The Old Bexley Soap & Candle Company - Client Case Study
The Old Bexley Soap and Candle Company have been a long-term regular client for several years. From the early days of moving from a hobbyist to an award-winning and thriving business with a worldwide audience.
I finally caught up with the founder, Paula, to ask about the importance of good commercial product photography and brand photography. And how this has impacted the growth of her business.
Meet Paula - Business Founder - Old Bexley Soap & Candle Co.
I’m Paula, founder of the Old Bexley Soap & Candle Company. Until recently, I was purely a product-based company. However, I’ve also moved into teaching the running of a soap and candle-making business. So I offer both products and services.
Why did you need photography & video for your business?
I started making soap as a hobby selling a few soaps and candles in local markets, but I wanted to jump from being a hobby to growing a business. I needed to increase the awareness of my brand into something that would be taken more seriously and reflect the quality and direction I wanted to take my business.
Without professional images, I don’t think I could have achieved this, and it’s why I contacted you. To help me shift from a product hobby towards a legitimate service-based business.
Why contact a photographer rather than do it yourself?
Even with the best cameras or mobile phones, I’d never get the quality of a professional photograph. I wanted all my products to have clean, crisp images and are timeless. Yes. As a small business, it was an investment, but it has completely paid off.
I thought, why didn’t I do this earlier?!
The photography ended up not being an expense as such. It has paid for itself again and again and again. The photographs completely transformed my website, my business and who I was. Without a doubt, it had a positive impact on my business.
How are you using the images?
I have so many images I can use on the Old Bexley Soap & candle Co. website and my social media accounts. I use them daily.
I like to be consistent with the brand, but I also combine your photographs with the ones I’m taking during the courses. So it has the best of both professional brand and authentic behind the scenes.
I use one of your images as a stock background. It’s become my template for a lot of my social media posts. It’s brilliant because I recycle everything. So whenever I post a quote, I can use my template to keep my brand consistent.
It is not about taking one image. Using it once, then it’s done. You can reuse the images for different purposes. Paula is an excellent example of using & repurposing her images properly in marketing and getting the most return on investment.
What’s the Impact of Professional Photography on your business?
I started selling my products more. Then when I shifted to the teaching side of my business. I needed photographs to show what I did and translate them into new course bookings. So I contacted you again.
You attended 2 of my full-day courses documenting the teaching environment and lessons. Nothing was staged. It was a real class with proper students – All those smiles were genuine – Perfect for marketing to new students who could see what to expect. I don’t think there’s anything, that can compare to a photograph showing a precious moment. It’s not fake.
It was hugely successful with some of the images being used recently in the national press. It’s absolutely amazing!
If you try to contact an editor to be featured in a magazine, They’re not going to accept anything but high-quality and high-resolution photographs. The door was open because I had your photographs. If I didn’t have them, the door would be closed and I wouldn’t have lost that opportunity for success.
I also had the chance to work at the Ideal Home Show to run a workshop for them. It was probably my biggest achievement, this year. Unfortunately, I didn’t have photographs done then. I wish I could have invited you, maybe next year!
If I thought back four years and how much I’ve developed in the last four years, from being someone local and unknown, a craft lady selling soaps in the market to where I am now.
Nationally recognised and have students from all over the world.
What do you see as important to you in the future with your brand image?
To avoid being stagnant, I’m always looking to evolve my business and adapt my marketing. From selling soap at the market to offering private courses, to having my teaching studio built. As my services developed, I needed more visual content to support growth and direction.
With my private studio, I need photographs and videos to reflect how personal and relaxed the environment is. And eventually, I’d like to introduce online courses, so I’ll need help creating videos.
You know, it is a journey we started a few years ago and having you support me has been part of that.
What advice would you give any business worried about investing in professional images?
Well, I would tell them to do it!
I talk about this in my business courses. I give them not only technical knowledge of making soaps and candles but also provide business advice.
I tell them, don’t do like I did when first starting! Learn from my mistakes, and take advantage of my experience; you should Invest in professional photography as soon as you can. Then you’re good to go.
Don’t wait until you’ve saved the money or already doing well because I would have grown so much faster if I’d done it earlier. I started in 2014 and could have achieved everything a lot sooner, but I was tight!
Professional photography will pay for itself. If you don’t invest and you don’t take income, then you are going backwards., I’m not saying you’re going to invest a ton of money. Photography isn’t as expensive as some people think.
You also don’t have to do everything at once. Go step by step. I had my products photographed first. Following up with personal branding later as I developed the website.
Without effort, there is no growth and no exponential growth without investment.
What are your thoughts on DIY Photography?
Professional photographs are essential for my website presence. But mixing them with my photos on social media can bring out a little of my personality too.
Being a self-employed person running a small business, it’s still important to have professional images but sometimes you need something else.
I wish I could afford you every day, or even weekly sessions but I can’t, so I do mix your professional photographs with mine.
I try to have good lighting and follow some simple steps, to guarantee a minimum quality. I wouldn’t put anything not good enough or fits my brand though. But I think it shows I’m a human being, running a small business and trying to be one hundred per cent authentic.
What about using Stock images?
No. I avoid it at all costs!
Why is it important to have a consistent brand?
It’s vital because when you’re selling a product or a service, you’re selling a story. The story has to be consistent in all your media. The messages you are trying to tell your customer has to be reflected and relatable to them.
If you have one style, then don’t change the style. If you want to go high-end, then cheap-looking images aren’t going to work. Consistency of your images is important and it’s a key element to being a consistent brand.
In my case, I want the Old Bexley Soap & Candle Company to be known as a smart classy brand. So the images have to reflect that and the look has to continue throughout all my marketing.
What type of business would you recommend professional photography & video for?
Big companies already use professionals for good reasons. I think small and medium businesses that want to take a step up need to do the same.
If you have a business in a crowded market, you’re going to need to be well-equipped and stand out from the rest.
We are about to start some difficult times in business. You need to be different. One of the things to help is having professional photography and videos. Because it’s how you can take the lead and not everyone is going to be able to be at the top or survive. You need to do what it takes. So now it’s even more important to get ahead.
The people who are now busy were the ones who kept marketing and kept putting images out during the lockdown. They’re the ones who stand out now because they were consistent through it.
So for someone who is starting. It’s essential for someone who needs to step up and survive a competitive market.
Final thoughts - Anything else you would like to say?
Make a plan. Decide what’s essential to your business and important to you. Is it personal branding or your products? Prioritise the one you’re going to invest in first and then, in a few months, do another session rather than saying, I can’t afford it all now.
To feel comfortable is very important. So finding a photographer who understands your business and takes an interest in your brand is essential. With you, I didn’t feel like I was just another client. You wanted me to succeed and you continue to interact on social media, sharing and supporting my success too.
How could I not recommend professional photography when it makes my business rocket!? I certainly wouldn’t have been published in the national press without it!
Investing in product and branding photography is the best thing I have ever done for my business and having Graham as a commercial photographer my best choice. I now feel confident that the photographs on my website match the quality of my products and the positive impact it will have in growing my business. Thank you!
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