EP140 Perfection Is A Luxury You (And Your Clients) Can Ill Afford

At this time of year, more than any other, I find myself chasing my tail to complete everything I need to get done before the seasonal deadlines (otherwise our clients will be disappointed!) Of course, I want everything I do to be perfect but, as I have learned time and again, perfection is something that is unattainable and it is bad business too – finding the sweet spot balancing quality and time is the trick here.  In the end, if you spend limitless hours reaching for something that cannot be reached, it would be tough to find clients who could afford it!

I mention an EP that a friend of ours recorded and created a vinyl record as well as uploaded to Spotfy.  The EP can be found here on Spotify.

I only played on “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “Teenage Dirtbag” but let me know what you think!

The Superclass and Masterclass we will be running at the Societies Convention 2024 can be found at https://thesocieties.net/convention/speakers/paul-wilkinson/ and we would love to see you there – either at the workshops or just for a well-deserved pint!

Finally, all of our workshops at our studio can be found at https://www.paulwilkinsonphotography.co.uk/photography-workshops-and-training/



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Episode Transcript

Okay, I’ll be honest, I’m a little bit tired. This is episode 140. Can you believe there are 139 other episodes of the podcast before this one? This is episode 140, and I will admit… It has been a while. One person actually did say to me the other day that she was very sad that I’ve stopped doing the podcast, and I haven’t really.

It’s just been so busy at this time of year, I haven’t had a chance to do it. Even now, it is 10 to 10 in the evening. I’m still in the studio, just been finishing up everything I needed to get done. And of course, on my list, I wanted to record another episode of the podcast. Not just because a few people have said, it’s a shame I don’t do it.

But because of one email, which I will mention at the end, that jogged me into getting back on and finding the time to do it. So just to prove that the podcast is alive and well, I’m Paul and this is the Mastering Protocol. I can’t even say it. I’ve been saying it for years. I can’t even say it. Right, here we go.

One more go. I’m Paul, and this is the Mastering Portrait Photography Podcast, done like a 📍 professional.




So I am sitting here in the studio, having spent the day speed editing, essentially. Speed editing. I think I’ve got through four different jobs today, as well as a multitude of other things that needed doing.

It’s one of those weeks because, , as of tomorrow evening, so it’s Wednesday, it’s Tuesday now, but as of Wednesday evening, I’m up in Birmingham, , with the rest of the team from the British Institute of Professional Photography, the BIPP, uh, because it’s our annual award celebrating the very best, the very best of professional photography around the world.

Uh, a couple of days up there, and then after that, first thing Saturday morning, and when I say first thing, I really do mean first thing. thing. Uh, Sarah and I are taking the kids away just for a couple of nights to go and have some fun. Uh, haven’t done it for a little bit and it’s always such a thrill when the four of us are together.

They’re in their 20s now so they’re not really kids, well they’ll always be kids to me and Sarah I guess, uh, but I cannot wait to get some time away. But whenever it’s like this and I have consecutively sort of four or five nights or four or five days. Out of the studio, of course, I have to get everything cleared that needs to be done, not just for this week, but for the coming week as well, so that Michelle, who will still be in the studio, can continue to meet clients and do the things that need to be done.

This year… Uh, one of the things, or one of the things that, uh, Sarah has just been doing is putting together next year’s timetable of workshops, or at least the first few. Uh, this year has been an incredible year for our training and our workshops and our coaching, and when I started out, I honestly didn’t foresee that I would end up running workshops and things like that at our studio. If I’m honest, I’m not sure that I thought I’d be any good at it. But well, you know, you try these things, people ask you to do these things, and it has been a blast. Now I always knew we had the facilities to do it, and I always knew that enthusiasm can get you a long way.

But my real passion, the thing I love more than anything else, is when I have a camera in my hand and I’m creating images. Images. And I was a bit concerned, I guess, when it came to workshops that maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t get the chance to do that quite so much. And anything, if anything, that could not be further from the truth.

Actually, when I’m running workshops, it’s all we do, we mess around, we laugh, we get creative, we create images, and people keep coming back. So I’m assuming we’re doing something well, and we do have the perfect space for it. This studio is an exceptional space to feel creative, to feel like you want to learn and develop, and I do that here every single day.

