How to run a multi-discipline photography business - fitting drones in - part 1 of 1 2 3

by Dave Burlison Published 01/10/2016

The nuclear industry is often associated with 'follicly challenged eggheads encapsulated within a radiated red glowing body'. Whilst the former is something Dave can associate with, he assures us that the latter is yet to materialise! So how is it that a former Nuclear Design and Project Director ended up with a camera in his hand? Actually not the ‘great leap’ one might expect as Dave explains: 'Working alongside my nuclear design team with somewhat limited experience with a camera, provided the opportunity to capture and print images of naval "projects" for design review on the drafting board. It was a great learning curve, and a sponsored photography degree added a much needed theoretical element'. ‘What! No Computer Aided Design (CAD)! I hear you say?’ Well it was the 1980s, or somewhere near! The onset of CAD, 3D and virtual reality (whilst quenching a thirst for tech) in turn reduced the demand for photography, however, it didn’t stop Dave proudly capturing the dignitaries at the launch of the Royal Navy vessels; a sign of diversifying which would bode well for a long-held yearning to set up and run his own business.


An affinity for working with people led to an appointment in the London HQ, although the role as Director of Creativity and Innovation meant many hours on the road both nationally and internationally, seeking out innovative design improvements and cost savings. Forward four years; an MBA and the opportunity to leave the nuclear industry with the funds and supposed business grounding to set up a company was too hard to resist. Transitioning from managing people and projects to the perceived solitude of photography did not sit comfortably so Dave was joined by his wife, Janice, herself with a wealth of corporate and public sector experience; oh and a pilot’s licence (but will come back to that later).

So BURLISON Photography was established in 2000 concentrating initially on the wedding photography market. The plan was to grow the business to employ five photographers within the same number of years. 'However, the harsh reality has required settling at four,' said Dave with a wry smile, 'we came down to earth with a bump' (no wry smile!) It became apparent that the photographic industry is no different to most industries in that it moves at a terrific pace, in particular the wedding sector, fuelled by technological advances, (camera handling, exposure calculations, autofocus, etc) and the plethora of new entrants to the market keen to capitalise on bride and grooms increasing spend. Sixteen years on, the wedding market is still profitable for the photographers who have specialised, ie high-worth stylised shoots (Yervant) and Photojournalism (Jeff Ascough), however, some may say the one time ‘Cash Cow’ is now slipping to the ‘Dogs’ (Ref Boston Consulting Group Matrix). Bear with this section, grab a cup of tea, we will talk more actual photography soon! Whilst the BCG Matrix normally associated with running business units has been superseded by more comprehensive models, it is still utilised by BURLISON Photography to examine new markets and their potential.

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1st Published 01/10/2016
last update 06/11/2019 11:07:18

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