Oliver McNeil

Owner of Legend Photography 

BEHIND THE LENS

Tell me about your business

Legend Photography is based in Bodiam, East Sussex. We specialise in fantasy photography that puts children of all ages into fairy tale scenes using props, backgrounds, costumes and a modicum of digital magic.

The prints are sent all around the world and have been sought after by families from all over the UK, some who book their holidays just to have them done. Most of our clients come by recommendation and through social media.

When did you set up your original business?

 

In 2003 I had just left my job at a large photography studio franchise, with the intention of setting up as a freelance photographer and designer. After doing a free shoot for a local business owner’s family, I was offered some space at the back of her new children’s clothing store. It was called “The Magic Wardrobe.’ This set me thinking about doing something a bit different and utilising my passion for fantasy and the theatrical.

 

Since I had very little money to start the business with, (about £300), I bought a green cloth, borrowed some fairy dresses and shot some woodland backgrounds. My lucky stroke was to have an article printed in the local paper, with sample images. The response was amazing. I booked 30 sessions into the first week and I haven’t stopped since!

I reinvested in the props and equipment, slowly built a client base and now I have two studios and shoot around 500 clients a year.

How did you come up with your BIG business idea?

My background has been theatre design and set building, but also photography and magic, so this is a culmination of all of my passions. I spotted a niche in the market for fairy photography and realised that my background would give me an advantage to create something very different.

Fairy tales are timeless and most parents love to see their little girls dressed as fairies; conversely Dads get as much a thrill to see their boys dressed up as knights, wizards and pirates.

​If you think about the top ten most loved family films, most of them are fantasy, such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and the Pirates of the Caribbean; all I’m doing is fulfilling that need.

What is your unique selling point (USP)?

I have a strong background in theatre design, so my studio and shots reflect this. Customers have said it’s the experience of coming to Legend Photography as well as the finished prints that make them come back and also tell their friends.

The quality of the props and costumes, sourced from around the world, and it’s the detail in the designs that make me stand out from other family and fairy photographers.

What has been your biggest business challenge to date?

Coming from an arts background, I have had to learn every aspect of running a business based on trial and error. Starting off with no capital was a challenge, but it made me think laterally and do things that properly would not be taught at business school.

For example, when I wanted to draw more people to my studio, instead of paying for advertising, I built a full sized Doctor Who tardis and popped it outside. Not only did I get lots of word of mouth and free press but I ended up catching the attention of Tom Baker, who I ended up doing publicity shots for.

What element of the business do you enjoy the most?

I love what I do so much, since I get to create worlds of my childhood and bring them to life for the next generation of children. Seeing my families come into the studio and hearing them gasp as they step through the red curtains into my fairy tale set, makes me smile every time.

 

What is your favourite motivational quote?

“Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.” by J. K. Rowling, pretty much sums up my outlook on business.