lucky, not long after I started photography to be asked to teach. And every year in January, there's the annual photographers convention. So I've gone there. It's this CWPP exactly, exactly. And I think teaching them sometimes it's on a business skills because I have a postgraduate degree, I think I'm the only photographer who has a post-graduate degree in marketing. And I'm also a member of the chartered Institute of marketing.
We're going to get countless emails coming in now from other photographers saying, no, no, I've also got a postgraduate in marketing.
I think I am. I'm not sure what else. And so, and so that's fabulous and I love teaching. And so some of it is on a business and the business skills of, of, of how to run the business side of it, but also the practical demonstrations sort of giving a masterclass on how to photograph a bride agreement, how to interact with them. Lots of people need those skills as well. So being able to balance out the times that I'm not fair driving weddings with some training for one to one sessions, et cetera, but I also do corporate photography. And I have a whole separate website for this segmentation is very important. It's another, another marketing buzzword. But segmentation basically means grouping light consumers together. And I realized that if I offered corporate photography, you don't want that on your main wedding websites, no rides just, just want to see pictures of other brides and weddings and maybe events and that kind of thing, but they don't want to see, you know, chairman and the CEO and those kinds of sorts.
So I have a whole another website for that and that's cool. Cityscape studios and hiring other photographers when I'm double booked. And so that's different. So between these, these, and also do family portraits as well. And actually during the pandemic, that was very useful when there weren't so many weddings, although I still had to have, when we went in the major lockdowns, I still did do quite a lot of weddings. They were smaller, but but, but certainly I did lots of those. And also during the pandemic family portraits, luckily I work at the high end of the market. So lots of those, these people have amazing houses with huge gardens. And so we could do the very safely outside. And that was great. So I think in answer to your question, I'll answer again, but just a question is how do you keep enough work coming in?
And I think for me, the answer is to have a number of different segments working. And I realized in the, in the last recession during the whatever the name of the crash was what was, what was that called 2008 crash, do you mean? Yes. Okay. During that one, I was quite over-reliant on weddings. And so I realized that it's important to have have different segments and all photography is, is broadly similar. I think, I think the old adage that if you want something done quickly ask a wedding photographer to do it because they know how to do it against the clock. Absolutely brilliant.
Hmm. Okay. So what you're saying then is that you operate in different markets, but your marketing is very much targeted to each of those markets, as opposed to having one website that covers all your markets.
Exactly, exactly. And then things like my social media, I just use Instagram. And that is entirely targeted at at the weddings and the portraits.
Awesome. Xander tell me about a time when you've struggled with something in your business, whether that's something commercial or something artistic or work life balance or something like that or whatever it is and something that you simply had to overcome.
Yeah, I think honestly I have loved my job every single day since I started it. And when I answered about the wedding calendar and about how it works, it's not been as much of a struggle as I found as in my old job or was trying to get the work life balance in check. Then I found harder because, you know, everyone assumes when you go into work for a job that it's going to be nine to five, and it's not that we're nine to five turns to eight to late and pretty much any industry that you work in if you want to do well and succeed. And I found that I was spending so much time in my old marketing job that I wasn't really having much of the social life, especially with all the traveling I was doing with it. So I, I actually, part of the reason for becoming a photographer, it was to get a better work-life balance.
And so, so actually the, when I realized that, and as I mentioned earlier, getting the voluntary redundancy that made all the difference. And so that, that really opened my eyes to what's to what your job should be. It should be something you're passionate in. It's something that you enjoy doing. It's something that you love. And if they say, if you do something you love, if you don't really work another day in your life, but also in relation to your question, I did find it hard when I started as a photographer turning business down. And so the one stage in my first year where I worked for 14 days straight and, and, and the whole reason for being a photographer was to get a better work life balance. And then suddenly we young kids, I was working all these hours.
