Building PhotoBaby

Baby Steps

Who could have imagined that the little business started sixteen years ago, would ever grow into the enterprise we have today, that it would provide eight young women (seven mums) with their dream job and a great living. Or that Eleanor could work alongside her husband and sister. That we would have over 300 5* reviews on Google or similar on Facebook. Or have 28 awards across the business for our photography and customer service. Have raised over £8000 for charity, or planted 1000 trees in PhotoBaby’s name. It’s been an incredible journey. And this is our story…

Getting Started

It all started with a love of photography and a baby bump.

Precious Moments

Eleanor was pregnant with her son, and it was utterly wonderful and terrifying at the same time. Her first baby, Chloe had been still born, and she was so scared that she might lose this baby too. She knew she would want to record every precious moment. His tiny toes, his giggles, all his first Milestones. She was bursting with love and she was all too aware of how fleeting life can be.

Turning Baby Photos into a Business

While she was photographing her baby bump, an idea formed:  That she could develop her love of photography and provide this service for other new parents too. PhotoBaby was born! Actually it was Eleanor Postlethwaite Creative Photography in the beginning, but her business advisor thought this was too much of a mouth full and we think he was right.

Getting to Work

Little baby Ethan arrived safe and sound and Eleanor set to work. She had a camera and portable backdrop, a computer and a lot of willing friends to practice on. Her maternity leave was spent learning how to shoot professionally, and all the while wrestling with the guilt that she should be spending more of this time with her son.

Then it was time to go back to work. she went part time, and juggled teaching art with being a Mum and getting the business off the ground.

Dipping her Toe in

Then Eleanor’s Mum died and she found out she was pregnant again. Her Dad saw how hard she was working and agreed to let her use the studio space on his property as a photography studio. Freya was born and now she had two children under two years. Weekends were spent shooting in the studio while Eleanor’s babies’ Great Aunties (the Graunties!) looked after the little ones downstairs at her Dad’s.

It was a beautiful space to work in but it came with restrictions. She wasn’t allowed to put up any signage and it was in the middle of nowhere. She was running a secret photography studio!

Finding Clients

At the time she found most of her clients through fairs and networking. Very often she was dragging clients from Lancaster. With time to get lost, it was a good hour of driving for them. To ease this a bit, she started offering the viewing presentation of their photographs at her house.

Soon clients were asking if they could just come to her house for their photo shoot and gradually her front room was transformed into a photography studio.

Taking the Plunge

Eleanor decided it was now or never to take the business full time. With two growing children it would only get harder to take the risk. So she took the plunge!

She also needed help. Her front room was getting very busy with clients coming and going, so she took on Becky as an apprentice photographer. Little by little the business crept into the rest of the house. They had our fingers in lots of pies, they were running baby shows, helping to start the charity Tigerlily Trust, and shooting a charity calendar to help with fundraising for it.

Sink or Swim – Opening today’s Photography Studio

We needed more space! So we moved to the photography studio in town. Suddenly we were playing a whole new game with huge overheads and it was terrifying! Eleanor begged, borrowed and skill swapped to get the studio off the ground. She and Becky painted most of the place themselves, the floors were laid in return for a wedding album, the viewing room was set up in return for a photo shoot. Eleanor was determined not to start off in debt.

Now they had all this space to play with and it was a game changer. They had ideas coming out of their ears, but suddenly not as many clients were spending. Client’s expectations had changed. Now they had this new studio presence, and PhotoBaby needed to adjust it’s service to match.

Finding Clarity

There is nothing like a bit of pressure to help you get things done. Eleanor spent every spare minute learning about customer service and how other studios ran their businesses. She thought hard about what she was doing and why.

  • Baby photography is an act of love, a celebration and a welcome into the world.
  • Everything about a visit to PhotoBaby to reflect this, not just the photography!
  • What would the best do?
Upping her Game

Eleanor got her friends to come along as mystery shoppers and then they’d speak candidly about the experience. She visualised what she wanted the perfect experience to be and started making lists for every aspect of the studio; How to greet a client, what photos to take in a shoot, how to take them, even what topics of conversation to use to break the ice; Everything she was doing naturally, but her growing team needed to be shown.