And in this space, we have met some of the nicest. People imaginable. So a huge shout out to everyone who has been on one of our workshops and those who have just booked for some of next year’s Trunch. Sarah has worked solidly for the last couple of days, figuring out the dates, figuring out who’s been on waiting lists, getting everything together and planned out for the workshops that start next year.

In January next year, he says, checking his notes. Yes, it is January next year. Sarah’s giving me a crib sheet. Hear that? That’s my crib sheet of dates. Uh, so the workshops for next year. Uh, we’re starting off, we kick off the program for 2024 at the end of January. Um, one of them is already full. It sold out within hours of us publicizing it.

When I say publicizing it, We didn’t publicise it outside of everyone who’s already been on our workshop. So one of the things we’ve done is if you’ve come on one of our workshops, we have a Facebook group that’s entirely closed except for people who have been on one of our workshops, along with a few people from the trade who can answer specific questions if necessary.

So for instance, the guys from Graphistudio are on there. Big shout out to those guys. So if anyone has a question about creating albums maybe, then I’ve got not just my expertise and Sarah’s expertise, but I have people from the trade in there as well. And that’s really useful. And the first place we do whenever we release new dates is push them into that group, so that people in there get first dibs on any dates.

And one of the classes, one on photographic dogs of all things. Have I reminded you that I’m not a dog photographer? Well, you know, I’ve worked out. We’ve done 438 shoots for the hearing dog, so I suspect me protesting that I’m not a dog photographer. I’m a people photographer, probably doesn’t hold much weight these days.

I hang on to it, but in the end, I do love creating these images, and the dog photography workshop went in a heartbeat, so we’ve added another one into the mix later in the year, but that one sold out within just a few hours. Anyway, Sarah spent ages getting the plans together, getting them up onto the website, making sure everything’s tagged, and they are now available, so if anyone .

is interested, he says as a slight cross sell, then please do head to paulwilkinsonphotography. co. uk and look for the workshop section or simply google Paul Wilkinson Photography Workshops and it will land you straight on to the program. Like I said, the first one sold out in just a few hours and spaces are certainly being snapped up.

And do remember that there is a discount if you are a member of the BIP, the MPA, the Societies, the Guild or even just a registered member. of the masteringportraitphotography. com website. It’s just a way of us encouraging you to register so that we can send out emails to you. On that note, or on the note rather of workshops and masterclasses, I am beyond thrilled to say that I’m going to be back, or Sarah and I are going to be back at the Societies Convention in January.

We will be running both a superclass and a masterclass. So the superclass is four hours. Messing around with lighting. Messing around with cameras. Messing around with locations. We’re going to be creating headshots and personal branding.

So headshots, to me… These are my favourite type of portrait. I don’t know why, I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something about the purity of just having someone’s face. In front of the camera, beautifully lit, with expression, with eye contact, with connection, with laughter, with seriousness, with engagement, all of these kinds of words, I absolutely love it.

So the superclass is going to be four hours or so of messing around, creating beautiful headshots. And it’s a hands on superclass. So bring a camera, if you’re going to come into that work, to that superclass rather. Bring a camera and we’re going to be playing around and trying different things. The masterclass, which is the following day, is a couple of hours, so it’s an hour and a half, and it’s called Two Lights, Ten Looks, One Personal Brand.

That’s Two Lights, Ten Looks, One Personal Brand. It came out of an idea that I had. of showing people how to create beautiful lighting with essentially very basic kit. A couple of small lights, a couple of soft boxes, uh, and we will create some magic and show you how to do it in a reliable and repeatable way.

Uh, because, um, We’ve, you know, we’ve learned over the years that it’s all very well, uh, people say to me, you know, it’s fine for you, you’ve got this pro photo kit, you’ve got this lighting, you’ve got the studio. And actually, though that is all absolutely true, I spend a good chunk of my working life out in other people’s offices, out on location, with whatever I can carry on my back.

So, simple lighting, simple setup. But still creating beautiful portraiture. Of course there is a trade off, you know, uh, with the big lights or the, you know, the big, uh, Profoto monoblocks. You get a lot more power, uh, which makes life a little bit easier. But in the end, you can work magic with very… Basic kit.

