A Worcestershire man has turned his lifelong hobby, photography, into a new business venture.
Michael Whitefoot initially worked for sports agencies as a pitchside ‘snapper’, capturing shots of major rugby, football and cricket matches for national newspapers, but soon turned his focus to the calmer worlds of classical concert and landscape photography.
“In particular, I’ve used my dramatic images of local towns, landmarks and countryside scenes to create a popular collection of gifts and souvenirs, from jigsaw puzzles, calendars, postcards and greetings cards to fridge magnets, tea towels, shopping pads and wall art. Many of these items feature iconic images of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Cotswolds scenery, which both locals and tourists love.”
Michael’s work is now stocked by tourist information centres, garden centres, cathedrals, post offices and gift shops across the region.
“I also sell through my Ebay shop and my website. Many of my most popular photos are the result of going the extra mile. I’m often away before dawn to catch a sunrise, lugging heavy camera gear through snow, or manoeuvring my drone camera to capture the perfect bird’s eye shot.”
Since becoming a professional photographer Michael says he has had many memorable moments: “Mostly thanks to the sheer beauty of the scene I’m capturing, which I’m often the only one to see. Plus it’s always nice when a product sells featuring an image you took, whether it’s a photo in the Three Choirs Festival programme book or a magnet on a friend’s fridge (in fact I just sold my 2000th fridge magnet).
“I’m always proud when a new retailer comes on board too. Running the occasional market stall is also a great way to find out what customers are looking for, and to get their feedback. In the past year for example I couldn’t supply jigsaw puzzles of local scenes fast enough for demand – it seemed like everyone was after a jigsaw to while away the time at home.”
This January, inspired by the lack of opportunities for independent sellers like Michael to gain visibility with local shoppers, he also founded the ‘Worcester Virtual High Street’. It’s a Facebook Group that so far nearly 700 Worcestershire buyers and sellers have joined, making it a brilliant way to ‘shop local’.
“I have created quite a few completely bespoke items for customers, taking photos and producing merchandise especially for them. For example, St Mary de Crypt Church in Gloucester High Street has some stunningly beautiful stained glass windows and I offered to create some special cards, calendars and jigsaw puzzles for them which have sold brilliantly. Another particularly challenging request was when I had to use a safety harness to stand on a narrow ledge way up in the roof of Hereford Cathedral, in order to take photos of concerts far below.”