Guest Interview with Gillian Devine

Dec 15, 2023 | Coach Guest

“Show Notes”

Gillian Devine is a photographer of 18 years. Gillian started with weddings and babies, but is now a brand photographer, business coach and marketing mentor to other photographers. Gillian says she is where she is today as married the wrong man. She started in corporate marketing and then married a man called Phil Devine. His dad Vincent Devine was a professional photographer with 40 years experience. Gillian started to go to weddings with him. Vincent eventually mentored Gillian and helped her become a photographer. She then took over the family business. Sadly Vincent has passed away and Gillian is now longer married to Phil, but the photography continues.

Gillian went through a dark time during her divorce. Her business and confidence took a big knock and she was left in a lot of debt. But she then built the business and her life back up. Working hard to get where she is today. She now helps other photographers grow their business. Sam and Gillian discuss how important being able to run a business is, and without these business and marketing skills it is hard to have a successful business. Marcus and Gillian think that back in the 90s or 2000s there were less photographers and less competition. So much less marketing was needed. A few local ads used to be enough back then. But Gillian says there is still plenty of work out there, but you need to market yourself well and get the work that is out there. Sam asks what a photographer should do who is struggling to get work. Gillian says it’s all down to your visibility, messaging and experience. Marketing is about building new connections and relationships. It’s a bit like the dating scene you have to meet a lot of people, getting visible, and then start conversations. You need to know who your ideal client is. And then you need to know where your clients hang out. As an example Gillian collaborated with a pregnancy yoga class when she was doing new born photography. Sam and Gillian discuss that first conversation and what it could be about. Gillian says advice and a free download is really great at this point. For example Gillian’s first lead magnet was a guide to what to pack into their bag for going to hospital. Nothing to do with photography. And the initial conversation is all about them. Ask lots of questions and get to know them. Gillian explains that the technical side of lead magnets does put people off. Email marketing apps are vital though, these must be used for email marketing and lead magnets.

Gillian and Marcus discuss brand photography. Gillian says that she loves it as it combines all of the elements of other areas of photography that she loves. For example the story of a wedding. Brand photography also ticks boxes to make Gillian’s life how she wants it. She has her weekends free, unlike being a wedding photographer.

Marcus asks what makes a good branding photograph. Gillian says it’s full of vibe and personality. It has to tell a story of who that person is. So the photos need to reflect the person who is being photographed. Gillian says it is also a suit of images that include storytelling elements. It isn’t just a portrait. Gillian now lives in Spain. When she first though about moving in Spain she started marketing to people in Spain right away. And so when she arrived she already had quite a number of English speaking clients in Spain. For any photographer moving it’s important to plan ahead and start marketing into your new area. Gillian and Marcus agree that branding photography is very new and has really only established itself in the Uk in the last couple of years. Gillian is excited about the future for brand photography with 5.5 million businesses in the UK and they all need brand photography. You can get in touch with Gillan, she holds regular free marketing workshops and masterclasses which you can access below.


“Show Transcription”

Marcus: Well, hello, listeners, this is Marcus, and you’re listening to shoot to the top. Sam, how are you doing?

Sam: Very good, Marcus, very good. Starting to slightly wind down as it gets towards Christmas or sometimes I think wind up if you’re trying to get everything done, but yes, very good. And yes, we’ve got an exciting guest today, don’t we, Marcus?

Marcus:  Oh, we certainly do, yeah. Tell the listeners all about it, Sam.

Sam: Well, I think our guest today is Gillian Divine, and I think the best person to tell us about Gillian is Gillian. So welcome to the show, Gillian.

Gillian: I’m so honored to be called exciting. I will try my best to live up to that. Thank you so much for having me here, Sam and Marcus. I really appreciate it. I’m just thrilled to be chatting to you guys and thrilled to be in the company of lots of other amazing photographers. My name is Gillian Devine. I’m a photographer of 18 years. Can’t believe where that time’s gone. I’ve worked in most of the different genres. Started in weddings, babies, families, newborns. I’m now a specialist brand photographer. But what also lights up my world is I am a business coach and marketing mentor to other photographers. I love, love, love helping other photographers feel like rich Togs tog, short for photographer and rich in terms of happiness, life, confidence, motivation in your business, as well as richness in terms of business finance and the molaah that we want to make with our craft.

Sam: Cool. That sounds really exciting. So huge amount of history there. Do you want to take us right back to the beginning and let us know how you started?

