PhotoBaby is now thirteen years in the making and it’s been quite a journey for Eleanor and her ever expanding team.
The company often gets mistaken for a franchise, which we take as a complement. Clients call up asking for the Lancaster branch, but Lancaster is the only branch of our photography studio! We are 100% independent and local!
PhotoBaby all started with a love of photography and Eleanor’s DIY bump portrait, which her husband Daniel helped to create in their bedroom on Lancaster’s Lune Street.
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 is.
Turning Baby Photos into a Business
And then it dawned on her 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.
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 them 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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
Upping her Game
Eleanor got her friends to come along as mystery shoppers and then we’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.
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.
She 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
For Eleanor, lockdown was a fantastic chance for her to pause and think. Time to work out where she wants the studio to go and how it will get there. She wrote a staff manual so all of her team know 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.
You will have to watch this space as her plan for PhotoBaby unfolds!