Winning Awards

She drilled everything down and got us focused, along the way she entered PhotoBaby in a few awards. It was a great way to keep everyone moving forward and analyse everything they were doing. Among them PhotoBaby won EVA small business, and highly commended for EVA customer service. At some point Eleanor says she will enter again, and promises to smash the customer service award next time.

award winning photography studioShe knows she’s made mistakes. It’s inevitable when there is no instruction manual to follow. But every time something goes wrong, she takes stock and learns from it. And then she gets a little bit better.

Loyal Clients

Over the years her clients have kept on coming back to her, bringing their little ones multiple times to record their special milestones – bump, newborn, learning to sit at six months, first birthday, learning to walk at 18 months.   And then they’ve done it all again with the new siblings and they get to see how everyone has grown and the little people they are becoming. Eleanor finds this aspect of the job wonderful!

Quality Products and Experience

Everything about PhotoBaby is carefully thought out and has been chosen, or put in place to reflect how special this moment in your family’s life is. Life is fleeting and fragile so we have to cherish and celebrate it. Birth and parenthood are amazing achievements and she has made sure that every bit of our service reflects this. We source only the very best products, our props are all unique and hand made (often locally sourced) and every photo shoot is tailored to the individual. Our house style is timeless and classic because we want you to get as much pleasure from your portraits when you are 80 as you will today.

Technology

As the numbers of visiting clients grew, it became harder to keep track of where they were up to on their customer journey. The giant white board list in the office just wasn’t cutting it anymore. So Eleanor took the plunge again and invested in some new technology. A clever software, that tells us exactly where each client is on their photography experience. And says exactly what needs to happen next on each special journey. We might be seeing thirty clients a week now, but the attention to detail is just the same as when it was just five clients!

We also had new software installed in the viewing room. Making seeing your photos an amazing cinematic experience. The new software is very user friendly and makes choosing portraits so easy for you.

photography studio car

Qualifications

Eleanor always had a little bit of a bee in her bonnet about being a self taught photographer, so in 2018 she went back to Uni and studied for her Masters in photography.  Over the next two years her study pushed everyone’s photography to new levels and introduced elements like the Goddess Project. She completed the course in the middle of lockdown and achieved a Masters with Merit.

Lockdown

For Eleanor, lockdown was a fantastic chance to pause and think. Time to work out where she wanted the studio to go and how would get there. She wrote a staff manual so all of her team knew exactly how to do everything, and how to do it brilliantly. She expanded the team, even doing interviews over Zoom, and at the start of 2021 she had builders in to revamp the space and install multiple shooting stations. Giving you more choice and unique features like the swing and blossom tree.

Climbing to the Next Level

As the team grew, Eleanor was adamant the standards would soar rather than slip. She introduced regular training and 121 sessions and encouraged team members to enter for photography awards. Always pushing their photography craft and reaching for new heights.

Giving Back

When Annabel joined the team, she took the annual charity calendar to a whole new level, involving other local businesses and turning the yearly project into a community event. The team decided they wanted to reduce their carbon footprint and so looked at how they could reduce waste, recycle more and chose to donate a portion of each month’s profit to the Woodland Trust to aid planting more trees.

Delegating

Where as once upon a time Eleanor did everything in the business herself, over the years she has learnt the power of delegating. Now all the jobs that go on behind the scenes are split between the team, everyone working to their individual strengths.

Our TV Debut

In 2021, Channel 5’s 22 Kids and Counting production team got in touch to see if we would be happy to photograph Chloe Radford’s newborn as part of the show. Of course we jumped at the opportunity! And a great relationship blossomed between Chloe and PhotoBaby, Chloe supported our next charity calendar and helped us to promote it, and then when Mila turned one, she and her TV crew came back for a second round of filming. This time for the cake smash.

Bimonthly Contests

In recent years our social media has exploded, and we’ve decided to have some fun with it. Every other month we host a ‘game show’ live on our Facebook page. It’s a great opportunity for people to see what we are really like, learn about what we do, and of course some lucky people win some studio credit too!

Where Next?

As long as we keep on building our amazing customer relationships, and making beautiful portraits that we know you’ll treasure forever, we’ll be happy! Everyday is a privilege and an adventure. Yes we have some more awards in the pipeline and more fantastic projects just waiting to be unveiled, but the nuts and bolts of our love for this work, are the amazing people we get to meet and the beautiful work we get to create.

Hope to see you soon,

The PhotoBaby Gang x