Gillian: Absolutely. I am here because I married the wrong man. So the story behind that, I was in marketing, working for big corporate companies like Focus, DIY, Jacob’s bakery. I ate my body weight in club chocolate biscuits. And then I married a guy called Phil Divine. And his dad, Vincent Devine, was the photographer. He was a professional photographer, had been for 40 old years. He was amazing. So I started going on the weddings with him at the weekend, fulfilling  the veils, carrying his kit. I’d help him in portraiture sessions. It was amazing. And I just fell in love with photography. So through Vincent, I became a photographer. He trained me. I followed in his footsteps. I ended up taking over the business. So it was actually called Vincent Divine photography at first. And then within the first year, people kept asking for Vincent, and he’d said, Gill, I think you need to change the name. Always, you know. I’m so, so grateful that I met Vincent. He was absolutely amazing. He’s sadly passed now and my marriage was over. I’m now married to the amazing Mr. Thomas. But I always joke and say, I am here because I married the wrong man. Because had I not married my first husband, I wouldn’t have met Vincent and I wouldn’t be here as working photographer and helping other photographers.

Sam:  So that’s quite different. A lot of photographers tell us about; they loved it when they were a kid. This is totally different. You could no interest at all and then just happened to stumble across this man and there it was.

Gillian: Absolutely. I’ve always loved helping people. I’ve loved always being in people’s company. And then I think I moved into marketing. I fell into marketing, to be honest, in my corporate, I did a degree in geography, and I was going to be a town planner. There was no town planning job, so I fell into marketing and then obviously met Vincent and fell in love with the photography then. Absolutely loved it. Loved the weddings, loved working with people, and loved the portraiture, working with families, creating memories. So it was only then that my love of photography began. And obviously, unfortunately, when I went through a very nasty divorce, I was on the way to building my business. But then, like a lot of us photographers, we do go through dark times. We’d go through the ups and downs of running businesses and it was at that point I went through what I call my dark time. I went through a very nasty split. I was left in a lot of debt. My confidence took a knock, so then my business took a knock and it was from that moment onwards that I began to build my business back up. I really fell back in love with marketing and business and grasped how important it is to marry the two. My love and skill in photography, but also my love and skill in the business side, the strategy, the marketing side. And I built back up and built back up and to where I am today. And now I’m obviously helping other photographers do the same.

Sam:  Wow, that’s amazing, because I think so many people at the starting photography, they’re doing the checklist, aren’t they? I’ve got the camera, I’ve got the lenses, I’ve got not the film anymore, but you know what I mean. I’ve got the Photoshop and they’re not going, I’ve got a business plan, I’ve got a marketing plan. I know where I want the business to go.

Gillian:  Exactly. So true. And so many of us do that. We concentrate on learning our craft, bettering our photography skills, getting all the kit, and we neglect the marketing side. And it’s as so important to have that business plan, to have that marketing plan to know who do you want to serve, how do you want to talk to them, how do you want to market to them and really create a successful, profitable business as well as being an amazing photographer. Because there’s so many amazing photographers that work their absolute bottoms off for their craft, but they’re putting so many hours into it and they’re skint at the end of the month. And that breaks my heart.

Marcus: Yeah. Do you think that’s changed, Jillian? Do you think looking back over your career that maybe early on, when I remember in the late 90s, early two thousand s, marketing didn’t seem to be so important? Is that a fair view?

Gillian:  Yes, absolutely. I think when I remember going on board with Vincent; he didn’t really have that much competition. There weren’t a lot of other people to stand out from. It’s a busier market now. It’s a much more saturated market. So the marketing methods, if you can call them that, that Vincent utilized, which was a lot of the time just an ad in a local magazine and word of mouth. Now we have to market a lot smarter to stand out because it is busier. There are a lot of us out there, us photographers. That’s not to say there isn’t enough work out there. There absolutely is enough work out there for everyone. We shouldn’t enter into a scarcity mindset because we’re all and we can market to others and our strength and our individual. Too muchness, I call it. You should show your too muchness, your uniqueness, your amazing sparkle and magic. So it’s definitely harder to market, but you can market correctly and successfully. You just have to market smarter.

Marcus:  Okay. Now, obviously you’ve become incredibly successful and have helped out so many photographers, Gillian, in the branding means, and you’ve run awards for it. What was the award that you won last year? Prompt, prompt.

Gillian: It was wonderful. So I work with the societies of photographers. I absolutely love the association. They do so much for the photography industry. And I won photography professional trainer of the year. And then I won an award for recognition of my services to photographers because I love helping other photographers. Having gone through what I call my dark times, feeling overwhelmed, feeling the struggle, feeling like, okay, I know my photography, I know I can create a good saleable image, but I’m struggling to get clients. How do I get clients? How do I get out there how do I make money from my craft? Having gone through that and mastered it I now love helping other photographers master it and feel in control and unstoppable in their business. So yeah it was wonderful to be recognized by the societies but I’m doing what I love. I absolutely adore helping other photographers.

