by Clint Thayer
The middle of the summer often brings a slightly slower period for endurance sports event photography, which makes up one of the most visible components of our business (but by no means the only component). I thought it might be time to look back on the last six months and mention what the Focal Flame crew has been able to accomplish as a team - because, truly, just as sports is a team effort, so is photography. We have an phenomenal crew of photographers, editors, writers, marketing, and sales staff. When I look back at what we've been able to do in half a year, it's pretty remarkable - and worth recapping in case you missed it.
Version 2 of the Focalflamestore.com Online Store
One of the most frequent comments we heard in the past is that our online store (for prints & digital image sales) was not mobile-friendly, and was a bit tough to navigate. To address these issues, we rolled out Version 2 of www.focalflamestore.com in March. This wasn't a switch to be taken lightly, given 2 million image views in 2013 - we had to make sure that the update happened seamlessly and without issue across all of the existing event galleries. We're so pleased see the benefits of the switch, some of which included:
- Responsive design for mobile and tablet browsers
- Improved navigation and communication tailored to specific folders
- Improved visual buttons to make it easy to download FocalShare digitals (for events that include this service. If free FocalShare digitals aren't included at your favorite event, please be sure to let us know - we'd be happy to discuss this service with event organizers.)
Updated Focalflame.com Website
Relaunching one web site isn't enough - how about two? You're reading this blog on our primary site, focalflame.com - and it also needed some love. On the heels of revamping the online Focal Flame store, we also completely overhauled our main website. Our goal was to make it a better, more responsive fit for our our love of storytelling and for the creative process and creative product. The new site involves a lot of updates "under the hood" that make it easier to share our passion for both image creation and word-based storytelling with much greater clarity and ease. Our site is now 100% responsive, allowing viewers a better experience on mobile and tablet devices. We've also taken this opportunity to more clearly share our offerings for Event, Headshot / Portrait, Video Production, and Commercial Photography services. The site also allows easier ways to showcase some of our best, most recent image creation work!
We are extremely proud of our relationships and partners with businesses and nonprofits. One of the greatest perks of providing commercial photography, headshot, and video production services for businesses and nonprofits in the Madison, WI area (and well beyond!) is the opportunity to get to know so many different amazing professionals in a wide variety of industries. We make sure to survey each client after their project is finished, and honestly, their positive feedback has made us blush on many occasions.
We believe in building a strong community, and our partners are literally the builders and caretakers of that community. We are so honored to be serving many new partners including Madison Festivals Inc, SportCrafters, UW Department of Emergency Medicine, Bikes Bikes Bikes, The Cookie Project, Environmental Chemistry Consulting Services, Inc. (ECCS Mobile Labs), J. H. Findorff and Son Inc. construction services, UW-Madison Continuing Studies, Tri4Schools, Lincoln Financial Group, Dancing Lotus Fitness, Municipal Electric Utilities of Wisconsin, Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc....ok, you get the picture.
Here's the thing: these are amazing organizations. You may know some of them pretty well, while others you might have never heard about before. We'll be sharing some stories from several of our partners soon - stay tuned for more!
It happened. Although we do a LOT of work in the field, we're also portrait, video, and product photography junkies...and those are indoor activities. There came a time when we just needed to give ourselves room to grow in terms of square footage, and this spring we took that opportunity to set down some studio roots.
The Focal Flame Photography studio is now happily located just off Willy Street in Madison, WI! We have a 20' x 20' shooting bay available for creative projects, plus a similarly sized meeting area for use of our headshot/portrait and video clients as well as our growing list of commercial and product photography clients. The studio was also the site of our first-ever Girls' Night Out at the Studio event in the spring. The space will also give us a chance to offer some new and exciting services in the months to come. It's also got an amazing creative energy: in a former life, the building was a tobacco barn, which is the reason for the high ceilings and aged timber. It's a beautiful, quietly intense, meditative place for our photographers and videographers to work wonders.
A Workflow That's Blazingly Fast
We spent much of the winter looking over our workflow for our event partners with one goal in mind. Make. It. Faster. Athletes have a need to speed, and similarly, WE wanted to be faster - because, let's face it: life is short, but time drags on forever when you're waiting around for your photos.
And talk about speed - holy smokes! We were able to provide athletes at larger events such as the Madison Marathon spring races with photos less then 12 hours after the final racer crossed the finish line. That same commitment to speed is pushing photo release time for some smaller events to less than 6 hours! And as racers at events we serve know - our commitment to speed does not compromise our continued commitment to quality and customer service.
Spreading the Love of Photography Through Lessons and Classes
You know how you fall in love with something and can't help but tell the world about it? That's the way we feel about photography. And we just couldn't hold back anymore - so we established the Focal Flame Photography educational program. Now you can take photography lessons with us, and soon we'll be announcing classes as well. So whether you're brand-new to photography or are experienced but want to brush up on a specialized technique, contact us. We'd love to help you grow.
What our employees are proud of...
"I think we've gotten very good at our process. It's almost second nature to us now." - Josh
(Editor's note: Josh also deserves a shout-out for accomplishing two semesters at Madison College with a 4.0 GPA!)
"The fact that we've had, and importantly still seek, continued improvement. Better images, delivered faster, from more events, and more of them. And still have this much fun doing it." - Austin
"I'm proud of helping the team capture people's joy in the accomplishment of goals!" - Kitty
"How much we've become a team together this year. Spending more time around FFP, I can see us really creating a team." - Katie
At the Heart of Everything: It's Still All About the Story
We started Focal Flame with a core goal of storytelling. That passion is still at our core, and it has come to life in several written projects that allowed our fans a glimpse at some of the coolest people in the world. If you didn't see our series of Madison Marathon athlete profiles, hear about a heartwarming duo of an athlete living with Parkinson's Disease and his best friend, see this touching glimpse into a nine-year-old's take-home lessons from Girls on The Run, or watch the video about one family's decision to stand up for radical love by fighting for a little boy's special medical needs, settle in for some excellent reading and viewing.
The Future is as Bright as a Flame
While we are proud of what we have accomplished in the first half of 2014 - we can't wait to uncover some of the things we are currently building. Watch this space for more updates - and in the meantime, we look forward to seeing you from behind our lenses, in the classroom, or just hearing your thoughts on social media or in the community! Thanks, as always, for your support. As a locally-owned business, it means everything.
And thank you for joining us on our mission to put good things into the world, one image and word at a time.