So that’s what we’re going to be doing, covering basically everything you might need when creating personal brand photography with a couple of lights and a couple of softboxes, modifiers. And if you think the two workshops are a little bit similar ones on headshots and the other sort of swinging around personal branding, it’s because we were honoured.

We actually only applied to do the masterclass, which is the two lights, ten looks, one personal brand. Um, but the societies… Got in touch, and we were honoured to be asked to put on a superclass, uh, all about, uh, headshots. So they actually had a look at some of the workshops we’ve been running over the year, and fancied the idea of me taking a chunk of that, a small chunk of that, uh, over to the convention in January.

So that’s two classes, and both are on my favourite kind of portraiture. The superclass is on the 17th of January 2024, so if you’re listening to this in June 2024. You’ve missed it. Head over to Paul Wilkinson Photography and see if we’re running any courses soon. So the Superclass, 17th of January from 9am to 1pm, uh, it’s in London, while the Masterclass is the following day from 11.

30 to 1pm. So for the Superclass, you better have a decent breakfast, uh, because if… If you know me and if you’ve ever been on one of our workshops, uh, you know, I will already be bouncing off the walls by 9am because I’ll have a camera in my hand, we’ll be talking about photography and I will be having the time of my life.

Uh, anyway, whether or not you do decide to come to one of our classes. It would be truly wonderful to see you at the convention, as sadly, I couldn’t be there last time round, and so I’m beyond excited. I cannot wait to be back in the mix this coming January, for what is, at least in my opinion, not only the coolest event of the year, but by far the best way to start your year.

And although, you know, when you run a small business, you know, there’s not really a sense of a year, but I think as a photographer, As soon as a portrait photographer, there is a sense that as we head towards Christmas, that there’s the closing out of one business year and the opening up of another. And I can, I can honestly say my favorite way of starting a new year is to go to the convention, have a few beers.

Meet some of the nicest people on the planet and do nothing much but laugh, maybe argue a little, but certainly talk shop all about photography and the business of photography. Talking of events, and I have mentioned this already, it is the BIPP, the BIPP award tonight coming up on this Thursday. There has been so much going on recently with judging qualifications and awards and I cannot wait to see everyone.

at the coming awards night. And if you’re curious, and you should be, I will be wearing black tie. Uh, I might see if I can get someone to take a quick picture of us. Uh, Sarah has got a beautiful green dress and as always will look incredible. So I will do my very best, uh, not to, uh, I’ll do my very best to look smart, not to show her up, uh, by being scruffy.

I’m gonna, I will be in black tie, full regalia, looking like a penguin or. Maybe a bouncer , who knows? Uh, but I will be there black tie because I think it’s gonna be a really incredible, uh, evening. Uh, being chair of qualifications and awards for the bips is not only an honor, it is an honor. It’s a lot of work, but it is an honor.

Uh, but it does have, its. Perks. And the biggest, I think, is that I get to talk and listen to the most amazing judges, just as we did a few weeks ago for the BIP qualifications round. So two days at the Flash Centre in Birmingham. Big shout out, by the way, to the guys at the Flash Centre in Birmingham.

Thank you for your hospitality. It was greatly appreciated. I did, of course, spend some money. Couldn’t resist. What do you do when you’re in a shop that sells nothing but lighting kit? Well, you buy some. That’s what you do. But anyway, The qualifications were brilliant, we had the most beautiful images, we had insightful and intelligent judging from the team, the panel of judges that we pulled together.

At this time, as well as in the side, we’re using some quite clever tech, so we’re recording the judges discussions and using some clever transcription tech, because of course we’re surrounded by AI technology just at the moment. So we’re using some of that to describe the discussions and I’m hoping, hoping, if I can figure out how to make it both, both useful and full of details that are, would be valuable, but I still need to be able to anonymize it completely so that although we will have, um, um, Judge’s discussion.

I don’t want there to be any details of who they’re discussing and who the judges are. But I do want to somehow be able to capture all of this really valuable, really rich information from the judges. So we’re working on that behind the scenes and that will hopefully start to appear in the coming 📍 year.