Sam:  Cool. So sort of based on what you’re doing then. So if somebody is in that place and they’re going I think I’m really good at photography but there’s not much work coming in. I’m not getting much from it. What’s kind of a good place to stop then? What’s kind of an initial, right? Think about this.

Gillian:  For me it all breaks down to your visibility, your messaging and your experience. I mean marketing at its essence is just building new connections and new relationships. I call one of the marketing methods. I talk about the wink and woo method because you’re going into the dating scene, you start getting to know someone, you’re up for dating someone new, and you want to wink at them and woo at them and flirt a little bit and start that relationship. And marketing is just the same. It’s getting yourself in front of the right people. So that’s your visibility piece. And then starting a connection, starting those conversations, talking to the right people about how you can help. I love brand photography. As you said, Marcus, it’s absolutely in my heart, having worked in all the different genres, I now absolutely love brand photography, but I help photographers in all the different genres. Whether you’re a wedding photographer or a baby photographer, a family photographer, thinking about who is your person that you want to serve, who is your ideal client and where do they hang out, where can you be to get in front of them. So as a newborn photographer, for instance, starting those new connections, those new relationships, I went and formed collaboration with a pregnancy yoga lady. So I was then utilizing her audience and getting myself in front of those people, introducing myself and generating new clients that way. Going to my local scan clinic, forming a relationship with them, or even just going into Facebook groups where new mums are hanging out or pregnant ladies are hanging out. Getting yourself visible to the people who are your ideal client is your first step. So just brainstorming a list of where are my ideal clients hanging out and how can I get in those spaces and just start conversations.

Sam:  Cool. And then if you’re starting conversations, I’m thinking if I start a conversation, in some ways people have a website already and I can start to give them advice about their website. That’s a little bit hard as a photographer because you can’t almost give them advice on photographs they’ve had. You know what I mean? How do you sort of have that soft entry without going, would you like a photograph now?

Gillian:  Absolutely. For me, this is where your lead magnet comes in. I love giving and that’s what I advise the photographers I work with to do. Let’s give, let’s give value, and let’s show support and love for our potential clients. So as a newborn photographer, my lead Magnet was a guide on how to pack your hospital bag. So spaces with pregnant women, introduce myself, ask about them, when’s your baby due? How exciting, or how are you feeling about it? And then I’ve got a great free guide that you might find really valuable. All about how to pack and what to put in your hospital bag. Would you like a copy? Oh, yes, please, Gill. That’d be great. And then I’d give them the link to sign up and they’d give me their name and email. They get their guys and then they’re in my world. Well, you notice that the first part of that conversation is asking about that person, when’s the baby due? Is it your first? How are you feeling about it? As I said, marketing is conversations and new relationships. I was winking and wooing and making that relationship.

Sam:  Yeah. And it’s really interesting that then the lead magnet you’ve chosen is actually nothing to do with your field of expertise, which it doesn’t have to be, does it? It’s just like what is going to be interesting and engaging and useful for these people? That’s got my branding all over it.

Gillian: Exactly. Useful, appealing, entertaining, valuable. As a family photographer, you could put together a lead magnet of your top five recommends for family days out in your local area. As a brand photographer my lead magnet is my five top tips for visibility for your business, which leads that business to thinking about their own brand visibility. And then obviously in that guide it’s educating them about the value of brand photography services. So yeah, I think having a lead magnet is really important thing to do and really valuable as a business. The tech of a lead magnet sometimes puts a lot of photographers on, but in my trainings and my programs I go through because I am not a techie person and there’s always easy ways to do things. There is. There’s always easier.

Sam: And I think it’s important people do, do it properly and use an emailing app because otherwise you can get in all sorts of trouble if you’re trying to do it manually. And BCC 100 people in. Yeah, that’s it. I can jillian space, which people can’t see. It’s a picture when I’m saying that. And people do not put 100 people BCC into email in outlook, use an email marketing app. There are loads of them. Maybe, Marcus, we should do a show on them. But yes, Steve, if it’s confusing, asks someone to help you, but don’t just botch it.

Gillian:  Yes, no, absolutely. Automate it all the way using a specific app that is designed, a specific piece of software that’s designed to do that job. Yeah, that’s it.