And so I realized actually then that was the time to look at my competitors, not as competitors, but as partners. And then, so that, that was a much, that was a real life lesson to me is that you need to engage network with other fellow photographers as well and swapped, swapped jobs for them. And then the, the other irony of, of, of, of getting a better work-life balance is that being a wedding photographer, you work a lot of weekends. In fact, you work everywhere. You can pretty much, if you're not doing weddings, then you're shooting portraits and that's no problem when the kids are tiny. When they're not at school, then that's fine. You can take off during the week. And it's fine, but once they go to school and I did, there was a period where I did see less of them. But I would definitely during the school holidays, make sure I took time off for them.
Yeah, it's, it's, it's one of the reasons why I stopped doing wedding photography is actually to spend more time with the children. And I ended up doing a lot more corporate, very niche sort of photography which is just Monday to Friday and not during school holidays at all. So let's say for me, that worked out really well. So I'm really glad that you also recognized that if you want to get that good work life balance, it is a case of, of looking at how you spend your time and then being in control of how you change that. So carving out time, if that's important to you. Absolutely. Absolutely. So what's the strangest job you've ever had to do.
So early on in my career, I did a job at a very, very swish hotel. And it was like starting at seven 30 or something, but I turned up at seven early, like I normally do. And the event was already in full swing. It was a corporate job, but there was wall-to-wall champagne. There was caviar. And I, wow, Oh my God, I'm late. So I quickly got my camera together. I just started photographing away. And it was brilliant. And then before too long, everybody, no one here was speaking English and I, it was Russian or Eastern European. It was some language like that. And they were really, really drunk, but having a brilliant time. Okay. And I thought, this is fantastic. And I couldn't find Alexander, who was my contact and that was confusing. Cause that's Xander, it's half of Alexander. They thought that I was looking for myself. And then after about half an hour, I came, I left the room to get something from the car, I think. And then I noticed opposite. This room was the room I was supposed to be first. So then, and then exactly, I was half an hour later. So I had arrived perfectly on time to this other job. And it was the corporate Alexander was there waiting for me. I have no idea what party was going on in that room. And they have no idea who the random photographer was.
They never spoke to the hotel to get in contact and say Oh, by the way. Yeah. Yeah. That's what happened to the photograph. But they never asked you the photographs. They never reminded there was a photographer. [inaudible], They'd just disappear. It's one of the strangest things.
Which hotel was this?
I'm not saying that!
Well, if anyone listening to this is Russian and ever was ever at a party and there's lots of champagne and caviar there. We're talking about looking slightly stressed to start off with, I imagine.
Yeah. Brilliant, brilliant. Anyway. Yeah. So, but all jobs scoop paid to that one? Yes. It would have been easy by comparison.
How do you see photography and the video industry changing over the next five years?
Ah, okay, good question. I can see photography and video becoming much more intertwined. Also I think that smartphones have become so good. I used to get called in to do quite a lot of PR photography for corporate, especially, and now a lot of that can be done on a phone. I phones have become so, so good. So in the next five years, I mean, imagine how far they've come in the last five years. So in the next five years they become amazing.
But I think in terms of wedding photography, I think that would probably be one of the last areas of photography to be taken over by, by smartphones, et cetera. I guess it's not just about the camera itself. It's about the interactions with the photographer, getting the best out of people. My training courses, I say that photography is 20% technique and 80% psychology.
So you just need to learn what the settings are for your given situation. And then the rest of photography, it's about getting the best out of your subject and that's where the psychology comes in. So hopefully wedding photography is good to be around for many years to come. I also think there's gonna be more relaxed on social media a few years ago. I never would have dreamed that I'd be getting bookings that were done directly through Instagram. So there's no emailing at all. So they contacted me to say, am I available? I say, yes, on Instagram, they put me up. I give them my bank details and it all happens through Insta and I'll be looking at my email for the correspondence and I can't find it. I thought, Oh my God, I've lost a globe. And of course there were never on email. I've never emailed them. And the same thing happens now with WhatsApp, I get lots of bookings directly through WhatsApp and all the correspondence is on that too.
So do you find some times that, you know, someone's got in touch with you through one of these mediums, but you can't remember which one it is you end up searching what's happening and insert.
