A Time to Reflect

As I approach the first anniversary of becoming a full-time landscape photographer I spend some time looking at my progress over the past 12 months and start looking forward to the year ahead.

The bench at the summit of Orrest Head

Monday 24th August 2020

After spending the weekend in Cornwall with my mum we had a long drive back home.

I got into the car feeling quite stressed. I have a lot to get done this week.

Helen and I talked things through and it became obvious that I just didn’t have time for YouTube this week.

It felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

Tuesday 25th

I spent most of today writing my webinar about black and white photography. I am really pleased how it has come together.

I really enjoy the webinars. They are a great opportunity to actually chat to some of the people that watch my videos.

I’ve been thinking for some time that I would like to create more opportunities for photographers to come together and to share their experiences.

Wednesday 26th

Today was my wedding anniversary. We’ve been married for 14 years.

We decided to celebrate in style by having lunch at L’Enclume, Simon Rogan’s 2 Michelin starred restaurant in Cartmel.

It was the first time we have eaten out since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

Thursday 27th

This week is the last of my first year as a full-time photographer. It is time to reflect on the last 12 months and to make fresh plans for the year ahead.

Largely I have been satisfied with the progress that I have made this year, often under difficult circumstances. However, one area that I am not happy with has been my growth on social media.

Platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are essential for marketing my business. But despite a promising start last autumn progress has been slow ever since.

The main problem has been that I have been spending too much time producing the wrong sort of content. I also haven’t been using my time efficiently.

In the last 4 months views on my YouTube channel have fallen by a 1/3. This is a clear indication that the videos I have been producing have not been hitting the mark. I need to start thinking more strategically.

After much consideration I have made a couple of tough decisions. Both are designed to give myself more time to properly plan and research my videos.

The first is to drop down to producing 1 video a week. The hope is that producing 1 good video per week as opposed to 2 mediocre videos will help me to reach more people.

The second is to invest less time in responding to comments. If my channel grows to the size that I need it to be I’m not going able to keep up any way. Better to accept that now and make better use of my time.

Webinar

This evening’s webinar seemed to be very well received. I certainly enjoyed myself. Webinars have been the surprise success for me this year.

My approach has been simple.

I produce monthly ‘talks’ covering a broad range of subjects that are designed to solve very specific problems.

Create a photography website for free. Find the best locations in the Lake District. Take better black and white photographs.

These talks are free to attend but at the end I ask people to buy me a coffee via my Ko-fi page if they have enjoyed them or found them useful.

In a very short space of time these webinars have become my third biggest earner, overtaking Skype mentoring, YouTube ad revenue and print sales.

I think the key to their success has been to make myself as accessible as possible. It makes a real difference to be able to meet people face-to-face (so to speak) and to answer their questions directly.

Friday 28th

With my new strategy in mind I spent most of the day planning my next video.

I have always find it easier to craft my message when writing. So from now on there will be a blog post to accompany each video.

Buy figuring out exactly what I want to say in advance I hope so save time when it comes to filming.

Saturday 29th

It has been a week since I was last out with the camera so I was keen to take some photographs today.

During the summer I have spent a lot of time at St John’s in the Vale trying to take advantage of the sun rising in the gap between Blencathra and Clough Head. As the year progresses the sun is rising further and further to the south I decided to hear to Tewet Tarn for one last time this year.

I have been working on a shot from a small hill set back from the tarn. There are some rocks that I can use as foreground interest whilst keeping the tarn and Blencathra in the background.

Blencathra and Tewet Tarn in the northern Lake District
Blencathra and Tewet Tarn – a composition that I have been working on for a while. I think I still have some work to do.

When I had finished at the tarn I went off in search of a tree that I had heard about. Apparently it grows out of the side of the hill and can be used in a shot with Blencathra.

When I eventually found it I decided to practise what I had been preaching in this week’s webinar and switched to black and white.