Marcus: Now I’m going to have to jump in here. I’m going to have to jump in here because look, you two guys just going to be talking about marketing, marketing the whole show. Now look, I want to talk about, even though I love me marketing. I love me photography more. So like you said, children, I do branding photography. My background is I was a fashion photographer and then I was a senior lecturer in fashion photographer for many years. And I got into branding because I found it was very aligned to the kind of work I was doing before in that it’s very similar, I think, branding photography to a fashion suit. You’re there to make people look good, or you’re there to sell a product or service and make that look good as well. Now, you mentioned that you’ve developed a love for branding photography. What is it that you love about it, Gillian?

Gillian: Because it seems to have combined all the different elements from the other genres that I absolutely love. For instance, as a wedding photographer, when I loved my weddings, I love the storytelling elements of the weddings. And that is absolutely present in brand photography in my families. It was capturing moments, capturing natural moments, documenting moments. And when I’m working with my brand photography clients as well, as obviously, as you said, Marcus, we are helping them promote themselves, be visible, sell their service, sell their product. We’re also telling their story and we’re also capturing moments in their journey themselves, showcasing their journey, showcasing their client’s journey. Capturing moments that showcase them and their brand and their vibe and their energy and their too muchness. So I love that it brings all those elements together. But I also love the fact that from a business owner’s view, from a photographer’s point of view, brand photography has ticked so many boxes that make my life as a business owner much more joyful. So I’m not out on my weekends anymore as I did with my weddings and my families. Know, as a wedding photographer, you miss on so many weekends; you’re missing out on the summer barbecues that people suddenly held a summer barbecue. You can’t go because you’re at a wedding. So my brand photography business is for me, it’s a three hour shoot. It’s midweek. So I’ve grabbed my weekends back to myself. It’s a light edit in my business, so I’m not editing late into the night. It’s highly profitable as a genre because it’s in the main digital delivery. So I’m not paying for books and albums and wall art. So it ticks all my creative boxes because of the storytelling element, the deal with people. But it also ticks my business boxes for having created this business that it’s given me better work life balance. It’s much more profitable and it’s joyful. I love helping other businesses.

Marcus:  Yeah, I hear you, Gillian. I mean, I agree with you. I think it is a very creative get. You’re right there. From the beginning, you come up with the location sometimes, you come up with the styling of the suit, and you come up with the brand sometimes. And that’s so much more than you might do in a wedding as a document. That’s what I love about branding. You’re right. It’s creative. Now, with that in mind, what makes a good branding photograph?

Gillian: It’s packed full of vibe and personality for me, because every single business owner is different. I work with two different accountants. They’re my regular brand clients, but they couldn’t be more different if you tried. And it’s capturing not only their product or service in an image, but it’s capturing their vibe, their personality. An image has to tell a story of who that person is, because people buy from people. They’re not just buying accountancy services, they’re buying into that person. So when I’m taking images of Hazel, they have to be full of fiery vibes. She’s a very fiery, feisty woman. She says it how it is. And business owners that work with her absolutely love that. When I’m working with my other accountant client, he’s much more introverted, quieter, calmer. Has to project that in his images, because there’s also going to be clients out there that wouldn’t want Hazel, but they’d want him. So it’s for me, a good brand image has to be packed full of that individual’s vibe, their too muchness, their energy, their personality.

Marcus:  But what separates that from a portrait into a brand photograph? Because I do see a lot of brand photography into my mind. Looks more like portraiture than brand photography. So what separates the two?

Gillian: For me, brand photography is not just images of the person, which obviously is important, but it’s a suite of images that tell a full story about that business, about that brand. So it’s not just the personal images, obviously are super important for that person’s personal brand, but it’s the storytelling images, the details, the scenes, the other people involved. So, for instance, when I create a suite of images for my clients, I talk to them about their clients. Can they bring some of their clients into the shoot or we get pretend clients in because we want to tell the story of how they deal with their clients and also what they do in their personal life. As we said, people buy from people. So it’s not just that person as an accountant, as a florist, as a yoga instructor, it’s that person in their personal space, their personal life, their loves, their passions, their dreams, as well as the scenes and the details and the storytelling images. It’s almost a suite of images, isn’t it? That tells the full brand.

Sam: Cool. Amazing. And then I’m slightly confused now because you’re talking about doing these photoshoots, but you’re over in Spain, aren’t you? So are you hopping back and forth or your clients Spanish?

Gillian: How does this actually, when I first started looking at moving over to Spain, I started marketing over here straight away to English speaking business owners. So I built up a great, beautiful bank of amazing clients who were already using me before I actually moved over here. So I was flying over the two account clients are great examples of that. I do still have UK based clients, so I will fly to, obviously look after them. So I’ve got a great balance, actually, of my clients out here in the english speaking community. I haven’t mastered Spanish. I’m embarrassed to say. I haven’t cracked any spanish business owners that don’t speak English. But most of my clients are all, they’re english speaking. I have spanish clients, but they’re based.