Okay. Sometimes they're booked a year in advance, 18 months in advance. So these are weddings a long time in the future. And then I have to look through my file. I have a paper file still for every client. And then it said, Oh, of course it got there, contacted me on that stuff. Video's going to become a lot more prevalent too. And I th I think it was talked about a while ago w when the shift 4k happens is that people will be taking stills from the video. I still don't quite think 4k is good enough to take stills. Especially as video tends to be done at 25 frames a second. So they're slightly blurry, but I think it's big eight to eight K and that detail improves people will be shooting video and just taking stills from that. I can definitely see that that's, that's, that's something that's going to be happening more and more, but it's interesting times. I love the fact that, that our industry is fast moving. There's lots going on. You know, the move from death loss to mirrorless is an exciting move. And I think that's going to be better interaction with plants because of the mirrorless. You don't have to hold it up to your eye anymore. You can hold it slightly away from your eye and use the camera's eye tracking to get that perfect focus. And you can engage more with the clients. That's got to be a good thing
Yeah. In order to keep that eye contact. And, and it's amazing, of course, when you speak to, when you speak to the people that you're photographing, if you've got a camera right in front of your face, then it blocks off a lot of that sound, doesn't it?
So your muscles it, and then they can't see you're smiling. They don't know that you're engaged as much. Yeah. No, it makes a big difference. So what's next in your business then? Oh, wow. Yeah, lots of things. There's always something to learn as a photographer. There's always new things to do. But one of the things I've been asked a lot over the last few years is do I do video as well. And it's not possible for one person on a wedding to do photos and video. You'd have to ask them to repeat walking back up the aisle again, shoot both,
But not just that is it, it's a very different mindset when you're shooting photographs, shooting video.
Yeah. So for the first video I tried to do, I tried to put the camera vertical, like, you know, like it was my phone on it for a story because you can't, you just need to, you need to think and compose and do everything in landscape. Lots of similar tricks. But yeah, no, I love doing video. So I've started doing that, partly because I want to know how it works, partly because there are, there are some jobs that I would love to do the video for rather than stills. And also I work a lot for, for my high end weddings when I'm shooting stills with a videographer. And I quite like to know what their requirements are when they're shooting alongside me. So the long-term aim is to get videographers working for me too. And, and, and rather at the moment I outsource the videography.
So keep the video in-house and some of my colleagues who are great at video to come and do that for me, so therefore I need to learn what's w w what makes their job easier. And so how can we work best in tandem together? And also the other thing that I want to do more of is training now, as I mentioned before, I love it. I've been doing it for about 10 years. And lots of stock prefers get into the market because they love taking photos, but there's so much more to running a business than just being able to take photos. As I mentioned earlier, it's about 20% technique, and I think 80% psychology. So lots of photographers have that 20% technique, or they have enough of the technique to be able to take the photos, but they need to learn a lot about that. Psychology about getting the best out of the client.
Okay. But do you think a lot of those photographers understand the need to learn that 80% as opposed to learning, you know, refining that particular lighting technique, which is that, that sits clearly in that 20%? Isn't it?
They just went away. It's, it's very good point. That's what the training should be there for it's, but people don't necessarily know they need the training until they're made aware. You could go out and photograph a marquee wedding with your 20%. It's a technique if you knew how natural light works in that families struggle with get into it. Is that if you understand how natural daylight works, then you can do that. You can't do that at a winter wedding, very different set of skills.
So what would you say to someone who's just starting out on their photography journey?
Oh, wow. Three main things. I suggest any, any person needs when they're starting out, I guess the need to learn how to run a business. Lots of people have come to photography as a second job. And so they would, they've been doing that their main job, and that that's tends to be one element. But they don't understand all the hats that you need in order to, to be a photographer. It's obviously you'd be able to do photography as a photographer, obviously need to have sales skills. You need marketing skills, you use accountancy skills, business skills. There, there are lots of different skills that you need. So you need to learn how to run a business. Obviously need to learn how to take photos. As I said earlier, natural daylight is where everybody starts, but you, as a good photographer, you need to understand how to do off camera flash as well. That's really important. It's a bit too much to learn to start with. But once you've got the basics of natural daylight to learn off camera flash is important. And I think that's when you begin to move from just taking photos to not really making photos and understanding how light works and the depth that you get from taking flash off camera.