A wonky tree and Blencathra
The ‘wonky’ tree in St John’s in the Vale – this is the first time that I have shot it but it feels like an instant classic!
Filming

When I got home I decided to film next week’s video.

One of the other changes that I am going to make to my channel is that I am going to stop filming on location.

Filming myself is so distracting. I often feel that I only have half my mind on my photography. I have finally decided after much to’ing and fro’ing that it is time to separate the two.

One of the exciting things about this decision is that I can tackle subjects just too complex to attempt to cover on location.

Sunday 30th

Unusually the weather over the bank holiday weekend is expected to be fine.

So I took the opportunity to head out for another shoot this morning, this time on Orrest Head over looking Windermere.

As well as my business this week I have also been reviewing my photography. Again I have made some big strides over the past 12 months.

However, my long lens landscapes need some work.

I was hoping that from Orrest Head I could shot the view across Windermere towards the Coniston Fells in the distant.

This meant that I would be shooting towards the west and, as was to be expected, all the interest appeared to be behind me.

The bench at the summit of Orrest Head
Look behind you! This wasn’t the shot that I had in mind for Orrest Head but perhaps I am learning to be a little more flexible in my approach.

27 thoughts on “A Time to Reflect”

  1. Some big decisions made this week clearly and I hope they produce the results you are looking for. I think the decision to reduce to just one quality video a week is exactly right as is the decision to focus on webinars. Not so sure about not filming on location though. One of the things I love about your channel is the evolving story of a day hiking in the Lake District. Hopefully this will continue. Either way, you clearly are willing to adapt to succeed and that means you will.

    1. Hi Barry – thanks for your message. I have been thinking that I would like to continue the on location videos, I am just not sure I want to release them to YouTube. I might shorten them and put them on my Facebook page or even on my Ko-fi page.

  2. Congratulations on your 14th wedding anniversary and the first anniversary of turning professional. Thank you for a year of sharing your thought process, tips, images, and introducing me to other professional and armature photographers.
    As you are aware from our conversations during 1-2-1’s, I shot film stills in manual mode for years. Mostly Kodachrome. However, I fell into the trap of going auto when digital came along. I accepted the results because I was reluctant to learn the software that could enhance what I was capturing.
    Now shooting raw and back in manual mode, I feel like I am predicting the majority of the contents of the image vs. accepting the settings and the results in .jpg. You made the method of post-processing easy to understand. Although I still have a lot to learn, I am not as hesitant to edit out distractions or put in the time make the enhance the image to what I saw or make it better than the conditions presented.
    Additionally, with your tutelage, I was successful in converting a number of my Kodachrome images, some from over 40 years ago, processing them in LightRoom and Photoshop and saving into acceptable digital files.
    Looking forward to the next year and hopefully, when they finally remove the restrictions on international travel, a trip to the places you find so dear. Wishing you continued success.

    1. Thanks very much John and thanks for being a big part of my first year. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with you and am delighted with the progress that you have made. I hope one day that I will get the opportunity to show you some of my favourite locations and of course to introduce you to Mrs Sale.

  3. Congrats on your 14th wedding anniversary, I shall (hopefully)be celebrating my 50th wedding anniversary in October. Supposedly in Australia with a new grandchild but this damn C19 has put Paid to that! I very much enjoy your YouTube videos and have learned a few new tips along the way this year. Wish you every success in the future which is richly deserved.