Sam:  That’s interesting because I spoke to a lot of photographers actually on LinkedIn and stuff who’ve moved, and that’s not solely abroad, maybe know their wife’s job, whatever, and they’ve know somebody, I think the other dad being to have gone from Bristol up to Newcastle. And that’s things photographers struggle with. Know I can lift and move my business and I still talk to everyone zoom. I don’t need to physically meet them, but for a photographer, you’ve got to have those people near you don’t. You’ve got to plan so carefully for that move.

Gillian: It’s just in the planning, though, it’s not impossible. And I wouldn’t say it’s even difficult. It’s just obviously a job you’ve got to do. If you are looking at geographically moving and you want to look at, particularly if you’re a wedding photographer, a family photographer, you want to serve the local area. It’s just about forward planning. As I said, get into the spaces where geographically your local clients are and start those conversations in advance, plan in advance. Like over here, I just got into the local business owner Facebook groups before I even moved.

Sam:  I think that’s the big key, isn’t it? In advance, don’t move and then go, well, I haven’t got any clients.

Gillian: Yeah, exactly. There’s so many things you can do. Join networking groups, join local Facebook groups, go and join local community groups. All in advance of you actually move into that area, even if it’s just a couple of months in advance, it’ll give you a leg up when it comes to getting those clients in those areas.

Marcus:  Can I talk to you a little bit more about branding photography and the history and where it’s moving into the future? Branding photography, I mean, I came across it maybe not long ago, about five years ago, and I think it was. I remember it was a lady in America who was doing head. She had brightly colored hair.

Gillian:  I remember her.

Marcus:  I can’t remember her name, actually. I can’t remember her name, but I remember she was really one of the first people who were using that term branding photography. And then it came over to the UK the last two or three years, it seems to be.

Gillian:  Absolutely. That’s my experience as well. It’s definitely grown in the last two, three years and I think that’s exciting for our industry, our photography industry. It’s another genre that we can move into and use our skills in.

Marcus:  But I think there’s still a misunderstanding exactly what branding photography is. I feel people get the headshot, when does that become a brand? What is a logo? All these. I mean, look, we’re running out of time for the show. This may be open for another discussion, but where do you see the future of branded photography going yourself?

Gillian:  I think it’s a really exciting future; I must be honest, because if you think about it, 5.5 million businesses in the UK, there were 835,000 new businesses formed in the year 2021. And that was in a year of crisis. Every single business out there needs to market itself, and to market itself, they need visual content, which is where our photography skills come in. So I think it’s a really exciting genre to be in. It’s a necessity for businesses. It’s not a luxury purchase like a family shoot or a baby shoot. So I actually think it’s a really exciting time for brand photography. And in the era of content creators and everyone understanding, they have to be visible online. They have to have content to put out there. There’s so much need for our services. So I’m super excited about the future for brand photography and I’m loving being a part of the education as well because I completely agree. A lot of people are still a bit confused about what exactly is a brand. What exactly is brand photography? And I love doing educational videos and lives and talking to the photography community as well as the business community about the importance of brand, what exactly brand photography is and how it can help business owners grow.

Marcus: How many people have you had? Oh, sorry. So just one question for me if I may. I was going to ask, Jillian, how many people have been for your academy?

Gillian: 468.

Marcus:  Wow. Whoa. There’s a figure for you. 408 people. Well done. Very good.

Sam:  Very impressive. So thank you so much, Julian. We will put in the show notes, all contact details so people can get hold of you. Do you want to mention now a couple of things just so people can get in touch?

Gillian: Absolutely. I love giving free stuff to photographers to help them. So I hold regular free marketing workshops online and marketing master classes. The link is really simple. It’s masterclass. So you can grab access to that because I’m all about helping photographers be rich tugs.

Sam:  Amazing. Thanks so much. As I say, all the links will go in the show notes. There will also be from Gillian as usual on the show, a little extra for newsletter listeners. So if you are a newsletter listener, this will be delivered to your inbox very shortly. And if not, you can go to the website, shoot to the top and you can sign up and then it arrives with you too. Thank you so much, Gillian. It’s been amazing to have you on the really, really interesting.

Gillian: Thank you so, so much for having me here, guys. Great to spend some time in your company.

Marcus: Thank you, Gillian. Thank you for me as well. I really enjoyed having a chat.

Sam:  Thank you. And then Marcus, I will see you next week for our very final show before Christmas.

Marcus: That’s correct. Take care. Bye humbug.