I remember right in my early days of running of, of, of running my photography business, I used to do a lot of natural available light photography. And I declared myself as an available light photographer. But truth be told is because I was just scared of off camera flash. And it wasn't actually, until I stuck a couple of flash guns, you know, just normal cannon speed lights on a couple of stands and then had a trigger firing, firing them off that I realized actually, it's not a scary thing as I thought it was. And it opened up masses of possibilities that simply were close to me that I was closing to myself beforehand.
Brilliant. And I love the fact that you used it as a, as a kind of a USP to say you were the available light photography genius. I was just running away from the truth, but absolutely. I don't think that it's part of my training. I've realized that's one of the main areas that photographers who've been in the business for a couple of years, really want to learn how to take that flat off camera if the contacts are quite tricky. But once you understand how the, how, how you get people have three main things they want to learn, they're willing to learn where to put the lights, how to trigger them and how the flash settings work. Once they work out these three things, and once they told those three things, and in fact, they're not that difficult, but that they just take a bit of practice.
Okay. So you said number one was handled how to run a business. Number two is how to take better photos. What's number three, then.
Good point. The third point is as we sort of touched on before, it's about understanding people when you do social photography, it's weddings and events. And for me, it's corporate as well. It's understanding what makes people tick. And what makes someone laugh naturally? You can't just tell someone laugh because you've got a natural life. You have to work out what will make them laugh. And especially on some weddings. So quite a lot of weddings I have to bond with, with the bride and the groom within minutes of meeting them for the first time on their wedding day. Quite a lot. When I travel abroad, then I've met them before the day, or I photograph the, the the dinner the night before, and I've said, hello, but I London weddings. And we started on the phone. Maybe we've done a zoom, but I've been booked up. And, and I have 90 seconds to say hello, and have a look at them and to see what their best angles are in terms of lighting, et cetera, while they're having their makeup done in the morning,
Catchy, when they're having to make it done, it can be quite a good chance to, to work out those good angles where quite often than not, not able to talk as well. So you can sort of observe a little bit without the pressure of having to interact with them at the same time as trying to work out technically how to get the best from them.
Absolutely. And they tend to be sitting in front of a mirror. So that helps with angles and looking at that as well. Yeah, no, a hundred percent agree. And also I always make sure that, that, that there's champagne ready to relax them. Cause I tend to find that when the brides are at their most nervous.
So do you think the job is more than just taking photographs then?
Absolutely. There's a lot more that goes into it. I've got funny story about how it's making the personal connections with your clients. That's important. I went to go and pitch for a very high end wedding and is a high end hotel. And the wedding planner with that and the clients were there and I lent my iPad to my daughter the day before. And she was a little toddler and she was playing around on my iPad. So during the middle of my patch and I was showing my slideshow vacations started coming up on my iPad and it was something like, you need to collect more cuticle and diamond bracelet. I switched the first one away or that it came up again and then it kept coming up again. And I was so embarrassed and I thought I've lost the job. I think I'm into unicorn.
You never know they might, they might be into unicorns.
Well, actually I bet said so, sorry, this is my daughter. She's borrowed my iPad and it's online and actually ended up getting me the job because they said, Oh, that must be whatever game it was at the time. My grandkids love that game. And then we took it about the game, had suddenly had a connection with them and they much preferred me over the other photographer who they were thinking of because they, they, they, they, they weirdly suddenly had this thing in Coban about human connections. Isn't it? Absolutely. Absolutely. And another thing I think that new photographers a problem, new photographers I should say have is that there's a catch 22 is that new photographers need a portfolio of work and they don't have enough jobs to have that portfolio to get the jobs in order to have the portfolio. So that's something that I do.