  4. Hello Chris. Interestingly, your “What have I done?” VLOG popped up in my YouTube suggestions tonight. It was interesting, having followed you throughout your first year, to look back on this video with all the plans and ideas that you had at the time. Don’t beat yourself up too much on the subject of social media, and YouTube. Those two things have changed dramatically since March and will continue to do so as we all adjust to a new world where an awful lot more is done virtually. Also, do not be too downbeat about swapping to a one-a-week format. Other landscapers that I follow have flitted between one-a-week and two-a week as they too have struggled to find a balance in an ever changing market and audience. Find a balance that suits you, and that allows you to produce content that you are truley happy with. I read some time ago that it is almost impossible to produce the content that the market wants, because the market is so wide and varied. The advice went on to put down the idea that if you keep putting out the content that motivates you, and in it you show consistent passion and enthusiasm, then the market will find you and stay loyal. You clearly have a manner and approach that appeals, otherwise you wouldn’t have 15k followers on YouTube. Since covid broke out in the UK you are now aiming at a constantly moving target, and the weapons you have available will also be constantly changing in that what used to be effective is no longer. You have a loyal audience behind you, and that wants you to succeed. I know that this doesn’t mean squat to the bank manager, or the mortgage lender. For my money it is time to embrace the new markets and methods of being able to reach them. Your webinars, for instance, could be a fantastic foundation block to another revenue stream. I’ve also observed a couple of YouTubers do e-books via Amazon (e.g. Henry Turner). Heaton and Danson both self published books (for my money ahead of time by using the lockdown time to get them finished), and my old chum Steve Gosling has recently done the same. You definately have the talent, and also an approach to explain yourself clearly. If you need a proof reader then just let me know (big smiley face emoji here).

    Congrats on the one year anniversary on the 2nd September, and congratulations on 14 great years with Mrs Sale. Here is to 14 more! All the best.

    1. Hi Hugh – thanks as always for the kind words and words of encouragement. I feel very calm about the decisions that I have made and keen to make a start. I have never been afraid of changing something if it doesn’t appear to be working any more. YouTube as a platform is very different from when I started over 3 years ago. I think it is time to acknowledge that and make the necessary changes needed to thrive on. My analytics show that less that 20% of my subscribers watch my videos on a regular basis. It feels like time to try to reach a new audience.

  5. Hi Chris
    The drop in YouTube views may seem alarming, however maybe not unexpected? Speaking personally, as we have gone through our second wave (and second lockdown) in Victoria, my viewing habits have changed due to C19. I used to be an avid viewer of a dozen channels, but have lost so much motivation and interest that yours is now one of only a couple that I am following.
    Even stalwarts like Heaton, Fototripper (the F4 debacle didn’t help there) and FirstMan have fallen by the wayside for me….but you made the cut!
    I’m sure as we begin to regain more normality, the interest levels and audiences will return!

    Congratulations and thank you for a great year, despite some incredible hurdles/

    1. Thanks Daniel – I think that you are right that the coronavirus pandemic has changed people’s viewing habits. My concern is that we don’t know how long it will last for. And when people do start returning to the platform it will be those that have thrived that YouTube will promote heavily. That’s just the way these things work unfortunately.

  6. Congratulations.

    I think you’re right in indicating that there are few opportunities for photographers to talk to each other, or even see the photos you all take. Yes, I know about different forums but I didn’t found them especially inviting, Youtube is another place but only a few have the inclination to produce videos.

    There are two places I think that are a bit different: photos are displayed very nicely at Flickr but the discussion part isn’t really happening – at least not for me. The other place I’ve been looking at is photographers personal blogs … but they are kind of hard to find when looking for new people to follow.

    Personally, I think that blogs would be the best solution for long term connections but there is also a place for “conferences” or events with people discussing live. And Flickr …

    As for Youtube, it takes a lot of effort to put out a continuous stream of videos and I’ve seen a number of youtubers putting out videos for what seems to be to satisfy the sponsors. The content of those videos are shallow and doesn’t really make me excited, for some reason I’ve seen many such videos the last month. I understand that Youtube forces youtubers to put out videos often to rank them high, but as subscriber I prefer quality over quantity.

    Also, I’ve seen my own viewing habits change, I used to watch all videos from several Youtubers but this pandemic has made me spend more time outside or playing with my own photos. This has resulted in me only viewing a few videos from most youtubers and only watching all videos from a few (you included).