Every year, I say every year, every year, at this time of year, I feel completely overwhelmed when we get towards the end of November. Christmas is looming and I haven’t even thought of an idea for this year’s Christmas card, let alone shot it and finished it.

Maybe I should just stick some… Questions in the chat GPT and see what carnage it sends back to me. It’s going to be something, right? Every year we shoot a new festive card and every year I do it at the last possible second. But the nights are dark, the weather is damp, and we are working flat out to get everything ordered in time for this year’s Christmas deliveries.

And even though it is every year, and even though Actually, technically, I’ve been doing this a long time. It always amazes me how I struggle with never getting anything finished the way I want it. I think it was the very first, was it the very first episode? I think it was the very first episode of the podcast, 139 episodes ago.

I talk about not waiting for things to be perfect before you get on and do something. Sadly, being perfect is not. A luxury you can afford. When I went, when I finished my PhD, which coincidentally is in artificial intelligence, I really should do something with that. Here I am with qualifications in something that is going to profoundly change our industry.

I should probably do something with that. Hmm, who knows? Anyway, my first job interview, I went to what was then a Anderson Consulting. As a new, I was a new graduate, I got a PhD in something pretty techy, um, and I went and had a job interview. And in the job interview they do that thing where they ask you a series of questions and you do that thing where you give them rehearsed answers where they will say things like, what’s your biggest weakness?

And rather than give them an actual weakness, Like, I can’t sing, I can’t dance, wouldn’t make much of a male model. You give them something like, I’m way too, I’m way too focused and passionate about quality. About detail, about making everything perfect. Now, I was young, I was naive, and I gave essentially that answer.

The question came, what are your weaknesses? And amongst them, I threw out there, promptly regretted it, but I threw out there, uh, I like things to be absolutely right, and I will work tirelessly to make, to have, like, that level of quality in everything I do. To which the really nice guy who’s interviewing me put his pen down, and he looked at me, and he said, Who’s paying for that?

And I said, well, I, you know, because of course, up until that point, essentially I’d been in academia, nobody paid for it. My job was just to do things right. He said, who’s going to pay for that? And I kind of flustered a little bit and blustered a little bit. And he said, your client isn’t paying you. for perfection.

Your client is paying for you to deliver the very best that they can afford to give the business benefits they’ve asked for. That’s your job. Yes, quality, quality, quality. At that time the word quality ran through everything in project management. You don’t have the luxury of a limitless time. And it’s amazing, even now, that I get frustrated when I can’t Get images finished to the right level, the website up to the right level, even the podcast.

Even this podcast that I created just for some fun. I get frustrated that I can’t get the quality where I’d love it to be. But the reality is, you can’t. The reality is, in particularly when you run a business, time is not a luxury. Time is what you turn into a profit. And there isn’t the time. I try, I try my best to deliver the very best that I can and I do work long hours and I will work seven days a week.

Um, and I will do everything in my power to make sure that every image that goes out on social media, every image that goes out to a client, every image I produce is as good as I can get it to be. But the reality is it can never be as good as I want it to be because you don’t have that much time. Now a couple of weeks ago, honestly so much has happened since the last episode, but a couple of weeks ago, a friend of ours decided, or he must have decided this further back but I didn’t know about it, decided to record an LP, a proper So Vinyl LP.

I didn’t even know you can get them made in the sum total of one, but he has. He decided to record some covers for his wife. It’s her 50th birthday, he could not work out what to buy her, so he basically, he bought himself some recording kit to record vocals, guitar, keyboards. Um, but on a couple of the tracks, so it’s an EP rather than an LP, it’s an EP.

Um, he needed live drums. Now, he gave me a week’s notice.

Now a long time ago, way back in the day, I was actually a musician’s union, registered, subscribed, paid up member, a professional drummer, session drummer. I used to go out and do shows, play drums all over the place, play drums all around the world. Um, always thought that would be my living, but it turns out that, you know, the careers advice from school suggests otherwise.

And eventually, after much bouncing around, ended up as a techie engineer. And it was only much later, when that was all grounded, I decided I really did want to do something creative. The drumming, by now, or by then, had probably escaped me. So thankfully, I still had my camera and turned this into my living.