And I've started offering one-to-one sessions where we do a bit of business. Sometimes there's a one day, sometimes it's the two day sessions. They don't necessarily have the portfolio so I can help them get a portfolio. We get a bride and groom together. And we go around London, do some cool little areas. We get some great shots for them and also if they want, they can get some of the business schools as well, that that's really useful, but then they can also learn how to use the settings. Because doing that, just, we said before, natural daylight photography has its very different settings to winter weddings. You know, on some went to weddings, I've shot the whole day at a 60th of a second. Wow. So you've really got to know what that means. And if you're using flash flash helps freeze the motion. And if you take the flash off the camera, then you can get phenomenal results. And then the, my only final thing for you is don't get obsessed with kids. Just don't buy tons and tons of kits. You just need to start with, you just need a, a pretty book standard body and maybe a 24 to 70 and a 70 to 200 millimeter lens. And they are two workhorse lenses. Yes. Get a flash or two for your off-camera flash. But that is the basic kit you need.
Absolutely very good point and a backup. You can buy your primes and stuff later on once you've got the money coming in, but you don't need them to start with
Yeah, you're right. The 24 70 and the 70 to 200 classic work is two of the Holy Trinity lenses, 16 to 35 being the other one. Of course. Yes, absolutely. Okay. Xander three things. You would three things you're into right now. And one thing that you would like to throw into the world of never seeing again.
Well, I've been into it's the smaller intimate weddings. I haven't really done these before because working at the high end of the market, these tend to be been lavish affairs, amazing hotels in England or abroad. And so having these small weddings has been amazing. I've loved it, partly because we've not been allowed to have big weddings in the summer. Last summer, I did go to France in the middle of the pandemic to photograph a wedding for 120 people. And it was the middle of pandemic in the middle of it. So we were, it was literally the week that the government said, Oh, if you go to France, you've got to quarantine on your return, the bride and groom down by not going. So I did. And I wore my mask all day. I'm a hand sanitizer, like crazy. And I came back and I obviously had to quarantine.
But I didn't get ill. And it was fabulous. But but apart from that one bead wedding for 120, they've all been little weddings this year, but intimate weddings doesn't mean small intimate. They can still have hapless budgets. And now actually it turns out that they have a bigger budget per person. If they're not having that big, big wedding for 120 people can afford to spend a lot more per person, which has been fabulous. And I have had some amazing weddings and I'll let them have the NDA, which means nondisclosure agreements. But I don't mind doing that. You know, I've become known for the photographer who's discreet. So, so just, just be doing lots of fabulous weddings. So I've been loving these small ones. And as I said before that now every day of the week, it's fine to get married on a Tuesday. So that's one thing I'm into right now. Another thing I'm loving doing videos it's the new truck for you. You've never stopped learning. So for me, learning to do video has, has been great as another string to my bow. And I'm also loving time-lapses. I've always had loved them. I've just not been very good at them, but with more practice and moving the camera at the same time. So moving on a track, et cetera has been lovely. So I've been doing lots of practice at that.
And then one thing you want to throw into the world of never seeing it again,
Please it's been a disaster for all my photographer colleagues, but also my industry, the hospitality is, is just been decimated and it's been so, so sad companies going bust businesses, going bust, you know, historic venues just, it's just been so sad. But I think fingers crossed this pandemic is the once in a hundred year event. And so we're unlikely to see another one in our lifetime.
We need to wrap this up in a moment, but before we go, where can listeners find you online if they want to know more about you?
Okay, great. My website, it is www.xander.co.uk. That's X A N D E R. And my Instagram is just XanderCaseyPhotography and my surname C A S E Y.
Okay. It's Xander with an X, Casey with a C?
Well, it sounded like thank you for your time. I really appreciate your time. I really appreciate you and good luck with everything in 2021.
Oh, thank you. So I'm going to stop shooting. It's been great to chat to you and to chat about how it got into the business. And hopefully that'll help others. Well, let's, let's keep
In touch. And if Greg be great to get you back on the show at some point in the future, maybe in a year's time, something like that to find out how everything's been going. We'd love to, so there we go. A big shout-out and a thank you to Xander for coming onto the show. Now, just a reminder, you can find him at xander.co.uk or his Instagram page. Just go to Xander Casey Photography.
Now our next guest is someone you're going to love. She's not a wedding photographer. Instead. She photographs families. And I think she's a commercial photographer too. And that episode is ready right now because the first three guest episodes are all being released together. But whether or not you listened to that episode right now, please be sure to subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss future episodes, but for now, thank you for listening and I'll talk to you again soon.