    I have to admit that I actually enjoy the “on location” videos, I’ve never been to that part of UK – I think – so it’s kind of fun to see the landscape. But on the other hand, you might come up with something better 🙂

    1. Hi Jan – thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I am still trying to develop my idea of having photographers come together via some form of live event over the internet. I think there is definitely potential there.

  7. Hi Chris
    Congratulations on your wedding anniversary.
    Obviously not as life changing as 14 years ago, but you have made some big decisions this week and I wish you every success with them.
    Shame that you are only going to produce one video per week and I For one have never found any of them “mediocre”. Not having produced a video for YouTube, I can only imagine the work that has to go into them to release one video per week never mind two.
    I must admit that I’m not sure about you stopping your ‘on location’ shoots as I think that you produce your best videos when you are in an outside environment. As a viewer, I can see how passionate you are for your photography and for the area where you are shooting from when you are ‘on location’. For me, this was what inspired me to keep watching your videos, subscribe to your channel, to get out more myself and to enjoy my photography. And also to attend one of your workshops, so maybe some of your passion would rub off on me. It did! No doubt you will have plans for a better format.
    Keep up the good work Chris and all being well I’ll see you later in the week.

    1. Hi Stephen, thank you so much for the feedback. I am working on ways that I can still produce the on location videos, I just don’t want to release them to YouTube any more. I am trying to figure out if they will work on Facebook, or perhaps even my Ko-fi page.

  8. Hi Chris,
    Congratulations on your 14 we’d Anniversary and the first year of taking the leap to become professional.
    I think doing one video a week and consentrating on your webinairs could be the way forward as it seems to be working out better for you.
    Cheers Tim.

    1. Thanks Tim – I love being able to speak to people directly on the webinars, it is nice to be able to meet people properly. I want to create a bit more time for them so need to cut back on YouTube.

  9. WoW. big decisions Chris but I’m sure that at some point the decisions had to be made, glad your staying with YouTube how you managed two videos and everything else is beyond me, il still look forward to my notification saying New video up from you.
    Congratulations on both your Anniversaries wedding and photography and keep up the good work.

  10. As others have commented, filming yourself as you take photos has been fun to watch & has made me want to continue viewing your vlogs. They have certainly NOT been mediocre. But where I have hesitated is the area you are photographing. Personally I have found it a little boring after a while and have been hoping you might photograph different parts of the country. I realize you are a landscape photographer but seeing some of the local architecture could bring some visual interest. OK this is just my two cents worth & definitely not telling you what to do. It is easy to criticize but I have enjoyed your vlogs over the past few months & want to wish you every success.

    1. Hi Mike – thank you very much for the feedback, I really appreciate it. From now on I will no longer be making on location videos. This should make it much easier for me to cover a broader range of topics. I am going to concentrate on videos with the primary aim of helping others to improve their own photography. This I hope will open up a whole new audience for me.

  11. Well done on deciding to take stock of where you are with your work and there are some important decisions in there. I think one video a week is a good idea but I am not sure about dropping the shooting on location. I learn a lot from looking at locations in vlogs and working out what I would do for compositions, then listening to the vlogger and their reasoning. I am intrigued to see how you develop your vlogs without that – I can have too much of ‘talking heads’.
    Whatever you choose I will follow you on the journey and wish the good fortune for the next year.

    1. Hi Keith – I have been thinking long and hard about this and I have decided not to stop the on location videos entirely. However, it is unlikely that they will be released to YouTube. I am currently exploring what other opportunities are open to me.

  12. Hi Chris, Congratulations on both of your anniversaries. I have personally enjoyed watching all your videos (in a particularly crowded market on YouTube), dropping to one video a week sounds a sensible decision. It seems as though you have deliberated the proposed changes to your output, i’m sure that with your strong work ethic and passion for the Lake District that you will continue to shine and develop as a photographer, good luck.

    1. Hi Neil – thank you so much for your kind words, I really appreciate it. I am currently working on some new plans for the future which I hope to announce in the coming weeks.

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