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In this interview, we are joined by John Wilmans – Architectural and Hospitality Photographer at John Wilmans Photography, located in Bedford, UK. With a background as a full-time firefighter, John knows that commercial photography is all about making the businesses the best ROI.

Tallbox Ask is produced by www.tallboxdesign.com / email: george@tallbox.co.uk

 

Who are John Wilmans Photography and John Wilmans?

John William Photography

I am John Wilmans. I have been taking photographs since I was 15 years old and commercially for the past 5 years. I am currently located in Bedford in the UK and carry out work across the UK and Europe.

I am an Architectural and Hospitality Photographer and Film maker. I work mostly with hotels, spa’s restaurants, resorts, architects, and interior designers, and my work focuses on the built environment, food, and travel.

How did I decide to become a full-time real estate photographer?

I have been a full-time firefighter for over 10 years now, and as we work shifts, I decided to try and turn my hand to a second job as a real estate photographer.

I worked with an agency and ended up photographing 7-10 houses per day, including creating floorplans for £30 a house. This ended up being incredibly draining, but I learnt A LOT doing this for 3 years.

 

Why hospitality and not residential photography?

I love commercial spaces. A lot of the architecture is so cutting edge and beautiful nowadays that it is just a pleasure photographing them.

I do still really enjoy large residential shoots, but commercial gives me so much more pleasant. I also enjoy the pressure of creating beautiful images and videos for commercial use.

Are you a fan of drone real estate photography?

Mostly yes. I do feel it is overdone to a degree nowadays. Every set of images or video needs to tell a story. And if a drone shot adds to the story, then definitely include it.

All too often, people shove in a drone shot just because they can, and it adds nothing to the set. If the environment is right, then a drone shot can definitely add a lot of value to the shoot.

How did you get good at photography?

Practice, practice, practice and a lot of studying. I follow a number of phenomenal architectural photographers and constantly break down their work. (Where did they put the light, what focal length have they used, why did they choose that angle?). I also get hard, critical feedback from mentors and clients.

Tell us about your most recent encounter with obstacles at work.

Photography wise, most obstacles I encounter, I have already learnt how to overcome, just by doing this for so long. A recently had a hotel shoot in Nice, Barcelona and Malaga.

The largest issue with doing this was travelling to those countries and back during COVID restrictions. But as I tend to ask for a few months notice prior to these large international jobs, I have a lot of time to research and plan everything. Planning is everything.

What milestones have you set for John Wilmans Photography in the next 12 months?

To build the video arm of my business. I am in the process of investing a lot of money in my new equipment to carry me through the next 3 years of work, and video is an area I am investing in hugely.

I am also looking to expand my hospitality arm of the business to include Cruise liners and luxury yachts as well as 5 star, luxury, boutique hotels and resorts.

 

Describe your photography style. What do you love doing and what not?

My style is definitely high end. I take a lot of time in staging and lighting my projects. So you will notice perfectly exposed windows if there is a view outside, a lot of light painting, and using the existing light design incorporated in my images.

Video wise, I love the handheld look and good storytelling over fancy effects. I love photographing and creating videos of beautiful architecture in stunning locations. I am not so good with portraits and headshots.

How to recognise John Wilmans Photography signature?

My customer approach is informal but professional. I ALWAYS aim to overdeliver on my projects. I tend to shoot tighter than most photographers (with a 24 or larger lens).

And take 2 pictures to tell the story rather than one ultra-wide. I HATE distortion. I like strong lines and letting the eye have space to move around the image.

Whose work has influenced you the most?

Mike Kelly (www.mpkelley.com)

On what projects do you work on at the moment?

I am in the middle of a project where I spent 5 days filming an electric car rally around Scotland. Creating video and stills for one of the car teams.

This fits in with my travel video part of the business. I have 3 shoots coming up before Christmas: 1 is an old client where I photograph beautiful furniture in stunning settings, and 2 hotel and travel shoots. 1 in Oxford and 1 in Paris.

How did you find your first client?

I did a free shoot for a luxury hotel in my area and posted the images on LinkedIn and Instagram. I got my first paid shoot via that.

What is the most significant photoshoot you have worked on?

Personally, for a hotel chain where I have now photographed 16 of their venues across the UK and Europe as well as creating a number of separate videos for them.
Professionally and morally, this rally across Scotland highlighting that Electric vehicle technology is green and can be used comfortably by everyone now!

How do you organise your time around photoshoots and personal life? Any tips?

This is a tough one. I have phases where I am so busy I hardly see my family. For example, I have spent a month away from home since the end of August on shoots. And when I get back it’s a lot of editing time. I make sure my shoots are paid well enough so I am able to have downtime in the year. A normal year is 10 months for me, with 2 months where I pack away my equipment and work on my business and family.

This may be a week here and a week there, but I ensure I have downtime. It is essential. I know exactly how much I have to earn in a year and how many days on set I need to accomplish that.

I then try as much as I can to space them evenly across the year. Luckily some clients are happy to wait a few months for me to shoot their spaces.

What are your top 3 real estate photography tips for architects?

  1. Quality is NOT cheap.

    The positive impact that good quality photography has will be way more than what you spend.

    My average ROI for hotels is a 3% increase in bookings year on year. That adds up to £750 000 increase in bookings for a hotel of £25 million turnover a year.

    That more than offsets the cost of good, well thought out and planned photography.

  2. Know and tell your photographer what angles, materials and views are important to you! You know your project better than any photographer, tell them why!

  3. Don’t always shoot WIDE!!! It looks way better to zoom in and take more images.

  4. Keep your verticals…vertical.

  5. Try and tell a story with your images, rather than just have them documenting the space.

That’s 5 tips…

If you were to advise your younger self, what would it be?

Do this way earlier than I have. I have lost at least 10 years of this career through fear. Fear of not making it, fear that others are better and I won’t survive. Just do it!!

Final words

A picture is worth thousand words. A video, 10 times that. But pictures and video, coupled with a solid understanding of WHAT and WHY you are creating those increases the value a hundred times!

            Don’t be the architect or hotel that just says to a photographer: “Just take a bunch of pictures”. They won’t be worth the money you spend on them. Rather, sit down and decide why you want those images, where you want to use them, who you are trying to sell to and who your ideal client is. By finding all of this out and then deciding on WHY and HOW you want those images, you turn the cost of hiring a photographer into someone creating assets that help you make money.

            Commercial photography is all about making you money, marketing your product. So take the time to create assets worthy of your product.

As someone who has spent a lot of time in various marketing positions from web designer to SEO and PPC consultant (I am Google Adwords and Facebook Blueprint qualified) and email marketing (I am a qualified email marketer and have even specialised in Hotel email marketing).

I know how important knowing WHY you need those visual assets is.

I sit down with your marketing team and come up with a 3-year visual asset plan that integrates with your website, social, email and offline marketing needs.

So create more than simply “pretty pictures” create assets that help you get more “bums on seats”, “heads in beds” and people asking you for your expertise.

You can contact me at john@johnwilmans.com or via www.johnwilmans.com on one of the forms on my site.

Feel free to get in touch with any questions you may have, even if you just need advice.

George Nicola

VIRTUAL STAGING EXPERT / After eight years+ working in high-end design and property business I realised that we are missing a critical part of the property business. We were not providing enough value to these old and empty properties. Not every buyer would have the opportunity to see the potential of vacant property or in a bad state. The idea of Virtual Furniture Staging the property gives the buyer and seller an incredible chance in seconds of taking the critical decision.
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