The Wilkinsons "Live the Best Life"
Paul might have had an incredible job working as an IT consultant before becoming a photographer, but the time away from his family was the driving force behind his career change.
"I had a big salary, big responsibilities, big projects. I traveled all over the world. And I began to notice I was really quite homesick every time I traveled. And it made me sad."
Paul was missing the kids growing up, their major milestones, he was late for birthdays, and he would hear about all the things his children were doing — but he wasn't there for them.
"I would sit on aircraft and just cry because I missed family so much."
At about the same time, Paul's photography started to get noticed. What began as a dream slowly morphed into an opportunity. In 2005, a chance to work four days a week as an IT consultant came up, and it was the push Paul needed to use the other three days of the week to build his photography business. It all snowballed from there.
"I never thought I was good enough. It was a dream. But I never had the confidence. People said they liked my pictures, but the people who liked my pictures were people that liked me."
It wasn't until someone who "actually knew what they were talking about" commissioned Paul to do some work for an agency that the mental transition from IT consultant with a camera to professional photographer really took place.
"It was like fire with a flint. It became this thing that I thought maybe we could actually do, and gradually piece by piece by piece, it grew."
In 2008, Paul became a full-time photographer, leaving the IT industry behind. And in 2011, a chance meeting in the street led to the lease of their iconic studio and garden space. The studio and garden have become a cornerstone within their business, allowing them to create an experience for their clients. It's not like a photo shoot, it's a day out, and clients leave saying, "I did not think I'd enjoy that, and I loved it."
While it's Paul's name on the door, the business is one both Paul and Sarah have built together. As Paul began venturing further and further into the world of professional photography, they were lucky enough to rely on Sarah's high-powered marketing position, keeping one good salary while they built the business up.
"It sounds like it was all easy, but it was hard and brutal, and there were tears. But it was this dream. And once it was there, it was alive, and we couldn't stop it."
These days, Sarah is responsible for image selection and putting the albums together — it's her way to be involved with the clients and the creative process — along with all of the finance and marketing. If Paul gets the tears, emotion, and joy at the beginning of the process, then Sarah gets them at the end when she delivers that final album.
"It's seeing people love it. We can see that they've loved the experience, but when they come back, and they love their pictures, you get all the emotion of it. And you know you've captured something really special for them and that those memories will live on forever."
Albums have formed a massive part of Paul and Sarah's business. Not just for the extra revenue but for the joy they bring their clients — they're more than just an album; they're an heirloom piece that becomes increasingly treasured with each generation.
"Big wall art has a definite lifespan. Decor changes, your tastes change, and your children change. But albums; they increase in personal value over time. There's the immediate value, which is incredibly high. When we show people the images, there's like a sugar rush of immediacy. They still remember the shoot, all of those sensations rushing back. And then, over time, that will settle down a little bit. Over time, all those little nuggets of memory collated in a book become more and more valuable, more irreplaceable. The value curve climbs almost infinitely over a long period of time."
Every wedding and portrait client that Paul sees now receives an album design because it's so easy, which makes a big difference to what they sell at the end. It takes Sarah just 20 minutes in SmartAlbums to assemble a draft album to share with their clients. And every single one is printed with Graphistudio.
"You take pictures, you capture personalities, but then you create something that will stand up on its own. There's a craft to it. There's a quality to it. State-of-the-art printing wrapped up in beautiful Italian leather…"
It's this quality that Paul and Sarah have fallen in love with — their clients have too. And seeing these lifetime heirlooms is something that brings indescribable joy to each and every person that receives one.
Paul and Sarah aren't selling their clients' albums — they are selling heirlooms. With the quality that Graphistudio deliver and their guarantees, that heirloom will look and feel the part, not just on the day it's delivered, but for future generations to treasure.
For a limited time only, SmartAlbums customers can take 50% off any Graphistudio product so that they can share their own generational work with their clients too. Access the Graphisoft deal here.