But I stepped away from drumming and the last time I actually played a kit was at Sarah and my… Mine and Sarah’s wedding. 20 years. 20. That’s the last time I picked up a pair of sticks. Now you’d think… You’d think that, um, after 20 years of not playing, you know, I’d need a little bit of notice. I’ve got seven days to think about the one track.

And then in the email that confirmed the studio we were going to go in to record this track, um, he mentioned quietly in the text that we’re recording two tracks. It turns out I didn’t know about one of them, so I now had 24 hours to think about the other. Now, I’m very proud to say that the drumming doesn’t sound too bad.

Um, I will post a link. The album has been uploaded onto Spotify. You can listen to the couple of tracks that I do play on. Uh, they are out there. Uh, they don’t sound too crappy. You know, if you’re a purist drummer, I’m sure you’ll hear the bits where my hands are a little bit tighter than they should be.

Because after 20 years, my head in my head. I could hear how I wanted each note to be, how I wanted each part of the shuffle pattern, how I wanted all of it to hang together. But of course, muscle memory is not what it was. Now the idea that it’s like falling off a bike does to an extent hold true, In the same way that I pick up a camera, it’s automatic. And now I surprise myself at how automatic, um, it has been picking up a pair of drumsticks. But you can still hear. Or I think you can still hear. That’s slight. I don’t know what the right word for it is, uh, but there’s a couple of bits where I can hear, uh, just how in my head I can hear what I’m trying to do, but my hands didn’t quite keep up.

On top of that, He suddenly said, oh, and we’re going to need a cover for it, we’re going to need a photograph and some design. Again, almost no notice. This time, I think I had one night, uh, in which to take a photograph of him, uh, and create a cover. Now, admittedly, the cover does look a little like a, uh, maybe, you know, a Peter Gabriel image, or a picture of Steve…

Jobs or Bruce Springsteen, because I really had no time and I went for something that I knew we could get to work without too much trouble. Nice and contrasty monochrome, quite old school and I love it, I have to admit I love it, but original it probably isn’t. Now I can’t say either my playing or my graphic creativity are what I would have loved.

Them to have been with more time, but if you double the time, I doubt I would’ve doubled my satisfaction and I certainly wouldn’t have doubled my client’s satisfaction. The old adage that 80% of the success is created in 20% of the time is probably about right, and that is just as true tonight as I finish working through the last of the images that I’ve gotta sort out.

If I had twice as much time, I just know that I wouldn’t be twice as happy with the end result. Perfection really is something not many people have the luxury they can afford. And certainly in my business, that’s very, very true.

So on that happy note, remember that workshops, if you want to find out about our workshops, just Google Paul Wilkinson Photography Workshops or head over to paulwilkinsonphotography. co. uk and hit the coaching menu item. Alternatively, if you’re just curious about Just tons of information about portrait photography.

Why not head over to Mastering Portrait Photography, where there’s a whole heap of videos, articles, diagrams, ideas, and of course, it is the spiritual home of this very podcast. Finally, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who emails us, and in particular this time around, I wanted to thank Craig. If you’re listening Craig, I just genuinely wanted to say thanks for emailing in and describing how You are now working back through all of the episodes for the second time, I think the email says, starting again at 1 and working way up to 139, uh, well now 140.

It was a lovely email and it was that email that gave me the kick, uh, because I have been slacking. I know the podcast. Has not been out for a while. We’ve been incredibly busy. There’s just a lot going on and something had to give and for a while it was the podcast because the podcast relies on me sitting for an hour or two on my own with a pair of headphones and a microphone piecing together my thoughts and putting it into hopefully some kind of coherent sort of I guess, um, and finding the headspace and the physical time to do that has just been a little bit of a challenge.

But here I am, I have a microphone, I have headphones and with a little bit of luck, this podcast has been at least Intelligible, if not coherent. So thank you, Craig, for giving me the kick. As ever, if like Craig did, you want to get in touch, you can email me at paul at paul wilkinson photography. 📍 co. uk.

That’s paul at paul wilkinson photography. co. uk. And of course, whatever else you do while you’re chasing that elusive perfection. Remember this, be kind to yourself, take care.

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