Posted by: digibirder | July 26, 2011

A wasted weekend

Well, the weather was glorious, but we were stuck in a craft fair in a hotel in Harrogate for both days of this past weekend, earning another pittance! I don’t know what the problem is, but it seems to be these fairs are a waste of time and effort. I have two more booked, one in November (a two-day one in York) and another in December (one day in Wetherby – this one with the organisers of the fair I’ve just done). I suppose being in the run-up to the Christmas period I might sell a few more items, but I really need to think through whether what I’m selling is what people want to buy and change the stock accordingly.

I did intend the craft fairs to be an outlet for promoting portrait work, but this also has not produced the desired effect, mainly due to the fact that we moved away from local events to those a little further afield, and so it was not practical to offer portrait services in a place that would take me the best part of an hour to get to. Anyway, towards the end of Sunday, when we had sold the grand total of one greetings card (sold ten cards on Saturday – woo-hoo!), a woman approached the stall and started talking to us. She soon mentioned that she was a professional photographer in business together with her husband taking portraits and weddings, and she proceeded to pass on lots of advice about what to do, where to go, who to approach, etc., much of which we had already thought of. But she did say that I should concentrate and build on the landscape photography, and commented that I obviously had the talent in that area, and to forget portraits. Now, this is all well and good, but I have read that landscape photography is a hard way to earn a living, and most other landscape photographers do have other strings to their bows, like running workshops, writing books, etc., and there are so many landscape photographers trying to make a living from their work that it is hard to get a foothold in this area unless you really stand out from the rest, which I don’t.

Anyway, we chatted for some time, and she took some details and said she would keep in touch. The following day I had an email from her with more advice. Having looked at my new website, she concluded that my people photographs are not very good. Well, I knew that, but I was hoping that a bit more practice would help. She also mentioned that our stand was not that well set-up, and that we were also in a bad position, with a large window behind us – something I will mention for my next fairs. We need to look at the contents of the stand, and position the best work more prominently. It was a bit difficult as we only had a 6ft stall, but I have booked a larger one for the next fair, so we will be able to spread out the framed photos a bit more. We are also going to make the framed work more consistent, perhaps using only white mountboard and a simple black frame. I may even ditch the greetings cards and concentrate on getting a more cohesive collection of framed and just mounted images together. Essentially, we really need to make more effort to get things right before November.

On the subject of framing, Keith has been getting more and more disheartened with the results of his venture. Although many of the frames have been very good, it’s taken too long to get it right and he’s had lots of wastage. So he decided to get some professional equipment, and ditch the hobby-framer stuff he bought from the school of framing where he did his course. He did some research and we ended up driving down to Northampton the other week to take a look at a framing supplies place that has second-hand equipment as well as new stuff. We had demos of the equipment, but came away empty-handed to think about it. After a bit more playing with the equipment we already have, it was decided that the mount-cutter was OK, and that the best thing to start with would be just the underpinner. So we drove down again a couple of days later to pick that up (a new machine), but when we arrived the chap mentioned that he had just finished the refurb of a second-hand frame guillotine and it was there in front of us, and it was ready to go – he was certainly a good salesman! – so Keith decided to go ahead.

Keith and the salesman eventually managed to get both these very heavy machines into the back of the car, and somehow Keith and I managed to get them out again once we arrived home! The guillotine is cast iron and weighs about 90kg. The underpinner is rather lighter, thank goodness. The wheelbarrow came in handy to get things into the house and they are all set up now. The difference in the finish of the frame is amazing. So Keith now feels more confident that he can produce a good job for his customers, once the jobs start rolling in!

His first job, although with the old equipment, was four prints to frame for our friends, which have turned out very well. Keith actually wants to do them again, but our friends are happy with them and don’t want him to waste the materials.

The new equipment in the workshop (dining room)

I’ve also been getting some new equipment. As Keith did not need to upgrade the mount-cutter, it was decided that I should have a new computer. After spending the best part of a week trying to get my old machine into shape, it did sound as if the hard drive was on its last legs, as I predicted in my last post. Instead of being quicker, having had a complete reinstall, it was actually much slower, and the hard drive light was staying on a lot of the time – never a good sign. It was really struggling, and I could hardly use Lightroom and Photoshop Elements – the very things I would be using the most. I suppose I could have simply bought a new hard drive, but the rest of the system is about three years old, so everything would still be running at the speed of the oldest components.

I could have bought all the components and built my own computer, but ready-built computers do not work out that much more than self-build these days, so I decided to save time and get a ready-made one. It’s a Dell machine and it’s no slouch when it comes to processing power and memory. The only issue is that it has Windows 7, so I am also trying to get my head around that, having been a Windows XP user for quite some time. It’s slowly sinking in, and I actually quite like some of the different features. It’s certainly much better than Vista, which I promptly took off our laptop and ‘downgraded’ back to XP.

The main change is that it does not have Outlook Express, but I think there is a way to get all my old OE messages onto the current offering, which is Windows Live Mail. I can also combine my web-mail accounts into this programme, apparently, keeping everything in one place. Need to figure that one out.

In all this mayhem, I did manage to get my new website updated, although it is still a work-in-progress, but at least I now have something there, albeit quite basic at the moment.

I hope to be out taking more photos this week, if the weather behaves, as I need to get more images suitable for the craft fairs, and that are taken in the area surrounding the location of the fair. So that means a trip to the North York Moors for the York fair, and the Yorkshire Dales for the Wetherby fair. This will hopefully make the images more saleable to both locals and tourists.



  1. Diane,
    I have a few thoughts about your business travails and an idea or two to offer based on my own experience. If you care to email me on my blog’s email address I’ll run it by you.

    Best regards,

    • Thanks, Tony. Will email you back regarding your suggestions.

  2. I wouldn’t touch Wedding photography – I’d imagine it would be very stressful.

    Photography takes practice! How much portraiture have you done over the years? I suspect over the years you’ve done alot more landscape photography.

    • No, definitely no weddings, at least not at the moment.

      There is certainly not a lot of portraiture in my files, that’s for sure. None that would have earned any money, anyway.

  3. I’d be scared of the responsibility of wedding photography and/or portraits.

    Glad to hear your PC is behaving as you would like it…

    I think your craft fair experiences may be a result of the country’s financial situation. I think some people have cut down on what they spend at them according to regular craft=fair visitors that I know. Hope the next ones are considerably better for you šŸ™‚

    • Portraits, not so bad; weddings, very scary!

      It must be something to do with the current economy, but there are still people out there spending. I suppose it depends on the location, but we thought we’d picked a good one last weekend. Hopefully the ones nearer Christmas will be better.

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