This month we are in discussion with Red Forge Studios. Thank you to Director Michael Holman for taking the time to answer some questions.
What was your mission at the outset?
I have always been very keen to work with as varied a client base as possible, but to bring the same core values of quality and creativity to each project. Whether I’m dealing with a fashion campaign, putting together pieces for traditional printed media, shooting for agencies, or working on any number of other projects, commercial photography demands the same basic principals – those of showcasing a product or service to its very best advantage.
What service(s) or product(s) do you offer/manufacturer?
The studio offers a complete range of commercial photography services, including, if necessary, every step from concept all the way through to print preparation and proofing. As a fully equipped commercial studio, we are able to organise and conduct shoots ranging from simple set-ups to advanced campaigns involving models, stylists, makeup and all the various talents which are necessary to get the very best results.
A recent addition to our facilities is a custom-built professional vocal sound booth, which is perfect for recording voiceovers, podcasts, audiobooks, soundtracks and singing vocals.
How do you advertise your product/service?
The vast majority of new work comes through word of mouth from existing clients or through enquiries from people who have seen our work published. I personally also try to network as much as possible (although not enough…), and have noticed an upward trend of prospective work coming directly from the website.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with a lot of fantastic clients over the years, and as a result have built up a strong and varied portfolio, which goes a long way in promoting the studio’s capabilities.
To what do you attribute your success?
Slightly obsessive attention to detail and a lot of very long working days! I think it’s also very important to make the same effort with every client, regardless of the size of the project, and treat everyone as you’d wish to be treated both on a personal level and from a business perspective. The most productive shoots are always those for which everyone is relaxed and enjoying the process.
What made you choose your current location?
Aside from stints away at university on the south coast and in London, I’ve always lived in North Wiltshire, and Corsham specifically offered what I judged to be a very good balance between city-centre and middle-of-nowhere… The access from the M4 is good, and Bath is very easy to get to. It feels rural, and yet there are plenty of places for a good client lunch!
What are your company’s goals?
The aim is to exceed client expectations on every project. Each job is a unique challenge and the creative process varies from client to client, but the common thread is a requirement to produce images which fulfil the brief, whether that’s massive visual impact for a poster campaign, technical accuracy for a brochure, or minute details for an in-depth instructional website.
It’s always wonderful to work with repeat clients, and that requires giving them a good reason to come back!
What made you choose this type of business?
An historical interest in photography, combined with degrees in design and illustration seemed to lead naturally towards commercial photography, which allows me, especially in the studio environment, to exploit the more technical side of my experience. There’s a lot of problem-solving involved in many studio projects, and this appeals to the engineer in me, while the photography itself allows a huge amount of creativity.
Does your company help the community where it is located?
We try to work with local businesses as much as possible, and also do everything we can to get involved in anything that might benefit Corsham as a whole – both as a place to live (I live here as well as work here), and as a place to run a business. It’s a brilliant place to work, but that’s only sustainable with constant innovation and enthusiasm from the businesses that work in the town. The studio has hosted work experience placements, given local talks on photography and been involved with Corsham School for their careers day for the past couple of years.
Have you ever turned down a client?
Never an existing client, but a prospective new one, yes, absolutely. In my opinion clients would much rather be referred elsewhere than hear promises which will inevitably be broken due to time constraints or conflicting jobs. It’s encouraging, however, how long people are often willing to wait if you’re honest and upfront about how busy you are and how long it’s likely to take.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Never undersell yourself. Find rates which you’re happy to work for, and stick to them. In this industry in particular, it would be very easy to work full time on favours and ‘mates rates’. Allow some flexibility, but remember that once you’ve charged a client a super-low rate, that’s what your service is worth to them, regardless of the quality of material or level of service that you’re providing.